Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Pork pot roast and scallion salad 煮豚と葱のサラダ

This is another variation of small dishes using nibuta/yakibuta 煮豚/焼豚. This is based on a recipe from Otsumami Yokocho page 33.

To make this dish is quick and easy. This is for one small serving as seen above. Only thing is that you need to have leftover Japanese pork pot roast. I had less than 1 inch thick pork roast left. I just sliced it into thin rectangles (or cut into "tanzaku" 短冊, which is a small elongated rectangle card on which you scribble down a traditional Japanese short poem using a brush and ink.)

Dressing: I mixed soy sauce (2 tsp), dark sesame oil (2 tsp), sugar (1/4 tbs), rice vinegar (1/2 tsp) and Chinese hot sauce/paste* (1/6 tsp or more as you like), grated garlic (1/4 tsp) and ginger root (1/4 tsp) in a small bowl.

Scallion: I just sliced a scallion thinly on the bias including some of the green parts.

Just dress all the ingredients and serve. It is quite good and quite different from similar salads I made before. We like both variations very much. This one has more assertive flavors from the garlic, ginger, sesame oil as well as red chili paste.

(* "Tobanjan"  Hot bean sauce 豆瓣酱 or Chili garlic sauce 蒜蓉辣椒醬, I used the latter. You could substitute with any hot sauce you may have.)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sweet red bean and rice cake ぜんざい

This is obviously not Izakaya food at all and is probably the ultimate antithesis of it. I never thought I would be making this dish. But the aforementioned new gourmet grocery store has a large section of bulk grains and beans. All kinds of interesting items can be found there and you could even grind the grains of your choice or in combination to make your own flours. I actually found red beans or azuki 小豆 あずき (altenetive spelling, "adzuki"). I have never seen raw azuki beans being sold in the U.S. before* (canned cooked azuki is available). Tokachi plane 十勝平野 in Hokkaido 北海道, the northernmost island of Japan where I am originally from, is famous for producing azuki.  I have never attempted to cook azuki before--and there are reasons that I haven't. The most common use of azuki is to make Japanese sweets called "an" 餡, from which traditional Japanese sweets such as "Yokan" 羊羹 and "Zenzai" ぜんざい etc are made. I do not particularly care for them. They are also used to make "red rice" or "sekihan" 赤飯, a traditional celebratory food, which, I did not particularly like as a kid, liked even less as an adult and avoided eating if at all possible. Despite all this, when I saw the azuki in the bin, I had to get some. I have been in the U.S. too long, perhaps (or maybe the novelty of the situation overcame me).

*I was wrong about this. I simply was not looking for it before.  I did find raw red beans, vacuum packed, as well as canned cooked - both sweetened and un-sweetened - red beans in our Japanese grocery store (only one left in DC area).

The above picture is a classic Japanese sweet called "zenzai" ぜんざい or "O-shiruko" お汁粉 consisting of sweet azuki beans and grilled "mochi" rice cake. To my surprise, this was the best version of this dish I ever made. (Since this is the first time I ever made it "best" was not hard to achieve). But above and beyond that it was also the best I ever tasted. Granted, I've only ever eaten it a few times before and that was a long time ago. Even my wife agreed that this was the best she's eaten (she may actually have eaten some in Asakusa as recently as few years ago). If memory serves me correctly, the last time I had this dish was when I was in high school accompanying my classmate (sweetheart).....of course, back then this was something "girls" liked to eat. I recall it was sickeningly sweet and the only reason I ate it was because my classmate wanted some, not because I liked to eat "zenzai" )

In any case, a quick internet search revealed more than a few entries on how to cook azuki properly. I read a few of them and amalgamated them into the recipe I used. I think the secret was that I was careful not to make it too sweet.

Azuki beans look like this (image below left), I think I had about 1 pound. I washed and soaked the beans in plenty of water overnight. I cooked the beans on high flame using the water they soaked in. When the water came to a boil, I turned the flame down to a vigorous simmer (if such a term exists--it is just a tad below "gentle boil") for 10 minutes. I drained and washed the beans in cold running water. I put the beans back in the pot and added fresh cold water (3 times the volume of the beans). After the water started boiling I turned it down to a vigorous simmer. Small white bubbles or scum soon covered the surface, I skimmed it off repeatedly. If the water level went down too far, I added more hot water. After 30-40 minutes, it looks like this (image below right).  I tasted the beans, they were now soft. I set aside a portion of the simmering liquid and beans to use for other dishes, and continued making this dish. It appears important to add sugar in stages to keep the beans soft. So I added about 1/4 cup first. I cooked it for a while, tasted it (not sweet enough even for me) and add more sugar until I thought the sweetness was right (for me, that is. It must be a half of the recipe calls for). You could keep cooking to your desired consistency but I like it a bit soupy. I added a pinch (1/2 tsp) of salt at the end which supposedly enhances the sweetness.

