One fantastic way to warm yourself from the inside is to borrow from Japan’s versatile tradition of nimono, which translates as “simmered.” Japanese cooks have mastered the art of one-pot simmered dishes where lots of ingredients and a bit of liquid are set to boil away, untouched. Most nimono incorporate traditional Japanese ingredients such as konbu—a seaweed—that is used to make the seafood stock base. One nimono that’s especially great for winter is nishime, where taro root, burdock root, lotus root, and konjac cake—a gelatinous and speckled ingredient—are sliced up and simmered along with snow peas, mushrooms, and carrots.
To put a modern, Americanized spin on nishime, use common winter root vegetables—butternut squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, and parsnips. Instead of using bonito flakes and konbu, flavor your stock with other strong aromatics—garlic and ginger—along with the commonly used soy sauce, mirin, and a less traditional addition of brown sugar. To boost the flavor profile even further, I like to borrow from another nimono recipe, miso-ni, a miso-based stock broth, and toss in a few tablespoons of umani-rich white miso. It’s shocking to see how many layers of sweet, salty, and umami can quickly develop from these simple ingredient combinations.
- Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium flame. Add the onion and let cook until tender. Keep heat low enough that the onions do not brown but become soft, about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine soy sauce, mirin, miso, and brown sugar to create a paste-like sauce.
- To the pot, add the ginger and garlic and stir to combine. Let cook until aromatic, about 2 minutes. Stir in the miso sauce.
- Add the stock, stir to combine all ingredients, and bring the mixture to a boil. Layer in the vegetables, beginning with the most dense: squash on the bottom, then potatoes, carrots, and parsnips on top, and finally mushrooms. Cover and let cook. Reduce heat to medium so liquid is at a simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes, stir, and continue cooking, if needed, another 5 minutes.
- When all ingredients are tender, ladle into bowls and garnish with scallions.
Recipe by Eve Turow