Monday, April 24, 2017

Buttermilk pudding バーターミルクプディング

My wife likes to use buttermilk for many dishes. She even likes to drink it (especially the high-octane kind from Harrisburg farms in Pennsylvania). We have never seen buttermilk in Japan. Originally buttermilk was leftover from churning butter out of cream and as a result had some small chunks of butter floating in it. This type is known as traditional buttermilk. The buttermilk used today is known as cultured buttermilk and is produced from cows milk fermented using one of two species of bacteria; Lactococcus lactis or Lactobacilliu bulgaricus. The fermentation creates lactic acid which is what gives buttermilk its characteristic tart taste.  The fermentation also means it lasts a long time. (My wife found, for example, that buttermilk marked with a due date of Jan 30 was perfectly good in April of the same year). In any case, one day, she decided to make this buttermilk pudding.

I myself would never like to "drink" buttermilk by itself, even though I have tasted it,  but using in baking or this type of dish it is quite good.

2 tsp. powdered gelatin
2 tbs. water
1/2 cup half & half plus 1/2 cup milk (or you could use 1 cup of heavy cream instead for a really luxurious pudding).
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups buttermilk

Bloom the gelatin in the water. Put the half & half, milk and sugar in a sauce pan and heat until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add the gelatin stirring until it is dissolved. When the milk mixture has cooled to room temperature add the vanilla and the buttermilk. Mix thoroughly. Pour into small ramekins or Pyrex dessert bowls. Put into the refrigerator until set.

 This is a lovely pudding. It is not too sour or too sweet. It has a nice fresh tangy taste and smooth texture. It is also fairly easy to make.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Hot cross bans 2017 Version2 ホットクロスバンズ

My wife is very fond of making different types of bread rolls. Although she has made a total of 4 different kinds of hot cross buns over the years, she made one more this year (a total of 5 different variations of hot cross buns). This one is quite different from the others. It uses much less liquid and much more butter. Initially we were skeptical, given the proportion of flour to butter, that this recipe would work but, in the end it did. The left is the newest version and on the right is one she made  earlier this year.

The newest one has quite different texture and flavors.

*  1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) warm milk (110° to 115°F/43° to 46­°C) 
*  1 package (2 1/4 tsp.) active dry yeast 
*  1/4 cup (2 oz./60 g) granulated sugar 
*  1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon 
*  1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg 
*  Kosher salt 
*  2 eggs, lightly beaten, plus 1 egg white (my wife just added the additional egg yolk to the dough).
*  2 3/4 cups (11 oz./345 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting 
*  12 Tbs. (1 1/2 sticks) (6 oz./180 g) unsalted butter, finely diced, plus more for greasing 
*  1/2 cup (3 oz./90 g) raisins or dried currants 

For the Icing (which my wife did not use)
*  1 cup (4 oz./125 g) confectioners’ sugar 
*  1 1/2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

Have all the ingredients except the milk at room temperature. Coat a large bowl and a 13-by-9-inch (33-by-23-cm) baking dish with butter. Set both aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook add the granulated sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and 1 tsp. salt. Proof the yeast in 1/4 cup warm water with 1/2 spoon full of sugar. Combine the milk and yeast and add to the flour. Mix on low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Add the eggs and continue mixing several minutes more.  (The dough will be very very dry.) Increase the speed to medium-low and add the butter a few pieces at a time, kneading after each addition until all of the butter is incorporated. Continue kneading, adding flour a little at a time scraping down the sides of bowl as necessary, until the dough is smooth. Add the raisins and knead until combined. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and finish kneading by hand for 1 minute.

Shape the dough into a ball and transfer to the prepared bowl, turning the dough to coat it with butter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Punch down the dough, turn it out onto a floured work surface and knead for 1 minute. Cut the dough into pieces weighing about 2 1/2 oz.. Shape each piece into a ball, stretching the sides of the dough down and under. Arrange the balls in the baking dish, spaced about 1/2 inch (12 mm) apart. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until the balls of dough are doubled in volume and touching one another, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Preheat an oven to 375°F (190°C).