I had some packaged mochi in the fridge left over from New Year. I cut the mochi into 4 small squares and toasted it in the toaster oven. (Since the mochi will become very sticky when cooked, I put the cubes on some aluminum foil). When it puffed up and browned slightly, I put it on the top of sweet azuki as see in the first picture.

My wife really liked this but said she would not consider it a dessert--Translation: "Do not attempt to serve this to me as a dessert.  If you would like to serve it as a starch side with the meal--perfectly acceptable".  In any case, I am planning to make some more savory dishes using azuki. No wine or sake will go well with this dish. "Bancha" 番茶 or "Hojicha" ほうじ茶, Japanese roasted tea will be the best bet as your choice of libation.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Hanger steak with port wine reduction and wasabi ハンガーステーキのポートワインバターソース山葵味

This was a celebration of sorts. We started the evening with my crab cakes (made from all jumbo lump crab meat without any assertive seasonings such as Tabsco or Jalapeno pepper this time). If I do say so myself, better crab cakes can not be had at any restaurant. (It is all in the quality of crab meat). We had this with a very crisp clean tasting California vintaged Sparkling wine, Mumm Napa Cuvee DVX 2001. We are partial to this wine, since it is connected to fond memories of our visit to the winery many years ago. We were club members at that time and one of the privileges of membership was free tasting samplers when we visited the winery. We spent a lovely afternoon, in Napa, on a spring day tasting samplers of sparkling wine overlooking the vineyard carpeted in the full bloom of bright yellow mustard flowers. Heaven!

The crab cake starter was followed by hanger steak with red wine vinegar, port wine reduction with real "wasabi".  This time I simply seasoned the hanger steak with Kosher salt and black pepper, seared it in a frying pan with olive oil and finished it in the oven to medium rare. I removed the steak to a plate loosely covered with an aluminum foil to rest. Meanwhile, I deglazed the "fond" with a small amount of red wine vinegar and reduced. I added port wine and again reduced. I poured back the jus accumulated on the plate where the meat was resting and finished it with pats of butter.  Off heat, I added a good amount of real Wasabi. You can see green specks on the steak in the picture above.

We opened a bottle from this year's shipment of Buccella 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon. We have been fans of Buccella wines for some time. They consistently produce a highly extracted quality wine. This vintage is no exception. It has complex black fruit upfront with dark chocolate and cinnamon notes with rather refined tannin. Perfect with the steak. Hanger steak is not as tender as tenderloin but may have more flavor. The real wasabi in the sauce gave a fresh note that was a bit like but different from horse radish. It added complexity and interest to the steak. This steak is best served sliced very thin--equipment alert: a really sharp steak knife may be required. This time I did not pre-slice the meat.

My wife served a small desert but at this point the details were fuzzy to me.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Stewed "Kakuni" Pork belly, the 3rd time is the charm 豚の角煮、三度目の正直!

As I mentioned, the new gourmet grocery store that recently opened near us has a much nicer meat section. To my delight, they had pork belly. I just had to try making this dish again with genuine pork belly. I have posted two previous attempts using salt pork and pork spare ribs. The pork spare rib version was better than the salt pork but finally I can try the "real McCoy" using pork belly.
As before I used this recipe by Atsushi Tsuchiya. I cut slightly more that one pound of pork belly (474 grams as seen below upper left) into 2 inch blocks. You can see how fatty the front portion of the belly meat is (below image upper right). I marinated it in soy sauce (4 tbs) (Image below lower left) for 10 minutes at room temperature. I then browned all sides of the pork in a sauce pan starting from the fatty side. I removed the meat and blotted the excess fat from the pan. I then put the meat and the remaining soy sauce from the marinade into the pan and turned the meat over to coat several times on medium low flame. I added sugar (20 grams) and sake (200 ml). After it simmered for 2-3 minutes and the alcohol evaporated, I added enough water to cover (about 200 ml) and covered the meat with hydrated kelp. I put a Piggy drop lid (otoshi buta) on the pan along with a regular lid (askew) and simmered it for 1 hour (below image lower right). I added more water as the liquid evaporated. I turned the meat over and simmered 2 more hours.

