Sunday, November 30, 2014

Frozen fatty tuna from "Fish-for-Sushi" 冷凍大トロ

This was a continuing feast with "Juyondai" sake 十四代. We ususally order sashimi fish from Catalina Offshore Products but this time, I ordered from "Fish-for-Sushi"; frozen "Ootoro" 大トロ (new item) along with "akami" 赤身 of Big eye tuna, 目鉢鮪 and Kanpachi カンパチ or amberjack.

As you can see, this otoro had a large potion of pure fat attached which was a bit chewy; this was not the best otoro.

The picture below shows how the frozen sashimi was packaged. The upper right is akami tuna, below that is kanpachi, and upper left encased in a separate container is otoro.

The next picture was taken after the fish were thawed (following the instructions in the packages). To my surprise, the otoro block still had skin attached as well as a large amount of "pure" fat (see below).

The package said this was aqua cultured and from Japan. The portion is very small to begin with. Once you removed the skin and fat it was even smaller. Paying the otoro price per pound, the inclusion of the unusable skin and less than desirable fat made the useable meat from this piece very expensive (much more expensive than having toro at Tako Grill per unit weight). When my wife saw what had to be discarded she said her grandmother had an expression for this type of situation; “butcher putting a finger on the scale.” We could at least eat the fatty part (I haven’t come up with a recipe for tuna skin yet, however). I suspected the fat would be chewy, so I sliced it into rather thin pieces of otoro with the fat attached and served.

Next day, I removed the pure fat portions, cut it into small cubes and dressed the "karshi sumiso" sauce からし酢味噌 with chopped scallion. It was much better eating the otoro and fat separately than in the same piece as I had done the previous day. These otoro pieces don’t look anything like what was depicted on  the "Fish-for-Sushi" web site. Nine ounces at $65 sounded like a good price but once the large portion of pure fat and skin are factored in, this is not a good buy.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

“Atsuage” tofu 厚揚げ

"Atsu-age" 厚揚げ or "Nama-age" 生揚げ is deep fried thick ("atsu" 厚 means "thick") tofu. But this is not like "Abura-age" 油揚げ in which only the surface is fried, because the center portion of this tofu retains the look and texture of the original “raw” tofu or "nama" 生. In the case of ”abra-age", thin slices of tofu are deep fried until completely cooked. Although frozen abra-age was readily available at the Japanese grocery store in our neighborhood, atsu-age is more difficult to come by since it cannot be frozen. (When frozen, the raw tofu portion totally changes its consistency). I have not seen atsu-age in our grocery store before. We used to have grilled atsu-age occasionally at Tako Grill.  Recently I saw a package (from Japan) in the refrigerator case and bought it.

The way I served it is in the classic Izakaya-style. Since we had sashimi items including "Ootoro" from "Fish-for -Sushi" we splurged and opened the last bottle of "14th generation sake"  (十四代)which we have had in our refrigerator for more than 3 years.

Atsu-age could be a part of "nimono" 煮物 or simmered dish, or served grilled or heated up in a frying pan. At Izakaya, it is usually simply grilled. I just heated it up in a frying pan with a bit of vegetable oil for a few minutes on each side until the skin got crispy and the center was warm. I cut it into 2 blocks and topped it with graded daikon and thinly sliced scallion (below).

In this angle, you can see that the center is "raw" tofu.

Add just a little bit of soy sauce and we are ready.

As you can easily imagine, the quality of atsu-age really determines how good this dish is. This was fresh and very good. If this is not fresh, the only way you could possibly choke it down is simmered in broth with other items. I am glad I chose this simple way of serving. "Juyondai" sake was as good as when I first tasted it even after 3 years probably because it was kept under refrigeration all that time.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Kinpira lotus root レンコンのキンピラ

One evening, I opened a package of cleaned and boiled lotus root or renkon レンコン.  I used a portion of the package for another dish but I had some left over. I decided to make kinpira of lotus root. レンコンの金平.  Although I have posted lotus root kinpira before, this one is cut differently and cooked for a much shorter time which gave it a different texture from the other one I posted. I also have posted many variations of kinpira with burdock root or gobo 牛蒡 as the most popular. "Kinpira" is a Japanese style of braising. First the food is sautéed in vegetable oil with dark sesame oil added, then seasoned with mirin and soy sauce.

