Thursday, June 28, 2012

Deviled eggs デビルドエッグ

This is a very old fashioned appetizer but recently it has been making a come-back. My wife made three different flavors; the one with parsley (back) is classic mayo and mustard flavor, the one with slices of conichon pickle (middle) is curry flavored and the one with red sauce (front) is flavored with Sriracha hot sauce.

Sometime ago, our dear friend who was in her late 70s served us deviled eggs as an appetizer. We really liked them and thought about making some ourselves. A few months later, my wife found a "deviled egg serving plate" (#5 in the image below) and bought it. But the plate sat unused in the cabinet for several years. One weekend, my wife, out of the blue, suggested making deviled eggs. She must have had some train of thought leading up to the idea but, from my vantage point, her statement came completely out of the blue. Since this is a perfect drinking snack and Japanese really like eggs, I thought this could be the next new craze in Izakaya cuisine (probably not).

My only task for this dish was making perfect hard-boiled eggs. I do not like overcooked eggs—you know the kind; the ones with the green surface on the yolks (ferrous sulfide forming at the interface between the yolk and white). This is how I make hard boiled or, as I prefer to say, completely cooked boiled eggs.

I took the eggs (1 dozen) from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking. I punched a pinhole in the air cell side (rounder end) using an egg piercer (to prevent the eggs from cracking when the air inside expands during cooking). I brought the water to a rapid boil and turned down the flame until no bubbles were coming up. I  added the eggs using a perforated spoon. In the first  few minutes, I gently stirred the eggs hoping that this would help the egg yolks center inside the shell as they cooked but I am not sure this really helps. I let them cook for 15 minutes and immediately cooled them down in cold running water. I peeled the eggs and turned the operation over to my wife.

She made three different filings; 1. classic mayo and mustard seeds (#2 in the image below), 2. curry flavor (#3 in the image below), and 3. with hot sauce ($4 in the image below).

I removed the yolks from the whites. The shells formed by the cooked eggs whites are shown in picture 1.  I gently mashed the egg yolks with a fork until they became uniformly granular. All the flavors started with the same base. I added a mixture of half mayonnaise and yogurt to the crumbled yolks. In this case I used about 3 tbs. mayonnaise and 3 tbs. yogurt. I cut the mayo with the yogurt in an effort to be health conscience…which may not make too much sense given that we are flavoring egg yolks here. Even with the addition of the yogurt, however, the overall mixture still tastes like mayonnaise. I bloomed 1 tbs. of mustard seed (bloom by putting the seeds in a dry pan and heat until the seeds start popping like popcorn). I added 1 tsp. of celery seed, 1tbs. of Dijon mustard. and 1/2 tsp of salt. I stirred the mixture until it formed a homogeneous paste. I divided the mixture into 3 equal parts.

Traditional: I added 1/4 tsp of onion salt and 1 tbs. of Worcestershire sauce.
Curry flavor: I added 2 tsp. of curry powder (I used a mild slightly sweet powder but whatever powder you prefer will do and added to your taste), I also added another tsp of Dijon mustard.
Hot sauce flavor: I added 1 tsp. of rice vinegar, 1/4 tsp. Sriracha hot sauce, 1/4 tsp. onion salt.

I mixed each flavor until the added ingredients were completely incorporated. I  lightly salted the empty egg white shells and then spooned in the flavored mixtures—one flavor per shell.  Then I turned the operation back over to my husband who immediately garnished them making them look pretty for their photo shoot.

So how decadent was this? Eating just one flavor per sitting was out of the question. All three were very good and provided interesting variety. My wife liked the curry flavor and I liked the one with hot sauce. The bloomed mustard seeds really added to the eggs by providing a pleasing texture and a little burst of flavor (they pop when you bite down on them). This dish goes with any drink. The only problem is that even with the addition of yogurt this dish is high in cholesterol.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Mini gyouza with garlic chive ニラ入りミニ餃子

Gyouza or gyoza 餃子 is a classic Sino-Japanese dish with many variations for the stuffing, skin, size, and method of cooking (boiled, fried, and steam fried). In addition, localized (i.e. specific to the locale) variations of gyouza are popular allover Japan. Although, many eateries (including national chain stores) may specialize in serving gyouza (and ramen noodles or other Chinese dishes), it is also frequently served at an Izakaya.

