New Year’s Eve: Champagne and Chawanmushi with sea urchin and salmon roe 大晦日夜 シャンパンと雲丹とイクラのせ茶碗蒸し

japanese cake

This was the last day of 2011. According to the old Japanese system for counting a person’s age called “Kazoe-doshi” 数え年, everybody turned one year older on New year’s day and New Year’s Eve was referred to as “Otoshitori” お年取り meaning to be a year older. Although eating soba noodles or “toshikoshi soba” 年越しそば on New Year’s Eve appears to be popular, this was not the custom in our household when I was growing up. I think eating soba noodles is more a custom for trades people who simply did not have enough time to make an elaborate dinner on New year’s eve. My mother used to give us a feast for New Year’s Eve akin to Christmas dinner.

In any case, New Year’s Eve has very important (added personal) significance to us. We opened a bottle of Champaign. To go with the bottle of vintaged Champaign, my opening salvo was a chawanmushi 茶碗蒸し or Japanese savory egg custard topped with California gold uni and salmon roe (ikura).

My chawanmushi recipe is the same as before; three parts seasoned dashi broth and one part whole egg. To accommodate the special toppings, I did not use all the ingredients I usually use such as shiitake mushroom and shrimp. Instead I used only ginko nuts (from a can), shimeji mushroom, small pieces of chicken and sliced (on a slant) scallion. As ususal, from 3 eggs (about 150ml) plus seasoned dashi broth (450ml), I made 6 small containers (a small cup for dipping soba noodle) as you see below.

I let it sit after steaming was completed for 10 minutes so that the chawanmushi was not too hot and topped it with the uni and ikura. This was the ultimate–perhaps only surpassable with the addition of foie gras but I have not tried that yet!. This dish went so well with this Champagne. Although we are not champagne connoisseurs by a long shot, this particular one had a pleasant yeastiness with a fruity finish that went very well with the richness of the dish.

This was followed by a small sashimi (tuna and uni) and pickled herring in cream sauce (the white stuff in the picture above). The pickled herring was a nod to my wife’s tradition of eating herring on New Year’s eve. She claims this came from growing up in Pennsylvania Dutch country. She admitted, however, that the herring was too harsh a flavor compared to the subtlety of the sashimi.

As a small grilled fish dish, I served fatty belly of salmon (harasu ハラス), simply salted and cooked in a frying pan accompanied by namasu daikon (daikon in sweet vinegar) garnished with ikura. After a few more dishes including a small hand roll of salmon skin as a shime dish, only thing we had to do was stay awake until midnight to see in the new year.

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