Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Cold ramen noodle 冷やしラーメン

Regional name differences and variations of this and similar dishes and who invented this dish etc are quite complicated. In Hokkaido 北海道 where I grew up, this dish is called “hiyashi ra-men” 冷やしラーメン.  The rest of Japan including Tokyo, this dish is usually called “hiyashi chuka” 冷やし中華 which is short for “hiyashi chuka-soba” 冷やし中華そば. “Hiyashi” means cold and “chuka-soba” means Chinese “soba” or noodle. Although this is more of a summer lunch item and not an Izakaya food, Izakayas in Hokkaido often serve “ra-sara” ラーサラ which is short for “ramen salad” throughout the seasons. This is a variation with some more vegetable toppings resembling a salad more than a noodle dish. It is said to have been invented by the chef at the Sapporo Grand Hotel for their Beer Hall (Bierhalle) when it was opened for the first time in the 1980s. I have not made this dish for a long time. An intrepid Japanese food and culture explorer I know announced his intention to thoroughly explore cheap Chinese food and “hiyashi chuka” in the Kanda 神田 area during hot summer days in Tokyo. This combined with the unseasonably hot weather we are having here in the DC area made me think of this dish. In contrast to regular ramen, which appears to invoke profound emotions among “rameniacs" out there, this dish is very low-key and cool-as-a-cucumber--no high emotion required.

Ramen noodle: The dried ramen noodle I had in my pantry this time is made in Yamagata prefecture 山形県, which is located in a northern part of the mainland Japan. It is rather thin and straight but has a nice firm texture, I have no idea what style of a ramen noodle this is (Yamagata style??). I prepared it as per the package instruction and washed it in cold water and drained (Do not ask me how many times I have to shake a “spider” strainer or a flat “zaru” strainer, I just use a good American colander.)

Sauce: Again, there is no complicated preparation for the sauce (you need not to boil whole birds, pig heads, bones, and other secret ingredients for days and months in a cauldron while saying secret mantras). It is essentially a vinegar, soy sauce, mirin with some sesame oil; so I just used a bottled good quality ponzu (shoyu) sauce (this one specifically said “with Hokkaido kelp broth”--my kind of ponzu). I dressed the noodles with a small splash of dark roasted sesame oil before plating it and added the ponzu sauce over it (not too much). All the topping should be cut into thin match stick strips (or “julienned” as Julia[n] Child used to say) and top the noodle with the individual toppings arranged in a radial fashion rather than randomly scattering them (just a tradition). You can mix it up yourself before eating. I had a leftover miso-marinated grilled chicken thigh, so I used that. I also used cucumber, scallion, perilla, pickled ginger root, and golden thread egg (kinshiran 金糸卵). You could add strips of nori sheet, sprouts, carrot, corn, etc but now you are getting dangerously close to  the “ra-sara” territory.

I garnished it with Campari tomato and served it with a dab of Japaneses hot mustard. This was a lunch and we ate it on our back deck which is perfect especially in this rather hot and muggy weather.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Hijiki and chicken salad and Stewed Hijiki ひじきと鶏肉のサラダ、ひじきの煮物

Hijiki ひじき is one of the several "kaiso" 海藻 or sea vegetables (sounds better than "seaweed") which has been a part of Japanese cuisine for a long time. Japanese consider hijiki to be a healthy food with high fibers and minerals. As I was growning up, we had hijiki occasionally, but it was, by no means, my favorite dish as a kid. It does make a nice small dish for a drink, however, and as such, I like hijiki now. (Regarding arsenic contained in Hijiki, please refer to the footnote.)

Hijiki comes dried and usually has two different kinds; "Me-hijiki" 芽ひじき consisting of the buds or tips of hijiki, and "Naga-hijiki" 長ひじき consisting of the stalks of hijiki. I happened to get dried "Naga-hijiki" and decided to make two dishes. In dried form, hijiki is very hard and black like tangles of black metal wires. To prepare, after washing in cold running water in a colander, I soak it in large amount of cold water initially for 30 minutes. At the end of the 30 minutes, the volume of hijiki increases something like 10 fold and you can see the dark brown shapes of the original hijiki plant with the fresh smell of the ocean. I drain and wash in cold running water in a colander.  I then soak again in fresh water. I repeat this several times over the period of about 2 hours (you do not really need this long soak and changes of water but I like to leach out as much of the small amount of arsenic as possible, see the footnote). If I am not ready to cook this immediately I keep it in a container with water and place it in the refrigerator.

1. Hijiki and chicken salad ひじきと鶏肉のサラダ

Since I had some leftover cooked (barbecued) whole chicken, I used the breast meat for this dish. If you are making this from scratch, you should either steam in sake or "sakamushi*" 酒蒸し or microwave the chicken breasts.

*add 2-3 tbs of sake in a small frying pan and add a chicken breast (skin removed). Put on a tight fitting lid and braise/steam for 4-5 minutes or until the chicken is done in a low flame.

In a small frying pan, add olive oil with a dash of dark roasted sesame oil. When the oil is hot, add a desired amount of hydrated and drained hijiki and saute for 1-2 minutes and then add coarsely shredded (by hand) cooked chicken breast and saute for aother minute and season with salt and pepper.  Tip them out in a bowl and add soy sauce with dissolved yuzukosho 柚子胡椒 (from the tube) or wasabi. You could also use ponzu (soy sauce) ポン酢醤油 with or without the spicy stuff. Here, I made a half and half mixture of soy sauce and yuzukosho and added the mixture in several increments as I tasted it to my liking. I garnished it with cooked and shelled edamame. I serve this at a room temperature. This is a good dish. Mild zing and flavors of the yuzukosho is very nice.

2. Stewed Hijiki ひじきの煮物

This is as classic as hijiki dishes go. There are many variations to this. Some add cooked (yellow or ripe) soy beans "mizuni daizu" 水煮大豆 and other vegetables. Carrot and deep-fried tofu pouch "abura-age" 油揚げ are most common ingredients in this dish. I used carrot, sweet potato, edamame  枝豆 and deep fried tofu pouch in mine.

