Monday, January 30, 2012

Marinaded Hamachi Sashimi ハマチの漬け

Since we had a block of frozen hamachi (1.6 lb), I had to come up with some other ways (besides straight forward sashimi) of enjoying it. Marinated tuna sashimi or "zuke" 漬け is much more common than marinated hamachi but "hamachi no zuke" ハマチの漬け is a very interesting dish and the effect of marination is quite different from tuna.

Here I served hamachi zuke in a bed of baby arugula.

Marinade: This is very similar to one I use for tuna sashimi. I have made several variations of the marinade for tuna. This time, I made it a bit differently. I first put an equal amount of sake and mirin in a small sauce pan (about 3 tbs each) and let it boil so that the alcohol dissipated (no lid) and the mixture reduced to nearly half. I then added, a 1 inch square of kelp and soy sauce (2 tbs). When the mixture returned to a boil, I shut off the flame and let it cool down. Meanwhile, I dry roasted white sesame (2 tbs) in a dry frying pan until fragrant. I tipped it off into a Japanese mortar or suribachi すり鉢 and coarsely ground the sesame which I added to the marinade (leaving 1-2 tbs aside for garnish). I placed the marinade in the refrigerator to completely cool. 

I sliced the hamachi sashimi rather thinly (3-5 mm) and placed the pieces in the cold marinade for 1 hour in the refrigerator. The length of marination is up to you but I marinated the pieces for  beween 15 minutes to one hour. 

I removed the hamachi pieces and put them in a separate bowl preserving the marinade. I mixed in chopped scallion. I placed the marinated hamachi on the greens, garnished with crumbled seasoned nori ("ajitsuke nori" 味付け海苔 from a package), the roasted white sesame seeds which were previously set aside, and a dab of wasabi. I also served the marinade on the side side just in case.
Although I made the marinade a bit on the sweet side for my taste (probably too much reduction of the sake and mirin), it is mellow and nice. The texture of the hamachi became firmer and really looked like a piece of beef. The taste and texture are very nice but the effects of marination are different from those of tuna. We like this very much.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Hamachi Yellow tail and avocado sashimi ハマチとアボカドの刺身

Hamachi ハマチ or yellow tail amberjack is young buri ブリ. This is one of the fish which get promoted or "shusse-uo" 出世魚 as it grows up. There are somewhat different definitions and names according to the regions (Kantou 関東 such as in Tokyo vs. Kansai 関西 such as in Osaka) but a fully grown specimen is called "buri" 鰤 ぶり in either region. It is always difficult to find the exact English counter part to Japanese fish names. "Kampachi" カンパチ is another one belonging to the amberjack family and is a very popular sashimi item (most available here is farm raised in Hawaii. Actually, wild caught Kampachi is reportedly not suited to eat as sashimi because it is often infested with parasites). This fish may be different from Hamachi but I am not sure how similar or different taxonomically. (If this sounds confusing because it is.)  Kampachi appears to be less fatty but has a more delicate flavor. The majority of hamachi you see at sushi bars are also aqua cultured. In general, we are usually more interested in tuna and uni but this time, I got frozen sashimi block of hamachi from Catalina Offshore products.

