Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sake-steamed "Sakamushi" chicken breast with scallion sauce 鶏胸肉の酒蒸し葱ソース

This is another simple dish but it is a perfect drinking snack. A Japanese cooking technique called "Sakamushi" 酒蒸し simply means "steamed in sake". There are some variations on how to do sakamushi. You could do this using a combination of poaching/steaming or purely steaming depending on the situation or the type of food items you are cooking. This technique is used mostly for fish (including shell fish) or chicken. I bought 4 split chicken breasts with bone in and skin attached. I was too lazy to debone the chicken before cooking (one of these weekday evenings). So I decided to do sakamushi using bone-in and skin-on breasts.

Chicken: I just washed and dried the chicken breasts with a paper towel. I salted it with Kosher salt (rather generously). You can be generous since much of the salt will dissolve and drip down into the steaming liquid.

Steaming: In a large Dutch oven or soup pot, I placed a metal basket steamer and poured a sake and water mixture (a 1:1 ratio) to just below the bottom of the basket. When it started boiling/steaming, I turned it down to a simmer and placed the chicken breast in the steamer basket with the lid on tight. I let it steam for 20 minutes or so or until the juice ran clear when pierced in the thickest portion. It is important to let the chicken cool to room temperature before slicing. It tastes best just as it comes to room temperature but it is also fine cold the next day or two stored in the refrigerator. You should finish it within a week, though.

Sauce: This time I served this with a type scallion sauce or "negi sosu" 葱ソース (my own, just made on a whim). It is a mixture of chopped scallion (as much as you like), ponzu shoyu sauce (from the bottle), splash of dark sesame oil and Tabasco (as much as you like). I also added a chiffonade of perilla since I had it.

Assembly: I just removed the bones by hand and sliced the chicken with the skin on (if you do not like the skin or do not want to take in fat from the skin, remove the skin). I placed the chicken on a bed of thinly sliced and lightly salted cucumber (mini cucumber). I just topped it with the scallion sauce. I was afraid that I might have been a bit too liberal with the Tabasco but it was just the right amount of spiciness for us. Especially if you remove the skin, this is a very low fat drinking snack.

You could serve the sakamushi chicken many different ways. You could use this chicken for salad, sandwich etc. You could steam an entire chicken if you wish (steaming a whole chicken is not really a Japanese way of cooking, though) but you need a large and deep stock pot for that. Another method I used to use often is a Chinese style poaching technique similar to one used in Hainanese chicken and rice. You boil a pot full of water (sans the volume of the chicken you are planning to put in, but the pot must be large enough for the chicken to completely submerge and the water volume has to be sufficient to hold the heat). You dunk the whole chicken for 30 seconds in boiling water and take it out (supposedly this initial dunk makes the skin taut and less porous to keep the moisture in) and wait until the water comes to a boil again, then, put the chichen back in, shut off the heat and cover with a tight lid. Let it poach for 1 hour or longer without any additional heat until it is done. This technique produced a really tender succulent chicken but it is a big production (I think I got this recipe from Frugal Gourmet).

In any case, poaching or steaming a chicken is not popular in the U.S. but this is a good and energy efficient way to cook chicken. We had it with cold sake.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Parent-offspring (chicken and egg) bowl 親子丼

This was a "shime" 〆 dish I served one evening. Chicken and egg bowl or "Oyako donburi" 親子丼 is a classic "donburi" or one bowl dish. It sounds a bit gruesome when it was translated literally into English. Albeit less common, the combination of salmon and salmon roe donburi also falls into this category of "parent-offspring" bowl.


For 2 servings, I used chicken thighs (2, deboned, skin removed and cut into bite size), small onion (1, halved and thinly sliced), shimeji mushroom (root end cut and divided, or fresh shiitake mushroom stem removed, arbitrary amount or "tekiryou" 適量), some kind of green (spinach is most commonly used, here I used baby arugula, again, an arbitrary amount) and eggs (two, I used one brown and one pasteurized shell eggs for the reason you will see below).

Broth: I just used instant dashi granules dissolved in hot water (half cup), I added mirin and soy sauce (1 tbs each). You would like to have the broth a bit stronger than a soup but not as strong as a dipping sauce. I tasted and added a bit more soy sauce.

In two non-stick small (8 inch) frying pans on a low flame, I poured the broth and arranged the onion and mushroom. I put on the lids and let it simmer for 5 minutes or until the onion was almost cooked. I then added the chicken and let it cook for another 3-4 minutes or until the chicken was just cooked through. I added the greens and poured the beaten brown egg over it (divided between two pans). I put the lids back on and let it simmer for 2-3 more minutes or until the egg is almost completely cooked (image below), I turned off the fire and poured the beaten pasteurized shell egg over everything and put back the lids letting the pans steep for 1 -2 more minutes. (The beaten pasteurized egg should not be completely cooked).

I slid everything onto a bowl of warm cooked rice (I used leftover frozen rice, microwaved). By this time only a small amount of the broth remained.

