Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Fluffy Omelet ふわふわオムレツ

My wife is really into breakfast recently. Every weekend, she suggests something different. This weekend morning, she saw this fluffy omelet  recipe in the printed version of "Cook illustrated" and asked me to come up with the topping (or stuffing) for it. Although the recipe included two examples of stuffing, we did not have the ingredients for either of them. So I decided to "wing-it". This is something between Spanish "Tortilla" and French "soufflé".

Ingredients for one 8 inch omelet:

For Omelet:
Eggs (two large, yolk and white separated)
Butter, Melted unsalted (1/2 tbs)
Butter, unsalted (1/2 tbs)
Salt (1/8 tsp)
Cream of tartar (1/8 tsp)

For stuffing:
Shallot (1 medium, finely chopped)
Shiitake mushroom (fresh, two medium, stem removed and finely sliced).
Roasted pork filet (arbitrary amount, sliced and cut into wide strips or bacon)
Spinach (baby spinach, one handful)
Cheeses (smoked gouda, finely diced and parmisiano reggiano (grated), amount arbitrary).

Beat the egg yolks and mix in the melted butter and set aside. In a standing mixer, add the egg white and sprinkle cream of tartar and beat it to stiff peak stage (#1). Fold in the egg yolk mixture until no white steaks are visible (#2). Melt the reaming butter in a 8 inch non-stick frying pan on medium heat until foam forms and add in the egg mixture and add topping and cheeses (#3). Place the pan into the pre-heated 375F oven (#4) and bake for 5 minutes (We did not use pasteurized eggs and wanted it to be completely cooked). If it springs back when lightly pressed it is complete done (#5). Tip the omelet onto the cutting board and let it rest for 30 seconds before cutting (#6).

Note: The original recipe for 2 servings called for 4 eggs and folded the omelet into half and then cut it into two portions. We used 2 eggs and did not fold the omelet.
Stuffing: I added olive oil (1 tsp) and butter (1/2 tsp) into a non-stick frying pan and sautéed the shallot for few minutes. I added the shiitake mushroom and sautéed for another minute or two. I then seasoned it with salt and pepper. I added the pork and then the spinach and cooked until spinach wilted.

This is a very good omelet with a unique texture. It is rather fluffy and the topping I made was great. We may have put on too much cheese but there is no such a thing as too much cheese in general.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Marinated tuna bowl 鮪漬け丼

When we get sashimi items from Catalina, it is not possible to finish everything in two days unless we have guests. To finish up everything in time, I need to plan ahead so that some portions of the sashimi may last into the 3rd day. One way is to make a marinated tuna  or "zuke" preparation. I used this technique often to make a low-quality frozen block of yellow fin tuna more palatable but, of course, this can be applied to good quality tuna.

When I prepared the block of top loin tuna, I separated the red meat "akami" 赤身 and marinated it. Although I posted a few variations of the marinades before, this time I used a very simple marinade of mirin, sake, and soy sauce (2:2:3) ratio. I used this marinade for the chiai with nattou dish as well. I did not do "yubiki" 湯引き or "tataki" たたき preparation for this (for no reason, just a bit lazy).

This was an ending dish for the 3rd evening after we received blocks of tuna sashimi from Catalina.

Making this dish is simple as long as you have sushi rice and marinated tuna sashimi.

Sushi rice: We got a new IH (induction heater) rice cooker a few weeks ago but did not have a chance to use it until now. So, we read the instructions and made the very first batch of sushi rice. This new cooker has a gauge for sushi rice--simply a bit less water. Using this setting, however, the rice came out a bit too dry or hard to our taste. In any case, I made sushi rice by mixing in seasoned rice vinegar (from the bottle). I placed the sushi rice on the bottom of the bowl, put the slices of the marinated tuna sashimi on top, smeared a small amount of wasabi on the tuna and garnished it with chopped chives and nori strips.

This is one of the cannot-go-wrong combinations of sushi rice, nori and tuna.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Marinated chiai nattou with egg yolk 卵黄入り血合い納豆

I made this dish from the two portions of chiai 血合い (one from the toro block and the other from top loin block) which was marinated over night. This dish may be rather challenging for most Westerners and even for some Japanese. Again,I have posted this before. You could add more soy sauce and put it over rice. We just had this as a drinking snack.

