Crown Tournament 10/19/2019 - Kabocha no Nimonao かぼちゃの煮物 (simmered squash), Shōga pōku-maki nasu 茄子の肉巻き生姜焼き - (Ginger Pork Rolls with Eggplant), Kakuni 角煮 (braised pork belly)

Kabocha no Nimonao かぼちゃの煮物 (simmered squash) 
Shōga pōku-maki nasu  茄子の肉巻き生姜焼き - (Ginger Pork Rolls with Eggplant) 
Kakuni   角煮 (braised pork belly)

The third tray of items that were offered at the Crown Tournament feast were symbolic and did not follow the items that had been served to Iemetsu.  Two kinds of pork were served, one dish, a braised pork belly with quail eggs, the other eggplant stuffed pork roles with miso.  The vegetable is simmered kabocha squash. This series of dishes were put together as plausibilities, containing ingredients that would have been readily available in the time period.

During the Nara period (710-784), the primary religion in Japan was Budhism which eschewed the eating of meat. It was believed that meat contaminated the body. Individuals who ate meat were not allowed to worship at shrines or temple. Edicts were issued by the Emperor Temmu in regards to the way animals could be hunted or slaughtered. Gradually, the domestication of animals, such as pigs, dissappeared. However, it was not unusual for wild boar to be eaten along with venison during this period.

During the Segonku period, pigs were considered a valuable source of food. Herds of pigs would accompany troops on their campaigns as "living rations".  It was believed that eating of pork was part of the reason the Satsuma warriors were such fiercesome fighters.  It was believed that eating pork bestowed strength and stamina.

Kabocha no Nimonao かぼちゃの煮物 (simmered squash)
1/2 kabocha squash
1 inch ginger (opt)
1 ¾ cups water or 1 1 3/4 cups dashi
6 grams bonito flakes
1 ounce kombu (opt)
1 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp sake
2 tsp soy sauce
pinch salt (kosher or sea salt; use half if using table salt)

In a small pot, boil 1 ¾ cups water. Once boiling, add bonito flakes & kombu, turn off heat and allow to sit for 15 minutes.  Strain through a sieve and allow to cool.  Cut the kabocha into wedges, and then into 2” pieces. Kabocha skin is edible so you can leave it on.  

Please note: You can cut the squash in half, remove pith and seeds and microwave for approximately 2 minutes to make it easier to cut the squash into pieces. 

Place the kabocha pieces, skin side down, in a single layer on a bakinc sheet. Add dashi, sake and sugar, soy sauce and salt. If the liquid does not cover 3/4 of kabocha, you can add a little bit of water.

Normally you would simmer the squash by placing in a pot, bringing to a boil and then lowering it to s aimmer until the kabocha is tender.  However, if cooking in bulk, cover a baking dishe with foil and bake in an oven at 400 degrees for approximately twenty minutes.  Remove from the heat and let kabocha sit covered until cool, about 30 minutes. You can serve at room temperature or reheat before serving.

Optional Garnish:  Cut the ginger into rectangular piece (so each strips will be the same length). Cut into thin slabs and then thin julienne strips. Soak in cold water for 1 minute and and drain, sprinkle over kabocha before serving. 

Kakuni - Braised Pork Belly 角煮

1 lb pork belly (Ask the meat store to cut it into 2" pieces for you)
2 inch ginger
1 Japanese long green onion (can substitute spring onions)
3 large eggs (I used canned quail eggs)
2½ cupdashi
4 Tbsp sake
3 Tbsp mirin
4 Tbsp sugar
4 Tbsp soy sauce
2 slices ginger
1 dried red chili pepper
Shichimi Togarashi (Japanese seven spice)

If you can, request that the pork belly be cut into 2" pieces for you.  If not, cut into 2 inch pieces. Place the pork belly fat side down into a cool skillet and slowly heat it to high.  Cook your meat until it is nicely browned on all sides.  The fat should render out as the meat heats up slowly, otherwise, add a bit of cooking oil to your skillet. Take the belly out of the skillet when browned and let oil drain from it.  

Slice the ginger and cut green part of Tokyo Negi into 2 inch pieces.  In a large pot, put the browned pork belly, green part of Tokyo Negi, half of sliced ginger and cover the meat with water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook uncovered 2-3 hours keepign an eye on the water to make sure it does not run low.  
If not using canned eggs (like I did), you will want to hard boil your eggs and remove the shells while the meat is cooking.  After meat has cooked for three hours drain it and be sure to remove excess oil from it by wiping it with a paper towel. 

Please note: I left the meat to cool overnight and removed the fat cap in the morning.  I saved the pork stock and froze it for later.  I saved the fat cap and use it to fry with. 

