Saturday, November 29, 2008

Oden: A Tale of Simmered Goodness

There are many reasons why autumn is my favorite time of year.  First off, the trees.  Ah yes, nature's little beacons of change.  Next up, the seasonal fruits and vegies.  I love all the incredible types of mushrooms and squash.  Living in the Bay Area, we are spoiled with fertile lands just brimming with farms and happy cows.  Lastly, what I really enjoy about the fall is, to me, life just seems to slow down a bit.  The days become longer, which for me means more time for reading, more time for contemplation.  The nights are cooler and more damp, giving you all the more reason to enjoy some warm, comforting vittles with your buddies.
So what better to do with our mellow and cool late-November Sunday night than to have some friends over for oden.  I think the first time I had oden was in a 7-11 somewhere in Tokyo.  I probably wouldn't have ordered it myself as it doesn't look like anything I was used to eating.  But after a few beers (and surely sake), I was up for trying anything.  The concept...simmer, and simmer and simmer some more.  Some of the best oden is left to simmer overnight .  The dashi is very important.  We made a potent elixer of dashi using konbu, katsuo bushi and dried shiitake.  Mmm.  In the pot we carefully set chunks of daikon, yamagobo, hard boiled eggs.  We had so much we started calling more people to come over, but, I wouldn't have minded if we had leftovers!
Since we had several bottles of sake in the fridge, it was time to start the party!  We left all the sake out of the fridge so that it could warm to room temperature.  I remember someone saying something to the effect that when you eat hot food you shouldn't drink cold beverages because it puts out the "fire" in your belly.  Anyway, what a great time enjoying the oden and sake.  We opened one of our wedding presents that night.  This incredible junmai ginjo from Niigata called Koshi no Kanchubai.  Wow!  It melted on the palate only to rise up again midway through with soft fruits finishing clean and bright.  This sake doesn't get exported to the states, but if you ever find it, get it!

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