Once the chiai was prepared, the rest was rather easy. I used one small individual package of nattou 納豆 (frozen, made from organic soy beans from Hokkaido,-of course). After thawing the nattou, I mixed in fine chopped scallion, seasoning (tare) and the mustard that came with the nattou and mixed rather vigorously for a few minutes using my favorite nattou mixing contraption. I then separated one egg (As before I used a safe pasteurized egg for this). I added the cubes of marinated chiai and the egg yolk and mixed well. I just garnished it with the finely chopped green part of the scallion.

The gamey strong taste of chiai was a good match for nattou and the egg yolk binds all flavors. I admit this may be the acquired taste.

To clean the palate, I then served tuna sashimi as seen below. This time, I had very fatty tuna (ootro) from the previous night as well as medium fatty tuna (chutoro) and red meat (akami) from the top loin block I prepared this evening. As a garnish, especially since it is the year of the snake, I made snake belly cut mini cucumber or "jabara" 蛇腹 which was soaked in salted water and then seasoned with sushi vinegar (or I could used sweet vinegar). I served it with a tomato rose.

The quality of tuna was very good. Nothing really beats good blue fin tuna.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Seared Ootoro fatty tuna 大トロの炙り

This is a continuation of the blue fin toro block we got from Catalina. After consuming the sashimi, I made the most fatty part of the tuna into "aburi" 炙り preparation. I have posted this before but, this time, I have more pictures and also made sumiso 酢味噌 sauce. The combination of "aburi" and "sumiso" further cut the fatty taste so that it was not too overwhelming.

In very proper sushi bars, you should use a charcoal fire to sear the tuna but, for convenience, I used the ubiquitous kitchen blow torch (no self respecting kitchen should be without such a flame-thrower). I first sliced the ootoro pieces and spread  them on a utility plate. Since I happened to have a collection of fancy salts, I sprinkled freshly ground Hawaiian sea salt (pink colored) and let it sit for a few minutes. I, then, hit them with my blow torch as you see below. I seared it until the surface changed color and developed a few dark spots. I did this on only one side.

The sumiso sauce should have been called more precisely "karashi sumiso" 芥子酢味噌 sauce. Again I have posted the recipe before. To briefly reiterate; I added white sweet miso or "saikyo miso" 西京味噌 (1 tbs) in a small Japanese mortar "suribachi" すり鉢, prepared Japanese hot mustard (to taste from tube), sugar (optional,1/2 tsp) and rice vinegar (1 –2 tsp). To adjust the consistency, you can add “dashi” broth or just water. At this point, we had eaten more than enough fatty tuna for one evening (there is such a thing as too much of a good thing).
Next day, I prepared the top loin of blue fin tuna. This is also a small I lb block as you see below. This block almost looks like the tail portion of the same fish from which my “toro” block came.

As you can see from the side view below, this top loin has slightly fatty meat on the bottom and chiai 血合い or dark red meat (left upper corner).

So this one was very similar to the toro block in terms of the configuration of the different kinds of meat but depending on the size of the fish, one pound block could be quite different.  I separated the slightly fatty red meat or “kotoro” 小トロ (left) with skin on, red meat or “akami” 赤身 in the center and “chiai” 血合い on the right.

I used to discard “chiai” but, more recently I make dishes from it which I posted before. I made the marinade ahead of time. This is rather simple marinade of sake, mirin, and soy sauce (2:2:3 ratio). I heat the mixture until gently boiling without a lid for a few minutes to meld the flavors and let the alcohol evaporate. I let this cool down to room temperature. I cut the chiai (I used combined portions from both the toro and akami blocks). I placed them in a sealable plastic container and let it marinade overnight in the refrigerator.
The rest is for the next post (I am stretching out the content).

