Japanese Root Vegetable Stew

I discovered this recipe when, as the creator suggests, I was in a root vegetable roasting rut. Melissa Clark shared this recipe via the New York Post in a video and step by step guide. She notes that while traditional Japanese nimono does not call for chicken, she’s included it here as a protein boost. Of course, you can eliminate the chicken all together or substitute a different protein of your choosing. Melissa also specifically states that she used everything from her CSA box that she didn’t know what else to do with, that sounds familiar!

10 to 12 dried Japanese or Chinese shiitake mushrooms (about 1 1/2 ounces)
1 piece kombu, about 7 by 3 1/2 inches
1 pound bone-in chicken thighs (2 to 3), skins removed if you prefer (or substitute bone-in breast meat)
4 ounces taro root, celery root or potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
4 ounces daikon or other radishes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (or use kohlrabi)
4 ounces carrots, yellow beets or lotus root, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup sake
2 ½ tablespoons Japanese soy sauce or tamari, more to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
4 ounces sweet potato, white turnip or winter squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
Rice wine vinegar, to taste
Ground sansho pepper, shichimi togarashi or good smoky chile powder, for garnish
Nutritional Information

In a medium bowl, soak dried mushrooms in water overnight at room temperature. (Alternatively, you can cover mushrooms with hot water and let soak for 2 hours.)
Remove mushrooms, reserving the soaking liquid. Slice off stems and discard them. Cut the caps into 1/4-inch pieces.Place kombu in a large pot, add mushrooms and their soaking liquid, and bring to a boil over high heat.

Meanwhile, make a drop lid (called an otoshibuta in Japanese) by folding foil into a round just smaller than the pot. Poke a few holes in the drop lid with a chopstick or knife.
As soon as liquid boils, remove kombu and discard or save to reuse. Add chicken, taro, radish, carrot, sake, soy sauce, sugar and salt to the pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, place drop lid directly on top of cooking vegetables and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 25 minutes. Remove chicken from the pot and set aside.

Add sweet potato to the pot, cover pot again with drop lid, and simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes, until vegetables are cooked through but not mushy. Meanwhile, shred cooled chicken and divide among four bowls. Stir rice wine vinegar into stew, along with salt to taste, then ladle it into the bowls with the chicken. Garnish with sansho powder or shichimi togarashi and serve.