Saturday, January 20, 2018

Japanse sweet potato rolls さつま芋ロール

My wife found Japanese sweet potato (satsuma-imo) at Whole Foods and had to get them. We like these kind of sweet potatoes because they have firmer flesh than U.S. yams and are very sweet. We made a few of our usual dishes from them. One is cooking them in the Weber grill when we grill chicken. Simply, wash, prick all over with a fork (so they don't explode while cooking), wrap them in aluminum foil and stick them in the Weber at the same time the chicken is put in. By the time, the chicken is done the potato is also done. We grilled 4 sweet potatoes this way one weekend. We ate some of the sweet potato with the chicken for dinner. The next day, my wife made these sweet potato rolls with the leftovers. Although the rolls are based on a recipe she found, as my wife was making these rolls she realized she had lots of extra sweet potato. Since she is particularly fond of rolls with surprise fillings she decided to put the extra sweet potato into the center of the the roll as shown. It turned out to be quite successful.

Although she did not add any sugar to the sweet potato filling, it is really sweet and reminded me of "white anko paste" or "shiro-an" 白あん made of white beans grown in Hokkaido.


  • 8 ounces sweet potato. The sweet potato is divided 1/2 cup for the bread and about 2 cups to use as filling in the bread)
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons (two 1/4-ounce packets) active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 to 3 1/2 cups flour, plus more for the work surface
  • Oil, for greasing the proofing bowl.

  • Directions:

    We cooked 3 Japanese sweet potatoes wrapped in aluminum foil in the Weber grill when we barbequed chicken one weekend. Let cool, then peeled and thoroughly mashed in a food mill so it is smooth. You should have 1/2 cup of flesh.

    Combine the yeast with 1 tablespoon of the sugar and the warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer; proof for 5 minutes.  Add 2 eggs and beat on low speed, then add the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar, the butter and salt. Beat on low speed for about 2 minutes (no need to scrape down the bowl), then add the sweet potato and beat for about 1 minute. Add 1 cup of the flour at a time, beating to form a slightly stiff dough that has pulled away from the sides of the bowl; add flour as needed.

    Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface; knead for 2 to 3 minutes. When it is smooth and springy, shape it into a ball. Use oil to lightly grease the inside of a large bowl, then place the dough in it, turning it to coat evenly. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap; let the dough rest for about 1 hour or until it has doubled in size. The dough will be ready when you can push 2 fingers into it and the indentations remain.

    Punch down the dough. Cut into pieces weighing about 2 oz. each. Flatten the dough (#1) and put a small scoop of the extra, sweet potato (#2) in the middle (#3). Pinch the dough around the sweet potato ball and form into a roll (#4). Place in a greased baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap; let the rolls rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until doubled in size. Cook in a preheated oven of 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes until golden.

    These rolls were wonderful. Very light with a lovely mild sweetness. The center of sweet potato was a really good addition. It was soft and also sweet.

    Wednesday, January 17, 2018

    Grilled mochi New Year's day 4 lunch 焼きチーズ餅

    Using bento-boxes to serve New Year's dishes was good idea and I pushed this idea further for the 4th New Year's day lunch. I used a small square stackable "Juubako" 重箱 box (4 1/4 inches, or 11 cm square) which we used in the past to serve candies and small sweets. I thought the small size would be perfect for lunch.

    We started making grilled cheese mochi few years ago. Once we started, this became my wife's favorite way to eat mochi. This time, I put grilled cheese on both the top and bottom instead of just one side. I also served small sheets of "nori" dried sea weed to wrap the mochi.

    Most of these items were what I made.

    Salmon kelp roll, chicken patty with fig and gorgonzola, red and white New Year fish cakes stuffed with guacamole I made and ikura (the guacamole stuffed fish cake was really good), poached chicken tenderloin dressed in wasabi soy sauce, date-maki, thinly sliced rib roast with horseradish soy sauce, Russian marinated salmon, my version of tataki gobo with sesame dressing, french-cut green beans with sesame-mayo and spicy tofu cubes. Although the box is small, it took quite few items to fill it.

    We again used smoked mozzarella cheese which grills very nicely making crispy "wings".

    This was a perfect lunch.

    Sunday, January 14, 2018

    New Year 3rd day evening 正月3日夕

    The 3rd day of New Year, we started with all small dishes that go with sake including a tasting of three different preparations of herring roe. I wheeled out the miniature covered bowls we got in Kyoto sometime ago.