Thursday, February 14, 2013

How to prepare small "Toro" block 鮪のトロのさばき方

I have mentioned that it is getting more and more difficult to get fresh blue fin tuna from Catalina Offshore Products because it is offered only infrequently. For that matter, our Tako Grill appears to be having difficulty getting toro as well. The other day, when I checked the Catalina site, both top loin and toro block were available and, without hesitation, I ordered both blocks (small blocks 1lb each).

Here is the first sashimi I prepared on the Friday evening the tuna arrived.

The Toro was just excellent. I served mostly toro and a small portion of chutoro 中トロ (or more like kotoro 小トロ). Since I had half a (leftover) ripe avocado, I also served slices of avocado in sashimi-style. For garnish, I made the usual daikon garnish mixed with mini-cucumber (skin portion only) and carrot. Instead of the usual raw preparation, I salted the vegetables and then squeezed out the excess moisture. I then dressed them with sushi vinegar. The wasabi was freshly thawed "real" wasabi. We have not tasted this kind of good quality toro, actually more like Ootoro 大トロ, for quite some time. This is melt-in-your mouth good. My wife ooed and aahhed appropriately.

I realized that, although I have posted sashimi from Catalina several times and how to prepare the large belly loin block, I did not illustrated how I prepared the small block of tuna belly into sashimi. Since I am running out of dishes I can post, I thought this would be a good punt.

Here is a small one pound block of toro. This is from a rather small tuna and it has the skin on. The left side is toward the belly .

The toro block usually has a very dark red portion called "chiai"  血合い and small top loin portion, in this case, "chutoro"  中トロ. I first removed the chiai part and then the triangular shaped "chutoro" block .

Now I have three portions; on the left toro with the skin still on, chiai in the middle, and chutoro on the right. Usually I discard "chiai" but this time I made a dish from it.

Using a thin sharp blade (since I do not own a traditional "yanagi" knife 柳刃, I used a salmon fillet knife from Global which works fine for me. I removed the skin, by placing the toro skin down on the cutting board then moving the blade horizontally between the skin and toro while pressing on the toro with my palm. I removed a thin layer of mostly fat that was attached to the skin (right above and below picture). I did not discard this almost pure fat.

The left on the picture above is the toro bock. I cleaned up the white membrane ("peritoneal" lining which lines the abdominal cavity of the fish) which is shown on the right edge of the toro block in the picture above. Sometimes bone may be present, so I carefully look for it and remove it. This is a rather small block but I cut it into two making two small rectangular blocks or "saku" from which I sliced the sashimi seen in the first picture.

The portions we did not eat immediately, I wrapped in parchment paper and placed it in a ziploc bag and stored them in the meat drawer of the refrigerator. It should last at least 2 more days.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Chinese flavored simmered Taro roots 中華風里芋の煮物

Just before the new year, I bought a small package of “satoimo” 里芋 or “taro” from our Japanese grocery store. Since we had New year’s dishes from Sushitaro which included simmered satoimo, I did not use it. My wife reminded me that it was still sitting in the refrigerator and that it might be getting moldy. I sprang into action. Instead of making it the usual Japanese way, I decided to make it in a more-or-less Chinese way primarily through altering the seasoning. This is loosely based on something I saw on line. I did not follow the recipe closely.

Ingredients (for two small servings):
  1. Taro root (satoimo) (six, both top and bottom cut off, peeled, halved, and soaked in water)
  2. Dark sesame oil (1 tsp)
  3. Chicken broth (about 1/2 cup, my usual Swanson no fat low sodium kind).
  4. Black-bean garlic sauce (1/2 tsp)*
  5. Chili garlic sauce (1/3 tsp)*
  6. Soy sauce 2 tsp, (I used light colored or “Usukuchi” 薄口醤油)
  7. Mirin (1 tbs)
  8. Sake (1 tbs)
  9. Black sesame seeds (for garnish, 1/2 tsp)
*I used these two Chinese/Asian seasonings since I happened to have them but you could use "Toban Djan" or chili bean sauce with chopped garlic.

