Thursday, January 30, 2014

Galician octopus tapas 蛸のガリシア風タパス

As I mentioned earlier, with a whole octopus in the house, we had a lot of octopus eating to do. As a result I had to come up with something totally different from my usual recipes. I was thinking of making "tapas" and looked for recipes. There are many "Galician" octopus recipes. Although they are essentially boiled octopus eaten with paprika and olive oil, how to boil the octopus ranges widely from just boiling it in plain water to boiling it in highly seasoned broth. I took a middle-of-the-road approach heavily influenced by Chef Eric Ripert's recipe.

I started with two legs of boiled octopus. I added salt (1/2 tsp), Fino sherry (1/2 cup), lemon (1/4, juiced), black pepper corns (5) and smoked paprika powder (1 tsp), and crushed garlic (2 cloves) into the water (3 cups) (below picture, left). I put on an "otoshi-buta" 落とし蓋 and then a regular lid and cooked it on a very low simmer for 1 and half hours (Picture below right).

Spanish octopus

When it cooled to room temperature, I sliced it rather thickly and sprinkled on smoked paprika powder and a good amount of good fruity olive oil (the first picture).

This was not bad but despite the long cooking, it was still a bit chewy. Initially I tasted some bitterness while it was hot, but the bitterness disappeared when it cooled to room temperature. Two of us quickly consumed the two good sized legs.  I don’t think I will buy octopus just to make this particular dish but if you should find your self in the position of having an excess amount of octopus, this is a good dish to try.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Japanese winter stew with octopus legs たこ入りのおでん

I posted that we got 2lb whole octopus for the New Year. I made this Japanese winter stew or "oden" おでん with the octopus. The way oden was made is exactly the same as my previous post, but I added the tips of the octopus legs on skewers to the oden. When octopus legs are cut for sashimi or other use, the tips remain. I usually cut the tips into small chunk or "butsu-giri" ぶつ切りand dress them with "sumiso" 酢味噌. I serve them as contrast in texture with the sliced octopus. This time, I decide to use the tips of the legs in oden.

As I add items to the oden pot, I usually end up having too much oden. So I restrained myself and did not add any fish cakes just the octopus legs, boiled eggs, tofu, daikon, konnyaku 蒟蒻, and shiitake mushroom.

This one small serving with a dab of Japanese hot mustard. Since I left the octopus legs for long time in the pot, they were rather tender and also imparted a nice “fresh ocean” flavor to the broth.

The picture below shows how I cut the tips of the legs and then skewered them. You do not have to skewer them but it looked nice and it prevents them from curling up when they cook.

This is a very good way of using tips of the octopus especially on a cold winter day.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Oyster Stew 牡蛎のシチュー

Oyster stew for Christmas eve dinner was a tradition for my wife’s family since she was a young girl. At some point, I do not know when, oyster stew became our Christmas eve dinner tradition too. It probably started when we lived in California and had access to large plump Pacific oysters. In any case, I made oyster stew from shucked oysters sold in a jar last Christmas eve. These oysters are not anything like the Pacific oysters we used to get but they are certainly good enough to enjoy.

The ultimate oyster stew especially when you can get high quality oysters (i.e can be eaten raw) is to heat up cream, butter, and the oyster liquor and poach the oysters briefly in the mixture then season with celery salt (so call Grand central station style). My recipe is more like oyster chowder but with enough butter and cream to make it still rather decadent.

Oyster: I use 12oz jar of shucked oysters which contained about dozen small to medium sized oysters.

I finely chopped onion (1 medium), celery (1-2 stalks). I sautéed them in a stew pot with melted butter (1 tbs) for a few minutes and added chicken broth (2 cups, the Swanson no-fat, reduced salt, kind), oyster liquor from the jar, and water (1 cup). If I had clam juice, I would have used that instead of chicken broth. I then added peeled and cubed white potatoes (2 large) and carrots (2-3, peeled and cut into similar size as the potatoes). When all the vegetables were cooked (15 minutes), I turned down the flame and added cream (I used light cream, about 1 cup). I brought the liquid just to the start of a boil, I added the oysters and gently cooked for another one minute. I tasted the stew and adjusted the seasoning (Kosher salt).

I served the stew with chopped Italian parsley and freshly ground white pepper. With the butter and cream, this is certainly rich enough for us. Even reheated the next day, this was not bad at all.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Candied duck liver and gizzard

The whole duck we rotissed for Christmas, came with most of its parts—the liver and gizzard tucked in its cavity. I decided to use these in a small appetizer which was inspired by the dish we had at Nojo restaurant in San Francisco. I think, for my first try, this was quite a success but it was a bit too sweet and I will need to further modify the recipe.

