Thursday, November 29, 2012

Baked curry flavored cauliflower カレー味焼きカリフラワー

We saw a recipe called “Buffalo wing cauliflower” posted on an internet “recipe site”. Essentially, it was crispy hot (spicy) baked cauliflower. But that recipe did not work well. It called for a kind of batter to coat the cauliflower florets then the florets were to be baked so the crust would get crispy. After the florets were removed from the oven they were to be coated with a mixture of melted butter and hot sauce. Somehow the batter did not work (at all). It was soggy and it made the cauliflower soggy instead of crispy. (did anyone actually try making this dish before posting it)? The idea of spicy nuggets of cauliflower sounded good however, so my wife suggested I try making baked cauliflower like I make my curry flavored wings and I agreed to try it.

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I could have used an oven, either toaster oven or regular oven, but we were doing chicken thighs and wings on the Weber grill and decided to baked this in the grill before I cooked the chicken. (Later I tried with the 400F convection toaster oven for 10-13 minutes which worked well).

The recipe is very simple. I first separated the cauliflower into small florets. I then coated the surface of the florets with olive oil using my hands to toss and coat well.

For seasoning I used 4-6:1 ratio of flours and curry powder (I used “sweet” curry powder) mixture. I placed it in a gallon-size Ziploc bag and coated the florets (I forgot to add salt here and sprinkled it after it was cooked).

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I placed this in a Weber Grill (I set it up for in-direct heat with the hot coal placed only half of the bottom. I placed the cauliflower on the cool side (indirect heat), put the lid (both lower and upper vents open) for 10 minutes (or 400 F oven for 10-13 minutes). We tasted it and felt it was slightly underdone and might need 5 more minutes. But after baking 5 more minutes, we found it was a bit overdone.

In any case, this is a very nice way to eat cauliflower and is a perfect appetizer while waiting for the chicken to cook. The curry was not too hot. The florets had a slight crunch from the combination coating of oil and flour. Our only regret was that they were too soft (over cooked). We must stop cooking when the cauliflower is still a bit underdone since it keeps cooking after removing from the heat. We had this with a dipping sauce of Greek yogurt flavored with blue cheese dressing (our effort to cut excess fat). This works very well since the flavor of the blue cheese dressing permeated the yogurt, and the blue cheese flavor went very well with the curried cauliflower.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Autumnal kara-age with chestnuts and ginkonuts 秋の栗と銀杏のから揚げ

Since I am running out of dishes to make with North American chestnuts, this is my last attempt this fall. Here is "kakiage" かき揚げ with the essences of autumn; ginkonuts 銀杏 and chestnuts 栗.

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Although it is possible to harvest ginko fruits (which nobody here does except some dedicate Japanese expats), clean off the smelly skin, broil and crack open to produce ginkonuts, but it is too smelly and messy work for even for me. I tried it on a very small scale once in the past but that was more than enough for one lifetime. In the center of the kakiage shown in the above picture is a chestnut surrounded by three small yellow ginkonuts (out of a can).

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I used whatever vegetables were available. They included: onion (thinly sliced) and carrot (julienned). The amount is all arbitrary. I first put the vegetables in a bowl and added a pinch of salt and enough cake flour to coat the vegetables and let it sit for a few minutes. The moisture came out of the vegetables and moistened the flour which makes it easier to fry the veggies crispy. This “undercoat” of flour means the batter will coat the vegetables better. I added a bit more flour and cold seltzer water and mixed to make a rather thin runny batter.

On a large spoon or wooden (flat) spatula (or  Japanese "Hera" へら), I placed the mixture and chestnuts (previously boiled and both outer skin and inner skin removed) as shown below.

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I slipped the mixture into hot oil (175-180C or 350F). I used peanut oil. I fried them for 4-5 minutes until brown and crispy (my oil was a bit too hot).