We tasted a little at this point--it was mighty good. I let it cool down to room temperature and then put it into the refrigerator. The next day, I removed the congealed fat from the surface and reheated.
I served it with blanched broccolini and thinly sliced scallion and a dab of Japanese hot mustard. The best part is the most fatty portion of the pork belly (you guessed it right!). It just melts in the mouth and is so sweet. The more meaty part is less tender. So for this dish, it is best to use pork belly and second best to use pork spare ribs. The only problem is that this is so incredibly good it must be lethal--so we should not be eating this too frequently. 

With this in mind we quickly and liberally self-medicated with red wine to counteract the effect of the pork fat. This was another vanilla-laden California Cab, Maxwell Creek Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2008. The sweetness of the pork fat combined with the fruit forward and vanilla-laden cab was sublime! We will go back to enjoying more "subtle" and "austere" wines but this was a fun wine to sip. It was especially fun sitting outside in the sun on the deck enjoying perfect spring weather consuming pure pork fat.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Grilled branzini シーバスの焼き物

A new gourmet grocery store opened a few weeks ago. It is actually within walking distance. The store has been extremely popular, creating traffic jams and requiring police to direct traffic in and out of the underground parking garage. In any case, this has provided us with another venue to indulge our love of cooking--and eating. Among the other gourmet and international food items offered at the store are such "must haves" as ostrich and emu eggs (haven't tried them yet--still looking for recipes). The fish and meat sections are better than usual. Specifically they have whole fresh fish. The day we shopped, there were 5 kinds of whole fresh fish on display in large buckets packed with ice in front of the usual glass cases displaying fish fillets. At least we could smell and closely inspect the fish. We could have even touched them if we wanted but we hope not too many shoppers will do that. Among the five kinds offered, Branzini (or bronzini) looked best with nice clear eyes. Others such as large red snapper and black bass had cloudy eyes and did not look as good. Branzini is not a particularly interesting fish but we decided to get it.  Another name of Branzini is European sea bass. I suppose it is similar to Japanese sea bass or "suzuki" スズキ but to determine what is the Japanese equivalent and vise versa for fish is difficult, if not impossible.

We had it scaled and gutted but left the tail and head on (see below left). We like whole fish simply grilled on a charcoal fire. So, I just seasoned it with salt and pepper inside and out and stuffed the cavities with chopped fennel (including the feathery leaves), red onion, and slices of lemon a few hours before grilling (kept in the fridge). I cooked the fish on a direct hot charcoal fire (see below right) in a Weber kettle. I coated the skin with olive oil and used a special Weber-brand spray on the grill to prevent the skin from sticking.

I grilled the fish for 3-4 minutes per side covered with the lid half of the time to assure the meat was done before the skin got totally singed.

As you can see in the first image, I served it with spinach (briefly boiled, seasoned with soy sauce and bonito flakes wrapped in nori sheet and garnished with sesame seeds) and blanched broccolini with mustard soy sauce. I even did a decorative cut on the lemon (somewhat dated, about on par with that old warhorse sprigs of parsley garnish (not used here BTW, but, hey, it looks good).

Somehow, it is nice to have a whole fish. I just can not trust the freshness of filleted fish for one thing. Grilling fish with bone-in appears to add something and a fish head is always decorative (for Japanese particularly). Of course, the skin is always our favorite part.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Fried shishamo in sweet vinegar 揚げシシャモの甘酢漬け

This is a variation of "nanban" 南蛮, which is deep fried fish or meat marinated in sweet vinegar with red (hot) pepper and vegetable such as onion. Small fish such as "aji" 鯵 or Japanese jack mackerel is most commonly used but I posted one with chicken breast previously. Since I can not easily get aji, I used frozen "shishamo" シシャモ instead. This is a perfect small Izakaya dish which goes perfectly with sake.

