Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Cold Udon noodle salad 糸うどんのサラダ

This is another cold thin udon dish. In this case. This was a lunch.  We had more vegetables than noodles but although you can’t see them, they are there under the vegetables in this picture.



Vegetables: I used whatever was available. I used cucumber (American mini-cucumber, sliced into long ribbons for s change), carrot (likewise cut into thin ribbons), Vidalia onion, sake steamed chicken breast, hydrated wakame わかめ sea weed.

Dressing: I used ponzu shouyu ポン酢醤油 sauce (from the bottle) with a dash of dark sesame oil.

Especially if you already have cold udon, this is a very quick dish for lunch or ending or “shime” 締め dish. By cutting the veggies lengthwise they are similar in dimension to the noodles. And believe-it-or-not they have a slightly different consistency and taste than if they were cut the usual way.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Miso flavored salmon in a pouch 鮭の味噌味酒蒸し

This is a rather easy to make and yet quite tasty dish. I had shimeji しめじmushroom (clam shell mushrooms) and about 1 lb of salmon fillet. I did not have the energy or time to make anything complicated so I made this dish. I did not follow any particular recipe but the combination of butter, sake and miso cannot go wrong.
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Salmon fillets: I divided a 1lb fillet into two equal pieces (scales and pin bones removed).
Scallion: I cut on bias into 1-2 inch pieces. I used one scallion per packet.
Mushrooms: I used a combination of hon-shimeji (brown clamshell) and white clam shell mushrooms but any mushroom such as shiitake or enoki will also do. I just used whatever amount I had. I cut off the root end and quickly washed and drained it.
I took a large sheet of aluminum foil, greased it with sweet butter. Next came the sliced scallion and the salmon fillet skin side down. I placed thin pats of butter(1/2 tbs) and miso (1tbs) (#1 below) on the fillets and topped with the mushrooms (#2 below). I closed the packet by folding and crimping the edges together (#3) but just before I closed it completely, I added sake (3-4 tbs). I placed the packets into a pre-heated 400F toaster oven (convection) for 30 minutes. When I opened the pouch (#4), I discovered the miso had not dissolved but got baked and darkened. I simply removed the miso and dissolved it into the juice/sake accumulated in the bottom of the pouch.
salmon miso packet
I served this with baby bok choi (quartered) which was boiled in water with splash of sake and salt (The first picture). Since I cooked this ahead of time, it lost its green color. Although I did not use sugar or mirin, the sauce was sweet enough. The salmon had a poached-like consistency that was nicely tender. The baked miso, added a very nice nutty flavor and richness.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Matsutake and chestnut Japanese Egg custard 松茸と栗の茶碗蒸し

Although I have posted several variations of chawan-mushi 茶碗蒸しbefore, this time, I had a convergence of North American chestnuts or “kuri” 栗 and matsutake 松茸 and decided to make this dish. To accommodate more items, I used larger bowls. For two servings like the one below, I used two eggs.

CIMG5362Egg mixture: As usual, I used “dashi pack” (bonito flakes ad kelp) and made dashi broth. After I measured two eggs, I added a bit less than 3 times of the volume of dashi broth and seasoned it with light colored soy sauce (1 tbs), mirin (2 tsp) and salt (1/2 tsp, kosher). I added more dashi to make it to exactly 3 times of the voluvme of the eggs.

I placed, slices of chicken breast (this time I used sakamushi 酒蒸し chicken breast), slices of matsutake and boiled and peeled chestnuts (see below). I poured the egg mixture through a fine mesh strainer into two bowls.

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I used an electric wok and steamed the bowls for 5 minutes in medium-high continuous steam and then reduced it to low-continuous steam. After 6-7 minutes when the surface of the egg mixture was congealed enough, I placed shrimp, more sliced matsutake, and scallion slices (picture below). I continued steaming for another 7-8 minutes until the egg mixture became firm.
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I served this with a dab of real wasabi and a wedge of lime.
Despite the large amount of matsutake slices, the matsutake flavor was very subtle (i.e. almost nonexistent). Next year, I will go back to Oregon mushrooms to get my matsutake. Otherwise, the chawan mushi was quite good with the nice sweet taste of the chestnuts and rather filling because of the size.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Yakitori, two kinds 焼き鳥2種類、レバたれ、笹身のシソ梅肉