Duck liver and gizzard: For the liver, I removed any veins and fat from the surface and cut it into small bite sized pieces. For the gizzard, I removed the silver skin and sliced it rather thinly against the grain of the muscle.

Deep frying: I essentially made tempura. I first dredged the liver and gizzard. I made a rather thick tempura batter with cold water, cake flour and small amount of potato starch. I deep fried (350F vegetable oil) the pieces for a few minutes until they were cooked through and the crust was crispy and golden brown.

Sauce: I added honey (1tsp) and maple syrup (1/2 tsp) and water (2tbs) in a small frying pan over medium flame. After the honey and maple syrup blended, I added hot sauce (Sriracha). I added about 1/2 tsp but the amount is arbitrary and to taste. As the sauce reduced and thickened, I added the fried duck liver and gizzard and coated all the surfaces with the sauce (see the below picture).

This was quite good. The crust was very crispy and provided a nice crunch in contrast to the softness of the liver. Although the dish was a bit too sweet from the sauce, there was a nice slow heat from the Sriracha. The liver was good without any gamey flavor. I am sure I can do this with chicken livers. The gizzard was firm but added a nice contrast in texture to the liver. My wife usually does not like gizzard but this one she liked because of the thin slice. I may have to drizzle the sauce over the fried liver to make it less sweet next time.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Christmas rotissed dry-cured duck クリスマスのローテッサリーダック

Although Christmas is long over I am just getting around to posting this Christmas item. We are not particularly fond of turkey for the holidays (or, for that matter, any occasion). We usually substitute chicken for the turkey on Holidays but, for a change, we decided to try a whole duck this Christmas (We tried a goose many years ago and did not particularly like it). We also wanted to try our newly acquired  Rotisserie device for our Weber grill. After looking through some duck roasting recipes, I decided to do the salt dry rub cured method. The golden brown rotissed final product is shown below.

We also cooked potatoes (sweet and regular) in the drip pan (shown below).

Both the duck and potatoes (especially sweet potatoes) were excellent. The skin of the duck could have been crisper but the meat was moist and succulent. The self basting process by rotissing really made a difference.  As a test run and to compare my usual indirect method of cooking vs. rotissing, we first rotissed two chickens . My usual indirect method in Weber often makes the chicken legs a bit over cooked and dry. With the rotisserie method all the meat was uniformly cooked. The legs were not dry but very tender. The breast was ridiculously succulent. The only draw back was that the skin which is lovely and crisp using the indirect heat method (and is one of our favorite parts of roasted chicken) was not the least bit crispy and actually not particularly appetizing.

Preparation of the duck: I washed and pat dried the whole duck 2 days before Christmas. I rubbed about 1/2 tsp of Kosher salt each in the inside of the cavity, on the breast and legs, and on the back and wings. I placed it on a rack with a drip pan underneath. I placed this uncovered in the refrigerator for 2 days (#1).  After two days curing and drying in the refrigerator, some fluid dripped down and the skin looked "dry" especially on the breast side (#1). Using a tip of the knife, I pricked the skin of the breast to ensure rendered fat will flow out easily. I pushed through the rotisserie rod and secured the duck with prongs (#2 and 4). I used my usual indirect heat setting with two baskets on the side filled with lit charcoals (I used hardwood lump charcoal). I added soaked hickory chips to the charcoal baskets and turned on the rotisserie (I used the weight on the handle to balance the load so that the rotisserie turned smoothly). I doubled the drip pan, using a corrugated pan on the bottom and a flat bottom one on the top. I poked several holes in the upper pan and put in some potatoes (cut up in bite sized pieces). This was so that the duck fat could dip down and baste the potatoes then drip on through the holes in the top pan to prevent the potatoes from being soaked in the fat. The excess fat accumulated in the bottom pan—and there was a lot of it! (#4). We could have saved it for other recipes but didn’t “for health reasons”.

I cooked everything for 1 hour and 20 minutes and the meat in the thickest portion of the thigh reached 175F.