Here is the hamachi sashimi I served with a "sashimi" avocado, Campari tomato with moromi miso もろみみそ and quickly made daikon namasu 大根なます(daikon in sweet vinegar). Wasabi is, as usual, real wasabi from the tube but this time, I had to perform a surgery (C-section) and take out the wasabi from the tube and mix the liquid and solid together to reconstitute (This is one of the problems of real wasabi in a tube--the water gets squeezed out but not the solids). It does have a nice smell and flavor very close to real grated wasabi rhizome, though.
Some times, Catalina does carry fresh hamachi but we have not tried it yet. This one was from Kyushu 九州, farm raised and flash frozen in minus 50C judging from what the package stated. It was treated with carbon monoxide (like a frozen tuna sashimi block) for retention of the color (it does not change the taste, is not preservative and is not harmful to your health). This package was rather large (long) and I had to soak it for several hours in the kitchen sink filled with cold water reinforced with ice cubes to thaw it. (They recommend using ice water rather than running water because, I suppose, the running water thaws the fish too quickly and unevenly). After it is thawed and out of the package the sashimi block looks like seen on the right below.
We really enjoyed this hamachi sashimi. It is as good or even a bit better than what we get in regular sushi bars (Many sushi bars also serve previously frozen hamachi). Since I did not have any other sashimi items, I also served sliced ripe avocado as a sashimi. You would be surprised at how well avocado slices go with wasabi and soy sauce. According to my wife, avocado served this way should be classified as fish.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Yuzu-koshou mayonnaise 柚子胡椒マヨネーズ

Yuzu-koshou 柚子胡椒 is one of the most useful and versatile Japanese condiment/seasonings. It is a mixture of salt, chopped  peel of a Japanese citrus called "yuzu" 柚子 and chili pepper (usually green chili pepper but it could also be red chili pepper). Chili peppers are called "koshou" in Kyushu Island 九州. In the rest of Japan, "koshou" usually means either ground black or white peppercorns and chili peppers are called "Tougarashi" 唐辛子. One could make this from scratch if yuzu is available but, yuzu, even if available, in the U.S. is too expensive to attempt this.

The next best thing is to buy ready-made yuzu-koshou in a tube as seen in the left. This will keep at least a few weeks or more in the refrigerator after opening. Yuzu-koshou is usually used as a seasoning or condiment for Nabe dishes, noodles in broth, and cold cubes of tofu but it could be used in any dish. I use it to season meat mixtures for hamburgers or Japanese "Tsukune" dishes.

Another way to use yuzu-koshou is as a dressing. The easiest combination is to mixed it with mayonnaise. Like wasabi-mayonnaise, you could add quite a bit of yuzu-koshou, since the mayonnaise dampens the heat. I usually make it with a ratio of almost 1:1 of mayo and yuzu-kosho but this is totally up to your taste. You could also add soy sauce in addition.

Here are two examples of how I used yuzu-koshou-mayonnaise.

The first one below is steamed haricot verts dressed in mayo-yuzu-koshou. This was served as a side for Paprika-cumin rubbed low-temperature (350F) baked pork tenderloin slices, homemade cranberry sauce, my wife's mushed potato seasoned with soy sauce and butter.
On another occasion, I served curry flavored chicken wing and drumet with steamed broccoli dressed in yuzu-koshou-mayo.
The mixture of yuzu flavor and spiciness really adds even to store-bought mayonnaise.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hanpen fish cake dressed in wasabi sake lee ハンペンの山葵漬け和え

This may look like cubes of tofu but this is a type of fish cake called "hanpen" ハンペン. I posted a few items using this. This fish cake is made of white fish meat and egg white and looks snow white. In shizuoka 静岡, "kuro hanpen" or black hanpen is famous in which sardine meat is used and dark colored.  Instead of being deep fried, hanpen is usually steamed. As a result, it is soft and very mild in taste.
In the U.S., the best hanpen available is the "Kibun" 紀文 brand which comes frozen (see below).
I happened to have "Wasabi zuke" 山葵漬け which came in a plastic tab frozen (image below left). I am sure it is not as good as the ones available in Japan especially in Shizuoka 静岡 but this has to do in the U.S.. You could just add soy sauce and nibble it as you sip sake or use it as a condiments for cold tofu, "Chikuwa" 竹輪 fish cake or anything else. Since I found hanpen in our freezer (from the New Year's purchase I am sure), I decided to have this as a drinking snack. I first defrosted it in a microwave oven and then grilled it in a toaster oven to make it plump up and very slightly brown the surface. I cut the hanpen into small cubes (image below right). I then made a mixture of wasabi zuke and soy sauce and dressed the hanpen cubes.
My wife was surprise by the texture since she thought this was tofu. It is a bit spongy in texture but it has a nice gentle taste. The taste was enhanced by the wasabi zuke which has a slight sweetness from the sake lee with a tang from the wasabi plants (stalks and leaves). A simple and good starter dish in a home Izakaya.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Herring roe and cream cheese with wasabi 数の子クリームチーズ和え