I started this blog with “Yakitori” posts 3 years ago. I also posted about our surrogate “Izakaya” “Tako Grill”.  Last year, to our surprise, Chef Kudo went back to Japan for good and opened up his restaurant “タコグリルTako Grill” in the small town he originally came from called “Kuroishi” 黒石 in Aomori prefecture 青森県. Now Mr. Terry Segawa 瀬川哲紀 who mostly took care of the business side of Tako Grill is more involved in the kitchen. He added quite nice Izakaya type snacks to the menu (actually, he now has a special Izakaya menu). When Terry is behind counter, he often offers something “off the menu”. These dishes are different and quite nice; one evening it was Yakitori (chicken liver and hearts). My wife really likes chicken liver Yakitori, which I have not made for some time. This prompted me to make these small yakitori skewers on weekend.
When I barbecue whole chickens, I usually discard the neck, gizzards and liver which are packaged in paper and tucked inside the cavity. (These are usually meant for making the American classic gravy-with-giblets). This time, I used the liver to make this small Yakitori while we are waiting for the whole chickens to finish cooking.

Since the Webber grill was otherwise occupied with the whole chickens and the mosquitos were still around making me reluctant to stand around outside tending the grill, I cooked these Yakitori in the toaster oven in “Hi-broil”.

Chicken liver: I removed attached fat, vessels etc and soaked them in sake for 20-30 minutes. I used a flat metal skewer. From two whole chickens, there was enough liver to make two small skewers (picture below).

Sauce: I made quick “tare” たれ or dipping sauce. It is a mixture of sake (1 tbs) mirin (1 tbs), sugar (2 tsp) and soy sauce (1 tbs). I first heated the sake and mirin mixture to boil, then dissolved sugar and added soy sauce. I then made a potato starch slurry (katakuriko 片栗粉 or potato starch plus sake). I streamed it in until the sauce was slightly thickened.

Chicken tenderloins: This is a variation of shiso and salted plum roll 梅しそ巻き which I previously posted. Instead of making it into a roll, I butterflied the chcken tenderloins, lined it with 1 or 2 leaves of perilla and smeared bainiku 梅肉 (I removed the meat of umeboshi 梅干 plum and minced it into paste with a small amount of mirin to make it a paste consistency). After closing the butterflied portions, I used a sawing motion to thread the skewer (see below).

I cooked the skewers on Hi-broil in the toaster oven (with the upper heating elements about 1 inch from the skewers) turning once or twice for 10-15 minutes. For the liver,  I coated the surface of the cooked liver with the dipping sauce and broiled it for one more minute turning once. I put on one more coat of “tare” sauce and sprinkled “sansho” 山椒 or powdered Szechwan pepper corn on the liver.

This was a perfect appetizer to eat while we waited for the chicken to cook. Sometimes the liver included in the packet found in the cavity of a whole chicken is not fresh and is all broken up, but I should check it before discarding. This was perfectly good chicken liver.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Matsutake dobinmushi soup 松茸の土瓶蒸し

Although I posted a similar dish last year, there are a limited number of dishes you can make from fresh matsutake. This is one of the classic ways to enjoy this delicacy of the autumn. Dobin 土瓶 is a tea kettle made of china but I do not have an appropriate one. So I used this mini “testubin” 鉄瓶 teapot (cast iron teapot) for this dish.

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Since I had fresh chestnuts I also used them in this dish. I could not get an appropriate fish (“hamo” 鱧 or Pike or Conger eel are the most appropriate for this dish), I just used shrimp as you can see in the picture below.
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I also added boiled and peeled North American chestnut.CIMG5352
Here is the slice of Mastutake. As mentioned before, this years batch was not really good. Although I used a lot, It was not as aromatic as it should be.CIMG5350
Of course, you should start by pouring the broth into a small sake cup and enjoying the subtle aroma of mastutake.

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Broth: I used “dashi pack” which is a mixture of kelp and bonito flakes. I seasoned it with light-colored soy sauce (“usukuchi” 薄口), mirin and salt. Other items beside thinly sliced fresh mastutake were shrimp, boiled chestnuts, and sliced scallion. If I had some available, I would have used “mitsuba”三つ葉 and some kind of mild tasting white meat fish. Since I did not have “sudachi” すだち, a Yuzu-like Japanese citrus, I used a wedge of lime.

