Saturday, October 31, 2015

Chestnut buns 栗入り全粒小麦 バン

Since I have exhausted my collection of chestnut recipes over the past several years, my wife came to the rescue. She made chestnut buns. She ended up using her favorite whole wheat buttermilk bun recipe and added chestnuts from North American Chestnuts which I prepared.

We served this with my chestnuts in syrup and pats of butter.

The bread recipe came from Laurel's Kitchen: Bread Book.

2tsp active dry yeast
1/2cup warm water
3/4cup very hot water
1/4 honey
1 1/4 buttermilk
5 1/2 whole wheat flour
2tsp salt
4tbs butter
1 to 2 cups chopped up chestnuts in fairly large chunks


Bloom the yeast in the 1/2 cup warm water. Mix the hot water, salt, honey and buttermilk. It should be just slightly warm. Put 4 cups of wheat flour into the bowl of the mixer. Add the liquid ingredients to the flour and continue mixing. Add additional flour until the dough reaches a soft but not sticky consistency. For rolls the dough should be fairly soft. Once the right consistency is reached, knead for 7 minutes. Then an additional 3 minutes first adding the butter a tablespoon at a time until incorporated then the chestnut pieces. If the mixer can't handle the chestnut pieces knead the last part by hand.

chestnuts roll composit

Form the dough into a ball and put into a bowl that has a little vegetable oil on the bottom to coat the ball so it doesn't dry out as it rises. Rise in a warm place until double. Deflate and let rise again. The second rising will take 1/2 the time. When it has doubled again deflate and form into individual buns. (To get buns of equal size I weigh the dough--3 1/8 ounces makes the size shown here). Put them in a heavily buttered baking dish. (The butter in the dish makes the crust nice and crunchy). Cook at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes (check them after 15 minutes).

Although this is a whole wheat bread, it is very soft and moist and, by far, our favorite whole wheat bun. The addition of chestnuts was very nice but in retrospect, we should have put in larger pieces and more of them. (Initially we were concerned that the chestnuts might end up fairly hard and in a large size would not have a pleasant mouth feel but it turns out they absorbed into the dough and were quite soft). Since preparing chestnuts is a lot of work, next time we may try making this recipe with prepared chestnuts in a jar (from Europe especially France).

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Tsukune with renkon 蓮根つくね

This is a variation of Japanese chicken patty, tuskune つくね.  Generally tsukune in Japan contains chopped up "soft bone" (cartilage or "nankotsu"  軟骨).  My wife does not like this, since  it reminds of her childhood when ground meat always had some bone fragments mixed in.  Instead, I chop up lotus root ("renkon" 蓮根) to add some crunchy texture to tsukune. This time, instead of including chopped up lotus root in the patty, I used a slice of lotus root as a base and pressed tsukune on the top. The combination of ground meat and lotus root is rather common and I posted deep fried lotus root sandwich 蓮根のはさみ揚げ,  previously.  I got this idea from "Sakaba hourouki 酒場放浪記 on YouTube which we saw one evening. In one of the episodes, this dish was served to the always somewhat inebriated host.

To show how this is constructed, left is the patty side and right is lotus root side on the top, respectively. I took a shortcut and I cooked this in a frying pan. Instead of making "tare" sauce, I just made a quick pan sauce to coat the tsukune.

There are many variations on what can be included in tsukune.  The only consistent ingredient is ground chicken.  One of the reasons I had for making this dish was to use barbequed chicken left over from the previous weekend. So, I mixed finely chopped cooked breast meat with store-bought ground chicken breast. I am not sure about the amount as usual but both the cooked and ground chicken were about 1 lb each. The idea here is that the cooked chicken adds texture and the raw ground chicken binds the tsukune together.  You could add anything you like but this time, I added finely chopped scallion (5 stalks including green parts), grated garlic and ginger (about 1/2 tsp each but whatever amount you like), and 1 tbs of miso. Since the mixture was a bit stiff, I also added one whole egg beaten. I made 1/3 for this dish and 2/3 for usual tsukune. For the usual tsukune, I added coarsely chopped lotus root. I made 8 tsukune on lotus root as you can see below. I pressed the meat mixture so that some went into the holes of the lotus root.

