Sunday, September 2, 2012
Burdock root, or gobo as we call it in Japan, is one of my favourite foods. It has an earthy woody fragrance and a nutty taste, and depending on the way you cook it, can be anything from crunchy to tender. It looks like a stick... and smells like dirt... but it's a delight to smell it cooking - such a delicate and unique smell.
I'm not sure if you can find burdock where you are, but if you do, it's worth a try. It's fairly common in Asian speciality stores, especially Japanese. I've made two versions of the recipe - the original recipe from my mother, which calls for copious amounts of sake, dashi (soup stock traditionally made with bonito flakes or kombu) and mirin, and my adapted one with soy sauce, honey and white wine.
2 large gobo (burdock root) the one pictured has been broken and folded in half, so it's twice as long as pictured - almost a yard. It's a little over a pound I think.
2 pounds drumsticks
stewing liquid: (my version)
1/4 cup soy sauce (not pictured, because I cannot take a picture without forgetting something)
1 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons honey
(a couple of dried red chili peppers - optional)
stewing liquid: (original version)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin
2 cups dashi
1 cup sake
Using a peeler, peel the gobo. The original recipe uses gobo with the skin on, but I prefer to peel mine, not knowing where they come from or what kind of chemicals were used.
Chop them into 2-inch long sticks and soak them in a bowl of water for at least 10 minutes - the water will turn brown. (Left in the air, the gobo will oxidize and turn brown.)
Boil a pot of water and blanch the drumsticks - just a couple of minutes will do. I will be removing the skin anyway, but thought it might be easier to do after blanching. This step is supposed to remove some of the oiliness and smell of the meat.
Drain and set aside, removing the skin and any excess pieces of fat.
Belatedly, here's the soy sauce. Measure 1/4 cup, add a bit of honey and give it a good stir. Add a cup of wine, stir, and put in a pot. Add a couple more cups of water and put on medium heat.
Add the drumsticks in the cooking liquid (yes, it is still room temperature) and the drained gobo sticks on them. The liquid may not cover the gobo, but don't worry. Put the lid on and bring to a boil.
When it is boiling, there will be some scum bubbling on the surface. With a spoon, carefully scoop out all the scum. This will make a big difference in the final product, so don't be lazy!
Lower the heat to a low simmer and go away for a couple of hours or so. If the liquid seems to have evaporated too much, just add water.
In the final 30 minutes, I added two or three dried chili peppers (with the seeds removed.) This is totally optional - I like this with a slight hint of spice.
The meat should be falling from the bone; remove the bones and discard. It will look a little like pulled pork.
This is something that is very good the next day - cold, room temperature or warm. I usually have it accompanied with a bowl of white rice and some kind of vegetable dish or salad.
The gobo and chicken seem to exchange flavors - curiously, the gobo becomes meaty and the chicken becomes almost chestnutty. Keeps in the fridge for 4 or 5 days - I usually make a big batch (this recipe makes a pretty large amount) and keep it; sticking my chopsticks into it at every meal for a few bites.