This method of broiling - on a bed of coarse salt - is in fact more a steaming or even a baking process than broiling as Westerners know it, and gives a delicate flavor to the food. Although Japanese "horoku" are difficult to find in the stores, an excellent substitute would be the 12- to 14-inch Italian, Mexican or American unglazed earthenware casseroles equipped with tightly fitting covers.
What You Need:
(To Serve: 4)
4 medium-sized raw shrimp (16 to 20 per pound)
4 medium-sized white mushrooms
12 canned ginnan (ginkgo nuts), drained
1 whole chicken breast, boned and cut into 1-inch cubes
1. Shell the shrimp, but leave the last segment of shell and tail attached.
2. With a small, sharp knife devein the shrimp by making a shallow incision down their backs and removing the black or white intestinal veins with the point of the knife. Set the shrimp aside.
3. Wipe the mushrooms with a damp cloth and cut a small cross on the top of each.
4. Thread ginkgo nuts on each of 4 small (4- to 6-inch) bamboo skewers, and similarly thread 2 or 3 pieces of boned chicken on each of 4 other skewers. Set them aside.
5. Preheat the oven to 400°. With a sharp, heavy knife, make a deep cross on the curved top of each chestnut. Place the chestnuts on a baking sheet or in a shallow roasting pan and bake in the center of the hot oven for 10 minutes. Set them aside.
6. Pour a ½-inch layer of coarse salt into a 12-to 14-inch wide horoku or unglazed earthenware casserole. Sprinkle a few drops of water over the salt and place the casserole over moderate heat for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the salt is heated through.
7. Now spread a thin layer of the pine needles on the salt and arrange the shrimp, mushrooms, skewered chicken and nuts, and chestnuts on top.
8. Scatter about 4 to 6 pine needles over the food, cover the casserole tightly (sealing the edges, if necessary, with a strip of aluminum foil), and steam undisturbed over moderately high heat for 12 to 13 minutes.
9. Remove the pine needles and serve the food directly from the horoku or casserole, accompanied by small individual dishes of chirizu dipping sauce. Horakuyaki will serve four as part of a Japanese meal or as a first course.