With a small amount of vegetable oil (or dark sesame oil if you so prefer) on medium heat,

I cooked the meat side first for 1-2 minutes until the surface was nicely browned. I flipped them over and cooked for another 1-2 minutes. I then added mirin, sake and soy sauce (1tsp each) into the pan. I shook the pan, until a viscous sauce developed and flipped them over so that the sauce coated all surfaces.

I served hot with a sprinkling of powder “sansho”  山椒. Because I used only breast meat, it was a bit on the dry side especially when it was reheated later. But this is another good way to use up cooked chicken.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Japanese pumpkin potage with chestnut 栗入りカボチャのポタージュ

This is nothing really new. The other day, I got a Japanese pumpkin or kabocha カボチャ at the Japanese grocery store. As usual, I made simmered pumpkin or カボチャの煮物 (second picture below).  I also made chestnuts simmered in syrup 栗の甘露煮.  So, I just combined all three into one dish.

I prepared the kabocha as usual. I removed the skin and rounded off the sharp edges of each piece to prevent the edges from crumbling during the cooking process (called "nikuzure 煮崩れ). So, I used these scraps and the portion of kabocha which was too thin to be made into individual pieces to make the potage. I made the simmered pumpkin  exactly the same was as before seasoned with sugar, mirin, and soy sauce.

For the potage, I added finely diced onion sautéed in butter, small cubes of potato simmered in chicken broth (my usual Swanson no fat low sodium) with a few bay leaves for 20 minutes or until everything was cooked and soft. After removing the bay leaves, I pureed the pumpkin mixture using an immersion blender until all the solids were gone. (picture below).

I added cream, mixed, seasoned with salt and white pepper and warmed up before serving. Since I  made chestnuts simmered in syrup, I placed the simmered pumpkin and chestnut in the bowl and poured the potage and garnished with finely chopped parsley.

The potage was sweet and velvety. With the addition of the simmered pumpkin and chestnut, this is really the taste of autumn.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Jalapeno Cheddar roll ハロペニョチェダーロール

When I saw this recipe, I thought ‘This is something my wife would be delighted to make’. Not that she is into Jalapeno pepper or anything hot but the idea of rolling bread dough with cheese and pepper inside would appeal to her. The original recipe calls for pickled Jalapeno peppers but we used fresh ones after deveining and deseeding (i.e. not hot at all).

Even as the bread was baking the kitchen was filled with the wonderful smell of cheddar and Jalapeno. The cheddar cheese all melted and made a nice brown crust on the top  and bottom.

The below is our variation of the original recipe ).
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons sugar,
 2 teaspoons dry yeast, 285 grams bread flour divided into two parts; 95 grams for the yeast sponge and 190 grams for the bread. As is usually the case with bread dough additional flour in reserve in case the dough was too wet.
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
240 grams Cheddar cheese shredded (about 2 cups) (We used smoked Cheddar)
2 fresh jalapeno peppers, deseeded and deveined and finely chopped
1. Stir the sugar and salt into the milk and scald the milk stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt. Cool to about 105 degrees F (40 C), add the yeast to the mixture to proof it. Once the yeast becomes bubbly add the 95 grams flour. Cover and let this mixture rest in a warm place until it's doubled in size. This forms the sponge.
2) Add the remaining 190 grams of flour to the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the sponge and start mixing at a low speed. Add the eggs, one at a time until fully incorporated. Add the butter in pieces until fully incorporated. Add additional flour as needed until the dough is soft but not sticky. Kneed the dough for 7 to 10 minutes. Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface, let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes then roll it out into an 18 x 18 inch square (45 cm x 45 cm).
3) Sprinkle evenly with the cheese, putting a little extra cheese towards the edge closest to you and then scatter the jalapenos evenly over the top. (#1 in the picture below)
4) Roll the dough up and then slice the roll into thirds and then slice each third into 3 wheels. (#2 and 3 in the picture below. We sliced the pieces a bit thinner, after we divided the roll into thirds we sliced each third into 4 equal rolls).
5) We arranged  them in a 8" x 8" greased pan lined with parchment paper. We covered the pan with saran wrap and let it rise in a warm place (we had a bit irregular diameters, #4 in the picture below). We  preheated the oven to 350 degrees F.
6)When the dough had risen to fill the pan, we placed it in the preheated oven and baked until golden brown (25-30 minutes).