Whenever we get herring roe or Kazunoko 数の子 for New Year, we have to finish it by the end of the first week of the year before it gets spoiled. Eating it just "as is" sometimes gets old so I tried to come up with different ways to serve kazunoko. Apparently other people think along similar lines as evidenced by this recipe.
The recipe calls for small cubes of kazunoko and cream cheese served on the bed of greens. For greens, I used baby spinach slightly sautéed (wilted) in butter and seasoned with salt and black pepper. I am not sure if the cream cheese (American invention) in Japan is different from the U.S. version--Philadelphia cream cheese, but my version was soft even straight from the cold refrigerator. As a result, I could not make neat cubes from it. I added a dab of real wasabi but did not add any soy sauce since the kazunoko had enough saltiness.

This is a nice small dish which goes well with sake. The combination of crunchy kazunoko and soft cream cheese gives a nice contras

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Norio on wine and food cookbook 2011

We just received copies of NOWAF cookbook 2011 edition. This is the first time that one of the NOWAF cookbooks contains the posts of an entire year--2011 from Jan 1 to Dec 31.
If you are interested in browsing through, it is on the NOWAF cookbook section of this blog.

As we said before, having a hard cover copy in our hands feels more substantial than seeing it on the screen. In any case, thumbing through it brings back memories associated with the food and reminds us of some dishes we completely forgot. I am not sure how long I can keep this up. I may have to slow down or be more selective about what I post but as long as I can come up with another Izakaya dish, I will share it with you. Some people eat to live but how boring is that? I'd rather live to eat. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Burdock root "gobou" three ways ごぼうの杣(そま)揚げ、チップス、きんぴら

For the New Year, I bought some burdock roots or gobou 牛蒡. One package contained two roots, which is a lot. So, after I used a portion for the New Year's dishes, I needed to finish up the remaining gobou. One evening I made these three gobou dishes.

Preparation of gobou is the same for all three dishes. The only difference is the shape of the pieces. I first halved the length of gobou since it is rather long and awkward to handle. Under running water, using the back of a vegetable cleaver or nakiri 菜切り包丁, I scraped off the dark skin. Depending on which dish I was making I cut the pieces differently but as soon as I cut the pieces, I soaked them in acidulated (with rice vinegar) water. Before using, I washed the pieces in cold water and dried them well using paper towels.

1. Soma-age 杣揚げ

The first one below is called "soma-age". "Soma" means wood or lumber cut from a mountain and the resemblance of this dish to the name-sake is rather obvious. I somehow remembered this dish from the depth of my memory (old drinking snack cook book*). It is like tempura but buckwheat flour or sobako そば粉 is used, which gives a nice crunchy texture and nutty flavor to this dish. It is a variation of gobou karaage 牛蒡の唐揚げ but it is different enough to warrant a different name.
I cut the gobou into 2 inch long pieces and then halved it lengthwise. I then placed the cut side down and sliced it rather thinly (2-3 mm or 1/5 inch) lengthwise. The central pieces were too wide so I cut them in half again lengthwise producing match sticks of gobou. After soaking them in acidulated water for 10 minutes, I washed them in fresh cold water, then patted them dry with paper towels.

Batter: I used  buckwheat flour (2-3 tbs) and a pinch of salt. I added enough cold water to make a rather thick batter.

Frying: I individually coated the gobou sticks and deep fried them in 340F peanut oil for one minute or until done and drained them over several layers of paper towels. 

This is best eaten while hot. The buckwheat crust and fried gobou are indeed a winning combination. We like this variation better than kara-age, although both are excellent Izakaya food.