In a large pot, put the pork belly, dashi stock, sake, and mirin. Start cooking on medium high heat. Add sugar, soy sauce, the rest of ginger slices, and the red chili pepper and bring to boil, then lower the heat to simmer.  After cooking for 30 minutes, add the hard boiled eggs. 

Simmer for another 30 minutes stirring occasionally.  Make sure you have enough liquid so they won’t get burnt. The sauce will reduce and form a "glaze" on the meat. Serve the pork belly and eggs with Shiraga Negi on top. Serve with Schichimi Togarashi. 

Shiraga Negi

1 Negi/Long Green Onion (leek or 2-3 green onions)

Shiraga Negi uses only the white part of the Negi (leek, green onions) cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces that are juilienned.  Soak in cold water for 10 minutes to remove the bitterness and drain well.  Sprinkle over meat before serving. 

Shichimi Togarashi  

1/2 sheet nori
1 tbsp. dried orange peel
4 tsp. ground red pepper
2 tsp. sesame seed
1 tsp each ground ginger and poppy seeds
1/4 tsp. ground white pepper

Grind nori in the food processor until fine flakes form.  Mix with remaining spices until well blended.  Store in a tightly covered jar in a cool dry place. 

Miso-Glazed Eggplant

1 tablespoon mirin
2 tablespoons sake
1/4 cup gluten-free sweet white miso
2 tablespoons sugar
3 Japanese eggplants, halved lengthwise
Vegetable oil, for frying
3 shiso leaves, cut into thin ribbons, for garnish (optional)
1 teaspoon white sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)

Note: 1 American eggplant = 3 Japanese eggplants - Asian eggplants = Oriental eggplants, which include Japanese eggplants and Chinese eggplants, have thinner skins and a more delicate flavor than American eggplants, and not as many of the seeds that tend to make eggplants bitter. They're usually more slender than American eggplants, but they vary in size and shape. They range in color from lavender to pink, green, and white.

In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the mirin and sake to a simmer, then cook for 30 seconds to burn off the alcohol. Stir in the miso and sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the sauce from the heat and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Using a sharp knife, make shallow crisscross cuts into the cut sides of the eggplants. In a large pan, heat 1/8 inch of vegetable oil over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches to avoid crowding, carefully lightly fry the eggplant for 90 seconds on each side, then drain on the paper towels.

Spread about 3/4 tablespoon sauce on the cut side of each eggplant and place it, cut side up, on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast the eggplant until tender and the miso has lightly caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes. Cut each half into thirds, sprinkle with shiso and sesame seeds, and serve.

Shōga pōku-maki nasu  茄子の肉巻き生姜焼き - (Ginger Pork Rolls with Eggplant)
Note: Shabu Shabu is ⅛” slices of any meat~8 slices per inch ~ 8 servings ~ 80 servings should theoretically be 10” of sliced pork loin. Typical pork loin roast is 2- 4 pounds of meat. 6 pounds of pork loin is approximately 18” in length. Theoretically a four pound pork loin cut into shabu shabu style slices *should* be more than enough for this feast, assuming 3” of pork loin is 1 pound.  Also 

Note: Pork loin does not slice thinner then 1/4"  without shredding even if frozen.  So the above notes ultimately proved to be unreliable.  I was able to pound out the pork loin and cut it into halve in order to create the pork rolls, and used 12 pounds of pork. 

½ lb thinly sliced pork loin
¼ onion
1 clove garlic
1 inch ginger (about 1 tsp.)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 green onion/scallion 
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp mirin
2 Tbsp sake
1 tsp sugar

Grate onion, garlic and ginger into a small bowl.  Add soy sauce, mirin, sake and sugar.  Season the meat with salt and pepper.  Wrap meat around the eggplant using a tooth pick if necessary.  

If doing a small batch you can cook the meat in oil that has been heated in a pan in a single layer until heated completely through and eggplant has been heated.  Then add the garlic, onion and ginger sauce, cook for another minute until thoroughly heated and serve. 

Because I was doing the pork in large batches, I placed it in a baking dishe, covered with the seasoning and cooked until done.  Can be served warm or room temperature.

How to thinly slice meat

High quality meat
A very sharp knife
A metal tray
A large freezer bag

Put meat in a single layer in a large freezer bag, squeeze air from the bag and close tightly. Put the meat on a metal tray and freeze for 1 1/2 to 2 hours depending on the size of the meat and how fatty the meat is. Meat is ready to slice when the knife goes through it smoothly.  Slice the meat against the grain using a gentle sawing motion. Sliced meat can be placed in plastic and frozen until needed.