Some years ago, I posted pork gyouza using square wonton skins which is the only kind of gyouza skin I can get in the regular grocery store in our area. Japanese gyouza skin is a bit smaller, thinner, and round which can be bought at a Japanese grocery store frozen but I usually do not bother getting it. Some people like a more authentic (similar to original Chinese dish) thicker chewy skin (which can be home made but we never tried).

When my wife made meatloaf, we had excess ground pork (hand chopped from the butt roast). I quickly made it to gyouza stuffing using our home grown garlic chives. This is very similar to the one I made for teba gyouza 手羽餃子 except I used onion rather than scallion and I did not add cabbage.I placed the gyouza stuffing in a sealed container and kept it in the refrigerator. This mixture is very handy to have and one could make dishes other than gyouza. Since this was available, I made this mini-gyouza one weekday evening.

Stuffing: I mixed ground pork (about 12oz), garlic chives (finely chopped about 1/4 cup but whatever amount is fine), onion (half, finely chopped, scallion also works), garlic (1/4 tsp, grated from the tube), ginger (1/2 tsp, grated from the tube), soy sauce (1 tsp), dark sesame oil (2 tbs), salt and pepper.

Gyouza skin: I happened to have a “spring roll skin” 春巻きの皮 which is readily available in any regular grocery store. I used a round dough cutter (about 2 1/2 inch diameter) and made it into a round gyouza skin (I could make three from one sheet of spring roll skin). Compared to the wonton skin, this one is thinner and more delicate, more closely resembling a Japanese gyouza skin.

: I moistened the edge of the skin with water. I placed a small amount of meat mixture in the middle, folded the skin in half forming a half moon and pressed both ends while trying to remove any air pocket between the meat mixture and the skin. I then crimped the edges as you can see above on the left.

Cooking: I added vegetable oil and dark sesame oil (1 tsp each) in a non-stick frying pan on medium flame. Although the classic way is to brown on only one side, I like to brown both sides by flipping them after 1 minute or so (the above image on right). I added several tablespoonful of hot water into the pan. You must be careful, as it will boil and steam immediately. Make sure you have the lid ready, your face is out of the way and the exhaust fan is running. I then put on a tight fitting lid and let it steam for 1-2 minutes. I then removed the lid (only a thin layer of water remaining in the bottom of the pan). I let the water completely evaporate and made the bottom of the gyouza crispy again by letting them cook for 30 seconds or so after all the water evaporated. I added a splash of dark sesame oil at the end.

I served this mini gyouza with a classic dipping sauce (equal mixture of rice vinegar and soy sauce) and side of Japanese hot mustard (from the tube). As an accompaniment, I served cucumber, radish and carrot asazuke 浅漬け.

We switch to cold sake for this.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Meatloaf ミートローフ

One weekend, my wife, all of the sudden, said, "I would like to make a meatloaf",  just like that. Although it is classic American home cooking, meatloaf does not have a stellar reputation. For many Americans, this is the dish you had as a kid but would prefer not to eat again as an adult. Many remember it as an unsophisticated dry chunk of ground meat that Mom made. My wife claims the meat loaf she ate was not like that. I am not sure what prompted my wife to suggest making a meatloaf, but I didn’t object because “come to think of it, I can post this in my blog”. So, I encouraged her to go ahead with her idea. I even provided her with a recipe I saw at "No Recipes" webpage by Marc Matsumoto. Interestingly this was dubbed as “best” but not “the best” meatloaf.