Shishamo: I used the usual frozen kind (Capelin or "karafuto" shishamo). All had nice roe inside. Without defrosting, I dredged in potato flour and fried it in 370F peanut oil (I used the shallow frying technique) turning once for 5-7 minutes. After draining off the excess oil, I immediately soaked it in sweet vinegar marinade (see below).

Sweet vinegar: Sweet vinegar or "amazu" 甘酢 can be made ahead. It keeps a long time in the refrigerator. I put rice vinegar in a non-reactive (such as stainless steel or Pyrex) pan on low flame and added sugar (half the amount of vinegar, either by volume or weight, for example, one cup of vinegar and 1/2 of sugar) and a small amount (I used 1/3 tsp but could be more) salt. Stir and make sure the sugar is completely dissolved and let it come to a boil (called "nikiru" 煮きる), this makes the vinegar mellow. Let it cool down and put it in a plastic or glass container and keep it in the refrigerator. This can be used for many other recipes.

Marinade: I mixed sweet vinegar (2/3 cup), dashi (1/4 cup), mirin and soy sauce (1 tbs each). I added thinly sliced red onion and julienne carrot the night before. You can do this part a few days ahead. I like the veggies to marinated at least several hours or longer. To make it truly "nanban" you add red pepper flakes but I did not this time.

While the fried shishamo is still hot, I put it in the marinade with the vegetables already in. I cover the fish with marinated vegetables and let it marinate for at least 10 minutes or longer. I served it with the vinegared onion and carrot on the top.

We had this with cold sake (our house sake Yaegaki "mu"). I think sake or beer will go with this dish well but the acidity of the dish does not agree with wine. Of course every part of the fish  including head, bone and tail is eaten in this dish. "Waste not want not" never tasted so good.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Chicken wings simmered in soy sauce and vinegar 手羽の酢醤油煮

This is another variation on the ever popular bar/Izakaya chicken wing dish. I bought a package of chicken wings that had six wings in it. I removed the drumetts and used them to make  "curry flavored baked chicken drumetts". I made this dish from the remaining chicken wing tips but we did not eat it immediately. I reheated it the following evening. Although simmering (with or without vegetable) is a rather common Japanese way to cook chicken wings, I have not made this dish. I suggested this dish to my wife several times but my description of it did not elicit an ounce of enthusiasm. So I kept making baked, deep dried, or grilled wings with crispy skin instead.  This time, I showed my wife the picture from the Otsumami Yokocho Page 55 and convinced her to try this dish so that I could also blog about it. (I think the blogging ploy is what actually swayed her and she consented to eat the wings if I made them). I did not follow the recipe (for the simmering liquid) in Otsumami Yokocho thinking that it would be way too sweet for us. Instead, I used the same concoction I use to make poached chicken breast.

This dish is actually rather simple. For two small servings, I used 6 chicken wings after drumetts were removed.

Simmering liquid: Most of the recipes including Otsumami Yokocho's used either sugar or honey but I used mirin instead. I made a mixture of soy sauce, mirin, and black vinegar (Japanese style lighter kind or you could use regular rice vinegar or balsamic vinegar) (1/4 cup each or in equal amounts). I added ginger (several thin slivers) and garlic (one small clove, crushed). 

Cooking: In a small pan in which all six wings snugly fit, I poured the simmering liquid. It should just cover the wings. Initially, I put the pan on medium-high flame. As soon as it boiled, I tuned it down to simmer. (If any scrum forms on the surface, skim it off).  I put an otoshi-buta on the pot (Instead of a wooden lid, I used a newly acquired silicon lid called "pig cooking lid"*) and a regular tight fitting lid on the top. I simmered it for 30 minutes (turning once in the middle). After 30 minutes, I let it cool down to room temperature in the liquid.

*Digression alert: This silicon lid has a face of a pig with two small holes of the nostrils as steam vents and two ears as knobs to hold the lid. Japanese for lid is "futa" 蓋 but when you make a composit word with "Otoshi" meaning "to drop" in front, it will change to "buta" ("f" to "b" which is called "dakuon" 濁音) as in "Otoshi-buta" 落とし蓋. "Buta" 豚 also means "pig" in Japanese. So this is a whimsical "puny" product and works well.

Seasoned eggs: I also made seasoned eggs or 味付け卵. For this, I simply made soft boiled eggs (cooked for 8 minutes in simmering water). I used pasteurized eggs since I wanted to keep the yolks still a bit runny. I simply added the boiled eggs (shells off, of course) to the room temperature simmering liquid along with the chicken wings. You could serve the chicken wings and eggs after soaking the eggs in the simmering liquid for 30 minutes or so but I put the pan into the refrigerator at this point to eat it the next day.