I first put the dark sesame oil in a small sauce pan on medium flame. I added the black bean and chili garlic sauce and sautéed until fragrant for 1 minute and added the drained and pat-dried  satoimo. I tossed and sauteed so that the potato surface was coated with the oil and seasoning mixture. I then added chicken broth, soy sauce, mirin and sake. When it started to boil, I turned the flame down to simmer and placed my favorite silicon "otoshibuta" 落し蓋 on top of the taro then put on the regular lid slightly askew and simmered it for 15-20 minutes or until the satoimo was cooked.
Meanwhile, I dry roasted black sesame seeds in a dry frying pan for several minutes. Using a Japanese mortar and pestle (suribachi すり鉢), I coarsely ground it.
I put the taro in a bowl, spooned in some of the remaining simmering liquid and garnished with black sesame.

I did not make this too spicy. It was nice to try something different from my usual Japanese way of cooking satoimo. Satoimo has a nice texture and the seasoning definitely worked well. This could make a nice side dish or a drinking snack. In our case, it was the latter.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Homemade apple sauce and juice 自家製林檎ソースとジュース

This is another fresh juice to combat a less-than-optimal condition you may find yourself in the morning after indulging. (Although that is not necessarily the condition that prompted us to make this on this particular occasion).  Using the same juicer I described in the carrot juice blog, my wife made fresh apple juice (Fuji apples). The juice tasted divine but the process left behind a large amount of apple pulp  (By-the-way, the amount of juice shown in the picture is significantly less than what was actually produced…I drank some before I remembered to take the picture).

My wife couldn't bear to throw out the pulp residue so she decide to make it into apple sauce. She just transferred all the grated apple from the juicer to a pot. She put back some of the juice since it was a bit too dry and cooked it for 5-10 minutes. She added a small pinch of salt and a teaspoon of sugar to enhance the natural sweetness of the apple.
To me, apple sauce is not something I would usually eat since, in my mind, it definitely classifies as "baby" food. But this version of apple sauce was amazing.  It had the bright fresh intense taste of the Fuji apples which we never achieved with apple sauce made the usual way. While the consistence was smooth it was irregular which gave it an interesting texture. We had this for breakfast. In addition to tasting great, it allowed us to self-righteously feel were doing something healthy. Of course, if you have a baby, this would make a good food for them too.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Marinated dried "surume" squid スルメのしょうゆ漬け

Well, this is the last ditch effort to make dried "surume" squid palatable. I saw this recipe on line and decided it would be worth a try.

Marinade: Sake, water, mirin, soy sauce in equal amounts. (The original recipe called for sugar but I did not add any sugar). I put the mixture in a sauce pan and let it come to a boil and reduced the heat. I let it simmer for another 1 minute. When the marinade cooled down to room temperature, I added a 2x3 inch dried kelp. After the kelp rehydrated, I put the dried surum squid in a sealable container and put the kelp on the top of the squid. I marinated it for 3 days in the refrigerator (see the picture below).

Before I served it, I removed the excess moisture and grilled it in the toaster oven briefly.
I cut it into narrow strips and served it (the first picture). It was much softer for having been marinated, but it still had a rather strong fishy smell and taste. This was more edible than the original. My wife’s comment was, “the fishy shoe leather is softer than before.”  Even for me this is not something I would relish. A nice try but we will pass on "surume" next time.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Carrot potage 人参のポタージュ

This was entirely made by my wife. After making fresh carrot juice from 8 medium sized carrots, she used the remaining pulp to make this potage. She added onion, potato and parsnip. This turned out to be quite a nice potage. I have to ask her to continue here.

I sautéed two diced onions in a soup pot, I then added 4 parsnips cut into coins and 6 baby potatoes cut into fourths and continued sautéing. Finally, I added the pulp left over from juicing the carrots as shown in the picture above.  I added enough chicken stock to cover the veggies put the lid on simmered until the parsnips and potatoes were cooked. I added no additional spices except some salt. When everything was cooked we puréed using a “motorboat” blender.
The potage turned out to be quite sweet. The sweetness came from the vegetables. The parsnip flavor seemed to predominate and it was very nice. This was a great use of the leftover carrot pulp. By not adding any additional spices the subtle flavors of the vegetables I used were able to shine through.