This is best when the egg is semi cooked (or "hanjuku" 半熟). This is the reason, I added the beaten pasteurized egg after I cut the flame. This dish is a classic comfort food and perfect for lunch, dinner or "shime" 締め.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Daikon "steak" with balsamic vinegar reduction 大根のステーキ

This is a very interesting dish. This may be the best way to introduce "daikon" to the uninitiated. I had a daikon I bought sometime ago sitting in the refrigerator. I wanted to use it before it went bad. I decided to explore something I have not tried. I came across this dish in e-recipe. I deviated very slightly from the original recipe, although this was the first time for me to make this dish (my instinct makes me change the recipe on the fly).


Daikon: I first cut about 1 inch thick rounds (two) and peeled the skin. I precooked the daikon in water with a pinch of raw rice for 30 minutes. After it was cooked, I washed it in cold running water. I kept this cooked daikon in a container in a refrigerator for later use.

Several days later on a weekday evening, I decided to finish this dish. (Since this dish turned out to be very good, I made it again several evenings later, see #4 in the image below). I decided the rounds of daikon might be a bit too thick and sliced each round into two 1/2 inch thick rounds. I simply fried the daikon rounds in a flying pan on medium flame with light olive oil (1 tbs) for 2-3 minutes on each side until both sides were nicely brown (#1 in the image below).

Sauce: After I removed the daikon from the pan, I added balsamic vinegar (5 tbs) and let it reduce in half (#2). Instead of sugar or honey (as suggested in the original recipe), I added mirin (2 tbs or, as in my steak sauce, I could have added port wine here), soy sauce (2 tbs) and let it reduce further. When the bottom of the pan was just covered with liquid and the sauce was getting somewhat viscous, I added pats of butter (2 tsp or whatever amount) and finished the sauce (#3). This is the next evening when I served the same dish with drunken Camapari tomato and brocollini (#4).


My wife got these funky triangular plates sometime ago and I decided to use it for this dish (2nd image above). I garnished the daikon with chopped parsley with an accompaniment of Campari tomatoes and baby arugula. This is a very good dish. Not quite steak but it has a similar consistency and the sauce went very well with it. This arugula had a very strong peppery taste complimenting the dish. The wine we had with this is not outstanding but OK California Malbec, 2007 Dry Creek which went very well with this daikon steak. Very good and interesting fusion dish.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Chicken breast with sesame paste dressing 鶏胸肉の胡麻和え

This is a classic small dish perfect for an Izakaya. In the original form, the chicken breast is steam cooked in sake or "sakamushi" 酒蒸 and thin strands of breast meat is teased out rather painstakingly and dressed in sesame paste dressing. This was a weekday quick dish, so I just used the leftover chicken breast which was barbecued. As a result, the chicken has a bit of smoky flavor which added a dimension of complexity to this dish. I did not teased out the chicken breast as carefully as I should have but strands of the meat were separated along the grain of the meat. The sesame dressing is made as usual; in a small Japanese mortar or "suribachi" すり鉢, add Japanese white sesame paste or "nerigoma" 練り胡麻 (2 tbs), sugar (1 tsp) and soy sauce (2-3 tabs) and mix with a pestle or "surikogi" 擂り粉木. I taste and add more soy sauce and/or sugar during the process. If the consistency is too thick, add some dashi broth or just water. Dress the chicken meat and top it with roasted white sesame seeds. I blanched "sugar snap*" peas (shocked them in a cold water to preserve the vibrant green color) and served as a garnish.

*My understanding is that these sugar snap peas are a hybrid cultivar developed in the U.S. and then introduced to Japan. This is often referred to (or at least used to be) as  "Snack" endou スナック豌豆 in Japan. Obviously Japanese misheard "snap" as "snack". Japanese government corrected this and this type of pea is now officially called " Snap" endou or スナップエンドウ.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Sautéed squid with ginger soy sauce イカの生姜焼き

Just after we got married, we rented a house that had a locally-owned grocery store within walking distance. The fishmonger there was Asian and really knew his fish. As a result, we were able to get some remarkably good and interesting fresh seafood. It is really good the store was within walking distance because the refrigerator in the house was from the 1950s and the freezer was only large enough to hold a box of frozen peas. As a result we had to stop almost everyday to buy food for dinner. One day, I came home and there was a bag of fresh squid sitting in the kitchen sink. Apparently, my wife bought fresh uncleaned squid from the fish monger. According to my wife, the cashier asked her, during checkout, if she knew how to clean and prepare squid. She answered with a definitive "NO", but said she assumed, since her husband was Japanese, he would know. Luckily, she assumed correctly. She should have realized, however, that not all Japanese, especially men, know how to clean and prepare squid. I can not remember what I made from the squid that day, just that my wife had such implicit faith (well placed or otherwise) in my culinary skills.

