In November, my donabe (Japanese ceramic pot) gets dusted off and starts working in full gear through April. I use it nearly every week during the cold nights, to bring warm food to the table and get my fill of vegetables, tofu, and meat.
I rely on my donabe to provide meals I don't have to think about. I usually just make a bunch of dashi, gather the freshest looking meats, seafood, and vegetables from the market, pile them all into the donabe, and turn on the heat. I make sure to have ponzu and gomadare on-the-ready as my dipping sauces. It's nice to always have this fall back, but sometimes it can get monotonous.
Enter the Donabe cookbook by Naoko Takei Moore and Kyle Connaughton. This book contains 328 pages full of ideas on how to cook up your next donabe feast. From techniques of how to prepare specific raw ingredients and sauces, to recipes of the centerpiece, in the wintertime, I've come to rely on this book, in addition to my trusty donabe.
One of my favorite recipes from this book is the Yellowtail Shabu-Shabu (page 183). It looks gorgeous, tastes decadent, and is super easy. One caveat is that you need the Steam Donabe with three pieces: the donabe body, a lid, and a steam grate. This donabe is a multi-tasker. In addition to performing all the duties that a regular donabe provides, the steam grate allows you to steam dumplings, vegetables, and mochi.
From Donabe by Naoko Takei Moore and Kyle Connaughton
10 ounces daikon, peeled and julienned
2 negi (Japanese green onions) or 6 green onions very thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 pound yellowtail fillet, sliced 1/4 inch thick
Yuzu Ponzu for serving
1. Add water or dashi to the donabe, then put on the steam grate. Spread half of the daikon over the steam grate. Cover and steam over upper medium-high heat for 1 to 2 minutes.
2. Add half of the negi and spread over the daikon, followed by half of the yellowtail slices.
3. Slice the fish. We suggest getting sashimi-grade yellowtail from a trusted fish monger.
4. Cover again and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until fish is medium-rare to barely cooked through.
Donabe book with sliced sashimi.
5. To serve, provide each person with about 2 tablespoons of the ponzu in a bowl. Pick up the fish and vegetables and dip in the ponzu to enjoy. Once the first batch is finished, repeat the process to finish the remaining ingredients.
As you can tell, this recipe involves quick cooking time and very easy cleanup. The resulting cuts of yellowtail are heavenly, as they are lightly steamed and literally melt in your mouth upon contact with your tongue.
The fresh crunch from the daikon, and slight spice of the green onions are just the right team alongside the fatty pieces of fish.
Make sure to have a tart ponzu sauce on the table for dipping.
Donabe meals are great because the group gathers around a centerpiece on the table. It stimulates conversation, and provides immediate warmth to everyone sitting around the table.
I'll probably default to my usual dashi-based nabe for my donabe feasts this winter, but I'll also be using ideas from this book throughout the winter to break the monotony.
Check out our Donabe Cooking Collection for everything you need for your next donabe feast!