*Later, I located this old cook book of drinking snacks by Shino Ikenami 池波志乃 called "Drinking snacks extraordinary" or 酒肴とびっきり and looked up the dish I made. It turns out I was actually, combining two of her recipes; one is tempura of "mountain" vegetables 山菜 using buckwheat flour batter and another is the original form of this dish; "gobou no soma-age" 牛蒡の杣揚げ, in which she used regular tempura batter. Although no new printing is being produced, surprisingly,  this book (used) is still available (It was published in 1983). 

2.gobou chips 牛蒡チップス

This is rather straight forward. I just sliced gobou on a slant rather thinly (paper thin). After soaking in acidulated water, I rinsed them and then patted them dry with paper towels. I simply deep fried the pieces for less than a minute in 320-330F peanut oil until brown and crispy turning once. While it was draining on the paper towel, I sprinkled on kosher salt.
This is like potato chips but gobou has a much more earthy nutty flavor. This fried up nicely and was not oily at all. It was nicely light and crunchy.

3 Stir fried "Kimpira" burdock root 金平牛蒡

This is by far the most popular preparation of gobou. It is a classic and still excellent. I have posted this before and will not repeat myself.
We had these three gobou dishes with California cab, Consentino 2005. This wine has a rather classic flavor profile of Califronia Cab in a good way. After tasting some austere Italian wines, we had to admit we like California reds like this one much better. This wine has a nice black and red fruit upfront with dark chocolate and vanilla with spices and moderate tannin.

Somehow this was a perfect wine with the gobou dishes. This red particularly went swimmingly with the "soma-age" burdock. Although I had to admit, these dishes will go well with beer or sake as well.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Steamed potato and pork tenderloin with pickled plum sauce ジャガイモと豚肉の梅が香蒸し

Whenever we cook pork tenderloin, we have trimmings left. From the trimmings, I make many other dishes such as gyoza, pork scallopini etc. I then saw this recipe in Asahi shinbun on line and decide to try it. This is potato and pork tenderloin in a pickled plum (or umeboshi 梅干) sauce which is steamed. This is in a category similar to our steamed lemon chicken with shiitake mushrooms. This is a rather healthy dish and it turned out to be very nice. This dish definitely will join in our teiban 定番 or regular dishes.
I made some modifications to the dish but they were not intentional; they just happened. Otherwise, I followed the recipe. The above is the final product and this will probably serve 4.

Pork tenderloin: These were the trimmings from 2 pork tenderloins. I did not weigh them but I estimate it was about 4-500 grams (about 1 lb). I sliced them into 1/3 inch medallions.

Potato: We used white potatoes (4 medium). Peeled and cut it in 1/3 inch wide batons like for French fries.  I soaked them in cold water to remove the excess starch on the surface and then dried them using a paper towel. I seasoned them with salt and coated with olive oil (2 tbs).

Plum sauce: I removed the meat from umeboshi or pickled plum (2) and minced it to make a paste. I mixed in soy sauce (2 tbs), mirin (1tbs), sake (1 tbs), sugar (2 tsp), dark sesame oil (2 tbs) and potato starch (2 tbs). I also added grated ginger (1/4 tsp) and grated garlic (1/2 tsp). The grated garlic was my addition, I thought I had grabbed a tube of ginger but discovered after I had put it in that it was garlic. Turns out that it added a very interesting dimension that really added to the dish. 

I placed the pork tenderloin from above and mixed and marinated it in the sauce for few minutes.

Assembly: I used a deep pasta dish and made alternate layers of the potato and the pork with potato layers on the bottom and top with two pork layers. 