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg white, 1 tsp. water and a pinch of salt. Using a pastry brush, brush the top of each bun with the egg wash. Using sharp scissors or a knife, cut a cross into the top of each bun. (This step was somewhat less than successful; it just served to partially deflate the buns.) Transfer the baking dish to the oven and bake until the buns are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer the dish to a wire rack and let cool.

To make the icing, in a bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice. Transfer the icing to a pastry bag with a small plain tip and pipe an “X” on each cooled bun along the indentations where you scored the dough.

This is a bit unusual recipe. Initially, the dough looked really dry and did not look like it would come together. As the batter was added (#1) it started coming together as a dough (#2). It is almost like short bread dough. My wife, as usual, weighed the dough to make perfectly sized buns. 

This is 2nd best hot cross bun in my wife's repertoire but knowing the amount of butter that goes into them, the first hot cross buns my wife made this year may be better.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Japanese pork pot roast 煮豚

Although I have posted Japanese (Chinese) pork pot roast previously, this one turned out particularly well. One major reason is the cut of pork. Generally pork roasts that are available in the grocery store are loins which would become dry if cooked by this method; they are better grilled on the Weber. I occasionally can get shoulder or butt. This cut has more layers of fat between the meat. Some of these are bone-in, and not suited for pot roast so we frequently barbecue these cuts in our Weber grill. Sometimes, however, the fat is too much and I end up having to remove large sections of it from the meat after the roast is cooked. More recently different types of pork roast started appearing in our grocery store. This roast was sold as "pork roast" with no specific cut identified. I am guessing this is either shoulder or butt. It was boneless so I made it into a pot roast. It came out very succulent and good. Since I made this in the morning, I decided to serve it as a lunch. I served it with French-cut green beans, green asparagus, tomatoes and my potato salad.

With this method of cooking the layers of fat between the meat are mostly rendered out but the pieces are still very moist and tender.

I also added a skinned and sliced Campari tomato as well as blanched broccoli. I dressed the veggies with sesame mayonnaise (sesame paste, mayo and soy sauce). 

The recipe for the pork is the same one I used before.

Pork roast, trussed (it came trussed in a plastic net but I removed and re-trussed it with a butcher's twine).
Marinade: (soy sauce, mirin and sake in 2:1:1 ratio) enough to cover 1/3 of the pork roast.
Star anise (2), whole black pepper corns (6-8), garlic, peeled and crushed (3-4), ginger sliced (3-4 sliced), scallion, bruised using the back of the knife (2-3 stalks).

1. Place the roast in the pot with the marinade and spices.  The roast should snugly fit in the pot.
2. Put on the lid and let it marinate at room temperature, turning every 10-20 minutes for 1-2 hours.
3. Add water so that a bit more than half of the roast is submerged.
4. Place the pot on medium flame and cover loosely with the aluminum foil and put on the lid.
5. When the simmering liquid starts boiling, turn down the flame to simmer and cook for 2-3 hours, turning once or twice.
6. Let it cool down in the marinade.
7. Remove the roast and set it aside. With the lid off, reduce the marinade in half. Remove the  rendered fat floating on the surface of the liquid using a fat separator.
8. Place the roast in a Ziploc bag and pour in the reduced and defatted marinade.

This was a perfect lunch for a weekend. I may have to make some ramen noodles to fully take advantage of this nice pork pot roast.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Uni "ruibe" うに酒盗ルイベ

We got this with fresh "uni" sea urchin and other uni products from Maruhide 丸秀 sometime ago. Finally we got around to tasting it. This is called "Uni-shutou-ruibe" うに酒盗ルイベ.  I sliced it thinly while it was still frozen and served it with slices of cucumber and cold sake.

I'm quoting from my previous post: "Ruibe" is a word derived from the Ainu アイヌ, the endogenous people of my home island Hokkaido. Roughly translated, it means "thawing food". In the severe cold of Hokkaido, salmon harvested in early winter quickly froze. In its frozen state, it was sliced thinly and served semi-frozen or over hot rice where it thawed--hence thawing food.