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The vegetables turned out to be a bit too brown but the crust was very light and crispy and deep frying makes the onions, ginko nuts and chestnuts very sweet. They have a nice texture as well. We had this with my usual green tea salt. Any left overs can be heated up nicely in a toaster oven. To reheat them in a toaster over, however, you need a metal grate over a cookie sheet since excess oil will drip down. This is another winning combination. You can’t go wrong with deep fried onions, a combination of sweet carrot and nuts.

Friday, November 23, 2012

RGPB (Really Good Pumpkin Bread) パンプキンブレッド

Again, this is something my wife made. This recipe came from America's test kitchen. I have to say this is one of the best quick breads I ever tasted. It is moist, flavorful with the crunch of nuts and sweet crumbs on the top. You can eat this any time of the day. It is sweet enough to be even a dessert (at least for us but probably not for most Americans). I asked my wife to take over this post.

This bread consists of two parts: the topping and the bread itself. The secret of this recipe is to cook the pumpkin puree to caramelize slightly and remove the “canned” taste.

Topping: 5 Tbs. packed light brown sugar,1Tbs. all purpose flour, 1Tbs. unsalted butter softened, 1 Tsp. ground cinnamon, 1/8 Tsp. salt. I used my fingers to mix all the ingredients together until the mixture resembled coarse sand.

Bread: 2 cups all purpose flour, 1 1/2 Tsp baking powder, 1/2 Tsp. baking soda, 1 15 oz. can of unsweetened pumpkin puree, 1tsp. salt, 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 ground nutmeg, 1/8 ground cloves, 1cup granulated sugar, 1 cup packed light brown sugar, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 4 oz. cream cheese cut into pieces, 4 large eggs, 1/4 cup buttermilk, 1 cup walnuts toasted and chopped.
I mixed the flour, baking powder and baking soda together in a bowl and set it aside. I combined the pumpkin puree, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in a large sauce pan and cooked continuously until it turned brown and reduced by about half (picture 1 below). I removed the pan from the heat and stirred in the sugars, oil and cream cheese. I mixed it until everything was incorporated and homogeneous. I whisked together the eggs and buttermilk and added it to the pumpkin mixture (picture 2). (This step requires some care not to curdle the eggs so either let the mixture cool down or temper the eggs a bit before adding.)  I poured the cooled pumpkin mixture into the flour mixture to form a batter. I folded the walnuts into the batter. I poured the mixture into two greased loaf pans and sprinkled the topping mixture on top of the loaves. I cooked the loaves in a 350 degree oven for about 45 or 50 minutes or until a skewer came out clean. Just after cooking, this loaf is very tender so I let it rest in the pan for about 20 minutes before I attempted to remove it (picture 3). I waited until it was completely cool before slicing is (picture 4).

This bread is quite good. It is very tender and has lots of flavor. The nuts add a nice counterpoint to the rich soft texture of the bread. The topping adds an additional texture component and a nice sweet crunch. The bread would be really good even without the topping. We will be making this again.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

PD Noodle Mac and Cheese variation マック アンド チーズ ヴァリエーション

We had leftover barbecued chicken from the weekend, leftover Pennsylvania Dutch noodle (egg noodle) and this was a leftover control dish. This is similar to my Mac and cheese with some variations.

The below will make a 9 inch casserole.

Sauce: This is a type of Morney sauce (or Béchamel sauce with cheese). I try to make Béchamel with the least amount of fat possible. To do this I start with finely chopped onions before adding the flour. Because the flour coats the surface of the chopped onion, it will make a smooth Béchamel without much fat.

I sautéed 1 medium finely chopped onion in a frying pan (2 tbs of light olive oil instead of butter) and seasoned it with salt. I then added shiitake mushroom (optional 3 big ones, stem removed and finely chopped). After mushrooms were softened, I added flour (3 tbs) stirring until dry flour was no longer visible and the pieces of vegetable were coated with flour. I added cold 1% (instead of cream or 4%) milk at once (about 1 cup and add more later). I stirred the mixture with a silicon spatula until the sauce thickened. Since cheeses will be added and the noodles may absorb moisture, I wanted this sauce to be rather runny. I added more milk until the desired consistency was attained. I seasoned it with salt, white pepper and freshly grated nutmeg (we like lots of freshly grated nutmeg).

