Saturday, May 30, 2015

Miso-marinated grilled cod たらの味噌焼き

This was the last dish I made from a filet of cod we got the other day. This is miso-marinated cod with miso-based sauce on the top. This was a one-plate dinner one weekday evening. I broiled the cod after I smeared on the miso-based sauce but it did not char much. Maybe I should have used my kitchen torch.

I served the cod with an eclectic assortment of accompaniments; wedge of skinned tomato (seasoned with salt and olive oil), Cauliflower a la Montoparnasse, steamed green beans with sesame sauce, braised cabbage with onion and lemon* and butter-soy-sauce fried rice with parsley.

* recipe from Cook's illustrated.

Miso marinated cod:
Cod filet; four small filets for two
Miso marinade: red miso, mirin, and sake (2:1:1 ratio), mixed and then placed in a Ziploc bag with the fish filets, the miso marinade to coat all surfaces.

I marinated the cod for 2 days (It should be marinated at least 24 hours) in the refrigerator.

Before cooking, I removed the fish and scraped off the excess miso marinade, washed in cold water and then pat dried (to prevent scorching during cooking and to reduce the saltiness from the marinade. I could have gotten the same effect by separating the marinade from the fish by using a layer of cheese cloth).

I baked the marinated cod in the toaster oven preheated for 375F for 10 minutes on a metal grate over an aluminum foil covered drip pan. (The small footed grate raised the fish slightly above the bottom of the pan and prevented the fish from being steamed/boiled instead of baked).

Meanwhile, I made a miso-sauce for the fish by simply heating the remaining miso marinade and added yuzu juice and more mirin to make it a  looser consistency. I heated the sauce while stirring to thicken it just a bit. I added frozen yuzu peels at the end. I spread the miso-sauce over one side of the fish and switched the toaster oven from bake to broil to make the miso sauce slightly browned and fragrant (it did not char/brown as much as I wanted under the broiler of the toaster oven).

The cod had a nice flakey moist texture and the miso marination and miso sauce both added nutty, salty and sweet flavors and a hint of Yuzu citrus.

So this is a rather complete meal with protein, vegetables and starch.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Savory egg custard with garlic chives ニラ入り茶碗蒸し

This is "chawan mushi" 茶碗蒸し with "nira" garlic chives. When I served garlic chive egg drop soup ニラのかき卵汁 and told my wife that eggs and garlic chives go well together, she suggested I make chawan-mushi with garlic chives. In the interim, I also served "Nira tama" ニラ玉, which is scrambled eggs with garlic chives (I did not take pictures) one weekday evening further reinforceing that this combination was indeed made in heaven. I finally made the garlic chive chawan mushi one weekend.

The garlic chives floated on the surface  but green and light yellow color contrast is nice.

The egg mixture was made the same as before. We tasted this hot first off the steamer. It was nicely creamy as you can see below.

I added shrimp (one cut into two pieces per serving).

I also added small pieces of chicken tenderloin.

Few days later, I served this cold with topping of ikura salmon roe and real wasabi.

Both cold and hot versions were good but I preferred the hot version. The distinct garlic chive flavor was much muted in the cold version. The silky egg custard and the garlic chives are indeed good combination. This time I first soaked the chicken pieces in sake and then coated with potato starch before putting in the chawan-mushi. This made the chicken moist and tender and better than just putting it in "naked".

The below makes 6 small bowls.

Egg mixture:
As before, I used 3 large eggs beaten and added 3 times the volume of seasoned dashi broth. If the eggs are 150ml then the seasoned broth should be 3 times the volume, i.e. 450ml. Dashi broth was made from a "Bonito and kelp" dashi pack. I seasoned it with mirin, light colored soy sauce and "shirodashi" 白だし. Seasoning is always tricky for chawan mushi. Too much will be "too much" especially when eating hot but when you serve it cold you need a bit more seasoning. I err on the side of under-seasoning.

Garlic chive:
The amount is arbitrary. I harvested young tender shoots from our herb garden and cut in 1/4 inch.

I used 6 shell-on frozen shrimp, thawed in running water and then salted.  I cut in two pieces length wise.