In contrast, where we now live, most squid is of either the previously or "presently" frozen pre-cleaned variety. To my pleasant surprise, however, I found fresh squid (uncleaned) at one of our regular grocery stores. Naturally, I had to get some. Although the freshness was nothing close to those available in Japan (many are still alive), this is much better than frozen ones. Although the exact variety is unknown to me, it was larger than most frozen squid.
I pondered what to make from this squid but decided to make it in a classic Izakaya or street food way; grilled squid with ginger soy sauce. Otsumami yokocho おつまみ横町 page 74 has a similar recipe but this type of squid dish is rather classic. I remember this type of squid (served on a stick, see image on the left) was one of my favorite food stand foods during Japanese festival days* or "en-nichi" 縁日 when I was a kid. (Image from http://wallpaper.free-photograph.net/jp/photobase/yp5821.html).

*The closest equivalent I can think of in the U.S. would be a county or state fair.

Just in case you have never cleaned squid: You first have to remove the innards by gently pulling the tentacles while holding the body. If you pull it correctly, all the innards come out in one piece. Then remove the cartilage which runs the entire length of the body of the squid. My squid must have had a hard life. The cartilage was broken in the middle in almost all of them. In that case, you have to go back with you finger into the body cavity of the squid and get the remaining cartilage out. As for the tentacles, I cut into them just beneath the eyes and go under the "beak" to cut them from the eyes and innards. If the beak was still attached to the tentacles, make sure you remove it. I then cut the tentacles at the base into two parts. I removed the skin from the body tube, although you do not have to do it. I did not remove the "fin" at the top of the body called "enpera" エンペラ. I scored the tube in an oblique fashion on both sides to make it easier to eat.

I first marinated the prepared squid in a mixture of sake and soy sauce (1:1) and grated ginger root (1/2 tbs) for several hours in the refrigerator. Since I could not have a charcoal fire to grill the squid, I sauteed it instead. After I removed the squid from the marinade, I carefully dried them with paper towels despite this liquid came out from the squid while cooking and prevented it from nicely browning. This was unavoidable since I did not grill on a charcoal fire. After a few minutes turning once I added a small amount of the marinade and reduced the heat for 2-3 minutes and made a sauce to coat the surface of the squid (see below). If I was grilling I would have brushed on the marinade towards the end of the grilling.

This was not one of my best efforts but the squid was very tender and soy sauce ginger flavor was perfect. For a good measure, I also added a small dab of freshly grated ginger root. We had this with cold sake.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Arugula, fennel salad with flat iron steak ルッコラ、フェンネルとフラットアイアンステーキのサラダ

This is another small starter dish I made. This turned out to be very interesting and unique fusion salad.

The base is a mixture of baby arugula (it is interesting that this green is often called "rocket" in England, New Zealand, and Australia, "rucola" in Italy, and "rukkora" ルッコラ in Japan but in US and Canada, it is called "arugula") and thinly sliced fennel. Arugula is one of those rare greens that has a nice peppery taste on its own without help from any dressing. Fennel also has very nice anise flavor. As usual, I sliced the fennel with a Japanese mandoline slicer (Benriner) paper thin. For salad, it is important to slice fennel paper thin. I pondered about the dressing but decided to use blue cheese dressing (from the bottle). I used the dressing rather sparingly.

I topped this with thinly sliced leftover flat iron steak cooked medium rare. I dressed the steak with a mixture of ponzu shoyu, splash of dark roasted sesame oil and grated garlic. I placed the steak on the bed of arugula and fennel and garnished it with sesame seeds.

The combination of Western flavors of the salad and Eastern flavors of the steak was surprisingly very nice. All these very distinct flavors could be appreciated. 

We had this with a very good Cabernet from Sonoma,
Kunde Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2005. This is a Bordeaux blend (mostly Cab and some Merlot). It is rather rustic with nice smoky note and big chewy, albeit a bit rough huned, tannin (I know some will hate this type of description but tough). This is not a fruity vanilla laden sissy wine. (Although we sometimes like such sissy wines). For the price, this is a find. We usually think Sonoma Cab is not as good as Napa's but I will take an exception for this wine. This wine has a very high PQR.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

CityZen for Japan Fundraising event on April 18

We attended CityZen for Japan on April 18 at CityZen located in the Oriental Mandarin Hotel. The location of the hotel is special. It overlooks Washington Harbor and is near the Tidal Basin. We arrived there a bit early so we sat outside on the terrace sipping wine. It was a beautiful spring day, the daffodils were out and it was fun watching the low flying planes approaching National airport over the 14th street bridge. In contrast, we thought of the quake damaged areas of Japan and felt that participating in this event was the least that we could do.

The event appeared to be a great success. Chef Eric Ziebold and Relief International did a great job organizing this. I do not know how many people participated but the restaurant where it took place was quite crowded. 

Champagne and wine were free flowing with wonderful Hors d'oeuvre. The auction included offerings from the chefs of participating restaurants. The auction packages included dinner prepared by a renowned chef for you and your friends at your house, one of a kind trip to Napa with dinners and wine tasting (at Dalla valle) etc. I was tempted.

After the auctions, all the wonderful food stations opened up including ones by CityZen and our favorite Japanese restaurants around the city offering delicious food.