We made two loaves. So, we doubled the amount from the Marc's original recipe listed below. In addition, she did not make the sauce (the last 4 ingredients) and instead, she used straight ketchup (since that was how she remembered the meatloaf from her childhood). For some crazy reason, rather than buying ground meat, I bought a 3 pound of beef shoulder roast with bone and pork butt roast (about 2 pounds) and hand chopped the meat. In retrospect, this was way too much work. We need a decent meat grinder.
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 10 ounces ground pork
  • 1/2 medium onion minced
  • 2 cloves garlic finely minced
  • 1/2 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
  • 1.5 ounces Gruyere cheese grated
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon pimentón smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper to taste
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme stems removed and minced
  • 6 ounces thick-cut bacon
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • My wife added 1 tbs. of horseradish (because she said that was what was always added to the meat loaf she ate as a kid).
As per the recipe, instead of using a regular loaf pan, we made a free form loaf on a cookie sheet lined with a parchment paper, banded with thick cut bacon as you see below. My wife thought that the bacon was an overkill but she followed the recipe—It was certainly not part of the meatloaves from her childhood.

After cooking for 30 minutes in preheated 350F oven, she smeared ketchup on top and continued baking another 30 minutes (left in the above image). We let it sit for 10 minutes and moved the meatloaf to the cutting board (right in the above image). As you can see a good amount of juice and fat accumulated in the bottom of the pan.

I sliced it and served it with my wife's mashed potato (cooked and mashed small red potatoes, rice vinegar, soy sauce and butter) and oven baked green beans.

The taste? Well, it is not bad at all. According to my wife, however, this is as good as what she remembered eating as a kid but not significantly better. That means either the meatloaf she ate as a kid was indeed a very good one or this one is not necessary the "best" meatloaf. Nevertheless, this was very satisfying. The loaf was not dry and the consistency is pleasantly crumbly with good favor from all the herbs and spices we put in. The all American Heinz ketchup smeared on top was just fine but did not caramelize as much as my wife thought it would. By the way, we did not eat the bacon and will not use it if we ever make meatloaf again.

To circumvent the ill effect of meatloaf and bacon drippings, we had a good young Napa Cabernet from Spring Mountain District. This is a classic Napa cab. Nice nose, good amount of ripe fruit upfront, smooth tannin, and reasonable finish. Nothing wrong about this wine, very youthful and clean. I will give 91.

P.S. We made sandwiches for weekday lunches with this meatloaf. It was very good as a sandwich too. It is also one of those dishes that gets better the next day. We also ate it for dinner as leftovers during the week. We had it one night with a catsup based sauce (mixture of catsup, Worcestershire sauce, red wine and Dijon mustard). And one night we had it with tonkatsu sauce with Japanese hot mustard which was also very good.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Boiled cabbage salad 茹でキャベツのサラダ

I made this from left-over 1/4 small head of cabbage after making pepper slaw. This a rather healthy salad which definitely can be served in an Izakaya.

Here is a close up of the salad. The dressing is rather classic Japanese style; mayo with sesame.

Cabbage: I had a small 1/4 head of cabbage left. We had enough raw cabbage (slaws), I decided to make boiled cabbage salad. I removed the core and cut the cabbage into about 1 inch squares. For color and texture, I also added a carrot. I peeled and thinly sliced one medium carrot on the bias. I cooked both together in salted boiling water for 3-4 minutes and drained. I could have just let it to cool down but since I did not have enough time for such a lengthy process, I shocked it in ice water. I drained and then squeezed out the excess moisture by wringing the pieces in a paper towel (right in the image below.)

Dressing: I made sesame/mayo dressing. I first roasted white sesame seeds (2 tbs) in a dry frying pan for a few minutes or until fragrant. I tipped it into a Japanese mortar and ground it coarsely (left on the image above).  The roasting process really brought out the flavor and fragrance of the sesame. I mixed in mayonnaise (2 tbs) , plain yogurt (2 tbs), and soy sauce (1 tsp). Adding plain yogurt is optional (if you do not use yogurt, increase the amount of mayo). Adding yogurt does not dilute the mayo flavor but it reduces the fat in the dressing. If you were not told, you would not be able to tell that this dressing contains half yogurt.