The next evening, when I opened the pot I found that the liquid was completely jelled. This is because of all the collagen and protein that came from the chicken while it simmered. The liquid had become aspic or "nikogori" 煮凝り in the refrigerator. The surface also was thinly covered with chicken fat. Using a spoon, I scraped off all the visible fat from the surface and put the pan on the lowest flame to warm up. It's not necessary to boil it, just gently heat it to make the jelled liquid warm so it melts.

This was a bit messy to eat since you have to use your fingers but it was wonderful. The skin is totally different from the skin of grilled or baked chicken wings. It is very soft, unctuous with a nice smooth texture and taste. As Japanese often say, it has a lots of collagen and your skin will feel smooth after eating this. The egg was also wonderful (although soaked in seasoning liquid from pork pot roast may be slightly more flavorful). This also passed the "Mikey likes it" test with my wife. She expressed a great deal more enthusiasm than when I suggested making the dish. She ate every bit and then asked if there was any more. She suggested I make this dish again and in a much larger quantity. She also suggested I add red (hot) paper flakes (I was not expecting this kind of suggestion from her).

We started this evening with my potato salad (I used red onion this time) as an otoushi お通し.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Soft shell crab tempura redux ソフトシェルクラブの天ぷら 再登場

posted this about year ago but it is the season for a soft shell crab again and when I saw live soft shell crabs at the market, I had to get them. I was amazed at how my presentation of this dish is so similar to last year's presentation. In any case, the only difference is that I tried a new tempura batter formula after seeing the America's Test Kitchen episode on tempura.

They take a somewhat scientific approach to making tempura batter light and crispy. The idea here is not to let the gluten develop too much. The most common Japanese way of making tempura batter is to use cake flour or weak flour "hakurikiko" 薄力粉 in combination with potato starch or "katakuriko" 片栗粉, whole egg or egg yolk, ice cold water and do not over mix it. The America's test kitchen's method is to add "alcohol" in this mix to further prevent gluten formation and to use seltzer water (which many Western chefs have done for tempura batter). So I wanted to try this to see if it made any difference.

Liquid component: Selzer water (non-sweetened, of course, 1 cup), Vodka (1 cup) and whole egg (one) mixed together.

Dry component: Cake flour (1 cup) and potato starch (1/4 cup). The original recipe calls for AP (all purpose) flour instead of cake flour.

Actually, my dry ingredients were proportionally much less for two crabs and 4 asparaguses. In addition I used only a portion of the liquid mixture to attain the desired consistency of the batter. 

The result was a good nice light crust but we were not sure this was any better than my regular batter with or without eggs. Soft shell crab may not be ideal to test the tempura crust because the shell gets crispy even if you don't use tempura batter. We will try again with a more appropriate food medium to assess the crust. In any case, we love soft shell crab tempura and we have to make it at least once in the season.

Talking about the season, the iris were in full bloom in our garden. We were surprised when this pure white one appeared among all its purple cousins. My wife arranged it using a Japanese-style base with "kenzan" 剣山. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Baby artichoke, olives, and feta cheese salad ベイビイアーティチョーク、オリーブ、フェタチーズのサラダ

This is a perfect starter to have with wine. My wife bought a dozen baby artichokes. I proposed baby artichokes fried in olive oil as per Italian Jewish style but she wanted to steam them and eat the best part, the hearts. Since we had also just bought several different kinds of olives, we ended up making this impromptu Mediterranean-style salad.

Baby artichokes: My wife prepared the baby artichokes and I assembled them into a salad. She put water in the bottom of a large Dutch oven with olive oil, onion, lemon slices, black pepper corns and bay leaves. She then placed a steamer basket over the water. The baby artichokes were prepared by first cutting of the discolored stem end, and top of the petal. She also peeled the skin off the stem. Then, the artichokes were placed petal side down in the steamer basket and steamed for about 20 minutes or until the hearts could be pierced easily. After they cooled down enough to be safely handled, she removed the outer tough petals. She cut the larger ones in half to make sure the "chokes" were not developed and still tender. If there was a choke, she removed it. I quickly tossed the prepared artichoke hearts in olive oil and lemon juice while they were still warm.