Chicken tenderloin: I used two tenderloins. I first removed the tendon/sinew and sliced it on the bias. I salted lightly and soaked it in sake for 5-10 minutes. I blotted excess moisture and thinly coated it with potato starch or Katakuri-ko 片栗粉.

I first added the shrimp and chicken into the cups and poured in the egg mixture through a fine meshed strainer into 6 cups. I then added the chopped garlic chives.

I placed the 6 cups in a steamer (my electric wok) and steamed them on a constant low steam for 20-30 minutes (first picture).

My wife really liked this, either hot or cold. She thought the chicken was really moist and tender which I agree. This was a very successful dish.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Red snapper in aspic 鯛の煮こごり

I did not make this dish, the dish made itself! We recently had simmered red snapper. (This was the second time we had this dish in recent weeks). We could not finish one whole fish so my wife carefully removed the meat sans bones and placed it in a sealable container, poured in the left over simmering liquid and placed the container in the refrigerator. A few days later, when I tried to serve this leftover fish, I was pleasantly surprised to find this dish; simmered red snapper aspic. In Japanese, this type of jell or aspic is called "nikogori" 煮こごり. When I was a kid this usually happened in winter when our kitchen was very cold and the leftover simmered fish (I remember it was often sand dabs) was covered with its own natural aspic. The best way to eat this was to put it on the top of hot steamed rice. The aspic started melting immediately and seasoned the rice nicely. When I saw what had happened with the red snapper that came out of our fridge, I quickly changed gears and served this eclectic dinner featuring red snapper aspic as the main dish. The rest of the plate came from whatever we had in our refrigerator.

Here is a close-up of the aspic. Although we did not intend to make this dish, this was nicely done.

I made Chinese -style "nibuta" 煮豚 sometime ago and last weekend I also made "ajitsuke tamago"  味付け卵 and served that.

I also served a small slice of Chinese simmered pork and cucumber/onion salad with fresh dill dressed in rice vinegar and Greek yogurt (my wife made the Greek yogurt by draining regular yogurt through cheese cloth in the fridge overnight).

Ajitsuke tamago:
This is the most common topping for ramen noodle. I made soft boiled eggs from home pasteurized shell eggs using my sous vide machine. I then soaked the eggs in the simmering liquid of the pork and let it sit for a few days. This process seasoned the eggs as well as changed the consistency of the egg yolks. I could have made "softer" boiled eggs but this was just fine.

I also served steamed green asparagus that I prepared the prior weekend with mayo. Since we did not have a time to prepare rice, I microwaved leftover rice and garnished with dried ao-nori. By the time, we were ready to eat, the rice was not hot enough to melt the aspic but it was good. Since the seasoning was on the light side, this worked better. This was a rather well balanced eclectic meal

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Fish sausage 魚肉ソーセージ

When I was growing up in Japan, we did not know about artisanal sausages which recently have become very popular and readily available in Japan. So, when I was a kid, "sausage" meant this cheap "fish meat" sausage which came in a plastic tube casing in a red cellophane wrapper. I never liked this as a kid but it was very popular as it was easy, cheap, and ready-made source of protein.

One weekend, my wife accompanied me to the Japanese grocery store. When she does, she looks around and always find something I did not see or something I would generally not thought of buying. She found this fish sausage and asked me what it was. I had forgotten about this for many years but since my wife never tasted it I proposed we get it.

That evening, I made this small dish as an appetizer for the red wine we were enjoying. I simply cut the sausage on a slant and sautéed them in melted butter. I was not sure how salty the product was so I did not season it. I served it with mayonnaise mixed with soy sauce and Japanese red pepper flakes. I served sautéed broccoli (previously blanched) and wedges of skinned tomato which were seasoned with salt and pepper.

The one I remember from my childhood was "Maru-ha" まるは meaning a letter "ha" or "は” within a circle but it appears to have changed its logo. This one was made by "Maru-chan" まるちゃんwhich is famous for instant ramen noodles.

Inside is a fish sausage in a transparent plastic tube exactly as I remembered when the cellophane wrapper is removed.