This was wonderful evening for a good cause and we were glad we could participate and realized how fortunate we were. Thank you CityZen and friends to organize this event.  We wish for a quick recovery of Japanese earthquake and tsunami victims.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Fried Burdock stick 牛蒡の唐揚げ

This is a rather common Izakaya dish, although, for some reason, I have not made it at home until now. There are several different ways to make deep fried gobo. There are gobo chips like potato chip, kakiage tempura, or match sticks like shoe string fries. It can be just deep fried as is, or some kind of batter (tempura batter or buck wheat batter) or flour coating could be used. Another variation infuses some flavors before deep frying.

I decided to make shoe string like fries. I also marinated it with sake and soy sauce before frying. I used potato starch to coat the surface to help make it crisper.

For two small servings like those shown above (one serving shown), I used 2 root end halves of gobo. I scraped the skin and cut into match sticks and soaked in acidulated water for 10-15 minutes with several change of water. I then drained and marinated it in a mixture of sake and soy sauce (1:1) in the fridge over night (few hours at room temperature will be fine or you can skip the marinading step all together). I drained the gobo and patted it dry with a paper towel. I then dredged the sticks with potato starch (katakuri-ko 片栗粉).

Instead of deep frying, I shallow fried them using light olive oil (below image) on medium flame. I could have used peanut oil and/or deep fried them. After several minutes, the gobo sticks turned brown and crispy. I drained the excess oil and while they were hot, I seasoned them with salt. Serve while hot.



My wife was totally sold on this dish. Gobo has a very unique flavor and prepared this was they were so crunchy. It is a bit like sweet potato shoe string fries but gobo is all fibers and crunch. This is probably much healthier than fried potato. This goes well with any drink but we were having cold sake.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Flavored rice with chicken 鶏ご飯

When I posted Chicken rice 鶏飯, I mentioned that if "鶏飯" is pronounced as "tori-meshi" とりめし instead of "keihan" けいはん, it means an all together different dish, which is the dish I am posting here. "Cooked rice" in a polite form in Japanese is "gohan" ご飯, so you could also call this dish, more politely, "Tori-gohan" 鶏ご飯. This is a flavored rice with pieces of chicken. There are many variations and the size and the amount of chicken in this dish also varies. This is my rendition.


The amount below is for 3 cups (Japanese cup, which is about 180ml, ones come with a Japanese rice cooker) of raw rice which serves 4-6 people (or 10 of us).

Chicken: I used two thighs, bone and skin removed, and cut into small chunks (half inch).

Vegetables: I used ginger root (one thin sliver, skin removed and minced), gobo 牛蒡 or burdock root (1/2), and carrot (1 small). For gobo, after scraping off the dark skin of the gobo using the back of the knife under running water, I cut it into small, thin, "small bamboo leaf shape" which is called "sasagaki" 笹掻き cutting ("sasa" 笹 is a type of small bamboo). This is a very common way to cut root vegetables, especially gobo. You do this by shaving the end of burdock like you are sharpening a pencil (I am not sure how many of you actually shaved and sharpened a lead pencil encapsulated in wood cylinder, i.e. an old fashioned pencil, using a knife). Here is a visual aid for "sasagaki". I put the sasagaki cut burdock in acidulated water (with rice vinegar) immediately. I changed the water several times and let it drain (to reduce the pungent smell/taste and prevent discoloration). I also cut a carrot (one small) in the same way as the gobo. If you like, you could add, a deep fried tofu pouch (abura-age), shiitake mushroom, and/or lotus root (renkon 蓮根); all cut into small pieces.

Seasoning: I added vegetable oil (1 tbs) in a frying pan on medium heat and first cooked the chicken. When the surface of the chicken became opaque, I added the burdock and carrot and sauteed them for 1-2 minutes. I then added sake (3 tbs), mirin (2 tbs) and soy sauce (2 tbs) and cooked for 1 minute or so. Using a colander or strainer, I separated the solids from the liquid (preserving both separately).
Rice: You could use a just regular Japanese rice but I added sweet rice or glutenous rice. Japanese will call this rice "mochi-gome" 餅米* since rice cakes or mochi 餅 is made from this variety of rice. I used a mixture of regular rice (2 Japanese cups) and sweet rice (1 Japanese cup).  This adds a stickier texture to the cooked rice but this is optional. I washed the rice under running cold water until the water ran clear. I then drained and let it sit in the strainer.

*(Digression alert) Mochi-gome contains mostly amylopectin as a type of starch, which gives it a stickier consistency than regular Japanese rice. It can be easily distinguished from a regular Japanese rice since the germ of mochi-gome is opaque. As a result, after washing, the rice grains look white and opaque rather than slightly transparent like regular rice. Some rice dishes, beside rice cake, can be made solely from mochi-gome, which are called "okowa" おこわ. Red rice or "sekihan" 赤飯 served on celebratory occasions in Japan is the example of "okowa".

Cooking: This time I used an electric rice cooker but I could have used a Donabe rice cooker. To set up the rice cooker, I added the washed and drained rice and then added the seasoning liquid reserved from cooking the chicken and other ingredients. I then brought the liquid level up to the 3 cup mark by adding dashi broth (or water). I added the chicken and vegetables and stirred it once or twice. I then cooked it like regular rice. After it finished cooking I let it steep for 10-15 minutes (see picture below).  With a rice paddle, I stirred the rice and other items (in Japanese culinary parlance, these are called "gu" 具).