This was good enough to evoke the sense that fall has arrived.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Matsutake on "touban" grill 松茸の陶板酒蒸し焼き

This year, I didn’t order the Matsutake 松茸 from my usual place “Oregon mushrooms”. The matsutake I got from the different place turned out not to be as good as what I got previously from Oregon. For one thing when I ordered from Oregon Mushrooms I could specifying the grade of matsutake I wanted. The different place had only one type of matsutake available. In addition when it arrived the caps were open and mostly broken off leaving only stems (there were more stems than caps). The aroma was very faint for even North American matsutake. In any case, I decide to make an effort to enjoy it. The first dish I made was “Touban” mushi(yaki) 陶板焼き.

“Toubann” 陶板 means a ceramic plate. I have one of the smallest ones with a round ceramic bottom, a dome shaped ceramic lid and a small steam hole (#3 in the picture below). It can be used as a grill. It diffuses and retains heat better than a metal grill. It is a good way to grill seafood which is then eaten with a dipping sauce. Another way is to use the dome-shaped lid to add a steam/braising component to the cooking. I intend to post other touban-yaki dishes sometime.

In any case, I decide to cook the mastutake with the touban.  As before, I cleaned and cut/tore the mastutake as seen in #1 in the picture below. I preheated the touban on a medium flame and coated the surface with light olive oil using a paper towel. I first grilled the matsutake (#2) for a few minutes and then seasoned it with a sprinkle of Kosher salt, and a splash of sake. I quickly put on the dome-shaped lid to sake-steam the mastutake. After one minute or so, I removed the lid (#4). Even after I removed the touban from the fire, the small amount of liquid on the bottom kept bubbling (The first picture).
When I opened the lid, there was a faint aroma of matsutake. We had this with a squeeze of lime. This is a good preparation of matsutake but the aroma of this batch was a bit disappointing. We could have had Royal trumpet mushrooms instead. Of course, the accompanying drink must be daiginjou-class 大吟醸 fruity and crisp cold sake. In our case, the usual 'Mu" 八重垣 無 sake did the job.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Poor-man's sous-vide shio-koji pork belly 炊飯器で塩麹豚

Sous-vide is a popular way to cook meat or fish especially among professional chefs. It is done by submersing vacuum plastic wrapped meat or fish into warm water and cooking it for several hours. Although many sous-vide devices are available for home cooks, they tend to be rather expensive. I certainly cannot justify buying the equipment. I came across this recipe for marinating pork belly in shio-koji 塩麴 and slow cooking it in a rice cooker. Usually the water used for sous-vide cooking is 50-60C but, the “keep-warm” setting on a rice cooker, is more like 80-90C. In any case, since I just bought pork belly and happened to have shio-koji and an electric rice cooker, I decided to test this recipe.

I cut two small blocks of pork belly (probably less than 1/2 lb), put them in a small Ziploc storage bag (It is thicker than a similar size "sandwich" bag). I added shio-koji (10% of the weight or just enough to thinly coat the surface of the meat) and massaged it to coat the meat completely. I then removed as much air as I could from the bag and sealed it (#1 below). I placed the bag in the inner pot of the rice cooker (#2 below) and poured hot water to the highest level (#3 below)

I kept the cooker on “warm” mode for 4 hours and then let it cool down to room temperature (another several hours). I removed any excess fat and shio-koji from the surface (#4 in the picture above).

I sliced it and served it with Japanese hot mustard and yuzu-koshou (The first picture). This is certainly an OK preparation. The pork, however, was missing that unctuous melt-in-your-mouth feel and subtle sweetness which this dish is all about. The meat was cooked, but it was somehow too “solid” and dry.  If you’re going to flirt with eating this much fat it should be at its superlative best. For this reason, we much prefer the more tradtional “Kakuni”. At least, we learned that this poor-man’s sous-vide sort of works.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Shrimp cocktail in Hilton Head ヒルトンヘッドの茹で海老のオーロラソース

This is leftover peel and eat shrimp we made on the first evening at Hilton Head. I have posted “shrimp and grits” also made from the leftover shrimp and broth made from the discarded peels. I served this as an appetizer. Since I did not have my usual pantry, I made this sauce from whatever was available. Since we did not have appropriate vessels, I also made a cup from a half lemon.
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darioush The dipping sauce was made of mayonnaise (2tbs), ketchup (1 tbs), finely chopped sweet onion (2 tbs), finely chopped sweet pickles (1 tbs) and parsley (1 tbs), grated lemon zest (1/2 tsp) and lemon juice (1 tbs). The mixture of mayo and ketchup is popular in Japan and often referred as “aurora” sauce.

I shelled the boiled shrimp and served it with wedges of lemon and baby arugula. We had this with sparkling wine from California “Domaine Chandon” Reserve Brut. (We are partial to this winery since we had several memorable times at their restaurant). The shrimp was impeccably fresh, sweet, succulent and jumbo size—almost like small lobsters. They were shrimp at their finest something we have found to be consistent here.