Cheese: We added two cheeses; sharp Cheddar (1/2 cup grated) and Gruyere cheese (1/2 cup grated). If the sauce became too thick, you can add more milk to loosen it.

Chicken: This is optional but one of the reason for this dish was to use the leftover barbecued chicken. I used about 1/2 cup of cooked and shredded chicken which was mixed into the sauce. Since the chicken was hot smoked, it added a nice smoky flavor.

Noodles: This was Pennsylvania Dutch noodle (wide noodle) cooked. I added about a cup to the chicken cheese mixture. I placed the sauce mixture with noodles into the casserole and placed it in a 400F preheated convection (toaster) oven for 15-20 minutes or until the surface started showing brown spots. I grated Riggiano Palmigiano cheese and chopped parsley on the top. I let it rest for 10 minutes before serving.

This was a quite wonderful “comfort” dish for leftover control. Often Cheddar cheese cooked too long becomes "chalky" but the addition of Gruyere and the rather loose sauce appeared to prevent this from happening. The nutmeg and smoky chicken added nice flavor. I could have added bread crumbs on the top to make crunchy surface but even without it this was a fine dish.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Nagaimo and mushroom cheese casserole 長芋とエリンギのチーズ焼き

More than a week or so ago, I bought nagaimo 長芋 from the Japanese grocery store. I did not finish it and the edges were getting discolored and I needed to make something from it. I remembered the recipe I saw previously and decided to make this dish. The original recipe uses clamshell mushrooms or shimeji しめじ mushroom but I did not have one. Instead I used royal trumpet mushroom which is very similar to eryingi (popular in Japan). This is a Western-Japanese fusion casserole dish consisting of bacon, nagaimo, onion, mushroom which are first sautéed and then baked with the cheese on the top. The ingredient below made two of the small casserole or ramekin as you see below.

Nagaimo: I had 3 inch piece of nagaimo. I peeled it and removed any discolored ends, cut it in half length wise and then sliced it into half circles (about 1/3 inch thick).

Royal trumpet mushroom: Starting from the stem-side I tore it into 4-6 long, thin pieces (I used 4 large mushrooms).

Onion: I halved and then sliced onions (one small).

Bacon: I cut one strip of bacon into half-inch size.

Cheese: I used smoked mozzarella cheese. I  sliced it into thin (1/4 inch) slices, 2 per ramekin.
I first put the bacon into a dry frying pan on medium low head and rendered the bacon fat and made the bacon brown and crispy (5-7 minutes). Since the amount of the fat was not enough, I also added olive oil (1 tsp) and sautéed the onion for several minutes and then the mushroom. I seasoned it with salt and black pepper. I then added the slices of nagaimo and sautéed for several minutes and seasoned it again. I divided the mixture into two small ramekins and placed the slices of cheese on the top. On hi-broil, I melted the cheese in a toaster oven (2-3 minutes). I garnished I with chopped chives.
The above picture shows nagaimo slices.
Here is the royal trumpet mushroom.

This is a Ok dish but not great. Although cooking (especially grilling) usually reduces the sliminess of nagaimo, that did not happen in this dish. Although the nagaimo had a nice crunchy texture, it was way too slimy and as a result not great. On the positive side, I satisfied my curiosity about this dish, used up leftover mushrooms and nagaimo and made one new post.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Southern cheese grits soufflé チーズグリッツスフレ

This is another Southern grits dish my wife made. We had this as an ending dish one evening but this is also a perfect breakfast item. It is a kind of soufflé with grits as a stabilizer. It is quite good but we (I) burned our/my tongue(s) since the ramekins retained heat so well. If you are going to try this recipe, I suggest to let it cool for 10 minutes or so before tasting.

I have to ask my wife to fill in the recipe.

The amount below made 4 small ramekins like seen here (about 3 inch in diameter).