The duck fat dripped on the potatoes as they cooked so they were basted but not submerged by the fat. They were delicious—particularly the sweet potatoes. They were crispy on the outside and soft and sweet on the inside. They had a lovely smoky flavor. The duck was also very good. Like the chicken everything was uniformly cooked. The legs were very tender and were similar to duck legs we have eaten that were cooked using a confit method. The breast was lovely and succulent. Again, like the chicken, the skin was not crispy. Nonetheless, the next day my wife heated some of the duck leftovers including the skin in a frying pan. Amazingly the skin crisped up very nicely. Maybe that is a solution to the “crispy skin” issue with rotisserie cooking. We really liked the rottissed duck and the potatoes cooked with duck fat dripping on it. It was a feast worthy of a Holiday.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Kampachi cured with Kelp カンパチの昆布締め

Kampachi カンパチ is usually called "Amber jack" or sometimes "young" hamachi ハマチ which is young "buri" ブリ but appears to be different from the Hamchi/Buri family—confusing?. The taste of the meat is similar to Hamachi, albeit more delicate. We got this kampachi from a source that is new for us called "Fish for Sushi". I made "Kobu Jime" 昆布締め or kelp cured kampachi. This preparation results in a kampachi with a firmer texture and subtle but definitively  enhanced "Umami" flavor 

The kelp-curing technique is commonly used for white meat sashimi fish especially flounder but I thought it will be interesting to use it for kampachi. After thawing the fish completely (#1), I divided it into the loin and belly parts (#2). I thinly sliced the loin meat obliquely to get thin but larger pieces. I wiped the surface of the dried kelp sheet with a wet paper towel and placed the slices of kampachi on it (#3). I folded the kelp to completely cover the slices. I wrapped the kelp packet in plastic wrap and placed it in the refrigerator for several hours. When I opened it, the kampachi slices were almost transparent and the texture was firmer since the water had been drawn into the kelp and umami from the kelp infused into the fish (#4).

This is certainly a worthwhile preparation for kampachi.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Super-frozen Bigeye tuna sashimi and Kampachi 超冷凍メバチ鮪とカンパチのさしみ

As I mentioned in the boiled octopus post, we got super-frozen bigeye tuna and kampachi from a new place called "Fish for Sushi". The picture below shows the sashimi I served for New Year's eve along with the octopus we got from them.

The picture below is what I served in the evening on New Year’s day. Instead of regular daikon garnish I served daikon namasu 大根なます with ikura and also added kazunoko 数の子 with bonito flakes.

The fish came in a styrofoam box with plenty of dry ice.  The left in the picture below is super-frozen (bigeye) tuna and the right is "kampachi (belly loin). The instructions on how to thaw the tuna were slightly different from the ones listed on their website and on the label (temperature and duration of initial treatment). I followed the one on the package. The kampachi loin did not come with any specific instructions. So, I just thawed it quickly in the package soaked in running cold water. I wrapped both the tuna and kampachi in paper towels and placed on a plate in the refrigerator.

The kampachi thawed rather quickly but the tuna took more than 5 hours, probably better to leave it 12 hours (overnight). After it was thoroughly thawed, I wrapped in parchment paper and placed it in a Ziploc bag. It keeps up to 3 days after thawing in the meat case of the refrigerator.

In terms of taste, as far as "akami" or red meat of tuna goes, this was rather good but nothing beats "toro" and "chutoro" we can get from Catalina. It is far superior to "yellowfin frozen tuna" treated with CO. The kampachi was good but you may have to clean it up by removing some small bones and the remnants of skin. We still prefer tuna from Catalina but this is a good second source for sashimi fish.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Whole boiled octopus ゆでだこ

We usually get sashimi items from Catalina Offshore products but with the New Year fast approaching, they did not seem to have fresh tuna (especially fatty bluefin tuna) available despite many times I checked their web site. So, I decided to try a new vender called "Fish for Sushi"*. They sell only frozen fish but unlike many of the frozen yellow fin tuna which I have used in dishes posted before, their tuna (either bigeye or yellowfin) is said to be "super-frozen" and not treated with "odorless smoke" (euphemism for carbon mono-oxide gas to make it look more red). For the New Year, I ordered frozen bigeye tuna, kampachi (subjects for later posts) and boiled octopus. We usually get one small octopus leg at a time especially for the holidays but they only had a 2 lb boiled then frozen whole octopus. The price differential between the single leg we usually get and the whole octopus with 7 additional legs plus a body made the purchase seem more than reasonable i.e. the whole animal was relatively cheap compared to the single leg.

*The actual frozen items came from "Uoriki Fresh" located in New Jersey. This place appears to be the wholesaler for the “Fish for Sushi” retail site—or so we assume.

A whole, 2 lb octopus, however, is a lot of octopus, (the usual lamb roast that we buy is only about 3 pounds). So in addition to the portions being used for the New Year's dishes, we had a lot of octopus-eating to do. I had to come up with a number of different dishes in a race against time to finish it up before it went bad.  The first day we received it, I made my usual octopus dressed in "karashi-sumiso" as seen below.

I added chopped scallion and thinly julienned daikon.

Another variation I served on a different day was dressed with yuzu-koshou, olive oil and soy sauce. This was rather good with some heat, yuzu citrus flavor.