"Shuto" 酒盗:  These two letters literally mean "sake" and "stealing". The origin of this name reportedly came from the allegation that shuto is so good with sake that when people run out of sake while eating it, they are compelled to obtain more sake even if they have to steal it. There is a similar preparation called  "shio-kara" 塩辛 or, as my wife calls it, "squid and guts". It is made of strips of raw squid salted and fermented with squid guts (mostly liver) which we really like and is also perfect with sake. Shuto appears to have originated and become popular in Kochi 高知 prefecture on Shikoku island 四国. This island is famous for "Katsuo" 鰹 or bonito fishing. Instead of discarding the innards (stomach and intestine), they cut them up, salt, and ferment for 1 year or more. According to what I read,  the digestive enzymes present in the innards ferment and preserve the fish guts. Many variations incorporating different flavorings and using bonito flesh instead of innards as well as other fish exist but I have not tried them. "Uni shuto" appears not to contain fish innards.

We really like this. It is a cross between fresh uni and uni product called "Neri-uni*" 練りウニ. The uni flavors get concentrated. What we really noticed was the texture transition that occurred after we placed it in our mouth.  It went from cold and frozen with little flavor to melt in your mouth flooding with fresh uni flavors.  We really enjoyed this on slices of cucumber followed by a mouthful of cold sake but it will definitely go well with fresh white rice. "Uni-shutou-Ruibe" is not a traditional Japanese product and according to "Maruhide", this is exclusively available at "Maruhide" in Los Angeles.

*Neri-Uni: This is a more traditional preserved "uni" product. The uni is mixed with salt and alcohol. The resulting paste is packaged in a small glass jar. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Tuna cutlet with shallot sauce マグロのカツレツとネギソース

The frozen yellowfin tuna sashimi block I thawed when we returned home from a trip to find our cherry trees in full bloom was rather large. So, the next day, being inspired by a recipe I saw on line, I made this tuna cutlet.  I also made a sort-of onion (actually a shallot) sauce to go with the cutlet. Although the weather wasn't good enough to sit outside, we admired the cherry blossoms while sitting inside.

The center of the tuna was still basically raw but the crust and the surface of the tuna were cooked and crispy.

Although the original recipe called for an onion sauce I made a sauce using shallots instead. Actually, my sauce was inspired by but not really based on the recipe; I just came up with it. This is  a variation on the classic Japanese "onion" sauce ネギソース which is often used with deep fried food in Japan.

Tuna Sashimi block, cut into two 1.5 inch wide pieces
Flour, egg+water, and Japanese Panko bread crumbs for dredging
Salt and black pepper for seasoning the tuna
Oil for deep frying (I used peanut oil).

For sauce
Shallot, one medium, finely chopped
Olive oil,  2 tsps
Soy sauce, 4 tsps
Mirin and sake 1 tsp each
Lemon juice, 1 tsp

For the sauce
1. Slowly sauté the shallot in light olive oil on medium-low flame for several minutes until cooked but not browned or caramelized.
2. Add the soy sauce, mirin and sake and let it come to a simmer for several minutes. Then let it cool to room temperature.
3. Before serving, add the lemon juice (I thought of using black vinegar instead, if that were the case, I would add it with the rest of the ingredients).

For the cutlet
1. If using frozen tuna block, thaw ahead of time, season with salt and pepper
2. Dredge with flour, egg water and Panko bread crumbs.
3. Deep fry for 1 minute or less in 370F oil until the surface becomes crispy and golden brown (picture below).

4. Drain on a paper towel lined plate (see below). The center should still be uncooked.
5. Slice into 1/3 inch slices

This was much better than I expected. I could have added more acid to the sauce but the cooked shallot worked well; It was sort of a cross between onion and garlic with good sweetness and some nuttiness. The cutlet had a nice crunchy crust with a center of uncooked tuna giving a nice textural and taste contrast. The sauce really made the dish. We found another good way of serving low-quality frozen yellowfin tuna block.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Braised Tarako, shirataki and mushroom 白滝と舞茸のたらこ炒め

I had one set (two sacs) of salted cod roe leftover after I made "Tarako spaghetti". I also had maitake mushroom 舞茸 (hen-of-the-wood) which needed to be used. So one evening, I came up with this dish. This is a variation of the dish I previously posted.  This is a perfect small dish for cold sake.