I steamed it on medium high flame for about 30 minutes. At the last few minutes, I added haricot verts (we happened to have ones already steamed from the other night). I think any greens will do here.
We served portions as shown in the picture. This is a very good dish that could quickly enter the "comfort food" category. The pork is very tender and potato and the sauce which forms during the steaming goes so well together. The sauce has a subtle sourness from the pickled plum. My (inadvertent) addition of garlic was also good. The only problem we had was that the potato cooked a bit unevenly.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Tuna bowl 鉄火丼

"Tekka" 鉄火 in Japanese literally means "iron fire" describing red hot iron. When the red meat of tuna sashimi is used in a "maki" roll or "donburi" rice bowl dish, they are called "tekkamaki" 鉄火巻き and "tekkadon" 鉄火丼, respectively. Here, the red tuna sashimi is equated with red hot iron. One weekend, I made this as a lunch.
Again, this is not a recipe per se but just a description of how I assembled the dish. 

Tuna: From a pound block of tuna sashimi, I sliced red meat or 赤身 in relatively thin slices like one would use to make nigiri sushi. I smeared on a small amount of real wasabi exactly like I would do to make nigiri sushi.

Sushi rice: Since this was a lunch, I did not make fresh rice. I microwaved frozen rice in a silicon container and added sushi vinegar (from the bottle). After mixing, I put the lid back on the container and let it steep for a few minutes so that the sushi vinegar was nicely absorbed.

I placed the sushi rice in the bowls and placed the tuna sashimi (with wasabi smeared side down). Since I had a nicely ripe avocado, I sliced it and placed next to the tuna. I sprinkled soy sauce on the top and garnished with roasted white sesame and nori strips.
I also made miso soup with wakame, deep fried tofu pouch or abura-age 油揚げ, and scallions. This is a simplest form of this type of dish but very satisfying. A good lunch for any day.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Tuna "chiai" cake 鮪の血合いバーガー

The block of sashimi-grade tuna we got from Catalina Offshore products contained a dark red portion called "chiai" 血合い or blood line. This very dark meat is the least desirable part of the entire tuna. It has a strong gamy taste. Many sushi bars throw out this portion (or I imagine they may serve it to the employees) but, I have made two similar dishes using chiai, which were not bad. This time, I decide to make something totally different.
This was a starter dish. The amount of chiai from the one pound tuna block this time was not much. I could only make two small tuna patties or cakes.

Tuna chiai: I just chopped into small cubes.

I sautéed a shallot (one small, finely chopped) in light olive oil for few minutes. I placed it in a metal bowl to cool before I added the other ingredients which included finely chopped parsley (3 springs, finely chopped), ginger and garlic (grated 1/2 tsp each), store-bought mayonnaise (1 tbs) and panko bread crumbs (1 tbs).  I seasoned it with salt and pepper. I could have added more items such as lemon zest, hot pepper (either Tabasco or finely chopped jalapeño), but I restrained myself.

I made two equal sized patties and fried them in olive oil 2-3 minutes on both sides. I served it with mixed green and my salad dressing which is balsamic vinegar, mustard, olive oil and rice vinegar.

I was afraid that chiai may be too strong for this dish but the addition of a good amount of ginger and garlic really helped. This was a perfectly good use of scrap meat from the tuna block which would have been discarded in most circumstances. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sea urchin pasta パスタのうにクリームソース

This was a dish I've been wanting to make for some time but it felt like a bit of a sacrilege to use  good uni this way, so I did not make it until now. Catalina Offshore products sells four different kinds of uni; two kinds of live uni in a shell, California "premium" uni and "gold" uni with the gold uni being the best. I usually get the gold uni but this time, the only uni available was "premium". The difference between the "gold" and "premium" is the color and texture; the gold uni has a nice golden color with a firm texture and the premium is yellower with a softer consistency. Both taste pretty similar to us but there is about a 100% difference in price. They also sell frozen "vana" uni which appears suitable to use for a sauce but we have not tried this.
In any case, because the premium uni has a softer consistency, I thought this was best for this pasta dish. Since this is still an excellent uni, I made sure not to cook the uni in order to preserve its fresh oceanic flavor.