Serving: You usually want to add some greens to this dish. Cooked green beans cut into small segments, green pea, snow pea or snap pea can be added as a garnish. In my case, I added a chiffonade of perilla and nori.

This is a very nice and tasty dish. The addition of sweet rice gave it more body or a "mochi-mochi" もちもち texture, if I am allowed to use a Japanese expression. My wife thought she could not tell the difference from regular rice. This is a perfect "shime" 締め or ending dish or, by itself, with a salad or tsukemono 漬け物 and miso soup, this could be a whole meal.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Simmered Burdock with aonori 牛蒡の青海苔まぶし

This is a new gobo dish for me.  I have not seen, made, or tasted this before. After buying two burdock roots or gobo 牛蒡, I had an excess supply and searched for gobo recipes. I came across this one at e-recipe.com. For more precise recipe, please see e-recipe (in Japanese).

For two servings of the dish seen above, I used the stem end half of the gobo. After the usual scraping of the skin with the back of a knife routine, I cut the gobo into large sticks, half inch or 1 cm diameter and placed them in acidulated water and soaked them for 10-15 minutes with several changes of water.

In a small pot, I added dashi (100ml), sugar (1 tsp) and a small pinch of salt. I reduced the sugar from the original recipe (1 tbs) but even with the reduction it was plenty sweet for me. I placed the gobo in the pot and simmered with a otoshibuta 落し蓋 made of aluminum foil on low flame for 15-20 minutes or until the liquid was almost completely gone. I let it cool down. Just before serving, I added aonori 青海苔(2 tbs or whatever amount you like) to the pot and coated the gobo.

This is a really interesting dish. Beside the flavor of gobo itself, it has sweet and salty taste and the oceanic flavor of aonori. We like other gobo dishes better but this is not bad and certainly different. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Simmered "tarako" cod roe 鱈子の煮付け

This is another tarako dish which is a perfect Izakaya style drinking snack and goes perfectly with sake. I made this dish since I thawed a set of tarako roe (called "hitohara" 一腹 or "one belly" which consists of two roe sacs connected at one point). I made tarako omelet with one sac and the other sat in the fridge for two more days and needed to be quickly prepared.

Seasoning liquid: This is a rather easy dish, especially in my case, since I had leftover broth from making "Negi-ma nabe"  ねぎま鍋 the other day. I just strained the broth and adjusted the seasoning by adding sake, mirin and soy sauce. If you are making the both from scratch; dashi broth (200ml), mirin (2-3 tbs), sake (2tbs) and soy sauce (2-3 tbs) will do it. Some like it sweet and add sugar but I do not. I also add julienne of ginger root (3 thin slivers cut into fine julienne).

Tarako: Some recipes call for "raw" or unpreserved tarako. The only raw roe available around here is shad roe, which may also be used in this dish but I have not tried. So I used the usual salted tarako. It is interesting that the saltiness of the tarako reduces to the saltiness of the simmering liquid when it is cooked. So I do think either raw or salted tarako will work in this dish. I first cut one side of the membrane along the long axis and then cut it in 1 inch segments. I like this way rather than keeping a roe sac intact while cooking and then slicing it when serving. The way I prepared it made the tarako "blossom" when cooked like you see here in the picture, since the sac membrane will contract and invert the roe. This, to me, is more presentable and gives a better texture.

When the seasoning liquid came to a simmer, I added the tarako and simmered it gently for 15 minutes and let it cool to room temperature in the simmering liquid (Picture below).
You could serve this cold, at room temperature or reheated. I served this with blanched broccolini* (which looks somewhat like Japanese mustard green or "nanohana" 菜の花 but does not taste like it) dressed with karashi-zyouyu 芥子醤油 (Japanese hot mustard, sugar, and soy sauce). For good measure, I added fresh fine julienne of ginger or hari-shouga 針ショウガ as garnish. This dish has a nice chewy and interesting texture which is quite different from uncooked tarako and rather bright ginger flavor.  A really nice dish.

*This was developed by a Japanese seed company but is much more popular in the U.S than in Japan for some reason. If you are interested, here is a story about broccolini (in Japanese).

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Hand-made udon 手打ち煮込みうどん

This is hand-made (home-made) udon but I did not make the udon. It was made by Chef Masaya Kitayama of Sushi Taro . I am just showcasing his contribution. We had another extraordinary "omakase" dinner at Sushi Taro. Although everything was excellent as usual, there were a number of "stand-outs" such as grilled "shirako" 白子, grilled bamboo shoot 竹の子, ankimo 鮟肝 (not the usual pre-processed frozen kind I get), bonito tataki 鰹のたたき (done in a special way using fine grained salt), and firefly squid 蛍イカ. It is very nice touch that Masa serves dishes anticipating our preferences--serving just the right amount.  Even though we had pleasantly left hunger well behind by the end of the meal, we asked for one more sushi just for the pleasure of it.  After we finished, Masa said he had a souvenir for us. He brought out a Soba cutting knife, and I said "Hand-made soba" but I was wrong. It was hand-made udon or "teuchi udon" 手打ちうどん. The dough was already rested, folded and ready to be cut. In front of us, he cut the dough into udon noodles. Masa said, he had to try several times to get the right mixture of flours to make a perfect dough. The next evening I made this "nikomi udon" 煮込みうどん with scallion and chicken as a "shime" dish.