I also served "Chicken Matsukaze yaki" 松風焼き (reheated in the toaster oven).

Maitake, one package, bottom portion removed and separated (#1).
Shirataki*  白滝, 1 package, washed in cold running water and boiled in plenty of hot water and drained (#2)
Tarako cod roe たらこ: Two sacs (#3). Sacs opened and the roe scraped off removing the membrane (#4 and 5).
Sake or mirin 1 tbs
Vegetable oil, 1tsp with a splash or sesame oil
Soy sauce, 1-2 tsp (adjust depending on how salty t he cod roe is).

*Shirataki is a thin noodle made of Kon-nyaku (Konjac) こんにゃく. Right out of the package it has a rather unpleasant smell. But the smell disappears after washing and par boiling. It does not have much taste and zero calories but adds a nice texture to the dish and delivers whatever seasoning you add. In this case, the added seasoning and flavor would come from the cod roe clinging to the Kon-nyaku noodles.

1. Add the vegetable oil to a sauce pan on medium flame.
2. Add the drained shirataki and stir for a few minutes.
3. Add the mushrooms and stir another minute.
4. Add the sake (or mirin if you like a slightly sweet taste) and stir until only a small  amount of liquid remains (#6).
5. Add the tarako and stir until the roe becomes opaque (1 minute or less).
6. Season with the soy sauce, stir for 30 seconds.

This is a quick dish which goes perfectly well with sake. You can add other items such as "chikuwa" ちくわ fish cake, shiitake mushroom etc. You could also add a hot sauce  (Sriracha or Tabasco or Japanese hot pepper flakes) to add spiciness if you like. The matsukaze yaki had a nice nutty taste from miso. These two snacks went a long way to enjoying the sake.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Hanami 2017 花見 2017

This year the cherry blossoms were an on-again, off-again, on-again event. We had unseasonably warm weather in February and the trees started to bloom early.  The smallest of our three cherry trees was in full bloom in early March. We celebrated the little tree's valiant effort with a pre-hanami or cherry blossom gazing. The warm weather continued and a few days later, it was clear the largest trees started blooming to about 20%. Then, (and you knew this was coming) there was a cold snap complete with a late season snow storm and these flowers were zapped. We were concerned that even the buds might have been destroyed and hanami would be a non-event this year. Not only the trees in our backyard were at risk but there was some concern that for the first time in 40 years even the trees at the Tidal Basin would not bloom. The cold weather held for a while and the cherry blossoms were put into a type of suspended animation until the cold spell broke the last week of March. We were out of town that week but when we arrived home we were pleasantly surprised to fine our backyard awash in cherry blossoms. Unfortunately, since we were out of town we missed the peak and the largest and second largest trees were slightly past full bloom. Since we arrived home in the late afternoon and the sun was still warm, we sat outside on our deck admiring the display and the fact that despite the vagaries of the weather there were  cherry blossoms this year. 

Although some browned remnants of zapped flowers were visible, it was still spectacular.

the ski was blue and there was no wind.

Since we did not have a chance to go grocery shopping, I tapped into our frozen cache of tuna. I made marinated tuna sashimi or "Zuke" of tuna マグロのずけ. This time, I managed to marinate the tuna long enough to attain a dark red color and the "nettori" ねっとりor "soft" texture. Since I did not have any fresh greens, I served this as is. Initially, I thought this would go well with red wine like beef tartar but it did not so we switched to cold sake.

I also found leftover oden おでん in the fridge, which I had made before we went out of town. I reheated it and served it. The shiitake mushrooms were dried ones that I re-hydrated for a few days in the refrigerator before putting them in the oden. They were packed with umami.

Finally we had leftover tonkatsu of pork filet ヒレカツ. I just warmed it up in the toaster oven; Not as good as if it had been reheated in hot oil but certainly we could enjoy it.

The weather after this mini-hanami was really rainy and we had to wait until the following weekend for Hanami. By then, the cherry blossom was way past their peak but it was still beautiful.