I made a large batch with the remaining prepared hijiki which is about 3 cups after hydration. I added broth (I used granulated instant "dashi" dissolved in water) (1 cup) add small cubes of carrot (one large) and sweet potato (1/2 large) and simmered for 10 minutes or until vegetables were cooked (not too soft) and set it aside in a bowl with the liquid. I added peanut oil (1tbs) with a dash of dark sesame oil in a sauce pan on a medium flame and saute the prepared hijiki and thin strips of abura-age (2 small squares or "koage" 小揚げ, blanched, squeezed of water and cut into thin strips) for 1-2 minutes and add the cooked vegetables with its liquid. Simmer for 5 minutes and I season it with sake, mirin and soy sauce (1:1:2 parts), I will go easy on soy sauce at first since it will cook until the liquid is almost all gone. I taste when the dish is almost done and add more soy sauce if needed (I did not). After turning off the heat, I mixed in cooked and shelled edamame and let it sit and come to the room temperature before serving. This has a classic taste of hijiki "nimono" dish.  I found  old "ichi-go Masu" 一合升 in the back of the kitchen cabinet and used it to serve this dish.

We had both hijiki dishes at one sitting. Both dishes are quite different in taste and texture (although it may look similar) and went well with cold sake.

*Footnote regrading arsenic in Hijiki:
I did not know this until I read Hiroyuki's blog some time ago. It appears that the amount of inorganic arsenic is not high enough to have a serous health concern if you consume hijiki in moderation (meaning not eat tons of hijiki everyday). There is no known case of arsenic health effects even in Japan where people tend to eat more seaweed than anywhere else including hijiki. It is also reported that If you soak hijiki for 1 hour and if you boil it for 5 minutes after hydration, . This time, I soaked much longer than needed with multiple changes of water which, I am surmising, reasonably reduced the arsenic content. So it appears that consuming hijiki cooked this way is not to be of any health concern. A (professional) well-informed Japanese food blogger appears to take a similar position.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Grilled rosemary lamb chops with barley risotto ラムチョップと大麦のリソト

Well, I am, again, deviating from the Izakaya theme. This is a type of a Bistro cuisine but apparently some Japanese bars serve this type of dish. I used a rack of lamb and cut it into individual chops. This rack was not as well prepared as the ones we usually get and I had to remove some silver skin and excess fat but I left some fat just above the chop since the fat imparts a good lamb flavor (if you like lamb flavor).

I marinated the lamb chops in fresh rosemary (chopped up, 1 tbs, from our herb garden), crushed garlic (4-5 cloves), olive oil (3-4 tbs) and cracked pepper (1/2 tsp) in a Ziploc bag overnight in the refrigerator. Just before cooking, I removed the meat leaving the garlic and marinade in the bag (I noticed that one of the garlic cloves went with the meat to the grill judging from the picture below). I then salted the meat. I was too lazy to fire up the charcoal grill so I used an electric grill outside (see below left).

I cooked the chops 2-3 minutes for medium doneness (this grill cooks from both sides). I turned the chops 90 degree in the middle of the cooking time to make nice grill marks. This dish had a more assertive lamb flavor than the oven roasted rack of lamb but if you like lamb this is a very straightforward nice dish.

Barley risotto: My wife made this dish and I assisted by chopping up the ingredients. I finely chopped onion (large, half), shiitake mushroom (5 medium, stem removed), and garlic (3 cloves). In a small pot, add olive oil (1 tbs) and saute the above vegetables for 2-3 minutes on a medium flame, season with salt and pepper. Add one cup of pearled barley and saute to coat the grains with the oil. Add 2/3 cup white wine (we used sake) and cook until the wine is completely absorbed. Add 3 and 1/2 cups of chicken broth (our usual Swanson reduced salt no-fat version). After it comes to a boil, cover and turn the heat down to simmer and cook for 30 minutes or more, stirring once or twice during cooking, until done. (It should be creamy but all the liquid should be absorbed). Add crumbled fresh goat cheese (2 tbs) and fresh thyme (from our herb garden) to taste. Adjust seasoning if needed. We also added small cubes of oven roasted root vegetables (this was leftover from a previous dish. sweet potato, onion and carrot were tossed with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper, roasted with garlic and onion at 350F for 45 minutes to one hour).

As an accompaniment, we served barley risotto and oven roasted green beans. This was a very satisfying "comfort" food type dish. The barley has a nutty flavor with a rich mouth feel and a slight "al dente" crunch. Of course, a good red wine is called for. We had a nice Spanish Temperanillo, Caro Dorum 2005.

Friday, June 25, 2010

"Hanpen" fish cake stuffed with perilla and cheese はんぺんのシソとチーズ挟み焼き

This is another quick dish and variation of a sauteed "Hanpen" fish cake. This time, I used butter instead of olive oil and stuffed it with perilla and Raclette cheese.

I thawed the "hanpen" and cut it into 4 equal squares. I then cut into the middle of the thickness to make a deep pocket taking care not to cut through. I cut the slice of Raclette cheese to the size of the pocket. I wrapped the piece of cheese with a leaf of perilla and inserted the wrapped cheese into the pocket. I sauteed the packet in butter over a medium flame for a few minutes on each side until the cheese melted and the hanpen nicely browned. I served it with a dab of grated ginger and soy sauce for dipping. It is another simple but good dish which will go with any drink.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

"Mozuku" and "Nagaimo" in sweet vinegar モズクと長芋の甘酢

The Japanese eat anything which comes out from the sea and also like combining slimy food with slimy food (double slim or, sometimes, triple slim). I got inspired (??) from the reportedly mediocre dish I saw in Jon's posting. I occasionally get a type of slimy sea vegetable called "Mozuku" もずく, which is already prepared in sweet vinegar and packaged in a plastic cup, which I get frozen. The southernmost archipelago of Japan, Okinawa 沖縄, is famous for Mozuku. Since I had an end piece of "Nagaimo" 長芋 left over, I simply peeled, sliced and made it into match stick shaped pieces. I used sushi vinegar to lightly dress it and placed it over the mozuku and garnished with another type of aquatic vegetable called "aonori" 青のり which is dried and comes as small flakes.