Jallopeno pepper role composit

Even though we deviated a bit from the original recipe we love this roll . The cheese we used gave it a very nice smoky cheddar flavor. The fresh jalapeno pepper taste was also very nice without heat. Interestingly the cheese melted into the bread adding moisture and out the top and bottom making a crunchy crust. This is a perfect roll for a snack.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Another otoshi threesome 又々お通し三種類

These are, again, an otoshi threesome I served one evening.

One of the times I made  cold simmered vegetables which we like to have on hand in the summer, I  included renkon  レンコン or lotus root and kon-nyaku コンニャク or devil's tongue. Both were too much to use in the vegetable dish so I made a small dish of kinpira of renkon and konnyaku.  The konnyaku was par boiled and I cut it into small long strips. The renkon was just sliced thinly. I put a small amount of vegetable oil with a splash of dark toasted sesame oil in a frying pan on medium heat and added flakes of dried red pepper. Then I added the renkon and konyaku and sautéed them until the oil coated the surface. I then braised by adding mirin and soy sauce. I braised it until only a small amount of liquid remained in the pan. I added white roasted sesame seeds and cut the fire. This is a variation of kinpira but the contrast of texture between renkon (firm and crunchy) and the konnyaku (soft but elastic) was perfect.

Since I had pork loin barbecued in my Weber grill (trussed, seasoned with salt, black pepper and finely chopped fresh rosemary and hot smoked/barbecued to the internal temperature of 145F) and also my potato salad, I made rolls. This combination cannot go wrong.

Since I prepared (boiled) harcoverts over the weekend, I just dressed it with sesame paste/mayo dressing (Mayonnaise, white sesame paste, and soy sauce) to complete my threesome.

These were good starters for the evening.

Friday, October 16, 2015

All Matsutake lunch 松茸尽くしの昼食

Since it was Matsutake 松茸 season, we ordered fresh matsutake from Oregon Mushroom as usual. They offer grade #1 and grade#2/#3 with grade#1 being the better matsutake with unopened caps. This year, they had some problem harvesting grade#1 matsutake and there was some delay before we received it. Around the same time, we received Northern American chestnuts from Gilolami farms. So, we have two major ingredients for our annual autumnal feast. I have posted all the chestnut and matsutake recipes I can think of previously.  In any case, on one weekend, we had this all matsutake lunch consisting of matsutake rice 松茸ご飯, chawanmushi 松茸茶碗蒸しand clear soup 松茸のお吸物.

I made the Matsutake rice the night before using the Kamado-san donabe rice cooker.

I heated the rice for lunch just microwaving it and topping it with thin slices of fresh matsutake. I garnished with green part of scallion. The fresh matsutake slices added a wonderful subtle aroma to this dish.

I also made matsutake chawanmushi and clear soup for this lunch. For both, I used a filet of sole which was first salted and sprinkled with sake, cut into bite sized pieces and gently poached (I turned off the heat after I added the sole) in dashi broth for few minutes (as usual, I made it with a dashi pack containing dried bonito flakes and kelp).

In the chawanmush, I only included thinly sliced matsutake and small pieces of poached dover sole filet. I garnished with snow peas (added to the chawanmush at the last 5 minutes of steaming) and garnished with yuzu skin (from frozen packed) and scallion.

I made clear soup from the same prepared broth seasoned with light colored soys sauce or usukuchi shouyu 薄口醤油, a splash of mirin and salt. I added silken tofu from Japan, matsutake slices. I also added yuzu skin and snow pea.