I tossed the boiled cabbage and carrot using a half of the dressing. In the bottom of the glass bowl, I put a small mound of baby arugula and placed the dressed cabbage on the top. I skinned one medium tomato (I placed it in the same boiling water in which the cabbage was cooked for 20 seconds and then put in the ice water) and quartered. I put them on the side. I also had microwave "sakamushi" or sake steamed chicken breast and added a few slices. I then drizzled the remaining dressing over it.

This is a very nice salad. The roasted and freshly ground sesame really makes this dish. By adding plain yogurt, the dressing is not as high in fat as it tastes--which is like it is made of 100 percent mayonnaise. The cabbage was just cooked enough but still maintained a fresh and sweet taste. Even my wife who is not very fond of cabbage thought this was nice dish

We had a bottle of red wine form Ribera Del Duero, Spain, with this dish. We keep finding reasonably priced good wines from this region of Spain. This is called "Ribera del Duero Bodegas Balbas Reserva 2001". This wine is made of 100% Tempranillo. It has a nice distinctive cedar-y nose. The palate is not too flashy but very nice and black fruit upfront with spices leading to well-integrated smooth tannin. It lingers in your mouth quite sometime. For 2001 vintage, this one has a nice balance of age and youthfulness. This one got 93 from WS and we agree with this score.

"Highly Recommended'
"This spicy red shows an alluring mix of ripe fruit, with more mature flavors of tobacco, leather and cedar. The tannins are well-integrated and softening, while the acidity is still fresh and crisp."

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Chicken skin with grated daikon and ponzu 雛皮と大根おろしのポン酢あえ

This is another nothing dish but a perfect drinking snack.


I often make microwaved sakamushi (酒蒸しsake steamed) chicken breast. This is very handy to have around. You can make all kinds of small dishes and even sandwiches with it. I usually cook it with the skin on because it keeps the breast meat from getting dry while cooking. When I use the meat, I usually remove the skin before slicing the chicken but I do not discard the skin. Instead I leave it in the container with the remaining meat and chicken juice. I use the same technique with raw chicken. When I remove the skin, I sometimes discard it but other times I prepare small dishes from the skin. If I am preparing the chicken skin from scratch, I prepare it by first boiling in water with sake, scallion and ginger added. But when I am using the skin of sakamush chicken, I need not to do these preparations.

Unfortunately, chicken skin has a layers of fat attached to it. I removed the fat with a knife as much as I could before slicing it into thin strips. I also sliced the scallions, which were cooked with the chicken breast, on the bias about the same size and length of the skin. I mixed and dressed them with ponzu shouuyu (pozu wih soy sauce). I also grated some daikon 大根 and squeesed out the excess moisture.

To assemble, I sliced some cucumber (American minicucumber) and fanned out the pieces putting them on one side of the plate (in this case, I used a lacquered square ichi-go masu sake measuring cup 一合升) .  I placed a small mound of grated daikon next to the slices. Then place the dressed chicken skin and scallion next to the daikon and cucumber. For slight heat, I sprinkled on 7 flavored Japanese red pepper flakes or shichimi tougrashi 七味唐辛子.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Pennsylvania Dutch Pepper Slaw ペンシルバニアダッチペッパースロー

This is a taste from my wife’s childhood. So, she is writing this blog.


After we made the traditional mayonnaise based American coleslaw several days ago, I remembered there was another type of coleslaw that was always present at picnics in my childhood. I remembered it was called pepper slaw. My husband had never heard of it, so I decided to make it for him.

All the vegetables are cut into a fine dice so the pieces are all about the same size. They include: 1 head of cabbage, 7 stalks of celery, one red and one yellow bell pepper with the skin removed, one purple or sweet onion. Mix the cut vegetables together in a large bowl. As usual, my husband sliced and diced so efficiently and quickly, this is the easiest part of the preparation for me. He referred to himself as the human “cuisinart”, but the mileage may differ depending of what you have.

