Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Hajiki & Chicken

All right, I'll be the first to admit that this looks gross.  Sort of reminds you of a beef stew you left in the dutch oven for a few hours too long and the meat and veggies have started to disintegrate.  But trust me on this one, it tastes 1000 times better than it looks!  If you've never heard of hajiki, it's a type of seaweed--specifically an edible brown algae.  Its appearance sort of reminds you of the seaweed you would see slathered on huge boulders in Maine when the tide has gone out (minus all the nasty snails and razor sharp barnacles that I always seem to have a talent for slipping on), but unlike wakame, hajiki doesn't get slimy, which makes it very pleasant for those who don't care for slimy food.  As for the taste, it's somewhere crossed between rice and vegetables, which also makes it quite palatable.  In grocery stores, it's usually sold dried in packages.  You don't need very much--hajiki when soaked will quintuple in size!

This particular dish takes longer than my usual recipes since it needs to simmer for nearly half an hour.  However, this is one that doesn't need to be watched like a hawk, so you can go do something else (like catching up on your homework!) while it's cooking.  Now, that doesn't mean you can put the pot on the stove, bring it to a boil, then skip down the hall to hang out with your best buds for half an hour.  Food does tend to burn when you leave it for too long.  But, this does mean that you can leave the kitchen and go back to your desk, provided you're within smelling distance in case something goes awry and you check on the pot, oh, say every 5 - 7 minutes.

Gross looking, but good tasting!
Hajiki & Chicken  (Serves 2)

1/4 c. dried hajiki
1 chicken breast
3 tofu puffs
1 carrot, pealed
1/2 in. diakon, pealed
vegetable oil
1 1/2 c. water
1 tsp. dashi granules
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. mirin
1 1/2 tsp. brown sugar (although white sugar will work, too)
red pepper flakes (optional, to serve)

Put the dried hajiki in a bowl and cover with cold water.  Leave stand for 30 min., or until quintupled in size.  Drain and rinse really, really well.

Cut the chicken breast into 1/2 in. strips, the tofu puffs into 1/4 in. slices, the carrot into 1/4 in. slices on the diagonal, and the diakon into 1/8 in. strips.

Heat a little oil in a pot (not a pan!!) and add the chicken, tofu, carrot, and diakon.  Stir until coated in the oil and slightly heated.  Add the hajiki to the pot.

Pour the measured water over the contents of the pot (the water should just about cover everything; if not, add a little more water).  Add the dashi granules and stir until dissolved.  Add the soy sauce, mirin, and sugar.  Bring the "soup" to a boil.

Continue to simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally, until almost all the liquid is absorbed, but don't let it boil dry.  This will probably take about 30 minutes, but you should check on it and give it a stir every 5 - 7 minutes.

After the liquid has just about been absorbed/boiled away, turn the heat off and serve.  Sprinkle with red pepper flakes, if desired.

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