Udon: The image below on the left is Masa's teuchi udon before cooking. I cooked it in plenty of boiling water for 10 minutes and washed it in cold running water and drained (right image below).

Chicken: I used two chicken thighs, deboned, skin removed. The chicken had been marinating in sake for a day in the fridge. I cut the chicken into bite sized pieces and dunked them into boiling water for 30 seconds until the surface turned white ("frosting" or shimofuri 霜降り process). I drained and washed in running cold water. All this is to remove any possible strong or gamey taste that the chicken may have or in Japanese culinary parlance, "kusami o toru" 臭みを取る.

Broth: I could have made my own "kaeshi" かえし but I did not. I made dashi broth from a dashi pack. I placed the dashi pack in cold water (about 2 cups) on low-medium flame and continued simmering for 2-3 minutes after it came to gentle boil. I removed the dashi pack and added bottled mentsuyu 麺つゆ (x2 concentrate) tasting and adding until I was satisfied. You could use a combination of mirin, sake and soy sauce instead. Although I did not make home-made "kaeshi", this method produced a very good broth for noodles.

Scallion: I used scallion (3 with some green parts attached) cut the white part into 1 inch length on a slant. I chopped the green parts more finely. 

I added the udon noodles, chicken, and the white part of the scallion to the broth and simmered for 3-4 minutes until the chicken was just done. I added the chopped green parts of the scallion and took the pot off the flame.

I divided the udon into two bowls and garnished with lime zest, thinly shaven and cut into very fine strips (since I did not have "Yuzu" 柚子) and splashed "Yuzu" juice from the bottle (of course, use Yuzu if you have a fresh one). I also sprinkled Japanese 7 flavored red pepper or shichimi tougarashi 七味唐辛子.

Nothing commercially made, either frozen or dried, can come close to Masa's teuchi udon. The texture was so different and nice-it had a satisfying al dente feel but was quite soft at the same time. My contribution was very mild tasting chicken and the broth. The broth was excellent (if I say so myself despite my shortcut way.) We had this as a shime dish and it was a very pleasant extension of the fabulous meal we had the night before. What a satisfying finale. Thank you Masa.

P.S. We ate the remaining udon the next evening (for us, the amount of the Masa's teuchi udon was enough for 4 servings). By my wife's request, I made, fried udon or yakiudon 焼うどん. This time, I made it vegetarian with shimeji and royal trumpet mushrooms, onion, garlic, ginger, and broccolini. I seasoned it with oyster sauce and soy sauce. The garnish is the usual pickled ginger, white sesame seeds and aonori.


Saturday, April 9, 2011

CityZen for Japan

It is heart wrenching to watch the hardships of Japanese Earth Quake survivors. After considering what we could do to help, even a little thing, we decided to join in Chef Eric Ziebold's (of CityZen) fund raising effort for Japan. One of our concerns about making donations is making sure they actually get to the survivors. Eric personally responded to our questions about how the funds are delivered to the survivors (through Relief International). It appears our favorite Japanese restaurants such as Tako Grill, Sushi Taro are also participating.

If you are interested here is the link:
https://www.ri.org/donate/donate-cityzen.php

A Benefit for the People of Japan: Dinner & Auction at CityZen
On Monday, April 18, Washington D.C.'s celebrated CityZen restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental, in collaboration with the Asia Society and Washington Life Magazine, will be hosting a dinner fundraiser to support Relief International's response efforts in Japan. The evening's proceeds will provide direct support to earthquake and tsunami survivors.


The Evening's Agenda – Monday, April 18
6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Reception and silent auction
7 p.m. to  9 p.m.Live auction and food stations from CityZen partnering with our friends from Washington's best Japanese restaurants.
Ticket Cost:$250 per person; 100% of ticket sales directly benefits Relief International's aid efforts in Japan. Once purchased, tickets can be picked up at the entrance of the event.
Dinner Location:CityZen Restaurant
Mandarin Oriental Hotel
1330 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20024

Friday, April 8, 2011

Burdock fettuccine with red pepper and anchovy 牛蒡のペぺロンチーノ

When I buy gobo 牛蒡, I usually get one gobo at a time but this time, the minimum amount I could buy was two. So, besides my usual, kimpira 金平 or nituske 煮付け, I decided to expand my repertoire of gobo dishes. Emulating noodles by using julienned and/or long shavings of vegetables (such as potatonagaimo or daikon )(for that matter, spaghetti squash does not even need to be cut into a noodle shape) is not unusual but making noodles from gobo is new to me. I saw this in e-recipe and decided to try it.