Dressing: 1/2 cup sugar, 1 cup sushi vinegar, 2 tsp. salt, 2 tsp mustard seed bloomed (to bloom the mustard seed put into a dry frying pan and heat until the seed pops open. When they start popping they will look like popcorn hopping out of the pan. Take them off the heat immediately. Blooming the seeds gives them a much richer flavor). The other ingredients include  3/4 to 1 tsp. black pepper, 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard and 1 tsp celery seed.

Pour the dressing over the vegetables and stir completely. Let the slaw rest in the refrigerator for several hours for the flavors to marry. This will get better over the next few days. The dressing I use includes much less sugar than the traditional recipes. The inclusion of sushi vinegar is not traditional either, but It is much milder than the usual cider vinegar. In addition, I added more cracked black pepper than the usual recipes call for. (With these traditional dishes there must be regional differences. The pepper slaw I grew up with was really quite peppery. I thought it was called pepper slaw because of the sharp spicy black pepper taste. This is what I grew up with and this is what I expect from the dish. You may want to vary the amount of pepper to your own taste). It wasn’t until we were making this batch that my husband pointed out that the inclusion of the red (green, yellow, orange etc) peppers contributed to the name pepper slaw as well.  

I have not eaten this dish in years. As a child it was my least favorite slaw but it was ubiquitous--no picnic was complete without mayo based coleslaw and pepper slaw. I thought it was basically coleslaw with a lot of black pepper added. Again I am amazed how a taste can transport you to a different time and place. When I initially tasted the mixture I made, I thought it was close but didn’t really ring a bell. It wasn’t until I started dialing up the amount of black pepper that I reached a point when suddenly the taste was exactly what I remembered. Also, I have to say I appreciate this dish much more as an adult than I did as a kid. It is sweet and sour, with a spiciness that is very refreshing.

P.S. I find I keep adding cracked black pepper to this still has not reached the level pepperiness I remember.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Blanched Mizuna 水菜のおひたし

Mizuna 水菜 is a Japanese green, sometimes called Japanese mustard green, which is often used in a Japanese hot pot dish or “Nabe” 鍋. It has a very subtle piquant flavor. The other day, we were in the near-by Japanese grocery store and, somehow, I thought, I picked up a package of edible chrysanthemum or shungiku 春菊 but when I opened it several days later, I discovered it was Mizuna. My wife, who likes edible chrysanthemum, was disappointed. Since I was not planning on making a nabe dish, I made this simple but a classic “ohitashi” dish.


“Ohitashi” means “soaked”. Originally, vegetables (mostly leafy greens) were boiled and then “soaked” in a broth or dashi 出汁. The excess liquid was then squeezed out and it was seasoned with soy sauce. More commonly, however, the soaking step was omitted and the boiled leafy vegetable with soy sauce on top is called “Ohitashi”.

Mizuna: One package of mizuna was composed of about 6 individual plants measuring about 12 inches long. As with any leafy vegetable, it looked like a lot but after cooking the volume decreased quite a bit. I washed the stalks and lined them up so that all the leafy parts were on one side and the root ends on the other. I cut off the root end and cut the remainins stalks in half so that one bunch was mostly leafy and the other was mostly stalks.
I first cooked the stalks in salted boiling watr for 30-40 seconds and then added and cooked the leafy part for another 30 seconds. I drained the cooked greens in the colander. Spread the cooked mizuna flat and cooled it down by fanning. You could shock it in ice cold water but this is easier and the mizuna will not get too watery.

Dressing: Instead of “broth” which may have been used in the original form of “ohitashi”, I made mustard/soy sauce mixture or “karashi shouuyu” 芥子醤油. I put about 1/2 tsp of Japanese hot mustard (from a tube), sugar (1/4 tsp) and soy sauce (2 tsp) in a Japanese mortar or “suribachi” すり鉢 and mixed all together using a pestle or “surikogi”  すりこ木.