To retain a nice crunchy texture, I cut the lotus root (2/3 package) in half length wise first and then sliced rather thinly in half moon shapes. Since this packaged lotus root has already been cleaned and boiled, I did not have to do any other preparation such as soaking in water with vinegar. I removed the excess moisture from the slices by spreading them on a sheet of paper towel and blotting them dry. I put vegetable oil (1 tbs) and dark sesame oil and red pepper flakes (amount arbitrary) in a wok and then added the sliced lotus root and sautéed for a few minutes until the oil coated the surface (see below).

I then add mirin (1 tbs) and soy sauce (1 tbs) and braised it until liquid was almost all evaporated.

This is quite different from burdock root or daikon kinpira especially in texture. The lotus root had a nice crunchy texture. This was a good small dish to have it with sake. If I seasoned it more strongly, this would go well with white rice as well.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Chinese-style marinated Lotus root and Nagaimo 長芋と蓮根の中華風マリネ

I had a portion of nagaimo in the refrigerator. I had to make something out of it before it went bad. I found this recipe on line and it looked interesting. It is nagaimo and lotus root first deep dried and then soaked in a Chinese style marinade.

I followed the recipe fairly closely.

Nagaimo: I had a nagaimo about 3 inches long. I removed the skin and cut it into 1/4 inch think half moon shaped slices. I immediately soaked the slices in cold water with rice vinegar added (just a splash).

Lotus root: I used a segment about 3 inches long of packaged, prepared lotus root.  I sliced it into half moon shapes about the same thickness as the nagaimo.

Vegetable oil for deep frying.

For marinade: water (100cc), honey (1 tbs) and soy sauce (1 tbs), salt a small pinch, and star anis (one).

I removed the excess moisture from both the nagaimo and lotus root slices using a paper towel and deep fried it as is for 3-4 minutes at 320 F.

Meanwhile I heated up the marinade until all the ingredients amalgamated.  I drained the oil from the deep fried lotus root and nagaimo and placed them in the hot marinade. I let it cool to room temperature and placed it in a sealable container and refrigerated it overnight.

I served the dish cold. The marinade is rather strongly flavored of star anise and a bit sweet to my taste ( I used buckwheat honey which may have a much stronger flavor than regular honey). I may reduce the honey and increase the soy sauce next time. The texture of the nagaimo was nice and soft with no characteristic sliminess. The lotus root was still firm and crunchy. A good small dish with sake. I think, though, I may like this dish with Japanese flavorings (soy sauce, mirin, rice vinegar) better.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

French Omelet with sous vide pasteurized eggs 自家製滅菌卵のフレンチオムレツ

I was experimenting with sous vide pasteurized shell eggs after an anonymous reader led me to another article which suggested using slightly higher temperature for a shorter duration of time. Using these pasteurized eggs, I made this French omelet based on a recipe that appeared in the Washington Post food section. Instead of wrapping the stuffing with omelet, the egg and filling are rolled together into a cylinder. I served this with my potato salad.

The below is the cut surface.

I made a 2 egg omelet and shared it with my wife.

Eggs, 2 large (I used home pasteurized eggs, 57C for 75 minutes).
Light cream, 2 tbs (The original recipe calls for whole milk).
Fresh herbs (the recipe called for fresh chives and basil which I did not have so I used chopped scallion including the green part).
Salt and white pepper
Gruyere cheese

The home pasteurized eggs had slightly opaque egg whites and took a bit longer to beat completely. In a non-stick frying pan, I melted butter on medium flame and poured in the egg mixture. Placing the spatula in the center, I shook the pan quickly so that small curds formed. After vigorous shaking and mixing, I let it cook undisturbed until the bottom was firmly set but the top was still loose. I then placed chopped (or grated) Gruyere cheese on the top. I put the pan under the broiler (see below) until the cheese started melting. Using a spatula, I rolled the omelet in the frying pan.

I like this recipe. It is much easier to form an omelet. Since I used pasteurized eggs, I left some uncooked egg in the center  which mixed with melted cheese. If I had fresh herbs, this could have been better. Perfect breakfast or midnight snack.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Sous vide pasteurized eggs Part 2 自家製滅菌卵パート2

After I posted sous vide home pasteurized shell eggs, an anonymous reader let me know of the existence of an article by Dr. Schuman (see below, reference #1) which more clearly indicated the safe parameters for shell egg pasteurization with bacterial culture results. That is at 57C (134.6F) for 75 minutes (please see the chart below).