Other ingredients: We had several kinds of olives including green ones in a spicy marinade, oil cured black etc. I just cut up these olives (pitted as needed). I also got a yellow streaked heirloom tomato (I do not know the varietal but it was called "locally grown". It must have been grown in a hot house. It was not as good as I expected). I skinned and diced it. I also used a 1/3 block of feta cheese, crumbled. I also added thinly sliced red onion.

Assembly: I mixed all the ingredients, splashed them with a good fruity olive oil, Champagne vinegar (very mild tasting), black pepper, salt, chopped parsley, and Tabasco. I added these in stages as I tasted the salad. 

I served this as a sort of antipasto with slices of three different kinds of cheese (Havarti with dill, aged cheddar, and smoked Gouda) and fig preserve. The gentle nutty sweetness of the fig preserve was a perfect accompaniment for the cheeses. The baby artichoke salad was served on a bed of baby greens. Since we had a really good crusty Ciabatta bread, I added a slice, toasted, with drizzles of olive oil.

We had this sitting outside on our deck. The wine we had was Bodegas Resalte de Penafiel, Ribera del Duero, Crianza 2005. This region of Spain produces lots of good value wines which we like. This one is made of 100% Tempranillo and aged 18 months in 90% French Oak and 10% American Oak. Wine Spectator chose this wine as #26 of Top 100 for 2010 and gave 94 points. I am not sure I would go that high (may be 91-2) but it is a very good wine nonetheless. With this starter dish, sitting on the deck outside in perfect weather, we could not complain. Besides, there was the added gift of no mosquitoes (yet!). The acidity of the Champagne vinegar was mild enough not to compete with the red wine we were having and the taste of artichokes and salty bursts of olive were perfectly wonderful.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Cold tofu with crispy Jako, ginger and broccolini 冷や奴のカリカリじゃこブロコリーニ添え

There are so many variations of the toppings and sauces which you can have with a block of cold tofu called "hiya-yakko" 冷や奴*. I posted few examples. We liked this one particularly. I also thought the picture is rather nice and somewhat artistic in the dark background and one tiny eye looking at you from the top of tofu.

The secret is crispy "jako" 雑魚. I sautéed (or almost shallow fried) jako (frozen) in a dark sesame oil for 2-3 minutes on low-medium heat. After they became very crispy and fragrant, I placed them on several layers of paper towel to absorb excess oil. I had blanched broccolini. I cut the florets and thinly sliced the stalk on bias. I dressed the broccolini with Japanese mustard soy sauce (Japanese mustard, sugar and soy sauce). I also added thinly julienned ginger or "hari-shouga" 針ショウガ on the top. I just used undiluted mentsuyu 麺つゆ (x2 concentrate) as a sauce.

Sesame-flavored very crispy jako in contrast to the cold and silky texture of tofu was nice with bright ginger flavor, albeit this is a very "usual" or "mundane" dish. This definitely calls for sake.

(*Digression alert!: "Yakko" or 奴 is a name of the lower class servant - footman equivalent - in a Samurai household in Edo period who often wore a "happi" 法被 coat with a large square design or crest on the back (see image on the left). In Edo period, Tokugawa Shogun 徳川将軍mandated that local lords to come visit and live a part of the year in Edo (present Tokyo) to confirm their allegiance to Shogun. The lord had to travel to Edo in a prescribed slow and elaborate "daimyo" procession or 大名行列, which was very costly by design. Certain numbers of "yakko" were required in the procession among other things. One of the reasons for the mandatory "daimyo" procession was to deplete the local lords' wealth so that they could not afford to build up military power against Shogun. I read somewhere that the reason for "yakko" wearing the generic square crest instead of specific family crests is that they were often temporarily hired to man the procession to reduce the cost. Although I can not vouch for this, I can imagine that the daimyo gazette classified page often had an entry such as "Have happi coat with square crest. Will travel." Thus, if you cut any food item into cubes, it is called "yakko ni kiru"  奴に切る or "cut into cubes". Hiya-yakko is cold -"hiya" means cold- tofu cut into a cube. There, this is more than you ever wanted to know.)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Baked spicy chicken wings 手羽のピリ辛焼き

This is another variation on the theme of chicken wings. Chicken wings are popular drinking snack in the U.S. (Buffalo wings) as well as in Izakaya in Japan. They are cheap and perfect with any drink. This variation is based on the recipe from Otsumami Yokocho p58. As you can see here, I followed the Japanese way of not removing the wing tips, although there is not much to eat in the wing tips.