Grits:I made a batch of grits according to the recipe on the box. Basically it was 1 cup of milk, and a pinch of salt. I brought the milk just to the boil and stirred in 3 table spoons of grits. I brought it back to the boil then reduced to simmer and cooked for 5 minutes.

Grits “soufflé”: I preheated the toaster oven to 325 degrees then generously greased 4 individual ramekins (about 3 inch diameter). We had some leftover garlic chips. (a sliced garlic clove slowly sautéed in olive oil until it starts to brown, then quickly removed before it starts to burn). I cut the chips into small pieces and added them with 1/4 cup milk and 4 Tbs. butter and a cup of grated cheddar cheese to the cooked grits. I then took 2 eggs and slowly tempered them by adding spoonfuls of the hot grit mixture to the eggs and stirring. I added the tempered eggs to the rest of the grits mixture. I poured the mixture into the ramekins and put into the preheated toaster oven and cooked them for about 30 minutes.

The final dish was beautiful. The grits puffed up just like a soufflé. This is a a very satisfying dish. The garlic chips add a nice mellow garlic flavor that can’t go wrong with the combination of garlic and cheddar cheese. The texture is almost like a very firm pudding with a gritty texture (from the grits of course). I think it would also be good made with polenta. My husband found it good too but in his hurry to taste it really burned his tongue. Next time we will let it cool for a while. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Savory French toast with hot sauce ホットソース入りフレンチトースト

While we we vacationing in Hilton Head, I made French toast one morning. Since we did not have maple syrup. I just made it with a mixture of eggs and cream, seasoned with salt rather than making it sweet. My wife really liked the non-sweet French toast and came up with the idea of “savory” french toast. After coming home, she made this dish one weekend as a breakfast.
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Bread: We used two thick slices of store-bought semolina loaf.
Egg mixture: For two slices like above, we used two whole eggs, cream (2 tbs), Sriracha hot sauce (to your taste) and salt (1/4 tsp).

In a shallow pan, which was just large enough to accommodate two slices of bread, we place the bread slices and poured over the egg mixture. Turning once, to coat. Then we placed it in the refrigerator over night so that the bread could totally absorb the egg mixture.

Next morning, I fried the bread in melted butter in a frying pan until both sides were browned and finished it in a 350F preheated oven for 10-15 minutes or until the center of the bread was cooked.

We grated Parmigiano-Riggiano cheese on the top. This turned out pretty well. It is a slightly hot (egg and cream tamed the heat from the hot sauce) but savory French toast. The bread was crunchy on the outside but moist (almost like bread pudding) on the inside. We actually prefer this to the more traditional sweet French toast. We also enjoyed the leftover French toast as a drinking snack by cutting it into  bite-sized cubes and toasting it before serving. My wife says the success of this dish opens wide vistas of possibility for variations on this theme…oops!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Baked egg on Indian-style spinach オーブン卵とほうれん草カレー

We gave up "baking" eggs such as "oeuf cocotte".  Eggs never cook properly ending up with overcooked yolks and under cooked whites. So, we usually substitute "baking" eggs with poached eggs. Then we came across the article and recipe on perfectly "baked" eggs in a paper copy of Cook Illustrated by America's test kitchen. They tested many different ways of baking eggs They listed a spinach florentine recipe with baked egg. Instead of making spinach Florentine, we used my wife's Indian style spinach without cheese curds.
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The picture above shows perfectly cooked egg white and still runny egg yolk. So their method of baking eggs really works!
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My wife garnished this with small chunks of Reggiano Pamigiano cheese and fresh basil leaves.
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The secret of success is that the item that goes under the egg has to have a certain around of moisture to produce steam during cooking (such as this dish or florentine). It also has to support the egg white and yolk in the proper way. So, my wife made the circular indentations as you see above. The center crater will hold up the egg yolk. In addition, you need to bake the base first so it is piping hot before placing the egg on top. This allows the white to cook first while the yolk is insulated by the spinach mixture and cooks more slowly

We preheated our convection toaster oven to 400F and placed the ramekins with the spinach sauce in a glass pyrex baking dish and cooked ifor 10 minutes before placing the egg on the top. We then continued baking for 10 more minutes. After removing from the oven we garnished with chunks of parmesan and fresh basil. We had this as a breakfast with toast of my wife's home baked white bread and freshly brewed Cappuccino (we home roast green beans and use Italian-made espresso machine, I may be able to post about our coffee when my inventory of the Izakaya dishes are low).