    All are from the Sushi taro osechi box. From left to right are daikon in yuzu sweet vinegar or "Nishiki namasu" 錦なます which was toped with soy sauce marinated salmon roe 青竹いくら.  The center is steamed uni 蒸し雲丹, the right is a rare totally Western-style dish, oil marinated smoked oyster with feta cheese, dried tomato and olive 牡蠣燻製オイル漬け. All the dishes were heavenly. The yuzu flavor was very nice. What's not to like about uni in any form? The oysters were smoked, fat and succulent. We really liked this these dishes. They were good for sake or red wine.

    This was followed by a tasting of herring roe or "Kazunoko" 数の子 prepared in three different ways. The top and bottom was what I prepared; the top is marinated in sake lee and miso and the bottom is marinated in dashi broth mirin and soy sauce. The center is from the osechi box; marinated in miso 数の子味噌ずけ (probably sweet miso like saikyo miso.

    In the picture below,  on the left is my sake lee miso marinated, the middle is my soy sauce marinated and the right is Sushitaro's miso marinated.

    All three were very good and very distinctly different. It was a treat to be able to taste them all together like this. The center one appears a bit darker because I used regular or "koikuchi" soy sauce for the marinade instead of light colored "usukuchi" soy sauce. Although it looked different it tasted ok. (center). 

    This was followed by assorted dishes from the osechi box. I put the simmered vegetables in a separate bowl and microwaved briefly to take the chill off but didn't really warm them.

    The plates included two grilled fish, Spanish mackerel marinated in saikyo miso and Japanese snapper with "kino-me" sauce. Both were heated in the toaster oven. Others included simmered sweet fish with it's roe, pickled myouga, flower cut pickled lotus root, date-maki omelet roll and burdock root dressed in sesame sauce or "Tataki gobo"  たたき牛蒡.

    Veggies included simmered Taro root or satoimo, kuwai, flower cut carrot, konnyaku and shiitake mushroom and snow pea.

    Now we were in the last stretch of finishing the box. Even for us, this has been a rather wonderful decadent 3 days of New Year.

    Thursday, January 11, 2018

    New Year's day 3 lunch 正月3日のランチ

    We had "Ozoni" as a New Year's day lunch and Chef Kitayama's "toshikoshi" soba 年越し蕎麦 as a lunch on the 2nd day instead of New Year's eve (I did not take pictures). We made grilled cheese "mochi" for the 3rd day's lunch with some goodies from what I made and from the Sushi-taro osechi box.

    Sushi-taro osechi box included  traditional New Year's dish "Kuri-kinton" 栗きんとん (mashed sweet potato with chestnuts).  Since it is a bit sweet, I served it as a desert along with chestnut "shibukawa-ni" 栗渋皮煮.

    "Kuri-kinton" included chunks of chestnuts.

    To go with these Japanese sweets, we had an interesting green tea which was given to me by a friend last year when we were in Japan. This tea came from "Sakurai baicha research center" or 櫻井焙茶研究所 in Aoyama, Tokyo 青山、東京. This one is a very interesting blend of spearmint from Aomori prefecture and green tea from Shizuoka.

    Besides green tea leaves, dried spearmint leaves floated up when pouring hot water with whiff of spearmint.

    We initially thought spearmint flavor would overwhelm the green tea but the spearmint flavor is very delicate. It is definitely there but not too overwhelming. We really liked this green tea. It went really well with this desert.

    Monday, January 8, 2018

    New Year's day 2

    Encouraged by my previous success,  I again tried distributing the Osechi goodies from the large "mother" box to a smaller mini-osechi box to use as a type of serving container. This was made possible because we found an hexagonal 3 layered stackable container (plastic) with a handle (the handle attaches to the very bottom box) that we completely forgot we had. It was perfect for this purpose and I used the top two boxes. This time, I added some small covered bowls as sides.

    One very good thing about this approach is that I can prepared the box ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator and just grab it when we are ready.