This was a rather luxurious lunch. The sole filet was very mild in flavor and had a melt-in-your-mouth consistency which was very nice.  The chawamushi was lava hot initially but the silky consistency and subtle matsutake aroma were sublime. We succumbed to having our house sake daiginjou "MU" 大吟醸 無--but just one glass.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Pork belly crisp 豚バラの唐揚げ

This is by far one of the most deadly dishes I’ve ever made. After using thinly sliced pork belly for grilled pork belly wrapped fig and asparagus, I made a quick stir-fried dish with pork belly, cabbage, zucchini slices  (I did not take any pictures). From the  remaining pork belly, I made this dish which is essentially pork belly kara-age 豚バラの唐揚げ.

Since the thinly sliced pork belly was not as thin as it would be in Japan as "bara-niku" バラ肉 , I first further thinned the meat using a meat pounder. I cut the pieces into 2-3 inch strips and marinated them in mirin, sake and soy sauce mixture (1:1:2 ratio) for at least several hours (I marinated it overnight). After removing the excess marinade by blotting with paper towel,  I dredged them in potato starch or "katakuriko" 片栗粉 (see below).

Since they are very thin pieces of meat, they fry up quickly. I deep fried them turning once in 350F vegetable oil for 1 minute on each side.

I drained the excess oil on a cooling rack.

I tasted a small piece to make sure it was done properly and it was. Very crispy. I served this on the bed of water cress (I removed all thick stems from the cress) and a wedge of lemon.

It is like crispy bacon but it is probably a bit deadlier and has a nice lightness despite high fat content. Excellent starter snack for red wine.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Pork belly wrapped fig and asparagus イチジクとアスパラのバラ肉巻き

It was another rather nice day in Washington DC and we decided to grill outside. I was sent by-she-who-must-be-obeyed to the near-by Whole food market to get fresh whole fish. I got fish (trout, nothing else looked great). While there I could not resist buying sliced pork belly or "Bara-niku" バラ肉 which is a very common cut in Japan but we can get it only at this store around here. It is essentially "raw" (as in not smoked or cured) bacon meat. Since we were grilling our trout on a charcoal fire, I decided to make skewers using the pork belly. I was not thinking of any specific recipe but, since I also got mission figs at the same store, I decided to wrap the figs with pork belly. I first cut the figs into quarters and then wrapped them and skewered them for grilling.

I also had pencil asparagus already blanched and ready to go, I wrapped them in pork belly as well (below picture). I seasoned it salt and pepper before grilling.

I am sure this is not good for you but grilled pork belly with crispy edges and sweet figs inside (grilling enhanced the sweetness of the fig) cannot go wrong. My wife asked me to grill the pieces more after fig/pork belly was removed from the skewers to make all the surfaces crispy even the ones between the pieces on the skewer.

The asparagus joined in later.

We enjoyed this delectable pork belly as a starter with a red wine.  We then started on our trout. This time, I simply salted them (after scaling).

We really enjoyed the simply prepared trout. We did not need any thing else with the fish. Salt and charcoal fire really make the fish taste good.

As an ending dish, I made our usual grilled rice balls but this time, I made sweet miso sauce (miso, sugar, mirin) and brushed it on towards the end of the cooking (below).

I happened to make beer pickles the prior weekend and served it (daikon, carrot, and cucumber) on the side.

The daikon was the same extremely "hot" one we tasted as grated daikon and was very spicy even as pickles. I sort of liked it but my wife thought her stomach could not take it.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Grilled corn and black bean salad 焼きとうもろこしとブラックビーンのサラダ

This is a variation on a previously (5 years ago) posted recipe corn and black bean salad. After tasting grilled corn in a salad my wife got from the grocery store recently, she was inspired to try grilling rather and the usual microwaving of the corn for this salad. The added grilled flavor made this salad much better.