 It was an exceptionally nice day for mid June and we fired up the Konro grill outside and this was a part of the starter dishes pictured below. I already had stewed "hijiki" which I had made previously (middle). The cut glass tumbler from Kitaichi glass (on the right) is tall and a bit unstable so I used "masu" 升, a square wooden Japanese measuring cup, to stabilize it.  This happens to be the common way in which sake is served in an Izakaya. They intentionally pour sake to overflow the cup and let the sake spill over into the "masu" underneath as a gesture of generosity. Although we need not to do that since we are quite generous to ourselves when it comes to sake, I recall Dave was not too happy at Shuto-an 酒徒庵 since they did not serve sake this way.

The nagaimo has a nice crispy texture with some sliminess (but nothing compared to grated nagaimo) and mozuku has a bit similar characteristic and is the perfect match. The sweet vinegar is very gentle and we slurped whatever was left in the cup. Actually, I served this in a crystal sake cup "guinomi" ぐいのみ also from Kitaichi glass, so this was a very natural thing to do.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Plum wine, Supplement 梅酒、追加

We harvested "aoume" 青梅 or unripe green plum last weekend for 2010 umeshu.

Although I posted umeshu when I bottled the 08 vintage, I decided to add a few more images and a description of how to make umeshu. We usually use 1 lb of plums, 1/2 lb of sugar and 1.75 liter of liquor (either Vodka or brandy), but we started using 2 lb of plums with the 2008 vintage since our tree produces so much fruit. Traditionally, rock sugar or "koorizatou" 氷砂糖 is used but it is difficult to find rock sugar here in the U.S. and we cannot detect the difference in the end product, so we use regular granulated sugar. I think the reason for using rock sugar is that it will slowly melt producing a saturated sugar containing liquid layer. Since this layer has a high specific gravity (as compare to the remaining liquid) the saturated layer will remain in the bottom for some time extracting plum juice. I try to achieve the same effect by coating the fruit with sugar and leaving it over night to extract the plum juice before adding the liquor as described below.

The image below left is of washed and dried plums (2 lb) in a container with (1/2 lb) of sugar added. I just gently rotate the container several times so that each plum is coated with sugar. The picture on the right is after the plums have been in the sugar over night. You can see the plum juice came out and the sugar is wet.

I use brandy for one batch and Vodka for two other batches as you can see below. For brandy, I use Christian Brothers, not Remy Martin XO, but that is up to you. I also use the cheapest Vodka I can find.

I gently pour in the liquor so as not to disturb the sugar in the bottom. As you can see below, undissolved sugar can be seen in the bottom. My hope is that the sugar will melt gradually and produce a concentrated sugar layer in the bottom of the jar.

I just place the containers on a shelf in the basement or where ever they will not be in your way and wait for one year before bottling and drinking. Just don't forget about it.  (I forgot to bottle the '08 vintage for 2 years but the result was still good. So if you do forget, a few extra years don't seem to hurt.) Several years of bottle aging will make umeshu better.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Pizza Margherita and Pizza with caramelized onion ピザ

When we had our wine party/tasting, I made pizzas as a starter. They were a big hit but were eaten so fast we did not have a chance to take pictures. So, next day, I made a half-and-half pizza Margherita (left) and pizza with caramelized onion (right) from the left over ingredients. I already posted my pizza dough recipe. (Please note this image was not doctored up by Gimp or Photoshop.)

Garlic infused olive oil: I just crush several cloves of garlic using a garlic press and add good extravirgin olive oil and mix. Use this to brush pizza dough and crust.

Tomato sauce: Tomato sauce was made similar to my Marinara sauce but I added a small amount of port wine (Cheap Ruby port from Taylor) and simmered it longer so that the moisture level was very low.

Cheese: I used fresh cow's milk mozzarella. I usually use smoked mozzarella for the caramelized onion pizza but I used up all the smoked cheese I had for the pizzas at the wine party. So, for this pizza I used regular mozzarella and small chunks of fresh goat cheese. I do not shred the mozzarella but slice it (the reason becomes clear in the assembly part below). It is easier to cut thin slices when the mozzarella is cold using a thin bladed knife. 

Caramelized onion: Simply saute halved and thinly sliced onion in olive oil. This requires some patience until the onion become wilted and dark brown (15 minutes or longer). When enough brown "fond" appears on the bottom of the saute pan, I deglaze it with small amount of water which helps to color and flavor the onion but you need to saute further to evaporate most of the liquid.

Pine nuts: We keep pine nuts in a freezer. Just dry roast them in a frying pan until slightly brown.

Assembly: I sprinkle corn meal on a pizza peel and place the stretched and formed pizza dough on the corn meal before starting the assembly. Give the peel a quick tug to make sure the dough moves freely before adding the topping.

Pizza Margherita: I brush the garlic infused olive oil on the prepared dough. I put the slices of mozzarella cheese on the pizza first and then place a small amount of the tomato sauce on top of the cheese slices. (Usually the sauce is put on first and then the cheese). While my method is the opposite of what is usually done, I think this makes a better pizza since the cheese protects the crust from the moisture of the sauce. The result is a crispier crust.

Caramelized onion: The same as above but I spread the caramelized onion over the slices of cheese and then dot it with small chunks of the fresh goat cheese and sprinkle the pine nuts.

Baking: I bake for 8-9 minutes directly on a hot pizza stone by sliding the assembled pizza off the pizza peel. I preheat the oven for at least 30 minutes to 450F before baking--with the pizza stone in.

Take the pizza out and brush the edge of the crust with olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese. For Margherita, I garnish with a chiffonade of fresh basil.

We had this with the leftover wine from the day before, The 2005 Clos Mogador (about half the bottle left). The wine was much better than the first time we tasted it. The funky nose was totally dissipated. This wine has a very nice complex taste and went particularly well with the caramelized onion.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Eggplant gratine two ways; Marinara and Yuzu-miso sauce with cheese

Last time we had a chance to grill outside, I grilled a small Italian eggplant trying to make "yakinasu"  やきなす or Japanese style grilled eggplant but it was not really good. So, when I saw a nice Zebra eggplant in the market, I had to get one. Since It was not feasible to fire-up a grill outside, I asked my wife how she like the eggplant cooked. I got a bit ambiguous answer. So I decided to halve the eggplant and make one in an Italian style with Marinara sauce and cheese and the other half in a Japanese style i.e., "citrus miso dengaku" with cheese, so that I can not go wrong.