    Most of the ingredients came from the Sushi-taro osechi box. #1=sweet simmered "Kuromame" black beans 黒豆, #2="Matsukaze" chicken patty 松風焼き (which I made), #3="Konnyaku" simmered with Japanese "ichimi" red pepper 蒟蒻一味煮 (has mild zing), #4="Kuwai" arrowhead fried and simmered くわいの揚げ煮 and Simmered Shiitake  mushroom 椎茸の旨煮, #5=Plum flower cut simmered carrot 梅人参, #6=Poached chicken tender with salted plum sauce 茹でささ身の梅肉和え(which I made, leftover from making New Year's soup), #7=Miso marinated egg yolk with walnuts 黄身胡桃 (this is also one of our favorite delicacies), #8=Salmon kelp roll 鮭の昆布巻 (which I made), #9=Kelp rolled and cured flounder with "gari"vinegared ginger 平目龍皮巻, #10=Date-maki omelet roll 伊達巻 (Osechi box also had this but this one is what I made), #11= Rib roast with Japanese mustard (leftover from Christmas roast), #12= Miso-marinated herring roe 数の子味噌漬,  #13=Pork belly シルク豚味噌漬, and #14=Daikon namasu with "ikura" salmon roe and boiled octopus 大根なますイクラ煮だこ添 (Osechi box did include a more elaborate version of daikon namasu but I served what I made here).

    This box contained chicken, beef, pork. I could have added duck since duck "terini" 鴨の照煮 was included in the large osechi box (see below).

    This year, I could not get boiled octopus legs and had to be satisfied with the body/head of octopus.

    Close up of flounder wrapped and cured in kelp with the center of "gari" ginger. Very refreshing.

    " Kimi-kurumi" 黄身胡桃. I think this is egg yolk marinated in miso. Judging from the recipes I found, it would appear that after a few days, the egg yolks attain a very thick unique consistency. In this rendition, walnuts are embedded in the center. We love this dish, although I will not even try to make this myself.

    After enjoying these delicacies, we went for the second plates. The big prawns were sake steamed and "bent back" symbolizes long life since old folks in old days all had bent backs or "Koshi-ga-magaru". This dish, in Japanese, was dubbed "longevity prawns" or 長寿海老. We removed the head and, of course, sucked on it and enjoyed the tail. In the center is duck "terini". I suppose this may be similar to what I make. I served this slightly heated.

    The fish is sweet miso marinated Spanish mackerel 鰆西京焼. I heated it in the toaster oven for few minutes. I also added my gorgonzola dried fig chicken patty.

    We ate something else for ending dish but do not remember. Having all these prepared osechi dishes is wonderful.

    Friday, January 5, 2018

    Sushi taro Osechi and New Year's day evening 2018 元旦の夕べ

    It was a mellow relaxing New Year's day. My wife wanted to see the first sunset of the year at our sunset gazing spot in our house. First rate sunset admiration requires food and libation. Rather than carrying up many plates and bowls,  however, I came up with the idea of using stackable "Tsugaru-nuri" 津軽塗り Japanese lunch box which my friend gave me many years ago. 

    Although we were ready to dig into our Sushi-taro osechi box 寿司太郎御節箱, I started with what I made, which, to my surprise, mostly filled the boxes. I only added shiitake-umani 椎茸旨煮 and "fu" gluten cake 梅麩 from the Sushi-taro osechi box. For the occasion, I used "Hagoita 羽子板*"-shaped chopstick pillows or "hashi oki" 箸置き.

    *Hagoita is a racket for Japanese badminton-like game which was traditionally played in New Year. Now, almost nobody plays the game and "hagoita" rackets are a purely decorative item for New Year, there are special "ichi" or markets before the New Year which specialize in decorative "hagoita".

    Recipes for most of the dishes I made are posted in the "Norio's New Year's Dishes" tab in this blog. #1=Salmon kelp roll 鮭の昆布巻, #2= salmon "Nanban" 鮭の南蛮, #3=Russian marinaded salmon 鮭のロシア漬, #4=Date-maki omelet roll 伊達巻き, #5=chicken patty with dried fig and Gorgonzola cheese いちじくとガルゴンゾラチーズの松風焼き (I garnished with my figgy cranberry sauce), #6="Matsukaze-yaki" chicken patty with pine nuts, 松風焼き#7=simmered shiitake mushroom 椎茸旨煮 and "fu" gluten cake 梅麩 (these are from the osechi box), #8=blanched green asparagus with mayo-sesame paste-soy sauce アスパラの胡麻マヨ, #9=Thinly sliced rib roast with wasabi/horseradish Greek yogurt sauceローストビーフ, and #10=spicy tofu cubes ぴり辛豆腐.

    After watching the sun set, we came back downstairs and hit the osechi box. The picture below is the top layer. We were excited to find "Karasumi 唐墨" Japanese bottarga. As usual, the box is packed with goodies.

    Here is the close up of sun-dried karasumi 天日干し唐墨.

    The picture below is the bottom layer.

