The Place Where You Belong: Chicken and Shrimp Gratin from Natsume Yuujinchou

Gratin - Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou 09 - 01I’ve been watching Natsume Yuujinchou lately, and have been absolutely loving the series. It’s calming, gentle, and tinged with a bit of sadness. It has a wonderful cast that I have grown to really love over the course of its 4 seasons. As a homage to the series, I really wanted to showcase a recipe from the anime, but I wasn’t sure what to do… that was until I saw episode 9 of Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou and I just knew I had to share with you the recipe for deliciously heartwarming chicken and shrimp gratin!

In anime, gratin pops up only every now and then. It’s not the most visible anime food out there, but it’s certainly yummy – think cream stew meets pasta – and I hope you’ll give it a go. There are also many variations, with many different fillings (like bacon, spinach, broccoli, etc.), but today we’ll be looking specifically at a version that features shrimp and chicken.

About the recipe:

There are quite a number of steps to this recipe, but I think it’s pretty straight forward, all in all. Here are the basic parts of the recipe broken down for you:

  1. Pre-cook the chicken.
  2. Make a creamy sauce with onions, mushrooms, milk, and flour.
  3. Off heat, add thyme and parmesan for more flavor.
  4. Stir in chicken, shrimp, and pasta.
  5. Transfer to an oven-proof dish, top with cheese, and bake.

For this recipe, I recommend cooking the pasta 1 minute less than the recommended time listed on the package. This will help prevent the pasta from overcooking in the oven and becoming bloated and over soft from sitting in the sauce.

Similarly, adding the shrimp into the gratin raw will also prevent it from overcooking too much.

Now, just so you know, when I made this recipe, I baked my gratin in an 8 X 8 inch baking dish (that’s all I have right now), which was really way too small. Not all the gratin fit in the dish, and I had to set aside about 2 or 3 cups of the gratin. That’s why I recommend using a larger dish, like a standard 13 x 9 inch casserole.

About the ingredients:

Straight macaroni pasta is what I believe I used in this recipe… I say “believe” because package just said “gratin pasta” in Japanese, and I’m not entirely sure what that means. But, if I were to describe it to you, it was a thin, smooth, and straight tube, about 1.5 inches long. Gratin - Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou 09 - 02Anyways, I’m sure you can use any sort of thin tube pasta for this recipe, such as macaroni or cellentani. Other spiral pasta would probably work as well, like fusilli or rotini.

Mushrooms add a bit of texture and some body to the gratin. In this recipe, I used shimeji mushrooms, which are widely available in many Asian grocery stores, but you could use really any other mild tasting mushrooms that cook down soft, like regular button mushrooms.

Grated cheese is sprinkled on top of the gratin to add not only cheesy flavor, but also some color when put under the broiler. For this recipe, I used something called “mix cheese” which is basically a mix of white cheddar, mozzarella, and gouda. Unless you live in Japan, you’re not going to find the same product, so I’d recommend using something like cheddar, gouda, or your favorite grated cheese – or a mix.

Gratin002 Gratin001

The recipe:

Chicken and Shrimp Gratin

Makes 6 – 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 skinless, boneless chicken breast
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 onion, cut into thin wedges
  • 1 bunch shimeji mushrooms, separated
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 chicken broth cube
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme, minced
  • 1/4 up grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 lb gratin/macaroni pasta
  • 200g (just under a 1/2 lb) shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1 (or more) cups grated cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Parsley, minced, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Rinse the boneless chicken breast in cold water, and pat dry using paper towels. Cut chicken at an angle and against the grain into thin, bite sized slices. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. In a large pan set over medium heat, add 1 tbsp butter. When the butter is melted and foaming, add chicken. Cook chicken until just opaque and no longer pink on the outside. There is no need to cook the chicken completely through. Remove from pan and set aside.
  3. In a large pot filled with salted water, bring to a boil over high heat. Add pasta to boiling water, and cook for 1 minute less than the time recommended on the package. Drain pasta and set aside.
  4. In the same pan you cooked the chicken in, heat remaining 1 tbsp butter until foaming. Add onions, mushrooms, and a pinch of salt. Cook until onions are translucent, about 8 minutes.
  5. Add flour and stir until it is incorporated and there are no white streaks remaining. Turn heat to low and gradually add milk, incorporating each addition completely before adding more milk.
  6. Turn up the heat to medium high and bring the milk mixture to a simmer. Add chicken broth cube and stir frequently until milk is thickened, about 5 minutes.
  7. Remove from heat and add parmesan and thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste. The mixture should be slightly saltier than desired to account for the addition of the pasta, chicken, and shrimp. Stir in chicken, raw shrimp, and cooked pasta.
  8. Transfer to a 13 x 9 inch heatproof baking dish and smooth the top as best you can. Sprinkle an even layer of grated cheese over top. Place on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any drips, and bake for 20 – 30 minutes at 350 F, or until the gratin is bubbling.
  9. Finish off by browning the cheese topping using a broiler. Let sit for 5 – 10 minutes before serving to help the gratin solidify and cool down a bit.

Serve hot. Garnish with a sprinkle of minced parsley.

Source: Adapted from a recipe on Cookpad.

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2 thoughts on “The Place Where You Belong: Chicken and Shrimp Gratin from Natsume Yuujinchou

  1. Aww, Natsume Yuujinchou. It’s not enough for me to say I love this show – more like the show itself is love. It, along with Usagi Drop (and Totoro of course) has been my go-to calming anime for a long time now, and I’m just stoked that there’s another season due this year. I do really like that food plays a quite big role in Natsume Yuujinchou too… though to be fair, a lot of that could probably be blamed on Nyanko-sensei and his bottomless stomach. 😉

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  2. I just love Natsume Yuujinchou! Calming anime is truly a genre unto itself. Another absolutely fantastic calming anime is Aria. It’s cute, beautiful and perfectly paced. Highly recommend! This recipe looks amazing as well!

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