I cooked the eggplant in my usual way. I cut the eggplant in half length wise. Then I cut the meat around the edges close to the skin and in cross-hatch pattern but not cutting through to the skin (This is hasten and make cooking uniform). I put about 2 tbs of light olive oil in a frying pan on a medium flame. When the oil is hot and shimmering, I put in the eggplant the cut side down. The eggplant eventually absorbs all the oil. After 1-2 minutes, I put on the tightly fitting lid and turned down the flame to low and let it cook about 10 minutes. The eggplant should be soft and thoroughly cooked with the cut surface nicely brown. I transferred the eggplant halves to a baking sheet (or ramekin) and layered one with Marinara sauce and the other with Yuzu-citrus miso. Then I topped them with grated cheese (I used a mixture of Cheddar and Raclette here but any melting cheese will do) and put them in a 400F oven (I used a toaster oven) for 5 minutes or until the cheese melts.

Marinara sauce: I placed olive oil (1/4 cup), 3-4 cloves of garlic (minced), and red pepper flakes (optional), in a small deep pot on a low flame. When the garlic became fragrant,  I added canned whole tomato, drained and crushed (16 oz can), dried oregano and basil (1/2 tsp, each), salt and freshly ground black pepper. I simmered this sauce for 30 minutes. I tasted and adjusted the salt and pepper. You may want to add a pinch of sugar to cut the acidity.

Yuzu-miso sauce: Mix red miso (3 tbs), sugar (2tbs), and mirin (3 tbs) in a small sauce pan on a low flame. Keep stirring until nice thin saucy consistency is attained (about 5 minutes). I added 1 tsp of dark roasted sesame oil (optional) at the end and mix well. Off heat, I add Yuzu juice (from a bottle) (1 tsp) and zest of one lime (using a micrograter) or just lime or lemon juice and zest.

In the above picture, on the left is the eggplant with Marinara sauce and on the right is the one with Yuzu-miso sauce. I garnished the Yuzu-miso eggplant with the zest of a lime and, if I had fresh basil, I would have garnished the marinara sauce side with chopped basil. You can have this with wine, beer or sake. We had this with Poggio Il Castellare Sant Antimo Cervio Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, which taste  more like California cab rather than Super Tuscan, but it went very well with this dish nonetheless.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Chicken liver and tofu terrine 鶏レバーのテリーヌ風

Believe it or not this recipe came from "Appetizers and a la carte small dishes for Izakaya" by Tadashi Shinojima.  Judging from the title of the book, by definition, this must be an Izakaya food. Although this looks and tastes like a chicken liver pate (actually it is more pate than terrine), there are a few Japanese touches; one is the inclusion of tofu and the other is the addition of "edamame" 枝豆. Since I bought a container of chicken livers for Yakitori, I decided to make this dish; a situation similar to the previous time I made braised chicken liver and onion.

I used about 180 grams of chicken liver. After removing the fat and connective tissue, I soaked it in ice cold water for 15 minutes. I added a bit of sake to the water and boiled the liver for 4-5 minutes until thoroughly cooked. Meanwhile, I wrapped a firm or "momengoshi" tofu 木綿ごし豆腐 in paper towels and microwaved it for several minutes. I re-wrapped it in new paper towels and placed a heavy plate on the top for 10 minutes to squeeze out any excess water. I used about 150 grams (after removing the excess water) of tofu. In the mixing cup of an immersion blender, I added the cooked liver (180grmas), tofu (150grams), beaten egg (1/3), cream (1 tbs), grated onion (1 tbs), salt and pepper and blended them until smooth. I then folded in the shelled edamame (I used about 20 of the frozen kind, cooked and shelled). I also added small cubes of left over steak (the recipe called for cubes of roast beef).  I then poured the mixture into small (disposable) loaf pan and baked for 30 minutes in a preheated 400F oven in a bain-marie. The original recipe was a bit vague about how this dish is to be cooked (the author said "mushiyaki" 蒸し焼き or steam-bake in an oven) but I interpreted this to mean bake using a bain-marie. I let it cool down to room temperature and stored it in the refrigerator overnight before slicing.

The recipe suggested serving this with a "white cream sauce" but I chose to serve it like a pate with cornichon pickles on toasted small squares of cocktail bread. The texture is great and the edamame and cubes of steak made an interesting texture contrast and color. If you are not told, you would not have guessed that close to half the bulk came from "tofu". It has a nice irony liver pate taste but it needs more distinctive spices (maybe more onion, black pepper and salt). For a fusion pate with tofu, this is not bad. Does Tofu make this dish a healthier dish? - maybe.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Spicy Konnyaku stir fry コンニャクのぴりから炒め

Spicy Konnyaku stir fry コンニャクのぴりから炒め

Since I have been posting non-Izakaya items for some time, I am going back to a simple Izakaya affair here. This is another very quick dish using Konnyaku 蒟蒻 and a perfect small dish with sake. I used a dark unbleached version of konnnyaku. After I wash and blanch the cake of konnyaku, I cut the thickness into two by cutting through horizontally as I press the cake of konnyaku against the cutting board. I then make shallow crisscross cuts on both sides as you can see in the above image. This is to make any seasoning penetrate the konnyaku. I cut them into a bit less than one inch wide strips.

I put 1/2 tbs of peanut oil with a dash of dark roasted sesame oil in a frying pan on medium flame. I fry each side of konnyaku strips for 1-2 minutes so that the surface become slightly congealed and crunchy (small bubbles will come out on the surface). I then add 1/2 tbs of soy sauce and quickly sauté until soy sauce become fragrant and absorbed. I sprinkle a Japanese 7 flavor red pepper powder 七味唐辛子. This is a sort of nothing dish but nice to have with sake. This time I made it a bit too spicy and registered a mild compliant from my wife. Sorry.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Japanese grocery store

Our favorite Japanese grocery store has closed.