I squeezed out any excess moisture from the cooked mizuna and then cut into pieces about 2 inch long. I dressed with the above karashi shouuyu. I placed it in a small dish as seen above. I garnished with dried bonito flakes “Katsuobushi” 鰹節 (pre-shaven and came in a small plastic pouch). Just before eating, you may want to moisten the bonito flakes with a bit of additional soy sauce (which we did).
This is more for the texture than the taste of the green itself but, nevertheless, very refreshing small dish which can go well with your Japanese style dinner/breakfast or drinking snack. “Ohitashi” can be made any vegetables but the most common is using spinach. When using spinach, especially the Japanese variety, you should soak the spinach in cold water after boiling to remove oxalic acid.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Coleslaw コールスロー

On Memorial day weekend, my wife wanted to have coleslaw to usher in the start of summer. In Japanese-Western dishes or "Yoshoku" 洋食 such as tonkatsu トンカツ, shredded raw cabbage is the most favorite accompaniment but my wife in general is not a fan of cabbage particularly shredded raw cabbage. I usually end up disguising the cabbage with some type of dressing. This time, she wanted classic unadulterated American style coleslaw—we’re talking the start of the summer season after all.


By her direction, I played the role of a human cuisine art and sliced cabbage, carrot in thin strips and finely diced red onion for her. The amount is arbitrary but we used 7-8 leaves of cabbage, with thick veins removed and thinly sliced, and two medium carrots, thinly sliced on the bias and then finely julienned. She also added 1/2 cup of raisins in a large bowl as you see below.

Dressing: There are many variations  but below is what she used.
Mayonnaise 1/2 cup
Plain yogurt 1/2 cup
Red onion 1 small, finely chopped
Sushi vinegar 1 Tbs.
Worcestershire sauce 1 tsp
Sugar 1/4 tsp
Kosher salt 1/2 tsp
Ground black pepper to taste

She dressed the coleslaw and let it sit in the refrigerator for, at least, several hours, before serving. The slaw will get better next day. This is near-classic American coleslaw and it was ridiculously good. I have to admit, even for me, I would rather eat this than just shredded raw cabbage. The finely chopped sweet red onion is what made the dish. Also, even though this type of coleslaw is usually made with a dressing of mayonnaise, the addition of the yogurt makes the dressing more healthy but oddly enough none of the mayo flavor is lost.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Beef back rib BBQ on Memorial day 牛バックリブのバーベキュー

On Memorial day, we like to barbecue particularly if the weather allows. We tend to be in a rut and cook whole chickens served with sides of potato and macaroni salads. We have done roast pork, beef, lamb etc and wanted to do something different this year. So we cooked beef back rib this year.
We fired up two Weber kettles. One was used for baking pizzas and the other was used to cook the ribs. Oh, we also made teba gyoza. The answer to my wife’s question how many wings can I prepare and cook one time; twelve! (see below).

I removed the wingtips to save space on the grill. I ended up cooking the teba gyoza in two batches but if we were not cooking the ribs, I could have cooked all 12 at once.  I did not take a picture of the final and cooked teba gyoza but it is the same as before but lacking the handle (i.e. wingtips) to hold onto.

The recipe for the ribs is based on ones listed in the  Weber webpage.

Ribs: I got center back ribs (with 6 ribs). I removed excess fat and rubbed the dry rub below I placed the ribs in the Ziploc bag and refrigerated for 8 hours.

Dry rub: Dried oregano (2 tsp), smoked paprika (2 tsp), dried granulated onion  (2 tsp), brown sugar (1 tsp), kosher salt (1 tsp), and ground black pepper (1 tsp).