I used 54.5C (130F) for 2 hours in my previous post. I meant to try this new parameter for pasteurizing shell eggs for some time but finally got around to it. As I expected, at 57C,  the egg white became slightly denatured and opaque. The consistency was slightly firmer than the previous method (see below).

57C(134.6F) for 75 minutes
Although the background (container) is different, you can see that the egg white is clearer using the 130F for 2 hours method (below).

54.5C (130F) for 120 minutes
Using the two eggs pasteurized at 57C for 75 minutes, I made a French omelet. Although it took a bit more effort to beat the eggs, these pasteurized eggs can be used like any other shell egg. Sunny-side up fried eggs, poached and soft boiled eggs should not have any problem, although I have not tried it.

My conclusion: At 57C for 75 minutes, pasteurization of shell eggs by immersion in heated water, is totally safe from salmonella.  Although the consistency and appearance of the egg white is altered. Making egg dishes using these eggs should be the same as if raw eggs were used. The only area about which I am not sure and will need to try is making whipped egg white from pasteurized egg whites (which would be especially useful for dishes such as French sorbet since cooking egg white would not be possible).

I also believe that pasteurization at 56C for 2 hours or longer will produce "reasonably" safe pasteurized eggs but this conclusion appears to lack rigorous bacterial culture results. The egg whites look and behave more like raw egg white.

*Just in case you are interested. These charts are from the reference #1. This is based on sensitive culture study until no salmonella was detectable. Dr. Schuman (reference #1) only tested 57C and 58C. So, we do not know at 55C, how long it will take before salmonella is not detectable.
pasteurized eggs charts in JPEG

  1. Schuman JD, Sheldon BW, Vandepopuliere JM, and Ball HR Jr. Immersion heat treatments for inactivation of Salmonella enteritidis with intact eggs J Appl Microbiol. 1997 Oct;83(4):438-44.
  2.  USDA Document "Pasteurization of Liquid Egg Products and Shell Eggs"

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Tako Grill タコグリル

I am running out of new dishes to post. One weekend, I made "Ganmodoki" がんもどき thinking that although I had made it before I did not post it. When my wife saw what I was making she said she was experiencing “deja vu all over again” and suggested that I had already posted it. I checked my blog and, in 2012, I posted this dish.  I have been making dishes which go well with sake, but none of them are particularly post worthy or new. Meanwhile we have been visiting Tako grill, our “Izakaya” substitute regularly. While their dishes are always good, like any sushi bar, the range and variety are dependent on what fish are available. Recently we had several visits in a row where we hit the jackpot and enjoyed some great sashimi. Sushi Chef Jose Calderon did justice to the selection by preparing some spectacular sashimi presentations.

The picture below shows one such arrangement. The toro is arranged into the shape of a large rose flower, on the left hiding under the scallion and myoga 茗荷 are fresh sanma or Pacific saury. In the back, "Aoyagi" clam あおやぎ is arranged. In the boat made of cucumber is "sumiso" 酢味噌 dressing. He also added "hagikami" ginger はじかみ生姜 or young pickled ginger.


Everything was great but when they have it "aoyagi" clalm is a "must-have".

This picture shows how toro is frequently presented. It is “melt-in-your mouth” good.


Mr. Segawa, has been making  “Izakaya” dishes for some time. I think we tried all of them at least once. Please note the menu continues on the back side.


The dish below was one from the Izakaya menu. I do not remember what fish this was but it was dredged in potato flour and then served with a sweet and sour-type sauce. This could not possibly be bad.


Back in “the day” (when I was in Japan), sanma was almost never served as sashimi or sushi (because it was considered a cheap fish and was mostly grilled) but improvements in transportation and refrigeration as well as upgrading the status of sanma made it possible to have very fresh sanma, and therefore, sashimi when it is in season even in the United States. This had a lovely oiliness, firm texture and just the right amount of seasoning.


This time, Jose put together toro, wonderful uni (from California), Kanpachi カンパチ and aoyagi clam. When uni is good, nothing compares.

IMG_0409 2

We are so lucky to be able to indulge in these delicacies.