I went to the Japanese grocery store "Daruma" this weekend complete with shopping list, mouth ready for some good food afterwards when, imagine my shock, I discovered the store completely gone--without a trace! Part of the space was now occupied by a ramen restaurant. It was a real bummer. This was our favorite Japanese grocery store of 22 years. Over the years it moved location three times finally settling in Bethesda. Although there are a few other oriental markets and one other smaller Japanese market nearby, our ability to get Japanese food ingredients has definitely diminished dramatically.

A few months ago we noticed that their inventories were a bit sparse with empty shelf showing through, but we certainly did not think they would be closing. In the same location, we now have Ren's Ramen as a stand alone ramen restaurant. This restaurant started out as a few tables and stools "a store inside the store" of Daruma. Maybe, I will start a review of ramen noodle places (only problems is the number of places is extremely limited--albeit one more than a few weeks ago). 

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Roast beef ローストビーフ

This is a totally "out-of-bounds" post for an Izakaya blog but I have a special reason.

Some time ago my niece asked me how to make roast beef. Since we rarely eat roast beef and when we do, we usually barbecue it using a Weber kettle, I could only give her general instructions gleaned from other sources such as the "Joy of Cooking" cookbook. I decided to make roast beef with gravy and post the process, so that my niece can refer to it. Here, we served the slices of roast beef with gravy and oven fried potatoes. (For her, I added Japanese text à la Hiroyuki's blog).
私の姪にローストビーフのレセピーを教えてほしいと言われたのですが、私たち自身ローストビーフをほとんど作る事がないし、ごく稀に作るときは、ウエバーケトルグリルでバーベキュウするので、料理の本からのレセピーを伝える事ぐらいしかできませんでした。そこで、私の姪の為に、オーブンローストビーフとグレイビィを作って, その経過を記録してみることにしました。下の写真は、出来上がったローストビーフとグレイビー、そしてオーブンで作ったフライドポテトです。

In terms of equipment, you need a good quick reading meat thermometer. In the absence of the thermometer, you could estimate the cooking time by the weight of the roast but you have to use the internal temperature of the roast to most accurately judge the doneness. You also need a roasting pan with a metal grate or rack so that the meat will sit above the juices that accumulate on the bottom of the pan. This serves two purposes; the hot air circulates under the meat and cooks it evenly and the meat is not sitting in its own drippings during the cooking process which would tend to braise rather than roast the meat.

The cut of the meat I bought was a 3 lb top round (upper portion of the hind leg muscle) but it was not well cut and had a somewhat odd shape. So, this may not have been the best example of a good cut for roast beef (image below left, before trussing). It is important to truss it properly so that, it will cook evenly (Image below right).
私の買ったロースト用の肉は、トップラウンドと言うカットですが(後ろ足の上部の肉)あまり上質の肉ではないようで、ちょっと変な形をしています。重さは3ポンド(1.36kg). もうちょっと良い肉を買えばよっかたと反省しています(下の写真左側、紐で縛る前)。紐で形を整えながら縛る事 (トラシング) は、肉が均一に焼ける為に大切です(下の写真右側)。

For seasonings, I use fresh rosemary from our herb garden, garlic, salt, and freshly cracked black pepper. First, I thinly slice peeled garlic cloves (I use 4 cloves). I then make multiple deep slits in the meat and insert the garlic slices. It is important that the garlic slices are completely hidden below the surface so that the garlic will not burn during roasting. I remove the rosemary from the stems and finely chop (4 small sprigs) and mix with 2-3 tbs of olive oil and generously smear the mixture on the surface of the meat. I make a mixture of freshly cracked back pepper and kosher salt (half and half, about 2 tbs) and rub the mixture on the surface of the meat. (image below, left). Ideally, the meat should be at a room temperature before putting it in the oven. Actually my wife did the roasting part. Preheat the oven to 425 F and roast for 15 minutes. Then lower the temperature to 350F and roast for about 20minutes more/pound. So, a 3 pound roast will take about 60 minutes more. I start taking the temperature at the center of the roast after 45 minutes and for medium rare, I am looking for an internal temperature of 140F (Image below right).
私の庭で採れたローズマリー、ニンニク、挽きたての黒こしょう、塩で、肉の味付けをします。まずニンニクの皮を取ってから、薄切りにします(3−4個)。幅の狭い包丁(ボーニングナイフ)で肉に深い切り込みを幾つも入れ、ニンニクの薄切りを差し入れます。ニンニクが肉の外に出ていないように確かめてください。ニンニクが外に出ているとこげて苦い味になります。ローズマリーの葉だけとって細切り(4本もしくは大さじ2)、それをオリーブオイル(大さじ3)とまぜて、肉の表面によく塗り付けます。挽きたての黒こしょうと塩を混ぜ(それぞれ大さじ2)それも肉の表面にしっかりとなすり付けます。(下の写真左側)オーブンに入れる前に、肉が室温まで戻っているのが理想的です。ローストラックの上に肉をおいて、予熱した 220Cのオーブンの15分入れた後、温度を175Cにさげて、1ポンドあたり20分(20分/450グラム)。3ポンド(1.36Kg) の肉だと、もう一時間焼きます。45分位から肉の温度を計ります。メデァムには内部温度が、肉の真ん中の一番厚いところで、60Cになるまで焼きます。(下の写真右側)

This roast took a bit longer to cook than we expected (the center may still have been cold after it was taken out of the refrigerator). Transfer the roast to a plate and loosely cover it with aluminum foil to keep it warm and let it rest for 15-20 minutes before carving. Our roast was a bit more done that we wanted (Image below) but still rosy in the middle.