Barbecue sauce: Initially I was to use store bought Mango BBQ sauce (which had been given to us sometime ago) but, upon tasting, I decided it was too sweet and my wife decided to make her own BBQ sauce. Here is the recipe my wife made which is a “classic” ketchup based sauce. Her recipe is based on one in “Joy of Cooking” but with her own variations. It is also very similar to the one used in pork spare rib.
For the sauce; Two medium onions were coarsely diced and sauteed in a small amount of olive oil until soft and caramerized (15-20 minutes). One cup of ketchup was added to the pan and cooked, scraping the bits left behind from cooking the onions, until the sugar in the ketchup was caramelized (the color will change from red to more dull brownish color). Combine, the onion and the ketchup in a sauce pan with a mixture of rice vinegar (2 tbs), water (1/2 cup), lemon (1/4 cup), paprika powder (1/2 tsp), Worcestershire sauce ( 1 tbs), salt (1 tsp), brown sugar (1 tbs) and mustard (1 tbs.) and simmer for about 15 minutes. I added about ½ cup of red wine (since we did not have wine which did not pass our Wednesday wine drinkability criteria - lowest-, we used one we will be drinking in the near future) to the sauce and simmered it for 5-6 minutes and kept it warm.

I took the ribs from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking to come to room temperature. I prepared the grill for indirect heat and added soaked apple wood chips for smoking. Using the direct heat part of the grill, I seared both side 5-6 minutes each. I then transfer the ribs (I had to cut it in half) to a Pyrex baking dish and poured the wine/BBQ sauce mixture over the ribs and covered it tightly with aluminium foil. I placed it in the indirect heart area and further cooked it for 1 more hour (see picture below).

As you can see the sauce reduced and the meat was almost coming off the bones. It is usual to serve it with the bone on, but the meat just came of the bone as I was serving. So I just served the meat sans (without) bone (the first picture).

We are not connoisseurs of BBQ as they are in the South and Texas, but we thought these were mighty good ribs with BBQ sauce. The sauce; caramelized with the juice from the meat was just the right consistency--ooey-gooey, mildly smokey sweet and sour. The meat had a nice crust and melted in your mouth. We had our usual macaroni salad (Memorial day would not be Memorial day without that) with the addition of black bean corn salad. But this combined with the pizza, and the chicken wings--which had to be tasted as they came off the grill, of course, was way too much food.

As and antidote/libation, we chose shiraz from Maclaren valley, Australia called Clarendon Hills McLaren Valley Piggott Range Vineyard, Syrah 2005. This is a very nice heavy duty shiraz. It stood up against the strong flavorof the BBQed ribs. This one got 97 from Wine Advocate.
97 Points - Wine Advocate
Deep crimson in color with mineral notes, violets, spice box, black pepper, espresso, smoked game, and blueberry aromatics. Deceivingly opulent, it has enough structure to merit 8-10 years of cellaring and should make old bones. Drink it through 2035."

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Pizza BBQed in Weber kettle ピッザバーベキュー

Although I generally don't do anything particularly extraordinary, it appears,  based on the reaction of my dinner guests, that my pizza is not bad, decent pizza. They appear to really like it and some have even been unabashed in trying to emulate what I do. (I suppose this is an ultimate flattery--which I fully support by coaching them in achieving good results). As I posted before, I use a hot oven with a pizza stone but for some time I’ve wanted to make pizza in the Weber kettle. I bought a pizza stone for the Weber more than 1 year ago but I did not have a chance to try it until this Memorial day. I decided to make a pizza Marguerite as shown below.  
Mine is very basic without any special ingredients. The amount here is more than enough to make two pizzas (about 8 inch in diameter). I first added light olive oil (4 tbs) in a pan on low flame. I then add chopped garlic (3 fat cloves, finely chopped) and let it fry slowly for several minutes or until fragrant but not browned. I added one can of whole Italian tomatoes with its juice (cut into small chunks, 15 oz). I seasoned it with dried oregano (1/2 tsp),  dried basil (1/2 tsp), black pepper, and salt. I simmered it  for about 1 hour with a lid off (left upper in the image below). I made a sauce dry without any extra moisture (right upper in the image below).

