Kyle Connaughton, chef/co-owner of SingleThread restaurant in Sonoma, loves to use a donabe—so much so, that he wrote a book on the subject.
In essence, the donabe is a ceramic Japanese clay vessel in which various ingredients are placed inside and then cooked over an open flame.
“Great donabe cooking is all about managing the vessel's heat,” says Connaughton. “The porous body of the donabe takes a little longer to heat than other types of pots but then retains its heat for much longer.”
Chef Connaughton and his wife, Katina—a master horticulturalist and co-owner of their two-starred SingleThread—often eat donabe cooking together at home. Though the style remains the same, the ingredients vary throughout the seasons. In the springtime, the Connaughtons will generally incorporate peas, greens, turnips, carrots and young broccoli.
“Mastering donabe cooking takes a little practice in learning to regulate their temperature,” Kyle adds. “But once you do, they become an indispensable tool in the kitchen.”
Black Cod “Fukkura-san” with Charred Leeks, Vegetables & Saikyo Miso Broth
Recipe Courtesy of Kyle Connaughton, Executive Chef/Co-owner, SingleThread, Napa Valley
For the Saikyo Miso Broth:
Bones from 1 black cod, rinsed and lightly grilled on all sides
8 ounces whole milk
8 ounces cream
6 ounces dashi
4 ounces saikyo miso
1/2 ounce sudachi juice, freshly squeezed
shiso leaves or chives, finely minced, to taste
For the Fukkura-san:
2 leeks, washed and dark green part trimmed
various in-season vegetables, all cut into 1-inch pieces or thinly-sliced
mushrooms, such as shiitake, king trumpet or clamshell
four 3-ounce black cod fillets
1. Make the saikyo miso broth: combine the bones, milk, cream and dashi in a donabe or pot and gently warm. Keep the temperature below a simmer for one hour to infuse. Strain the liquid and whisk in the miso. Season to taste and reserve. Before serving, finish with the fresh sudachi juice and add the fresh herbs.
2. Make the fukkura-san: heat a grill to high; char the leeks whole, turning regularly, until cooked through. Allow to cool and peel off the blackened layer. Mince the inside and combine with 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil and season with some salt.
3. Soak the cover of the donabe in water for 10 minutes and pour out/discard the water.
4. In the base of a Fukkura-san donabe (or tagine), spread the leek mixture into a round mound wide enough to create a bed for the fish and vegetables. Place the four portions of fish on top and sprinkle with some salt. Arrange the vegetables around the fish, placing the lightest and more tender pieces towards the top of the mound. Place the lid on, and heat on the stove set to medium heat; cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer the fish and vegetables to individual plates. Spoon or pour the miso broth over the fish and vegetables. Garnish with any fresh greens, edible flowers or dried sansho (optional).