Now making gravy; I remove the metal grate of the roasting pan which collected some dripping in the bottom and the edges are nicely browned (below left). I place the roasting pan across two burners on the stove on medium low flame and add port wine and chicken broth (1/4 cup each) (since we did not have beef broth) and deglaze all the nice brown bits using a silicon spatula (below right).
肉が休んでいる間にグレィビーを作ります。金属製のラックを取り除いた後に、肉汁が沢山落ちています。端の方はちょっとこげかけています。(下の写真左側)ローストパンを二つのコンロのバーナーにまたいでかけ(弱中火)ポートワインまたは赤ワイン(60ml)をいれ、へらなどで焦げた肉汁をこそげながら溶かします。(ポートワインは甘みが有ります。) ビーフブロスまたはチキンブロス(60ml、ブイヨンキューブを水に溶かして代用の場合は塩気に注意)をさらに入れます。(下の写真右側)

I could finish the gravy in the roasting pan but it is a bit unwieldy, so I transfer the contents to a frying pan on medium heat. Add any juice from the plate on which the roast was resting, and reduce it a little (few minutes). The traditional American way is to finish this with flour (There is a special finely milled flour called "Wondra" for making gravy). I used a corn starch slurry to thicken the gravy, which results in a slightly different mouth feel (more viscous texture). Taste and adjust the seasoning.
このまま最後までやっても良いのですが、わたしは、これをフライパンに移し、ローストビーフが休んでいるお皿にたまった肉汁も加えて中火で少し煮詰めます(1−2分)(下の写真左側)。伝統的なアメリカのやり方ででは、特にソースやグレイビー用に作られた、”ワンドラ” という小麦粉を使いますが、ここでは水溶きしたコーンスターチを入れてグレイビーを仕上げました(下の写真右側)出来上がったグレイビーは小麦粉を使った場合と比べて、すこしヌルヌルした(なめらかな)口当たりになります。ここで味見をして、塩、胡椒を必要なら足してください。

You could add vegetables to the bottom of the roasting pan during roasting but we prefer to roast the vegetables (onion, garlic-skin on, potato,sweet potato, carrot etc) in a  separate pan by just coating them with olive oil and seasoning with salt and pepper. This way, you have better control of the doneness of the meat and vegetables.

This roast beef was OK with lots of garlic and rosemary flavors and the meat was reasonably tender if slightly more done than we would have liked (we prefer our beef on the rare side). The cut of the meat was not really the best. Hope this post helps my niece with her roasted beef and gravy dinner.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ricotta cheese tart リコッタチーズのタルト

I know I keep deviating from my theme. Some Izakayas serve non-transitional small dishes such as German potatoes (now this has become a classic Izakaya "teiban" dish), Poutine-like French fries and cheese dish, taco, and even variations of pizza. We saw pizza in the menu at one of the rather inexpensive chain Izakayas last time when we were in Japan. We refuse to order pizza at an Izakaya, though.  Although there are many "excellent" pizza places in our neck-of-the-woods, we are partial to my home-made pizza. (Certainly, my pizza is much better than any chain Pizzaria pizzas and we usually make pizzas without much sauce and without meat unlike American Pizzas which usually have too much cheese, too much meat and too much tomato sauce). I promise I will post some of my pizzas which are not bad at all for a home-made pizza (this is called "Jiman" 自慢 which literally means "boast" or "self-praise" but it is with some sense of "pride" such as in the name of sake "Isojiman" 磯自慢 which means both "Pride of shore" and "Beach boast".)

I was somehow coerced (which is not a right word but can't think of an alternative) into making this dish "Ricotta Cheese tart" using my pizza crust. We found this to be very good and can be reheated very nicely in a toaster oven. We recently served this as a starter with champagne when we had friends over and it went very well.

Pizza dough: There is nothing unusual about my pizza dough. For 4 pizzas (about 8 inch), I add bread flour* (3 1/2 cups) and salt (1 tsp) in a food processor with a dough blade. While the food processor in running at a low speed, I stream in olive oil (2 tbs) and stop after few seconds. I proof one package of active yeast in a small amount of tepid water (1/5 cup) with just a pinch of sugar dissolved. Once proofed, I add cold water to make it one cup. Stream the yeast mixture into the tube of the food processor with the blade running at a low speed until a ball is formed above the blade. You probably will need a few more tbs of water. Open the food processor and touch the dough. It should be rather soft and slightly tacky. I let the dough sit in the processor for 5 minutes so that the moisture will distribute more evenly and then, run the blade for 30 more seconds. The dough should be soft, elastic and somewhat tacky. Take it out on a floured kneading board and hand knead for 2-3 minutes until dough is smooth, elastic and no longer sticky. For raising the dough, instead of using a bowl, I use one gallon Ziploc bag which is sprayed with PAM or a similar non-stick spray and wrap it with towels in a warm non-drafty place (on the center island counter top in my case) for 2 hours or more until the volume doubles.

(*Sometimes, I use King Arthur brand double zero ("00") Italian flour. This flour has much less gluten and makes a delicate dough which can not be tossed into the air. The resulting crust is thin, crisp and cracker-like probably similar to this one.)

After the volume doubles, I deflate and fold the dough several times I then cut the dough into 4 equal portions and make them into 4 nice smooth disks by pinching the cut surface together and stretching the surface to make a round ball. I, then, press lightly to make a disk. The portions I'm do not going to use immediately, I put it into a Ziploc sandwich bag and place in the refrigerator (will last at least overnight or more, which even adds more favor but, after that, you need to freeze the dough. The dough freezes well but the characteristic of the resulting crusts change a bit--the previously frozen dough will yield less bready and crunchier pizza crusts). Let the dough ball rest for 10-15 minutes by covering with a floured tea towel (otherwise the dough will be too elastic and resist stretching).  I never use a rolling pin to form pizza dough but use the traditional way of stretching the dough using the back of the knuckle of the hands (I will even toss the dough into the air if our guests request it.) For a regular pizza, I do not crimp the edge but, for this tart, I did crimp the edge as seen below since the filling is rather runny. You need to have corn meal on the pizza peel before placing the formed dough on the peel. Then give the peel several sharp tugs to make sure the dough slides nicely before filling the dough.

Filling: I mixed Ricotta cheese (1 cup), large eggs (2), chive (fine chopped, 1/2 cup), shallot (one finely chopped), dill (1/2 tsp dried since I did not have fresh one), salt (1/2 tsp) and black pepper (1/4 tsp). This filling made two 8 inch tarts (see below).

Baking: I had my convection oven set at 450F with a Pizza stone* in and preheated for, at least,  30 minutes before sliding the filled tart directly onto the hot pizza stone. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the surface of the filling becomes slightly brown.

(* I have a square pizza stone almost the size of the inside of my oven. I keep it (almost) permanently in the lowest rack. It is essential to have a pizza stone to make a nice crust.)