This is how the whole boiled octopus looked. I defrosted it in the refrigerator for 2 days and washed it under the running cold water.

I separated the legs (eight of them, just in case you did not know "Octo" is 8).

One leg was sliced and then placed in sweet vinegar to make "Sudako" which I used to accompany my daikon "namasu" 大根なます for the New Year (below).

Rejuvination process: The octopus tasted good and fresh but the 3rd day after I thawed it, I re-boiled it to remove any off flavors and to make it last longer. I boiled enough water so that 2-3 legs could be submerged easily with a dash of sake and a small amount of salt. I also prepared a large bowl with ice and cold water next to it. I first placed the 2-3 legs at a time into rapidly boiling water for 5 seconds and then immediately plunged them into the ice water to cool. I repeated this process for all the legs and the head. After they were thoroughly iced down, I removed them from the ice water and patted dry with a paper towel. I wrapped them in a new paper towel and placed them in a Ziploc bag. I refrigerated the pieces in the meat drawer of the refrigerator (lowest temperature place in our refrigerator). With this treatment, I expected the octopus to last at least another week. After tasting it again I think that although it was very good and fresh, after the parboiling, it tasted even better. I made more dishes from this fellow and they will be the subject of separate posts.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

New Year "Osechi" from sushi Taro 寿司太郎のおせち料理

 We have been feasting on Sushi Taro Osechi Boxes おせち料理 for three days and there is still some left. As usual we picked it up the boxes on the afternoon of December 31. We received two boxes or "Ju-bako" 重箱 neatly wrapped in "Furoshiki" 風呂敷 Japanese wrapping cloth as you can see below. Although this is the 3rd year we've gotten the Sushi Taro Osechi, it was still exciting to peek into the boxes to see what treats are inside.

This is a view of the upper box. Black beans (kuro-mame 黒豆) are in the jar (left upper corner) and steamed sea urchin is in the right upper corner. In the center is a small grilled red fish or "Tai" 小鯛の姿焼き and the right to that is beef tongue, Some items are hidden underneath.

This is the lower box. We love "ankimo" monkfish liver terrine (left upper) and this year, we got more of our favorite "karasumi" からすみ or Japanese bottarga (in the upper center). With these two items alone we can consume a lot of sake. The center row includes sake steamed prawns and chestnuts. The 3rd row contains simmered vegetables, duck breast and simmered octopus.

On New Year's Day, I made a plate with the combination of my dishes and the ones from Sushi Taro Osechi. Although, "Datemaki" 伊達巻き (yellow roll) was also in the box, I served the one I made from "Hanpen" はんぺん fish cake and eggs. Besides "matsukaze yaki" 松風焼き (left lower), salmon kelp roll 鮭の昆布巻き (behind Datemaki) and Kazunoko herring roe 数の子 (below Datemaki, the rest of the items are from the box. I added decorative cuts on the red and white fish cake 紅白蒲鉾. A big prawn was sake steamed and delicious.

Daikon Namatsu 大根なます was also included in the box but I served mine with Ikura salmon eggs and sweet vinear marinated octopus.

This is marinated "Russian" salmon with lemon and onion I made as usual from my mother's recipe.

The below are drinking snacks on January 2. These are all from the box. We had this with red wine. From the left, beef tongue, marinated egg yolk with Brasilian nuts (wonderful!), Sweet potato, Datemaki, Chestnut (shibukawa-ni 渋皮煮), Ankimo terrine (right upper), Daifuki mame beans 大福豆 and cherry petal nagaimo. All went well with the wine.

This could have been a lunch on the second. The left is small molded sushi with cured snapper, the front is my salmon kelp roll.

This could have been the 3rd day appetizers. Duck breast, marinated egg yolk, mustard stuffed burdock root, burdock root with sesame sauce, cumquat simmered in syrup, three rolled items on the right (from the top) are cod roe wrapped in kelp, shrimp cake "shinjo" 海老しんじょう wrapped in "yuba" 湯葉 tofu skin, cured snapper with center of vinegared young ginger "gari" wrapped in kelp. All are excellent but the mustard (mixed with egg yolk??) stuffed burdock root is exceptional and only a "pro" could make the items wrapped in the nori sheets (I think).

I have not mentioned all the nice simmered vegetables and several kinds of marinated grilled fish and other goodies. For the past three days of the New Year, we have been indulging in so many small nice dishes. This is better than Christmas feast (at least for me).

This is January 4th. I again combined items from the box with the ones I made. The marinated grilled fish was best served heated up in the toaster oven.

Although this was a lunch, this type of food begs for sake and we succumbed. For starch, we had grilled mochi Izobemaki 磯辺巻き.

