Amber Aspic Loaf

Kohaku Kan

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes

    2 dozen pieces

Appears in

An American Taste of Japan

An American Taste of Japan

By Elizabeth Andoh

Published 1985

  • About

This jellied chicken-and-vegetable loaf is perfect for buffet service or packing in a picnic basket since it doesn’t require constant refrigeration. It makes use of kanten (agar), which is processed from sea vegetables, not animal protein, and gels firmly without chilling.

Ingredients

  • 1 stick kanten (Japanese gelatin; agar) OR 1 envelope (4 grams) powdered kanten
  • 2 or 3 small dried shiitaké (dark Oriental mushrooms)
  • 2–3 ounces (about ¼ medium-sized) onion
  • 1 ounce (about 2 inches) carrot
  • 2–3 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 cup dashi (basic sea stock)
  • 2 tablespoons saké (Japanese rice wine)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 5–6 fresh snow peas

Method

Break the stick of kanten into several pieces and soak them in cold water for at least 10 minutes. If you’re using powdered kanten, sprinkle it over 2 tablespoons of cold water and let it stand for at least 5 minutes before using.

Soak the dried mushrooms in 1 cup of warm water for 20 minutes or more. Strain and save the liquid. Remove the stems and save them for enriching stock, if you wish, or discard. Rinse the caps to remove any sand or grit, pat dry, and slice into thin julienne strips. Return these strips to the soaking liquid for an extra 2 minutes. Squeeze the mushroom slices to expel excess water, set them aside, and reserve the liquid for cooking.

Slice the onion into thin vertical slices. Peel the carrot and slice it into very thin julienne strips. Slice the chicken breast thinly on the diagonal, then across, into narrow julienne strips.

Heat the oil in a small skillet and sauté the onions over medium heat until slightly translucent. Add the mushrooms, carrot, and chicken and continue to sauté for 1 minute or until the chicken turns white. Add the reserved mushroom liquid and the stock, and season with the rice wine, sugar, and soy sauce. Cook uncovered over medium heat for 5 minutes, skimming the froth occasionally. Reserve both the cooking liquid and the meat and vegetables, separately.

Remove the strings from the snow peas and blanch them for 10 seconds in several cups of boiling salted water. Drain and refresh the snow peas in cold water, then pat dry. Slice the snow peas slightly on the diagonal into thin julienne strips. Add these to the vegetable and chicken mixture.

Pour the reserved cooking liquid through a cloth- or paper-lined strainer into a 2-cup measure. Add water if necessary to make cups of liquid. Transfer this liquid to a small saucepan.

Squeeze out all the water from the pieces of kanten, and with your hands shred the softened mass into the saucepan. Or add the softened kanten powder. Cook the mixture over low heat, stirring constantly until the kanten dissolves completely (this could take as long as 10 minutes). Simmer for 2–3 minutes longer before stirring in the chicken and vegetables. Remove the saucepan from the heat.

Gently pour the mixture into a straight-sided glass loaf pan ( by by inches is ideal). Using a toothpick, pull any bubbles that might have formed on the surface to the edges, where they can be lanced and/or dragged up the sides of the container. You need a glasslike surface. Let the aspic sit at room temperature until all the steam has dissipated, then cover it with clear plastic wrap. The aspic will harden without chilling, though refrigeration will hasten this along. Chill for a least 1 hour and up to 4 days.

When ready to unmold, gently press along the edges with the padded part of your fingertips. This will release the stiff aspic from the smooth glass sides. Place a cutting board or flat tray over the mold and invert it so that the loaf comes out bottom up. Slice the loaf in half lengthwise, then across eleven times, to yield twenty-four pieces in all. A single serving is usually two slices.