Since we could not grill the corns outside (mosquitos!), we decided to roast the fresh corn on a cast iron griddle (see below).

We brushed a small amount of olive oil on the corn and grilled it until surface got brown (see below) turning frequently. It smoked a bit although our exhaust fan handled it well. Next time, we may grill it without the oil.

Using a chefs knife and standing up the cob on it's stem, I cut off the corn kernels.

Grilled fresh corn: 6 ears, kernels removed.
Black beans: 16 oz can, drained.
Jalapeno pepper: 1 veined and seeds removed, finely chopped.
Fresh cilantro: Leaves finely chopped, 1/4 cup
Lemon juice freshly squeezed: 1 -2 lemon(s) or 3 tbs
Olive oil 3 tbs
Ground (roasted) cumin
Salt and ground black pepper

I mixed everything in a bowl and let it stand for several hours in the refrigerator.

The grilling process added a nice grilled flavor. This is a very refreshing summer salad.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Marinated Bonito bowl 鰹のたたきの漬け丼

We had a frozen bonito tataki on Saturday but we had other dishes with it and could not finish it. So I quickly marinated the leftovers in a mixture of mirin, sake and soy sauce (1:1:2 ratio) with all the condiments (grated ginger, slices of garlic and scallion, and perilla) and made a bonito-tataki-zuke donburi 鰹のたたきの漬け丼 for lunch on Sunday. I also topped it with a poached egg with runny yolk (I used pasteurized eggs).

When we had tataki, I also made fried garlic chips in addition to raw ones, which I also added as a garnish.

As usual,  I used frozen rice, mixed in a few teaspoons of sushi vinegar and microwaved to make sushi rice. I placed strips of nori, myoga, and perilla on top followed by slices of marinated tataki of bonito. I poached 2 eggs for 4-5 minutes and then soaked them in ice water to stop the cooking. After draining the eggs on a paper towel, I placed the poached eggs in the center of the bowel. I added more strips of nori, perilla leaves and garlic chips. I poured a small amount of the marinade over the rice as well.

I made miso soup with abura-age, wakame sea weed and tofu. I added thinly sliced myoga since I had it.

I also made cucumber and myoga salad (thinly sliced myoga and cucumber), salted, kneaded and let it stand  for 10 minutes. Moisture squeezed out and then dressed in sushi vinegar.

For leftover control, this was a rather luxurious lunch. The poached egg with runny yolk was also very nice mixed in with rice and bonito.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Tuna and egg plant with mizore dressing 鮪とナスのみぞれ和え

This is another installment in my continuing quest to find a way to enjoy low-quality frozen blocks of yellowfin tuna.  This is based on a recipe I saw on the web. But for a few reasons, this dish turned out to be not as good as it could have been. It is combination of cubes of tuna sashimi, steamed (microwaved) egg plant dressed in grated daikon.

Since we had just harvested fresh myoga, I use it for garnish.

Since I could not get a Japanese eggplant, I used a small Italian eggplant. As per the recipe, I wrapped it in plastic wrap and placed it in a silicon microwave container and microwaved it for a few minutes then let it cool with the wrap still on. After it reached room temperature, I cooled it further in the refrigerator. I cut both the eggplant and tuna into similar sized block pieces. I gave it my usual "yubiki" treatment and then coated with sashimi soy sauce (below).

I grated the daikon and drained out the liquid using a fine mesh strainer. I added a small amount of rice vinegar and soy sauce and mixed the tuna and eggplant with the grated daikon.

We had two problems with this particular dish and they both had to do with the quality of the ingredients we used (not the tuna this time). One was that the grated daikon was ridiculously and atomically hot! This is a bit unusual but daikon is from the horseradish family and some, like this one, exhibit their heritage to greater or lesser degrees. We actually had to remove the daikon in order to be able to eat the rest of the dish. Another problem was the quality of the egg plant. It had good amount of seeds, which I mostly removed, but it did not have the wonderful texture and taste of a Japanese eggplant. I would like to try this dish again using a milder daikon and better quality egg plant.