: There are quite a few different types of Pizza stones for grills being sold. What I got is semicircular shaped which fits into the 22.5 inch Weber Kettle perfectly and the bottom cutout precisely corresponds with the grill's hinged grate so that you could add coals and wood chips during the cooking. It came with instructions but I could not find them. So I used my common sense but obviously some more refinement is required to perfect pizza made on the Weber grill as you can see below. I prepared the lump hardwood charcoal using a Although I generally don’t do anything particularly extraordinary, it appears, based on the reactions of my dinner guest’s that my pizza is not bad chimney starter as usual. I spread the hot coals in the bottom of the grill, placed the grate and the pizza stone over them. I let the stone warm up with the lid on for 30 minutes. Just before putting on the pizza, I threw in apple wood chips soaked in water.

Dough: This is my usual pizza dough. I proof the yeast by dissolving yeast (1 package) in ⅕ cup lukewarm water with a pinch of sugar. After 5 minutes, the mixture got bubbly indicating good vigorous yeast. I added cold water to make it to 1 cup. In a food processor with a dough blade, I added bread flour (3 and ¼ cup) and salt (1/2 tbs). While on low speed, I drizzled olive oil (2 tbs) and then 1 cup of water and the yeast mixture. I watched until a dough ball formed on the blade and added a little more water (2-3 more tbs). I stopped the blade and touched the dough to make sure the dough was soft and slightly sticky. I let it sit for 5 minutes to distribute the water evenly. I turned on the food processor on low speed for 30 seconds or so. I dumped out the dough on a well floured board and kneaded for 5 minutes until the dough was nicely elastic and the surface was smooth. I sprayed the inside of a one-gallon size Ziploc bag with PAM and placed the dough inside and squeezed out the air as much as you could and sealed it shut. I let it raise for 1-2 hours on the counter top (the volume doubles). After deflating the dough, I divided it into 4 and made small balls. I let it rest for 5-10 minutes so that the dough will relax. I made it to a 8 inch round by stretching the dough (first the edge of the dough and then center which was repeated).

Cheese: For one pizza, I used fresh Mozzarella (high moisture content) and for another smoked one with low moisture content. Both are sliced but not shredded.

Assembly and baking for the first pizza: I first placed the stretched dough on wooden pizza peel which is covered with cornmeal. I brushed the dough with garlic infused olive oil (finely chopped garlic placed in olive oil. You should do this just before baking pizza. If you keep garlic under the oil too long, you may risk botulism). I first placed the slices of fresh Mazzerella cheese on top of the dough followed by my tomato sauce. I put the cheese next to the crust and the sauce on top of the cheese for several reasons. First it provides a barrier between the crust and the moisture of the sauce preventing the crust from becoming soggy. Second, if the cheese is put on top of the sauce the molten cheese sometimes slides off the pizza like a magma flow while you’re trying to eat the slice because the sauce underneath provides no traction for the weight of the cheese on top (common among chain-store pizzas). I slid the dough with the topping directly on the top of the stone (image above), closed the lid and baked it for 7-8 minutes.

Assembly and baking for the second pizza: For this one, I first baked the dough blank on the stone (This is what I do if I am not using the stone) for 3-4 minutes or until the bottom of the dough was firm and the surface started puffing up. I flipped it over and place the sliced smoked Mazzerella cheese and spread the tomato sauce on the top. I closed the lid and let it bake for another 5 minutes.

For both pizza, after baking, I grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on the top and garnished it with chiffonade of fresh basil (top picture).

Well, both were more than edible but not my best. The bottom got a bit high-done on the first one--it was quite crispy but basically carbonized. The second one was much better. I may have to do some rearranging to the charcoal next time; maybe using semi-indirect heat. Both pizzas, did not have the wood smoke flavor I was expecting. I may have to add more wood chips and few minutes before baking pizza especially since the pizza does not stay in the Weber for long. But with a good red wine, the pizza was great. After two pizzas, I also baked a blank dough brushed with olive oil and torn leaves of fresh rosemary from our herb garden with some kosher salt sprinkled on after baking. This makes a sort of thin crunchy foccasia bread. Of course, we did not finish the pizza especially since we also cooked teba gyoza and beef back rib. The leftover pizza re-heated well in the toaster oven on ensuing weekday evenings which was a wonderful appetiser to come home to after a hard day of work.