As you can see below, it is nondescript, homogenous and apparently artificially colored (to emulate real meat sausage??) looks almost like plastic.

The taste? Meh! I did not like it as a kid and I do not like it as an adult. Spongy texture without much of any taste, just a mayonnaise delivery system if you have a side of mayo. But this was something from my childhood and finally my wife had a chance to taste it which made it worth getting. She agreed with my assessment (despite the expert sautéing job I did). We did not eat the rest of sausages in the package.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Nama-chirashi 生ちらし

My wife is very particular about vinegared rice or "sushi-meshi" 寿司飯  --it has to have enough vinegar. Not that she is a connoisseur of sushi rice but sushi rice sold in the US at Japanese restaurants or the grocery store is not always good even for a non-connoisseur.  My wife sometimes observes that some sushi must be prepared with the assumption that the American clientele won't notice the vinegar is missing.  Even the sushi rice we make at home is often better than most (which should give you some indication of how bad some sushi rice can be). Since our favorite "izakaya" has been temporarily closed for sometime, one Friday, my wife declared that it was time to administer some vinegared rice so we stopped at Kanpai sushi and took out the assorted sashimi and I made nama-chirashi 生ちらし, which is sashimi on vinegared rice. I also quickly made dashi-maki Japanese omelet with garlic chives or "nira".

I covered the sushi rice with finely cut nori stripes and placed the assorted sashimi,  cucumber slices, vinegared ginger root or "gari" ガリ and mixed sea weed salad on top. The sashimi items included, tuna, hamachi, rock fish, octopus, salmon and imitation crab.

Since we cooked the rice after we came home, we did not do anything special (like adding a sheet of kelp and sake). My wife just prepared rice using our "fuzzy logic" rice cooker (with slightly less water for sushi). I could have made sushi vinegar myself (by adding sugar and salt to rice vinegar), but I used a bottle of Mizukan Sushi vinegar ミツカン寿司酢. To allow the maximum absorption, I heated the sushi vinegar in the microwave (just warm). I used my small cedar sushi-oke 寿司桶 we brought from Kiso 木曽, Japan, some years ago (wood absorbs excess moisture from sushi rice).  I added the cooked rice to the sushi-oke,  poured the sushi vinegar on the rice (about 10% by weight but I usually add as much as the rice can absorb without getting wet). I let it stand for 5 minutes covered with a moist tea towel.  I then mixed the rice with a bamboo rice paddle ("hera" へら) using a cutting motion while my wife fanned it with a Japanese paper fan we keep in the cupboard just for this purpose. The fanning cools the rice more quickly and helps evaporate the excess moisture. I then gathered the rice to one side to make a mound and cover it with the moist tea towel again to let it sit for several more minutes allowing the vinegar to absorb further. I put the sushi rice in a bowl, put on enough nori strips to cover the surface of the rice and then put on the toppings. For this dish, I placed real wasabi on the top. Just before serving I sprinkled sushi shouyu (special soy sauce for sashimi from the bottle).

The original combination sashimi looked like this.

This is after taking off the lid.

We got two orders but I decided that dividing one order was enough for both of us for nama-chirashi. The next day, I served the remaining order into two small appetizer sashimis as seen below.

The nama-chirashi was very satisfactory. Although I thought we made too much sushi rice, I served it all and it all disappeared to the last grain. The sushi rice was seasoned enough and the sashimi was good.  The combination of sushi rice, nori, and sashimi is a mainstay that cannot go wrong.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Asparagus wrapped in country ham スパラガスのハム巻き

We  rarely buy processed meats such as ham. For some reason, we bought this country ham which appears to be salt cured but not smoked. I was thinking that this could be used in lieu of thinly sliced pork belly (or sanmai niku 三枚肉) which is one of the most favored cuts of pork in Japan. Since I had blanched green asparagus, I made asparagus rolls wrapped in the country ham.

Since the asparagus was rather thin (so-called pencil asparagus), I bundled three to make one roll. I used a mixture of flour and water to seal the end of the rolls.

I started cooking in a non-stick frying pan with a little bit of olive oil on medium heat. I turned the rolls over after one to two minutes to brown all the surfaces and make them crispy.