I think we have to stop this sometime soon. We are definitely over indulging. The items below were the ultimate snacks for drinking sake including karasumi, ankimo terrine, cod roe wrapped in kelp, sweet fish with its roe and sake steamed prawn.

With these, we finished a bottle of rather dry but very agreeable Suigei 酔鯨 from Kochi 高知.

Again the boxes from Sushi Taro were fabulous. They make a good New Year an even better New Year. We could get used to this life style!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Boiled Gyoza dumpling 水餃子

Gyoza are very popular in Japan. There are even chain restaurants specializing in gyoza as well as ramen noodle restaurants serving them. There are three main ways to cook gyoza; (1) fry-steam-fry (most common), (2) steam or boil, (3)deep fry. Some time ago I posted pork gyoza which was first browned and then steamed by adding water (and covering with a lid). After the water evaporates, it again browns and crisps up. This time, I decided to boil the dumpling in chicken broth. This type of gyoza is called "Mizu gyoza" 水餃子 ("mizu" means water).

I served boiled gyoza with a dab of yuzukoshou 柚子胡椒 and ponzu sauce ポン酢.

In this version, I added slices of ginger, soy sauce and mirin to the chicken broth in which the gyoza were cooked and used it as a sauce.

Stuffing: This is same as before. I mixed  ground pork (I hand cut the trimming of the pork tenderloins as usual) with sautéed finely chopped onion and shiitake mushroom, boiled and finely chopped cabbage (after they cooled down to the room temperature). The amounts are all arbitrary (if you are “rich” of course use more meat). I seasoned with a small amount of soy sauce, roasted sesame oil, ground ginger and garlic, salt and pepper. I mixed well using my hand until the meat became sticky and the ingredients were bound together.

Gyoza skin: I used American wonton skin (square in shape). I moistened the two adjacent edges of the wonton skin with water. After I placed a teaspoonful of the stuffing in the center, I folded the skin diagonally, pressed it together, and then made a few pleats. This time in order to make the gyoza into pleasing shapes, I used a round cookie cutter to cut off the the edges of the skin after folding it to make a perfect half moon shape but this is optional.

I added chicken broth (my usual low-salt no fat version from Swanson) to a sauce pan and let it come to a boil, I added slices of fresh ginger, soy sauce (I used light-colored soy sauce  or "Usukuchi" 薄口醤油), mirin and sake. I dropped the gyoza into the boiling broth and cooked it for several minutes until the skin became semitransparent and the stuffing was cooked.

I scooped them out using a slotted spoon, placed them on the plate without overlapping. Although we could eat them immediately, I prepared this on a weekend morning when I had some free time. So, I let it cool and covered it with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for the evening meal.  In the evening, I warmed them up by dropping them in the warm broth and served as seen in the two pictures above.

By boiling, the skin attained a slightly slippery texture which is quite different from either steam-fried or deep fried gyoza. It seemed reminiscent of ravioli somehow. We still like gyoza made in a traditional fry-steam method but the boiled one could be made in large numbers and even can be frozen. This was a perfect small snack to start the evening.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year 2014 明けましておめでとう 2014

Happy New Year! It is 2014 and the year of the horse. Last year was eventful with the sad departure of some relatives and some dear friends. Nonetheless we had a memorable visit to Japan in the fall visiting family and friends such as Tako grill in Kuorishi. In addition, we finally got to meet Dave デイブちゃん and Tobias とびちゃん.

On our trip to Japan this year we added white and red horses from Kyoto and a brown one from Asakusa to our collection of zodiac animals.

Beside some new year dishes I made, we again got "Osechi" boxes おせち料理 from Sushi taro 寿司太郎 (more details to come). As usual, we had the New Year's day brunch/feast in our "tea room".

The dishes I made were my mother's "famous" marinated "Russian" salmon ロシア漬け (left lower) and Daikon namasu  なます with vinegared octopus 酢蛸 (left upper), datemami 伊達巻 (yellow roll), Matsukaze-yaki 松風焼き (left of the prawn) and herring roe 数の子 from Hokkaido sent in this year's "care package" by my mother.

We also had our usual "Ozouni" お雑煮 with deep fried tofu pouch-wrapped mochi 餅巾着 (my wife's preference. She claims it is the only way to keep mochi under control and "on a leash"...It tastes good too.)

The sake we had was from Miyagi prefecture, "Uragasumi Zen" Junmai Ginjo 浦霞『禅』純米吟醸. The day was nothing too different from any other year. But still a very nice quiet enjoyable New Year's day. (Details to follow). Happy New Year to all of you and yours!!