Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Azuki-Covered Kabocha

Kabocha is a Japanese squash. If you can't find it at your local Asian grocer, I've used acorn squash (cheaper and easier to find in the States) as a substitute and found both are tasty, just different.

Azuki beans are usually used for desserts, but this recipe, adapted from Elizabeth Andoh's ''Washoku'', uses them to make a savory paste. This recipe takes a LONG TIME (like, two days) 'cause the azuki take forever to cook, but it is totally worth it. Plus, it makes a BUNCH and the leftovers get tastier with every reheating.

1 cup Azuki
1 square inch dashikonbu (seaweed for dashi stock)
1/2 kabocha squash, scrubbed well and diced
Dashi stock
Soy sauce

Prepare the Azuki
1. Put the azuki in a small pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil.
2. Simmer 30 minutes.
3. Let cool to room temperature (VERY IMPORTANT for nice soft beans)
4. Put in a jar, adding more water to cover if necessary, and let sit overnight. The azuki will swell up to twice their size and the water will become a dusty pink.

Cook Azuki Into Paste
1. Pour the azuki and water into a small pot (the same one you used before works nicely), add the dashikonbu, and bring to a boil.
2. Add mirin and soy sauce to taste.
3. Simmer the living FUCK out of those beans, stirring occasionally and adding water to keep it from drying out completely as necessary. It will eventually resemble chunky refried beans. Meanwhile...

Cook the Kabocha
1. Place the diced kabocha skin-side down in a heavy-bottomed skillet. Cover with dashi stock and bring to a boil.
2. Simmer 'til just tender (~ 10 minutes), then turn them skin-side up, add soy sauce to taste, and simmer 'til they are easily pierced with a chopstick.

-side note- My skillet was too small, so I had to do my kabocha in two batches. This worked out nicely with how long the azuki took to cook, and I just re-used the dashi already in the pan, adding more to cover the second batch.

3. Remove the kabocha from the stock and set aside in a large bowl big enough to mix stuff in. Reserve the stock.

Put it Together!
1. Put the azuki beans in the kabocha skillet, which should now contain only the dashi stock with soy sauce and maybe little slivers of kabocha that fell off the big pieces.
2. Stir vigorously to homogenize and heat thoroughly. Depending on how thick you want your paste, you can simmer off some stock, which will also concentrate the flavour. I simmered mine 'til it was the consistency of azuki-an/red bean paste.
4. Combine the azuki paste and kabocha, mixing to coat the kabocha evenly.
5. Serve with white rice. Leftover azuki paste is awesome mixed with rice as well :)

Happy Eating!