I cut the rolls into three pieces and served (the first picture). My first attempt was a failure. This country ham was so salty that it bordered on inedible although the ham became nicely brown and crispy at the edges, I think no matter how I served this country ham, it would be too salty for us. I noticed that the instructions suggested removing some of the salt by soaking it in slightly warm water for 10 minutes. I tried it and it sort of worked but it was not worth the effort. So unless you are partial to salty country ham, this is not the dish for you. I’m glad we tried it but I think we will stick to using pork belly or bacon.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

"Tatsuta" fried cod たらの竜田揚げ

One of the dishes from Yuzu restaurant omakase menu served as the inspiration for this preparation of cod. In general, however, this is a rather standard Japanese style fried fish dish. Since the cod itself has good texture but not much flavor, I decided to boost the flavor by marinating it “a la”  "Tatsuta-age" 竜田揚げ using cod instead of the usual chicken.

I added fried green beans (simply fried or "su-age" 素揚げ) and served with wedges of lemon.

Soy sauce 2 tbs
Sake 1 tsb
Mirin 1 tsp
Ginger root 1/2 tsp grated
Garlic 1-2 cloves grated

I placed the marinade and fish in a Ziploc bag, massaged it and then removed as much air as I could before sealing the bag. Since I did not have much time, I marinated this for 30 minutes at room temperature (it could marinate overnight in the refrigerator). I removed the fish from the marinade and blotted it dry on paper towels then dredged with potato starch. I deep fried it in peanut oil at 350F for few minutes (below).

I checked to make sure it was done.

Probably this is better than English-style fried fish in "fish and chips". Even though I used grated garlic, the garlic taste was not too strong. The fish was succulent and as usual anything "deep fried" tastes good.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Cold white and green asparagus 冷製ホワイトとグリーンアスパラ

Although the seasonality of asparagus is semi-lost because of year around import from other countries (especially Chile), local i.e. U.S.  asparagus appears in spring and we saw fresh white and green asparagus in a local grocery store. So for us, fresh asparaguses is still something special in the spring.

This time, the white asparagus was better than usual and I did not have to cook it too long. I served both green and white cold and made slightly different sauce from what I posted before for the white asparagus.

White asparagus:
I prepared first removing the woody bottoms by just bending the stalk until it snapped. Using a vegetable peeler, I peeled the skin except for the tips. White asparagus is brittle and  it may break as you are peeling. I placed it on the cutting board and peeled as I rolled which kept the breakage to a minimum.  I set aside all the peels and bottom ends.

In a frying pan, large enough to put the asparagus in one layer, I added water (no salt, enough to cover the asparagus) and also added all the peels and scraps of white asparagus into the pan with a lid on. I gently cooked for 10-15 minutes. I checked after 15 minutes. This batch was done by 20 minutes. I removed the asparagus but left the peels and scraps in the pan and kept simmering for another 40-50 minutes with the lid off. After I removed the peels and scraps, I kept reducing until only 2-3 tbs of liquid remained (it concentrated all the white asparagus flavors).

When the reduced liquid cooled, I added 1 tbs of mayonnaise, lemon juice (2 tsp or half lemon), and whisked. It is a bit watery at this point. I then drizzled good fruity olive oil while whisking until the desired consistency was reached (about 2 tbs). I seasoned with salt and white pepper.

Green asparagus:
I prepared the same way as the white asparagus. Removed the woody bottoms and peeled. I steamed them for a few minutes and cooled them rapidly.

I cut both white and green asparagus (cold) into 1 inch batons. I dressed the white with the above sauce and garnished it with chopped chives. For the green, I dressed with my usual honey mustard vinaigrette.

We like the white asparagus sauce. It concentrates essence flavor of white asparagus.

