Sunday, July 4, 2010
Grilled potato with butter じゃがバタ
Hokkaido 北海道 where I am originally from is the Northernmost island of Japan and the climate is more like New England. Many cold weather crops and non-traditional Japanese (i.e Western) crops are produced. Two of these are potatoes and corn. One potato cultivar "May Queen" is particularly famous in Hokkaido. We do not see this variety in North America. In addition, Hokkaido is also different from the rest of Japan in that dairy farming is a major agricultural activity. As such, both potatoes (called "jagaimo" ジャガイモ) and butter are speciality products in Hokkaido. The combination is simply called "jagabata" ジャガバタ in which the whole potato is cooked (boiled, steamed, microwaved) and eaten with butter. People in the U.S. may think 'nothing unusual about that' but in Japan, it is, at least it was, a rather exotic local food. In the downtown park in Sapporo 札幌, called "Odori koen" 大通公園, during the tourist season which starts in the early summer, you can buy "jagabata" and grilled corn on the cob or "yaki toukibi" 焼きとうきび from food carts. Since the crop is not harvested until July, the corn and potatoes available in the early tourist season are from the previous year. Besides being a favorite tourist snack, "Jagabata" has now become a popular Izakaya food in Hokkaido and elsewhere. In terms of salty seasonings for your potato, you usually have three choices; salt, soy sauce, or shiokara 塩 辛 (squid and guts), for which "Hakodate" 函館, the Southernmost large port city of Hokkaido, is famous. Our version of "jagabata" is a cross between this and French fries and modeled after "jagabata" at Tako Grill and served with salt. Until you add butter, this is a much healthier food than French fries but you have to have the butter.
I first microwaved whole white potatoes (skin on, washed, with the "eyes" removed) in a microwave oven-proof vessel with a lid on until I can insert a bamboo skewer easily to the center. Be careful not to over zap it. I cut it into quarters. You could do this step a few hours or, maybe, a day ahead. Just grill the potato on the charcoal fire until all the surfaces are nicely brown/crunchy and heated through (about 5 minutes). Add pats of butter and let them melt, dip it in salt and enjoy. Extremely simple but satisfying dish.....!!MM!!!MmmmmmmmMMmmMMMM!!. (hope Jon did not trade mark this).