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Here is my take on a dish I grew up eating with my brother and mom back home in San Francisco. Nowadays with a young son I don’t always have time to put together elaborate osechi, but we make sure to always have ozōni, both to keep the tradition alive, and because it’s delicious. Normally eaten in the morning on New Years Day, it’s also a perfect comfort food for any chilly winter evening.
1 pound boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces (use the best chicken you can find)
1 ounce saké (this does not have to be pricey but avoid cheap ones)
1 - 4" piece of kombu
5 dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated in 1 cup warm water
3/4 cup slivered burdock root, scrubbed and soaked in cold water
1 small piece of ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks
3 pieces dry or fresh mochi
Soy sauce to taste, get the best quality you can find (ingredients should read: water, soybeans, wheat, salt)
Salt to taste
2 scallions, thinly sliced
Mix the chicken pieces and sake in a bowl and allow to stand for 15 minutes. Cut each rehydrated mushroom into three pieces, discarding the stem if it is tough, then strain and reserve the soaking water.
Heat 5 cups of water in a large saucepot, add the kombu and keep at a simmer. Add the chicken pieces, mushrooms and water they were soaked in, and burdock, and cook gently for 20 minutes, skimming any foam. Add the ginger and simmer for 5 minutes more.
Toast the mochi in a toaster oven or over a gas flame until soft, puffed, and charred in places. Taste the soup and season with soy sauce and salt until it tastes right to you, you want it slightly salty. Place each piece of mochi into a large bowl and divide the soup among them. The kombu can either be used for another stock, shredded and pickled, or chopped up and eaten with the soup.
Garnish with scallions and shichimi.
• Substitute 1/2 cup short grain rice or hatomugi (or a mix) for the mochi, use bone-in chicken thighs, add a roughly chopped peeled carrot, and cook all ingredients except garnishes together over low heat, covered, for 90 minutes, to make a restorative stew. It's my version of chicken soup.