    This is the plate I prepared from the osechi box. I served the karasumi slightly heated in a toaster oven and sandwiched between thinly sliced daikon. The other items are ginko nuts 炒り銀杏, pickled flower-cut  lotus root  花輪蓮根, steamed "uni" sea urchin 蒸し雲丹, caramelized small shrimp "Tsuyani" 小海老艶煮 and grilled Japanese "Madai" snapper with Japanese pepper tree leave/miso or "kinome" sauce 真鯛木の芽焼き. I also heated up the fish in the toaster oven.  Some items especially grilled fish are best enjoyed heated up slightly to take off the chill of cold. Karasumi is, of course, our favorite and we started with cold sake we brought from Japan on the last trip there.

    Here is the close up of all the items which go so superbly with sake.

    The sake we opened was the limited edition,  "extra premium Jurakudai" daiginjou from Sasaki-shuzou in Kyoto 聚楽第大吟醸エキストラプレミアム, 佐々木酒造、京都. It was brewed from Yamada Nishiki 山田錦 milled to 40% and a special artesian well water from the ruin of "Jurakudai" castle 聚楽第跡, hence the name of the sake. All sounded very promising but it was not as impressive as we had hoped. It has  all the characteristics of daiginjou sake. Very fruity and it almost tasted slightly sweet which may not have been our favorite type of sake. Since this was bought at the duty-free shop in Narita airport, we did not have a large selection and we did not have any foreknowledge of the sake we were buying. Still, this was an excellent sake, especially with karasumi, uni and grilled fish with kinome sauce. Kinome has such a distinctive flavor you cannot miss. So we were warming up for more goodies and proceeded to make a second  plate from the osechi box.

    The below are the second plate which included "tarako" cod roe kelp roll 鱈の子昆布巻, flower-cut simmered carrot 梅人参,  sweet simmered chestnut with inner skin 栗渋皮煮, pickled myouga 酢取茗荷 (new this year), Kumquat in syrup 金柑, simmered sweet fish with roe 子持鮎甘露煮, herring roe marinaded in miso 数の子味噌漬. I am not sure if snow pea 絹サヤ came from my own or from the osechi box.

    Herring roe was very nice with very subtle sweetness.

    Japanese sweet fish "ayu" with it's roe was also perfect

    At this point, we were quite full. As a ending dish, we had my fuccacia bread with Spanish olive oil for dipping.

    This was a pretty auspicious way to start the New Year but it's not over yet. There are many more goodies in the osechi box. 

    Tuesday, January 2, 2018

    "Ozouni" New Year Soup お雑煮

    We started having New Year's soup or "ozouni" お雑煮 as a lunch rather than breakfast a few years ago. We need coffee in the morning even if it's New Year's day. So, we started the day with our cappuccino and the assorted holiday breads such as stollen and panetonne that my wife baked for the holidays. The ozoni made its debut at lunch. Ozoni varies among regions and even families. Sometimes husbands and wives may have grown up with totally different types of ozoni and it can be a source of contention. In our household, however, there is no problem since mine is the only ozoni we both know. (Ozoni was not part of my wife's childhood menu so the only ozoni she has ever eaten was based my mother's recipe which is also the ozoni I grew up on). My wife suggested several modifications early on in our marriage, so our ozoni varies slightly from the original and is rather uniquely our own. The base is clear soup seasoned with mirin, soy sauce and salt. I make a stock base from  kelp, dried bonito and chicken. The items in the soup include shiitake mushrooms, freeze dried tofu (kouya-dofu 高野豆腐), daikon, carrot, burdock root 牛蒡, chicken, shrimp, fish cake 蒲鉾, snow peas, and mitsuba greens みつば. As per my wife's suggestion, we put the Mochi 餅 rice cake in the deep fried tofu (or "abura-age" 油揚げ) pouch, tied with "kanpyou" 干瓢 so that it won't dissolve or stick. (Unfortunately, it is on the bottom of the bowel and can't be seen in the picture). The items vary from year to year as well. This year, I forgot to get freeze dried tofu and shiitake so I used maitake instead.

    I also served the usual new year food I made. All except for the gobo dish are in "Norio's New Year's dishes" tab in our blog.

    Left is "Russian" marinated salmon 鮭のロシア漬け and the right herring roe 数の子.

    Daikon namasu 大根なますwith ikura salmon roe. Since we could not get octopus leg, I had to be satisfied with head (body) of octopus this year.

    Datemaki 伊達巻 egg roll and "gobo" burdock root with sesame dressing.

    We had only one small cup of symbolic sake with this.