I had a package of chicken wings (6). I noticed, the package had a sticker on it stating that the chicken was purely vegetarian and no animal by-products were fed--does this piece of information make me feel better about eating them? We - well, most of us - are omnivores but we like vegetarian chickens). I separated the drummetts and made a slit in the wings between two bones (ulna and radius to be precise). 

I then marinated the drummetts and wings in a Ziploc bag with sake (2 tbs), mirin (2 tbs), soy sauce (4 tbs), Chinese chili paste (1/2 tsp, use more for spicier wings, hot bean sauce 豆瓣酱 or chili garlic sauce 蒜蓉辣椒醬, I used the latter), garlic (one fat clove grated) and ginger (1/2 tsp grated) for 20-30 minutes.

I baked them in a hot oven (450F, convection on the top rack) for 10 minutes and turned them over and baked another 10 minutes until the skin became crispy and the edges browned.

I served this with a wedge of lemon (I had extra chopped parsley. I garnished the one side of the lemon wedge with this.), drunken cherry tomatoes. This is a very nice drinking snack similar to Buffalo wings with an Asian twist. It could have been a bit spicier even for us. Next time, I will increase the amount of hot chili paste.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Simmered and baked Vidalia spring onion 春物バイデリアオニオンのスープ煮

Vidalia onion is named after a place in Georgia called Vidalia. These onions are known for their mild flavor (for onions) and sweetness. It appears that there is a strict definition of what constitutes a vidalia onion based on the growing region and varietal used--if not from the specific counties in Georgia specified by law, it may be a sweet onion but it is not a Vidalia. In addition the vidalia onion is the state vegetable in Georgia (I didn't know states had official state veggies). It seems that  Vidalia onion is sweet because of the soil which is said to be low in sulfur and the characteristic of the particular onion varietal. Further digression: One of the our favorite restaurants in DC is called "Vidalia". The restaurant is known for new Southern cuisine which includes baked Vidalia onion.  In any case, I got spring Vidalia onion* and made this simple dish to enjoy its wonderful sweetness.

(* Spring onions are, as I understand it, young onion in spring; the bulb is still small and the flavor is mild and sweet. As seen the image on the left. This image was borrowed from this website.

I bought 4 onions. I just cut the root end and green parts and removed some of the blemished outer skins. I cooked this in chicken broth with bay leaves (3) and black pepper corns (5-6) for 20 minutes or so. I then put the cooked onion in a small ramekin in which the oinons fit snugly. I cut one in half to make them fit snugly). I added a small amount of the cooking broth on the bottom (2 tbs). I added soy sauce (1 tsp or salt), pats of butter (1 tsp), grated parmesan cheese and baked it in a 400F toaster oven for 10-15 minutes. I garnished with chopped parsley.

This is very simple preparation but brought out the sweetness of the spring Vidalia onion.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Amaebi Ceviche 甘エビのサビーチェ

This is what I made from the two largest amaebi shrimp we received from the latest shipment of goodies from Catalina Offshore products. This is more like a classic ceviche than the one in the previous post. In addition, I remembered that we had an interesting Martini glass and used it to serve the amaebi ceviche. I am going to present a tight shot, followed by a long shot, and a longest shot this time.

After I removed the head and roe (both shrimp had a large amount of roe) which was used in miso soup, I removed the shell and tail. I deveined and then cut it into small rounds. The marinade is mixture of freshly squeezed lime juice (4-5 tbs from 2 limes) and yuzu juice (1/2 tsp from the bottle). I added the zest of the lime (1/2 tsp, grated by a micro-grater), Vidalia spring onion (half, finely chopped), tomatoes (half, deseeded, skinned, and diced), Jalapeno pepper (1/2, seed and veins removed and finely chopped), parsley (1/2 tsp, finely chopped), salt and pepper. I mixed this into the marinade and added the shrimp. I let it steep (chemically cook) for few hours in the refrigerator.

To serve, I drained the excess marinade, added a splash of good olive oil, sake, Tabasco (after tasting, I thought, it needed a bit more heat), and soy sauce. I placed it in the Martini glass on ice and garnished it with wedge of tomato and cucumber slices.