The fabulous shrimp were followed by a main course of fillet mignon (which was a very good cut of beef from a local gourmet grocery store) with green asparagus and my wife’s smashed potatoes. We switched to “Darioush” 2009 Cab. This was a bit on the decadent side but we were on vacation. Sitting on the balcony in the candle light (we had a combination of LED candles and real candles. The LED candles were included because the wind from the ocean sometimes makes it impossible to keep the real candle lit), watching the moon rise over the ocean, listening to the surf and looking out at the bobbing lights of the shrimping boats as well as the lights from several large freighters on the horizon heading to Savannah, we could not have had a better dinner at any restaurant.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Shrimp and Grits シュリンプ アンド グリッツ

As usual, we were in Hilton Head island in shrimping season. One of joys of being here is the view of the ocean from our balcony including shrimping boats that come very close to the shore and, as a result, enjoying peel and eat fresh local white shrimp. The first night, we boiled up a pound and a half of white shrimp. With a good crusty bread and wine, it was dinner. Using the leftover shrimp and a broth made from the water used to boil the shrimp with the peeled skins added, we made a classic southern dish “Shrimp and Grits”.This could be a breakfast dish or ending dish for a snack dinner with wine.
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We made this in a rather simple way. Some traditional recipes suggest making Tasso ham gravy and using chicken broth to make the grits. We made the grits using the shrimp broth, ham, onion and leftover boiled shrimp. For two servings like you see above we used;

Grits – 1/4 cup Quaker oats quick (5 minutes) grits. Real stone-ground hominy (alkali-treated corn) takes too long to cook and “instant” kind does not have the right consistency.
Shrimp broth – 1 and 1/4 cup. This was salted when we boiled shrimp. Just enough saltiness that you could drink it.
Onion 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped.
Ham – two slices of good packaged ham, cut into small bite sized pieces.

My wife first sautéed the onion in a small sauce pan with olive oil (1-2 tbs) until soft and slightly browned (about 5-7 minutes), added the ham and the shrimp broth. When the broth came to a boil, she added the grits, stirred and turned down the heat to simmer for five minutes with a lid on. Then she added a tablespoon of butter and several gratings of parmesan cheese.
We served this in  a small bowl with the boiled shrimp and chopped Italian parsley as a garnish.
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This dish was the essence of “shrimpiness”. The grits had a lovely light fresh shrimp taste and sweetness from the broth. The broth was what really made the dish. Although we did not make Tasso ham gravy, the onion and ham added a nice dimension. Something this good can only be made with the impeccably fresh shrimp available here. Especially with the view of ocean and shrimping  boats from our balcony, this was a perfect dish.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Shio-koji marinated Monk fish "mock" lobster 鮟鱇の塩麹焼き擬製ロブスター

Again, I spotted monk fish fillets in our grocery store. Since I am on a shio-koji 塩麴 kick, I thought this may be a good fish to try.

Monk fish: I bought two small monk fish fillets (combined, about 1 lb). I removed the slimy membrane as much as I could

Shio-koji marinade: I made some variation and added olive oil (2 tbs), mirin (2 tbs) to shio-koji (2 tbs). I placed two Monk fish fillets in a Ziploc bag, poured in the marinade, massage it a bit and removed as much air as I could and sealed. I let it marinade in the refrigerator overnight for 24 hours.

Since monk fish has the texture, but not the flavor, of lobster tail and is sometimes referred to as “poor man’s lobster), I decided to cook the Monk fish fillets as mock lobster tails. After the 24 hour marinade, I removed the fillets, blotted the excess moisture from the surface and sprinkled on smoked paprika (powder) (to simulate the color of cooked lobster) and then made shallow slit on top length wise—doesn’t it look like a lobster tail?. I placed them in a pre-heated 400F toaster oven for 10-15 minutes or until center of the thickest part was opaque (cut and peek).

I served this on a bed of couscous (from a box, this one was parmesan flavored). On the side, I served boiled sugar snap peas(seasoned with salt) and a tomato (skinned and shaped like a rose with salt and a dab of mayonnaise).

This was really good. The change in the texture of fish reminded me of “kasuzuke” 粕漬け or fish marinated in sake lee. The addition of mirin gave a bit more sweetness. Both of us really liked this preparation. Although Monkfish without marinating is very good, this one really made it better.