P.S. Later, we also tried this using spinach florentine which was also very good and the eggs were baked perfectly.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Vegetable chips 野菜チップス

This is not something we made but we thought was rather unique and worth reporting. We also think (perhaps wishfully?), that it is also a rather healthy snack to have while imbibing wine. While vacationing in Hilton Head, we visited a gourmet grocery store there called "Fresh Market". It is a large grocery store chain and we learned one store recently open near our home. In any case, they have the largest selection of bulk "snacks" we have ever seen. These vegetables (whole and chips) were among the many snacks offered. I am not sure if they are deep fried or dried but judging from amount of fat and the taste, these are not simply deep fried as many vegetable chips are but tasted too good to be just air dried.

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Being in the South, we should not have been surprised at seeing the dried okra--that southern stand-by and favorite (lower left). We just had to try it. It was pretty good as were the green beans (right). Both retained their shape and nice green color, although totally dry and desiccated. Both had a nice fresh green taste. Although the dried okura is not as slimy as the fresh ones, even dried, there is some residual sliminess particularly as it moistens with the saliva in your mouth. Other selections included regular potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrot, Kobacha pumpkin and some items we could not identify. We were kinda hoping that these snacks, eaten while drinking some wine, would count this a USDA recommended daily serving of vegetables (NOT!).

Friday, November 2, 2012

Poached starch-coated chicken breast 鶏水晶の刺身風

I saw this recipe on line and decided to try it. The idea of this dish is to coat pieces of chicken breast with potato starch before poaching it, which creates a transparent slippery surface and also keeps the meat moist. This type of preparation is apparently called “quartz crystal” 水晶 to be poetic.

This was served cold with sliced cucumber, hydrated sea weed (wakame 若布) and julienned daikon seasoned with ponzu ポン酢 sauce. I also added yuzu-koshou 柚子胡椒 and the meat of pickled plum or umeboshi 梅干, which was finely chopped into a paste or “bainiku” 梅肉.
I followed the original recipe closely.

Chicken breast: I used one bone-less, skin-less chicken breast for two small servings as seen above. It was cut along the long axis first and them sliced thin (1/4 inch). Using the back of my knife, I pounded the meat in one direction and then turned the meat 90 degrees and repeated the process. I did this on both sides of meat to tenderize. I placed the meat in a small bowl and added light-colored soy sauce (1 tsp), salt (1/4 tsp), grated ginger (1/4 tsp) and potato starch (1 tbs). Using my fingers, I mixed everything well.

Poaching: I deviated somewhat here. Instead of water, I used chicken broth (my usual reduced salt non-fat Swanson chicken broth). In a frying pan, I poured chicken broth about 1 inch deep. After it came to a boil, I turned the heat down and gently poached the seasoned chicken. I only poached it for 2-3 minutes or until the meat was cooked. I did not poach as long as the original recipe suggested (10 minutes). I immediately dunked the poached meat into ice water until it was completely cooled down. Then, I drained it.
I made a mound of sliced cucumber (as usual,thinly sliced, salted and the moisture squeezed out), hydrated wakame sea weed (excess moisture wrung out), finely julienned daikon. All were dressed in ponzu (soy) sauce. I then arranged the poached and cooled chicken around in a circle.

This is quite a nice small dish perfect for cold sake. The chicken was tender and moist. Some may not like the slippery (slimy) texture on the surface. We coated the pieces with plum meat or yuzu koshou and dipped it in additional ponzu sauce. Certainly this could be our “Teiban” 定番 or regular home Izakaya dish.