Cold sake appears to be appropriate for this dish. Compared to the previously posted amaebi ceviche which is not really (chemically) cooked, this is more like a traditional ceviche, and it tasted good. I did this because, although the shrimp was packed with ice in the meat conpartment of the refregirator, it had been 2 days since we received the live amaebi.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Deep fried shrimp heads and Royal trumpet mushroom tempura 海老の頭の唐揚げとエリンギの天ぷら

I have posted deep fried shrimp heads before but it is, again spring season for amaebi or spot prawns. As usual, this came from Catalina offshore products and the shrimp was wild caught in water off San Diego. When they arrived, all of them were still arrive (albeit just barely), which was a very good sign.

One of the problems with spring amaebi (spot prawns) is their size. Although this was supposed to be 12 count per pound, We had only 6 in the pound; 4 were about 10C in size but two were gigantic. For sashimi, we prefer the small size. For smaller amamebi, the heads can be easily deep fried but when shrimp are too big, it is not feasible to do this.

In any case, we first had the four smaller ones as sashimi and also made deep fried shrimp heads. I trimmed the antennae and blotted the excess moisture (using paper towels) and fried in 350-370F peanuts oil for 6-7 minutes. After draining the oil, while they were still hot, I salted them. Since I had hot oil, I also cooked some royal trumpet mushrooms (very similar to eryngii which are popular in Japan) tempura. I tore one mushroom into 4 pieces from the bottom of the stem.  Tempura batter was made of cake flour with the addition of potato starch and cold water (4:1 ratio of the flour and potato starch. I added cold water until the desired loose "batter" consistency was reached).

The shrimp heads had a very nice crunchy shell and lots of sweet meat that almost tasted like small lobster. A word of caution;  bite down  the shell  perpendicular to your teeth lest you incur injury from the sharp shell or leg impailing your pallet or gums. For sashimi, beside sweet shrimp, we had maguro (ko-toro 小トロ bordering on chu-toro 中トロ) and uni 雲丹 sea urchin. Nothing but sake works for us for this type of food.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Ratatouille with a poached egg ラタトゥユのポーチドエッグのせ

We got the idea for this dish from Eric Ripert's TV show. Since we had leftover ratatouille, it is very easy to make. From our experience of trying a few baked egg dishes such as  Oeuf cocotte, we learned that baking eggs and having them come out just right instead of raw or like rubber, is very difficult. When the yolks are just done perfectly, the whites are not done or the whites are done but the yolks are overcooked. So whenever we see "baked" eggs recipes, we use "poached" eggs instead. This way we have a much better control over the doneness of the eggs.
I put leftover ratatouille in a small ramekin and warmed it in a 375F toaster oven for 20 minutes (or microwave). I then placed a poached egg on top of the ratatouille and topped with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Since I did not have any fresh herbs, I sprinkled dried thyme (fresh basil or thyme would be nice).

Here is the dish after the yolk was broken*. I think this is a combination which can not go wrong. This could be a breakfast or late night drinking snack.

*Please note that we use pasteurized shell eggs . Use pasteurized eggs or safe eggs from an alternative source for any dishes for which you undercook or not cook eggs.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Curry flavored baked drumettes 鶏手羽のカーレ風味オーブン焼き

This is a variation on the theme of Buffalo wings. I thought I bought whole wings but when I opened the package, they were all drumettes and I just came up with this dish one evening. A similar dish may indeed exist but this was not based on any recipe.

I had 8 drumettes. I seasoned them with salt and pepper. I made a mixture of flour and Japanese SB brand curry powder (1/2 cup flour and 1 tbs curry powder or add more curry powder if you like it spicier) in a Ziploc bag and added the drumettes and shook the bag to coat the chicken. 

I baked them in a hot oven (450F convection oven in the top shelf) for 20 minutes turning them once half way through cooking. Although I did not add any oil, the oil from the skin made a crispy crust. The upper side of some of the drumettes still had flour left halfway through the cooking, but, by turning it over, oil from the skin turned the flour into the crispy crust (self frying). The end result was as seen above; nice crispy crust/skin with curry flavor with mild spiciness. I served them like Buffalo wings with celery sticks and blue cheese dressing. The skin and crust are almost as good as deep fried. Beer will be a natural choice but we went for cold sake.