Uni: I used the entire 80 gram tray for two small portions of pasta (We were going decadent here). Leaving a few pieces for garnish, I put the rest in a metal bowl and stirred to break it up and added cream (about 2 tbs) and mixed them well but did not use a bender. Because of this, it still had some small bits and was not totally homogenized but that was OK by me.

Pasta: I used Angel-hair pasta which was cooked as per instruction on the box.

While the pasta was draining, I melted butter (1 tbs) in a frying pan on medium flame. When the butter melted I added the drained pasta to coat. After I cut the fire, I added the mixture of uni and cream and coated the pasta.

I garnished it with chopped chives and nori strips and more uni on the top. I served soy sauce on the side. This is a very rich and creamy pasta. Excellent! Next time, I may mix in soy sauce before serving. Although this is a pasta dish, we stuck to cold sake which went so well with the uni.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Julienne of Nagaimo with sea urchin 千切り長芋と雲丹

I just realized that my fellow Izakaya affectionado, Tobias at Izakaya Sanpo, has one recent post on October 2011 which I missed. It is about the Izakaya in Setagaya ward 世田谷区 called "Akaoni' 赤, which is an imaginary red demon in Japanese folklore. One of the dishes he had and posted included this dish. Since I happened to have all the ingredients, I decided to make it.
I should have arranged everything more neatly but this is an Izakaya dish after all and I suppose rustic or not perfectly neat presentation is OK. The description of this dish and picture were enough to assemble this simple dish.

I just sliced and cut nagaimo 長芋 into small match sticks. I dressed with a small amount of sushi vinegar (from the bottle) and placed in the middle of the dish. I placed California gold uni with a small dab of real wasabi. On the three corners, I paced nori strips.

Before eating, we poured a small amount of soy sauce and mixed. This is certainly a good small dish. A perfect Izakaya affair which goes well with cold sake even with Daiginjou 大吟醸.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Tuna belly loin block and tuna fat dressed in sumiso マグロの脂の酢みそ和え

The below picture is an example of a small sashimi dish prepared using a tuna block from Catalina Offshore products. I already mentioned that they did not have blue fine tuna top loin for sometime and belly loin for a longer period. Finally, just in time for New Year, we could get belly loin. Nothing new here but just toro and aburi 炙り or seared toro. Only new item is small cubes of pure tuna fat dressed in sumiso 酢味噌 (in the center back in a small plate).
Before showing where this pure fat came from, here is how the 1 lb of blue fin tuna belly loin looks (#1). This cut has much more chiai or dark red portion as compared top loin. I divided the block into ootoro 大トロ (fattiest), chuutoro 中トロ (meidum fatty), akami 赤身 (red) and chiai 血合い (dark red) (#2 clock wise from the left back). The removed skin (#3) had a thin layer of pure fat. I removed the fat layer with a thin-bladed knife. I pondered what to do with it and came up with this dish; I cut up the fat into small cubes and dressed the pieces with sumiso dressing and chopped scallion.
Fattiest part (#4) often has thin layers of fat separating the meat. I used a kitchen torch and seared them (#5). We also got California gold uni which comes in a wooden pallet as seen here (#6).
You could make your own version of soy sauce for sashimi by adding sake and bonio flakes and heating it up (then strain and cool to room temperature), I just buy a small bottle of commercial "Sashimi Shoyu" 刺身醤油 (left). Since I could not get a fresh wasabi diakon 山葵大根 in time, I thawed real wasabi (right) in a tube, which has its own problem but is the next best.

The pure tuna fat dressed in sumiso was very good. The fat was rather firm but had a nice unctuous mouth feel and vinegar and miso cut its fattiness. Having only a small amount also helped to appreciate this dish better. As an added benefit, compared to pure fat from bone marrow, pork (lardo), or horse ("Koune" こうね), fish fat is supposedly good for you.