I took it out on to the cooling rack and graded Riggiano-Parmigiano cheese. I cut the tart into 4 wedges and served. The filling is nicely eggybready crust, this is a very good dish. This can be breakfast as well.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Macaroni salad マカロニサラダ

This is the last post of three salad which are disguised as an "Otoshi". Who knows, next time we visit an Izakaya in Japan, these salad may become very popular items.  This is another popular salad with many variations. This is our version and we use my honey Dijon mustard dressing instead of (more commonly used) mayonnaise. This time instead of scallion or onion, we used chives. Served as seen below, this is a perfect Izakaya food as Otoshi お通し, although may not be as popular as potato salad in an Izakaya.

We use regular small elbow macaroni (this one has a groove on the surface). While it is hot, I dressed the cooked macaroni with a rice vinegar (the amount is arbitrary, enough to add flavor while still being absorbed completely by the pasta), and salt. When it is cooling down, I add a small amount of good olive oil and toss to prevent the macaroni from sticking. Once it is cooled, I mixed in several stalks of celery (both ends trimmed, veins removed and finely cut up), three different kinds of olives (oil cured black olives, Calamata olives, and large green olives stuffed with pimento, all sliced) and chopped chive. I dress the salad with Honey Dijon mustard dressing (I use the dressing sparingly).

Honey Dijon mustard Dressing: I minced shallot (one small), Jalapeno pepper, seeded, veined and minced (1/2, optional), crushed garlic (one small clove, optional. I did not use garlic this time), salt and pepper. I added 1 tbs of honey, 2 tbs of Dijon mustard (I used the smooth kind) and 3-4 tbs of a rice vinegar and mixed. I stream in a EVOO (extravirgin olive oil) and whisk (I do not measure but about 1/2 cup). Taste the dressing and adjust the seasoning.
This is our favorite version of macaroni salad. Since we served this together with our potato salad for Memorial day barbecue, we intentionally did not use mayonnaise. The occasional burst of salty olive flavor is well matched with slightly sweet and tangy dressing. The celery gives a nice crunch. The rice vinegar is much gentler than wine or cider vinegars.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Fresh corn and black bean salad コーンとブラックビーンのサラダ

We made this for Memorial day barbecue but, probably it could be served in an Izakaya and people may even like it (it is a stretch, I admit). I have seen similar types of bean salads in many Japanese recipe sites, so it must be getting popular even in Japan. Then I found a similar dish being served in an Izakaya in Dave P's restaurant review, so it was not too much of a stretch after all.

Black turtle beans or black beans are a popular item in Latin American and U.S. South Western cuisines. Since we had fresh corn on the cob, my wife made this salad (I did the final seasoning). The amount of beans and corn is arbitrary but we used 6 white ears of corn and one 16 oz can of black beans. (We like GOYA brand). The beans are rinsed and drained. My wife microwaved the corn, covered with a paper towel, for 4-6 minutes or until done. Then she cut the kernels off the cob with a knife and mixed them with the black beans. I added lemon juice (we did not have any limes but lime juice is better) from one large lemon (probably 3 tbs), olive oil (3 tbs), ground cumin (2 tsp), salt and pepper to taste. For some heat, I added two small Jalapeno peppers, seeded and veined, finely chopped and also added finely chopped cilantro (2 tsp). You could add chopped red pepper for color if you like. The white corn was so sweet and made a wonderful salad. Some people love cumin and some hate it but, for this salad, cumin is a must.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Potato salad ポテトサラダ

Believe it or not, potato salad definitely is a very popular Izakaya food. I am sure that versions of potato salad are all over the (world) map. (Some may think Germany is where it started). Japanese made it's contribution to potato salad variations by adding Tarako 鱈子 or cod roe  to it, which I posted before. My wife grew up with American style potato salad and I did with Japanese style potato salad as my mother made it. We now make potato salad which is a hybrid between the two. Deviations from the America version are the use of rice vinegar and the addition of sliced and blanched onions rather than raw onions. I occasionally add Japanese curry powder to make a curry-favored version potato salad.  I made the hybrid style salad for Memorial day barbecue but I also served it in a small bowl like Otoshi お通し in an Izakaya.

This time I used white potatoes (5 large). Yukon gold and Russet potatoes also work. I cooked the potatoes whole in salted water (about 30 minutes or until you could insert a bamboo skewer to the center easily). I removed the skin while the potatoes were hot and cut them into bite sized pieces (We like potatoes well cooked). This way, the potatoes do not become watery and appear to keep their flavor better. The most important thing is to season the potatoes while they are hot. I add 2 tsp of salt, 1 tsp of black pepper and several tablespoons of Japanese rice vinegar and gently toss the potatoes. I taste and add more seasoning to my liking. You want to put on as much vinegar as you like but it has to be absorbed completely. If you are making a curry flavored salad, you add curry powders here (To be authentic, use the Japanese kind of powder such as the SB brand). I cut up carrots (5 long skinny ones which I had) and blanched them until they were soft but still crunchy. I halved and sliced onion into thin strips (one large or two small) and blanched the strips for 1-2 minutes. (I used the same pot in which the carrot was cooking. Put the onions in just 1 or 2 minutes before the carrot is done). The amount of onion is up to you but, by blanching the onion, the pungent onion flavor becomes much less strong and sweeter. The longer you cook, the less pungent the onion will become. So you could adjust the amount of the onion and the length of blanching to your liking. Drain them in a colander. I add a rice vinegar and salt to the carrots and onions in a colander and mix and drain at the same time. Mix all the ingredients together in a metal bowl (so that it will cool faster) and let it cool down to a room temperature. The potatoes should taste pretty good and well-seasoned at this point with vinegar, salt and pepper (it is like a southern Germany "Kartoffelsalat".  Most of Japanese recipes will add thinly sliced fresh cucumbers but I added cornichon pickles (cut up) instead. After the potatoes have cooled down to room temperature, I add Dijon mustard (1 tbs) and mayonnaise (3 tbs) and gently fold and mix. Because the mushed and well seasoned potato from the surface of the individual pieces gets mixed into the dressing it adds creaminess and you do not need too much mayo. I adjusted the seasoning (salt and pepper). Potatoes can take quite a bit of salt and vinegar but pre-seasoning them while they are hot is the key. We think our potato salad is much better than any of the store bought kind.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Salted (pickled) vegetable 浅漬け

Although I have posted this before, I decided to post it again with more details and a better picture. I make this regularly with whatever vegetables are available but cucumber, daikon, nappa cabbage, and celery are the best. I always use thinly sliced and Julienned ginger, red pepper flakes. From time to time, I add different seasonings such as jalapeno pepper, sliced lime or lemon. This time I had thinly cut dried kelp "Kizami konbu" 刻み昆布 (came in a bag) and I used this as well.