Gobo: I used the stem half of gobo for two servings. After I scraped off the skin using the back of the knife under running water, I used a vegetable peeler to make nice thin long strips. I immediately put the gobo strips in acidulated water. I changed the water several times until the water became clear. I drained and patted the gobo strips dry using paper towels.

Cooking: I heated olive oil (1 tbs) in a frying pan on medium-low flame. I added garlic (two cloves, finely chopped) and anchovy (2 fillets, finely chopped). When the garlic and anchovy became fragrant, I added the gobo strips and red pepper flakes. I stirred it for 2 minutes more or so and seasoned it with salt (taste before adding salt, the anchovy may be salty enough) and black pepper. I added chopped fresh parsley at the end.

This is a surprisingly good dish.  It has a nice spiciness and the gobo provides a pleasing firm texture. The garlic, anchovy, and red pepper create layers of flavors that all go well together. This is a perfect drinking snack. Any drinks including cold sake (not warm sake), wines (especially a nice peppery Australian syrah) and beer will pair well.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Salt-preserved wakame salad 塩蔵わかめの酢の物

Wakame わ かめ is one type of edible seaweed commonly used in Japanese cooking especially in soup or salad (sunomono 酢の物). Wakame can be bought fresh or "nama" 生 (available only seasonally in Japan--not here in the U.S.). Other preparations are salt preserved or "enzou" 塩蔵, and dried or "kansou" 乾燥. Except for fresh wakame, all others are first briefly boiled (which turns the natural brown color of wakame to the green we are familiar with), then, either salt-preserved or dried. The dried variety is most commonly available here in the U.S. and its shelf-life is very long. It is also very convenient (just put it in a soup or hydrate before use) but it lacks flavor and texture. Since it is next to impossible to get fresh wakame, the next best thing is to salt-preserved wakame especially if you are a wakame connoisseur.


I found a package of salt preserved wakame in a near-by Japanese grocery store. I included this picture to show you that this salt-preserved wakame came from "Sanriku" 三陸, the area devastated in the earthquakes and tsunami on March 11, 2011. (Although the Japanese writing on the package said "raw wakame" 生わかめ, this is salt-preserved not "raw".) When you take out one strand of wakame, it looks like the one on the left of the image below.

To use this type of wakame is rather easy and it re-hydrates faster than the dried kind. I just washed it in cold running water to remove the salt and then soaked it in water for a few minutes. It re-hydrated and went back to its natural size and consistency as seen on the right of the image below. It was boiled before being salt preserved. As a result, the hydrated wakame has a nice green color. Since it is not pre-cut, I had to cut it into  appropriate size pieces after squeezing out the excess water.


I just made my ususal sunomono with salt-preserved wakame, cucumber and diced (or concasse of) tomato. For dressing, you could use bottled sushi vinegar,  "sanbai-zu" 三杯酢 (you mix rice vinegar 3 tbs, soy suace 1 tsp, salt 1/3 tsp, and sugar 1/2 tbs), or Ponzu shouyu ポン酢醤油 (from the bottle). You could also make sumiso 酢みそ dressing if you like. I used sanbai-zu. Sometimes, I also add a small amount of good olive oil or sesame oil to make it interesting. Since I had a small piece of tarako omelet left over, I also added the slices.

Is salt preserved wakame better than dried? For sunomono, I think it is. For soup, the difference is less noticeable. The salt preserved wakame should last a few weeks in the refrigerator after opening the package and if you freeze it, should last at least 5-6 months. The dried wakame may last a few years. You have to try it to determine if getting salt-preserved wakame is worth it for you.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Tuna and scallion hotpot ねぎま鍋

I found fresh yellow-fin tuna at the near-by grocery store where we buy pasteurized eggs. Although it was said to be "sashimi" grade and looked and smelled fresh, I wasn't going to take any chances. I decided to make this nabe dish called "Negima" nabe ねぎま鍋. "Negi" 葱 is scallion and "ma" is a short for "Maguro" 鮪 or tuna so this is a nabe dish with scallion and tuna. If you have Japanese "naga negi" 長ネギ or Tokyo scallion, which is much thicker than regular scallion, and more closely resembles small leeks, this dish would be better.  I, however, had no choice but to used regular scallion (close to Japanese "ban-nou negi" 万能葱 or "asatsuki" 浅葱). Again, there are many variations of this dish but "negi" and "maguro" are two name-sake must-have items.


Broth: I first made "dashi' broth using kelp and bonio dashi pack (about 500ml). I added sake (2ts), mirin (2 tbs) and "usukuchi" or light colored soy sauce (4 tbs). 

Ingredients: As  you can see below, I cut tuna into pieces that were a bit larger and thicker than sashimi size (1 lb). I also cut the scallion into pieces about 1 inch long on a slant (6, I chose the thickest ones I can find), and tofu (one). Other possible ingredients could include some leafy greens, fresh mushrooms (either enoki or shiitake), and shirataki 白滝.