Friday, January 6, 2012

New Year's Eve: Champagne and Chawanmushi with sea urchin and salmon roe 大晦日夜 シャンパンと雲丹とイクラのせ茶碗蒸し

This was the last day of 2011. According to the old Japanese system for counting a person's age called "Kazoe-doshi" 数え年, everybody turned one year older on New year's day and New Year's Eve was referred to as "Otoshitori" お年取り meaning to be a year older. Although eating soba noodles or "toshikoshi soba" 年越しそば on New Year's Eve appears to be popular, this was not the custom in our household when I was growing up. I think eating soba noodles is more a custom for trades people who simply did not have enough time to make an elaborate dinner on New year's eve. My mother used to give us a feast for New Year's Eve akin to Christmas dinner.

In any case, New Year's Eve has very important (added personal) significance to us. We opened a bottle of Champaign. To go with the bottle of vintaged Champaign, my opening salvo was a chawanmushi 茶碗蒸し or Japanese savory egg custard topped with California gold uni and salmon roe (ikura).
My chawanmushi recipe is the same as before; three parts seasoned dashi broth and one part whole egg. To accommodate the special toppings, I did not use all the ingredients I usually use such as shiitake mushroom and shrimp. Instead I used only ginko nuts (from a can), shimeji mushroom, small pieces of chicken and sliced (on a slant) scallion. As ususal, from 3 eggs (about 150ml) plus seasoned dashi broth (450ml), I made 6 small containers (a small cup for dipping soba noodle) as you see below.
I let it sit after steaming was completed for 10 minutes so that the chawanmushi was not too hot and topped it with the uni and ikura. This was the ultimate--perhaps only surpassable with the addition of foie gras but I have not tried that yet!. This dish went so well with this Champagne. Although we are not champagne connoisseurs by a long shot, this particular one had a pleasant yeastiness with a fruity finish that went very well with the richness of the dish.
This was followed by a small sashimi (tuna and uni) and pickled herring in cream sauce (the white stuff in the picture above). The pickled herring was a nod to my wife's tradition of eating herring on New Year's eve. She claims this came from growing up in Pennsylvania Dutch country. She admitted, however, that the herring was too harsh a flavor compared to the subtlety of the sashimi.
As a small grilled fish dish, I served fatty belly of salmon (harasu ハラス), simply salted and cooked in a frying pan accompanied by namasu daikon (daikon in sweet vinegar) garnished with ikura. After a few more dishes including a small hand roll of salmon skin as a shime dish, only thing we had to do was stay awake until midnight to see in the new year.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Year's day feast; Osechi from Sushi Taro 寿司太郎のおせち料理重箱

We started New Year's day evening with cold chawanmushi topped with uni and ikura which was followed by a small sashimi of tuna (akami and chutoro) and uni.

We finally started feasting on Sushi Taro's osechi juubako. The picture below is the first or upper box. It includes all the special, traditional foods eaten on New Year's day to bring good luck for the rest of the year and then some. As we started removing food we found many items hidden underneath. So the top box included several layers artfully packed one on top of the other. 
This is the second or lower box.
For those who may be interested what in the boxes, the below are the links for the menu in Japanese and English.

Menu in English

Like kids in a candy shop we "oohhed" and "ahhed" and couldn't decide what to eat first. We tried a little of this and a little of that and ended up filling the plate shown here. But after eating this we were too full to go back for more.
Everything was very good. Many of the items can only be made by a professional chef; for example, the monkfish liver terrine 鮟肝豆腐--which was exquisite. The fish especially the sweet fish or "ayu" with roe 子持ち鮎 was a stand out. With something like this available, I have the perfect excuse for not making Osechi myself.