It is not really a recipe; just wash and cut any vegetable into an appropriate size and add salt. I slice "hard vegetables" such as daikon, carrot, and radish into rather thin slices. But I slice cucumber (American mini-cucumber) much thicker. If I use regular cabbage, I make the pieces a bit smaller than for nappa cabbage. The amount of salt is important. By weight, about 2% of salt against the total weight of the vegetables is the standard but I tend to use a bit less. After sometime, you can sort of tell the appropriate amount of salt. So I usually do not even measure. I added the vegetables and salt to a bowl with hydrated thinly cut kelp "Kizami konbu"  (after 5 minutes of hydration), and added ginger (finely julienned), red pepper flakes (just enough) and kneaded the mixture with my hand.

Then I transferred the vegetables to the contraption on the left called a Japanese pickling pot. I put on the lid and screwed down the inner plate so that the vegetables were under some pressure. I placed the pickling pot in the refrigerator. After several hours, you will see water developing above the vegetables. Then, it is ready. If you do not add enough salt, the water may never appear. (This is called "Mizu ga agaru" or "Water has risen"). After this, I transfer the vegetables in a sealable container with its liquid. I drain and squeeze out excess liquid just before serving.

Depending on the saltiness, you could use soy sauce when serving "asazuke". You could try many variations. Depending on the amount of the salt, it will keep at least a week in the refrigerator. We really like this dish. This dish can be served as a small dish which goes well with a sake. You could also serve this as an accompaniment to the rice dish you may serve as a "shime" 締め dish.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Memorial Day Barbecue メモリアルデイバベキュー

This is definitely not an Izakaya item but I have to "pad" my blog sometimes. Since it was Memorial day and the official beginning of the summer, it is customary to do barbecue in the U.S.  I often barbecue whole chickens in a Weber kettle. Once you set it up, you can just relax for 90 minutes or so while enjoying the sublime aroma of the chicken cooking. The result is quite good especially the crispy skin.

While the chicken is resting, portions of crispy skin get eaten by somebody. I caught the crime scene.

1. Preparing the chicken: I first make a mixture of freshly cracked black pepper and Kosher salt (half and half, about 3-4 tbs for two birds).  After washing the birds well and drying with paper towels, I remove the wish bones (or "clavicle" if you get technical) using a small paring knife. It will make a big difference later when you are carving the breast meat. I first squeeze lemon wedges (2 per bird) inside the cavity and outside. I then liberally sprinkle the pepper/salt mixture inside the cavity and stuff the cavity with aromatic vegetables, including the lemon wedges used for the juice, just for added flavor. I use coarsely chopped onion and celery (especially the core portion with leaves) and garlic cloves (5-6 crushed cloves per bird) and sprigs of fresh rosemary (slightly bruised to release the nice essential oil). I truss the birds without using a trussing needle. I start by wrapping butcher's twine around the "Pope's nose" in the mid portion of the string, then make a figure 8 around both legs, and go across to the back and tie it securely at the back just above the wings and then put the wings akimbo. Then, I smear olive oil all over the skin and generously coat the surface with the black pepper/salt mixture.

2. Setting up Weber Kettle Grill: We need to use the indirect heat set up. For this, we set up two charcoal baskets which sit on both sides of the inside of the Weber. We use lump charcoal and start it in a chimney-style charcoal starter with crumpled news papers (WSJ seems to work best for some reason) in the bottom. Recently we started using the hollow cardboard core from paper towel rolls and pack the coal around the roll to create a smoke stack. This makes the charcoal ready more quickly and reliably with less smoke. After the charcoal is ready (about 10 minutes), pour the hot charcoal into the baskets. Place a disposable aluminum tray in the middle to catch the drippings. Place the metal grate (which can be opened on both sides over the charcoal baskets to allow the addition of wood chips).

3. Wood chips: I use hot smoking for added flavors. I soak Apple wood chips (two fistfuls) for, at least, 30 minutes. After placing the chickens (this Weber can take two full size chickens) in the middle on the grate over the drip pan, I open both sides of the grate and place the drained and moist wood chips over the charcoal and place the lid with the air vents fully open. You immediately smell nice sweet apple wood smoke.

3. Judging the doneness: Depending on the wind, ambient temperature (We are known to barbecue in winter. In that  case, it will take little longer), and the size of the birds, it will take between 1 hours 15 minutes to 1 and a half hour. I do not have to add any coals during the cooking. After 1 hour and 10 minutes, I insert a temperature probe of a remote meat thermometer with an alarm (it has a beeper you can wear on your belt and it shows the internal temperature and beeps when the set temperature is reached. Shown here is the base unit.) The probe has to be inserted into the deepest part of thigh but not touching the bone. Please note that I had set the alarm at "Beef, Medium" which is 160F. If you choose "Chicken" it will set to 175F. I want 165F, so I let it cook 5 more minutes after 160F is reached and let the birds rest for 15-30 minutes, the truss removed but uncovered. This will produce a perfect doneness without over cooking. The reason I do not insert the probe (which is supposedly to be used in a grill) from the beginning is that  I had quite a few probes go bad on me when used this way. So I reduce the time the probe and the wire stay in the grill and also make sure the wire goes through the center area of the grill without hot  charcoals underneath. 
The skin is without a doubt the best part. My wife likes the wings and I like the dark meat of the thigh. We do not need any gravy or sauce for this. We had the chicken with a trio of home made salads; potato, macaroni and corn with black beans.
A nice start of the summer.