Friday, September 24, 2010

Pork filet mignon cutlet 豚のヒレカツ

Over 10 years ago, on one of our visits to Japan, we stayed in Kyoto (as usual) for several days. During this stay, we were taken to a "tonkatsu" トンカツrestaurant (I do not recall the name). As soon as we opened the door, the smell of deep fried pork wafted out and made us salivate. I am sure eating deep fried pork is historically a rather new introduction to Japan but it is a very popular Japanese Western-style dish. Many restaurants specialize in it and each has their secret sauce and/or special pork. Among "tonkatsu", the kind made of tenderloin or fillet mignon of pork called "hirekatsu" ヒレカツ is considered the ultimate. It is unfortunately not particularly dietetic and I have not made this for some time.

Since the weather has been very nice, even chilly in the morning and the evening, I suggested cooking "hirekatsu" outside so that we didn't have to worry about splattering the stove and the lingering smell of deep fry permeating the house. Meanwhile, we could enjoy staying outside. Our set up is shown below. This electric wok is powerful enough to heat the oil over 170C (340F) for proper deep frying.

Fillet mignon of pork: We can not get fancy kinds of pork and used just regular packaged pork tenderloin. After trimming the silver skin and excess fat, I trimmed off both ends to make the fillet a nice equal sized cylinder. I then cut the fillet into medallions about 1 inch thick. Using the palm of my hand, I pounded the fillet flat and then reshaped it into its original thickness (an attempt to tenderize). I seasoned it with salt and pepper.

Breading: I used the usual process of dredging the medallions in AP flour, putting them through a beaten egg/water wash and coating them in Japanese panko. It is best to let it sit in the refrigerator for several hours before frying since the breading will stick better.

Deep frying: As you can see in the picture above, I placed the breaded medallions of pork in the oil when the temperature is about 150C (300F) since the medallions were rather thick, I started with a relatively low temperature. It takes 7-8 minutes turning once.  After 4-5 minutes, I cranked up the heat so that the oil temperature reached 170C (340F). When the bubbles around the meat become small, I take out the thickest piece and test to make sure it is done (picture below).

Shredded cabbage: For some reason, especially when tonkatsu is involved, the vegetable accompaniment is traditionally thinly sliced raw cabbages as seen in the left in the back of the picture below. This is usually eaten with the tonkatsu sauce rather than with different dressings. I use leaves from the cabbage that are not on the surface but a few layers in but still green (not totally white). I remove the thick center veins and slice it as thin as practical then I soak it in ice water to crisp it. My wife does not like this raw cabbage and I usually end up making it some kind of coleslaw.

Pennsylvania Dutch style sweet and sour coleslaw: My wife mentioned that the only raw cabbage she ate as a child (and she really liked it) was Pennsylvania Dutch style coleslaw (shown in the little bowel in the lower left of the picture). Since I had never tasted it she decided to make if for me. I helped by chopping up the carrot and cabbage into a fine dice. The dressing calls for vinegar, sugar, egg, salt, butter and cream. It is somewhat similar to Béarnaise sauce but much sweeter. This is how my wife made it; rice vinegar (1/4 cup), sugar (1/2 cup), egg (one beaten, we used pasteurized egg) and butter (1/2 tbs) and cream (1/4 cup). Mix everything (except the cream) in a double boiler. Stirring constantly with a whisk until the sauce becomes thick. Quickly chill the mixture while stirring by putting the pan in an ice water bath. Once the mixture is completely cooled stir in the cream. Add the sauce to the carrot/cabbage mixture and let it sit at least a few hours.

For additional condiments, I also served sweet vinegar, pickled carrot, daikon and cucumber and beer marinated daikon. I also made miso soup with maneko mushroom なめこ, tofu and finely sliced scallion.
The "hirekatsu" was so good with crunchy breading and tender meat. I served it with "Bulldog" brand semi-thick tonkatsu sauce" and a Japanese mustard. You can make your own tonkatus sauce by mixing ketchup and Worcestershire sauce. My wife liked her sweet coleslaw which reminded her of her childhood but it was way too sweet for me. (With all that sugar, is it a surprise kids like it?) I realized I do not like raw cabbage as much as I thought I did.  We counteracted the ill effect of the fried food by liberally administering a good Spanish red, Portal del Montsant Santbru 2007 .


Sae said...

I didn't realize it was that easy to make the sauce. I'll have to try it.

Uncle N said...

It may not be the same as "Bulldock" but it is quite OK. Try it.