The fish pictured below was the highlight of the Jan 2nd feast from the box. This is a grilled small celebratory red fish or "tai" 鯛. After posing for the photo, he was deboned by my wife the resident deboning expert. (She claims I don't debone a fish I just take a mouthful and separate the meat from the bones in my mouth, spitting out bones and swallowing the meat.) She says she can't do that so for safety's sake she meticulously debones fish. She even recovered the cheeks from this fellow. 
We hit the box again but still did not finish it on the 2nd day.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A Happy New Year 2012 明けましておめでとう

New Years day was very mild and quiet. After having cafe latte to wake up, we had a customary new year's soup or "ozouni" お雑煮 which is the same as any other year. Many variations of ozouni by regions and families exist. If you are interested, here is the pictures of all kinds of ozouni across Japan.
When I've made excuses 3 years running for not making osechi おせち料理 juubako 重箱 (layered boxes, with three layers being the full implementation), nobody will believe that I used to make 3 layer boxes every year for many years. In any case, I have an excuse again this year and only made a few dishes for the new year.  
Salmon kelp roll (left upper) and Japanese style chicken loaf with pine nuts (right upper) were specifically requested by my wife. This year, I made matsumae-zuke 松前漬け. The Japanese chicken loaf is called "pine breeze grill" or matsukaze-yaki 松風焼き.
Matsumaezuke was made from a "kit" which contained thinly cut threads of dried kelp and squid. I added a mixture of broth (from dashi pack), soy sauce and mirin (1:1:1 ratio) and let them sit in a refrigerator overnight. I prepared herring roe or kazoko 数の子 as before. Since this was a New Year deluxe version, I cut up the kazunoko in large chunks and mixed in.

For chicken Matsukaze-yaki, I cleaned and hand chopped chicken thighs into ground chicken (about 1 lb). I mixed in miso (2-3 tsp), sugar (1-2 tsp), mirin (1 tsp), flour (2-3 tsp), soy sauce (2 tsp), egg (one beaten), panko (about 1/2 cup) and mixed well (of course,you could use a food processor but I did it all by hand since I did not want to clean the bowl of the food processor). My wife helped me by dry-roasting pine nuts (3 tbs). After the pine nuts cooled down, I mixed the nuts into the meat mixture. I sprayed Pam on the metal baking dish (about 5x7 inches) and placed a parchment paper on the bottom. I then spread the mixture into the pan with a spatula to slightly less than 1/2 inch thick loaf. I baked it in a 350F preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until the meat mixture pulled away from the sides of the pan. 
After it cooled, I removed the loaf from the baking dish. Because of the Pam spray and the parchment paper, it came out without any difficulty.  I first removed the all four edges (good snacking) and cut it in half dividing the short side into two long rectangles.  I then cut the pieces into the shape of a Japanese "Hagoita" 羽子板 racket like you see here on the left. "Hagoita" is a racket used in a Japanese girl's New Year game called "Hanetsuki" 羽根つき which is something like badminton but the racket is made entirely of wood. Nobody plays this game and "Hagoita" has been transformed into a New Year's decorative item rather than actually being used as a racket. In any case, the shape of this dish is to imitate "hagoita". Just before serving, I inserted the toothpick in the narrowest end to further emulate the handle of the hagoita. I brushed a bit of mirin on one side and coated it with aonori 青海苔 or powdered green sea weed (see the second picture from the top). Between the pine nuts and the green color, the New Years theme "pine breeze" is complete. Pine is auspicious along with bamboo and plum flower or "shou-chiku-bai" 松竹梅 in Japanese culture especially in New Year.

But this is not the exciting part of new year's dishes. We got special osechi dishes this year from Sushi Taro 寿司太郎. This is the first year we learned that Sushi Taro makes New Year's Osechi layered boxes or Juubako, without hesitation, we signed up to get it.
We drove to Dupont Circle on December 31 to pick it up. This is a two tired juubako wrapped in furoshiki 風呂敷, a Japanese wrapping cloth. It felt very heavy (a good sign!). According to my wife, who ran into the restaurant, while I waited outside double parked, the dining area of the restaurant had been converted to assembly area for osechi juubako.
After we came home, we unwrapped the furoshiki revealing the menu written in Japanese and English. Expectation heightened while we waited until New Year's day evening to fully enjoy this (come back for the next installment to see what surprises await--to be continued).