I started with scallion and tofu. When they were near done, I added the tuna. I tried not to overcook it but it is very very easy to overcook. Once that happens, you could just leave it in a pot to cook it longer which may make it more tender again . I served it with yuzukosho 柚子胡椒 (dark green paste on the small plate).

I think this is an Ok dish but I am not a big fan of cooked tuna. Good tuna is best eaten raw. But on cold nights such as we were still having, this is a very warming dish. Yuzukosho gave a spicy citrusy counter taste to the rather bland taste of cooked tuna. This dish went perfectly with sake.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Boeuf Bourguignon 牛肉の赤ワイン煮

Sometimes we come across a wine that is OK but we would rather not drink (life is too short). Sometimes after returning the wine to the bottle, we classify it as a "Wednesday" wine-- meaning that although it wasn't good enough for dinner on Sunday, no matter how bad it may have tasted on Sunday, by Wednesday that wine (or any other wine for that matter) would taste good. In other cases the wine can not even classify as a Wednesday wine. We had one such bottle of wine and the only thing left to do was make beef stew. This dish probably does not qualify to be called "Bourguignon" since the wine was not burgundy but Chilean Cab. I did not look up any specific recipe. My recipe has some apparent deviation from the classic (if such a thing exists); one is not using bacon since I do not find too much difference in the end result except adding more fat. I did not have regular button mushrooms (we don't particularly like them), so I used fresh shiitake instead. Lastly, I did not have pearl onions or cippolini but  I did happen to have parsnips. Despite these deviations, the end result was quite good (allow me again to self boast).
Beef: I happened to come across some very reasonably priced beef for stew and bought it (about 2.5 lb). I suspect this could have been rump roast or round but I'm not sure. I salted and peppered the beef cubes and dredged in flour. In a large Dutch oven (or stock pot), I added light olive oil (3 tbs) on medium flame and browned the beef cubes in two batches so that all the surfaces get nicely browned and crusty leaving brown bits ("fond") on the bottom of the pan (#1, below).

Wine: Any semi drinkable dry red wine would do. I used the wine that failed to classify as even a Wednesday wine  (1 bottle or 750ml) as I mentioned above but, of course, you could use Burgundy.

I removed the beef from the pot and covered it with an aluminum foil and set aside. I added finely chopped onion (2 medium), garlic (5 cloves), celery (3 stalks and leaves) to the pot and sauté for 5-6 minutes. The moisture from the vegetables helps dislodge  the "fond" but I further deglazed it with a small amount of red wine to make sure all the "fond" gets incorporated. I added back the beef with the juice accumulated on the bottom of the plate and added the remainder of the red wine. 

Bouquet garni: I did not have fresh thyme. I initially made BG from two stalks of celery, 4 bay leaves, 3 sprigs of parsley, 2 stalks of fresh rosemary tied with a butcher twine, but, at the end, I decided to remove all the solids from the cooking liquid.  I really did not have to make BG and could have just thrown in everything. I also added 5-6 whole back pepper corns and dried thyme (1/4 tsp). I did not add any liquid but wine. When it came to a boil, I skimmed off the scum that formed on the surface. Then turned down the heat to simmer. I put the lid on and cooked for more than 1 hour (#2).

Vegetables: It is important to cook vegetables separately, not in the wine with the meat. The acidity of the wine appears to prevent starchy vegetables such as potatoes from getting cooked properly (i.e. they never become soft). I combined the meat and vegetables after both were properly cooked. I cooked the vegetables in salted water in a separate pot which included potatoes (6 small Yukon gold, peeled), carrot (3 medium, cut in 1 inch rounds), parsnip (3 small, cut in half inch segments) (to cook everything together, give the potatoes a 15 minute head start). If I had pearl onion or cippolini, I would have cooked them in water or chicken stock until they were soft or the liquid mostly evaporated. Then I would have sautéed them in butter to brown the surface before adding to the stew. For the shiitake mushrooms, I cut them into large chunks (6 large), sauteed in butter and deglaze with a small amount of brandy (be careful of flare ups). The cooked vegetables were drained immediately and set aside in a bowl.

After the beef became tender, I removed the meat to another container and strained the remaining simmering liquid to remove all solids pressing to extract all the juice. I put back the liquid in the pot (The liquid was now nice dark burgundy color and slightly thickened. I switched to a smaller pot at this point), added back the beef and the vegetables (#3). I simmered it for another 30 minutes (#4).

We tasted a little of the stew but we did not eat it immediately (because we had fresh tuna we had to eat that evening). I put the pot in the fridge after it cooled to room temperature. The next day, I reheated it on a low flame and adjusted the seasoning with salt and pepper. I served this with Pennsylvania Dutch noodles and green beans. The result was well worth the effort. The beef was fork tender and flavorful and the sauce is very rich and with layers of velvety flavor (may I say unctuous?). We really liked the parsnips in the stew. They added a slight sweetness.

The obvious choice of libation was a good red wine. We had this with Flora Springs Winery, Flora's Legacy, Cabernet Sauvignon 2006. This is a solid Napa cab, not too fruit- or vanilla-laden but with complex black fruit upfront with a nice backbone of tannin and went so well with this dish. Perfect!