For spring, beside plum and cherry blossoms, we get profusion of blossoming giant amaryllis. My wife carefully tends quite few bulbs of giant amaryllis (she sets them outside when lowest temperature is above 40F, watering during hot summer and bring them in before winter, let them go dormant and then starts watering for the spring blossoms). All her efforts provide these fantastic flowers.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Lamb chop salad with spinach and walnutsラムチョップとほうれん草のサラダ

After our hanami weekend, the cherry blossoms started falling making hana-fubuki 花吹雪 or flower petal blizzard which was a sad but spectacular end of the cherry blossoms. When we arrived home after work, it was still bright and we quickly went out to our deck to enjoy the last of the cherry blossoms and marvel at the hana-fubuki. To maximize our outside time, we had a quick dinner salad put together from leftovers. The past weekend we had grilled lamb chops and two chops were leftover, I quickly removed the meat and sliced it thinly to make this lamb chop salad.

To make it interesting, in addition to the baby spinach and tomato, I added green beans (previously steamed) cut into small pieces, tomato and roasted walnuts. I dressed the salad using my usual honey mustard dressing (Dijon mustard, honey, chopped shallots, rice vinegar and good fruity olive oil seasoned with salt and pepper).


The cherry blossoms covered the fountain and the patio.


We have to wait until next year for hanami to occur again but we squeezed out the most enjoyment we could from our hanami this year.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Hanami 2nd day, simmered red snapper 花見二日目、小鯛の煮付け

Our every day grocery store has a small fish section but I occasionally find something good and interesting. The fish monger and his assistant there now recognize me (although we are not yet on a first name basis). One Staurday, they had small red snappers or "ko-dai" 小鯛 which were scaled and cleaned but head and fins intact exactly as I like it. The size was much smaller than usual for red snapper and perfect for serving a whole fish per person. I splurged for two. I thought of either making shio-yaki 塩焼き(or salted and grilled) or nitsuke 煮付け(simmered in broth) and decide to go with the latter. As a side, I also cooked some tofu and scallion.

I served this for hanami 花見 on the second day.

Preparation of the red snapper:
To remove the fishiness, if any, I first washed and removed the gills. Our fish monger did a good job of scaling and gutting the fish. I first boiled water in a frying pan large enough for the two red snappers to fit snugly. I placed both fish in the boiling water quickly turning them over (total of 10 seconds) and then plunged them into ice water, further washing any blood etc from the fish (#1).

Cooking broth (for cooking two red snappers below):
Water 200ml
Sake 100ml
Mirin 3 tbs
Soy sauce 3 tbs
Sugar 1 tbs
Ginger root: 6 thin slices.

Tofu and scallion (amount arbitrary).

The above seasoning is best for eating fish for sake but for eating it with rice, you may want to season it a bit more strongly (more soy sauce and sugar depending on your taste).

I scored the skin (in a cross cut) to prevent the skin from breaking during cooking and to allow better penetration of the flavor (#2).

1. I placed all the ingredients of the cooking broth in a frying pan.
2. As soon as the sugar melted, I put in the fish (#2).  Covered it loosely with aluminum foil (or "otoshibuta" 落としぶた) and let it come to a boil and immediately turned down the flame to simmer (#3). I continued  cooking them for 30 minutes, occasionally spooning the broth over the fish (but not turning the fish over to avoid any breakage) (#4). (I stopped at this step several hours before serving. I kept it covered. I reheated and proceed cooking tofu and scallion just before serving).
3. I removed the fish to serving plates and kept them warm.
4. I turned up the flame and reduced the cooking broth a bit further and added cubes of tofu and scallion (white parts first and then green parts) and cooked them for several minutes. I turned the tofu few times).

Red snapper samll composit

I served the fish with tofu and scallion and poured the reduced cooking broth over the fish.  On a second look, I should have taken the pictures without the sauce. In any case, we both enjoyed the fish. Since they were small red snappers, there were lots of bones and required some jedi chop stick action which my wife is better at than I am when it comes to eating fish. She donated the fish eye balls of her fish to me. (Such offerings are the cementing foundation of a good relationship!)  Just for the record, I do not eat the eye balls themselves just the gelatinous stuff behind the eyes.

DSC_0234 (1)
Although the fish were rather small it had lots of meat and we were getting filled up. We turned on the flood lights and went into night time cherry blossom gazing or "yozakura kenbutsu" 夜桜見物.