Tuesday, June 30, 2015

New small containers with three appetizers

When we visit Kyoto, we always go to Nishiki market 錦市場. Among the stores we visit is a small china store called "Kawazen touki" 河善陶器.  This time we found the store basically unchanged from previous visits except the proprietor (and us as well) were somewhat older. This place has a collection of small bowls and containers. We have not yet seen such things anywhere else (even in Kappabashi 河童橋). They come in essentially two sizes--very small and small. On one visit we heard one Chinese woman ask her companion, in English, what the dishes were used for and the woman answered, "for dolls" i.e. toys. We chortled about that statement for some time. On this visit we picked out two sets of the small sized dishes and a few extras.





On this trip we also got more small sake cups from Kita-ichi glass in Otaru 北市グラス、小樽, Hokkaido. One of them is shown here; a rather tall one with a frosted inside. We bought a set of 4 but when we used it for the first time, I broke one of them. Oh, well...glass and I do not always get along. In any case, I was looking for an occasion when I could use these new containers. Since we did not have anything special to eat and I did not have time to go to the Japanese grocery store, I decided to make something from what we already had in the refrigerator or freezer.


So, here are three small appetizers presented in the new containers. From the left, grated daikon and jako garnished with tobiko and edamame, center is peanuts in sweet miso with walnuts, the right is chicken (barbecued) and green beans dressed in sesame mayonnaise.


The one below was inspired by an otoshi dish we had in a Yakitori place called "Kushiwakamaru" in Naka-meguro (Dave, Tobias and their wives went there with us and we had a grand time). It is grated daikon with jako (dried small bait fish) dressed in sweet vinegar. At Kushiwaka-maru, the amount they gave us was so large that we (my wife and I) could not finish it. But this time, I made only a small amount that we could handle. Since I happened to have tobiko (previously frozen) and edamame (left over from a salad my wife made that day). I used these as garnish for additional color in the dish.


The center dish was inspired by the breakfast we had in Wakamatsu Honten 若松本店, a Japanese Ryokan in Narita where we always stay on our last night in Japan. Being a ryokan, they give us a grand spread of food for dinner and breakfast. I should have taken pictures. One of the dishes among so many served for our breakfast was peanuts in sweet miso, a Chiba 千葉 prefecture speciality (where Narita is located). While my rendition was not bad I will have to work on improving it. Initially my intention was to use walnuts as the basic ingredient. (I thought I could take a shortcut by stealing some of the walnuts my wife had roasted for her grain salads. While I had no problem snarfing the edamame because it was left over, I was not so fortunate with the walnuts. She caught me before I could amass a sufficient amount and I had to revert back to using peanuts) which were the main ingredient for this dish served at the roykan.  This is how I made it. I put miso in a small sauce pan and added mirin and sugar. I mixed well and gently heated up the mixture until the consistency came back almost to the original miso. I then added ground walnuts (ground in a Japanese suribachi mortar) and further mixed. I then added peanuts (dry roasted lightly salted). It tasted very similar to what we had but was a bit too salty. I may use peanut butter in the next try.



The last one is shredded chicken (which we barbecued few days ago) and small pieces of cooked green beans and dressed then in sesame mayonnaise (mayo, sesame paste and soy sauce).



For three quick appetizers to inaugurate our new containers, these were quite ok. The peanuts in sweet miso was a bit too salty by itself but would have been perfect with rice. This dish definitely requires more improvement. Sake in a new glass also somehow tasted better. 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Chicken and green beans in sesame dressing

These are nothing new but several rather good healthy appetizers. I could make these quickly because I already had cooked chicken breast and cooked green beans.



Traditionally the chicken breast or tenderloin would have been sake steamed but since I had barbecued whole chicken, I removed the tenderloins and hand shredded them into thin strands along the grain of the meat.



I also had haricot vert (small green beans) which I cooked in salted boiling water for a few minutes and let cool quickly. (I prefer using a fan to cool veggies rather than soaking them in ice water because the ice water would make the green beans taste water logged.) Using a fan, the green beans are cooked but still crunchy and keeps its color. I cut the green beans into 1 and 1/2 inch long pieces.



Dressing:

White roasted sesame seeds:  1tsp, although they are pre-roasted, I dry roasted them again in a frying pan and ground them in a Japanese mortar or suribachi until they became somewhat pasty but some of the sesame seeds were just coarsely ground.

White sesame paste (shiro nerigoma): 1 tsp, This comes in a plastic pouch or can.

Sugar, soy sauce and rice vinegar

I put the sesame paste and ground sesame in the Japanese mortar, added sugar (1/2 tsp), soy sauce (1/2 tsp) and rice vinegar (1/3 tsp). I checked the consistency of the dressing, tasted and adjusted the seasoning and liquids. I dressed both the chicken and green beans with the dressing and garnished with more whole roasted sesame seeds.

This is a tried and true good starter to have with for sake.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Daikon steak with cheese

I made this dish sometime ago. I must have seen this dish on the Internet. The most time consuming part of the preparation is boiling the daikon. Once that is done, the actual cooking is quick and easy.



I first pre-cooked the daikon as usual; I peeled the skin and cut the daikon into 1 inch thick rounds. I placed them in cold water with several kernels of raw rice, simmered for 20 minutes or until the daikon was cooked.

I first cut the daikon round in half. Using a small paring knife, I made a slit leaving the edge intact. I then inserted the slices of cheese (Any melting cheese will work. Here I used smoked cheddar). You may have to trim the corners of the cheese to make the slices fit. (left upper).

I put a pat of butter in a non-stick frying pan on low heat and started cooking the stuffed daikon (right upper). When the edges got slightly brown (in about 2-3 minutes), I turned them over (left lower). After a few more minutes of cooking I added just a small mount of soy sauce (right lower). I turned the stuffed daikon so that soy sauce covered all sides.

Daikon with cheese comp

Certainly this is an interesting dish. We are not crazy about it but it is a nice small dish that goes with any drink. If you already have pre-cooked daikon for other dishes such as oden, this is certainly worth a try.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

baked potato with bacon fat

Did I tell you that my wife is in pursuit of the ultimate oven fried potato? This is another attempt. The previous time, she parboiled the potatoes with the addition of baking soda and used duck fat. This time, she replaced duck fat with bacon dripping. As before she flavored the potatoes with fresh chopped rosemary.



The process was same as before, parboiling the white potatoes with the addition of baking soda. The main difference is that she added bacon dripping instead of duck fat. She also used all purpose (AP) potatoes instead of yukon gold.




The final result? It was very good oven fried potatoes but we did not taste much bacon flavor. We smelled the bacon while the potatoes were baking but somehow that did not translate into the flavor. We felt the same about the duck fat potatoes. Also the use of AP instead of Yukon gold potatoes doesn’t seemed to have mattered either. Maybe, for us, just olive oil would do the trick and that would be slightly healthier.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Stir-fried cabbage with fennel seed, parsley and lemon

This is a type of stir-fried cabbage dish. If this were done Japanese style, It would be seasoned with mirin and soy sauce but this one is from Cook’s illustrated and is seasoned with salt, pepper, lemon and parsley. I made some modifications and added fennel seeds and lemon zest. Since my wife fried up bacon to make bacon fat (for her oven fried potatoes), I garnished this dish with crispy bacon.



According to the original recipe, cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables have "sulfa" smells (it does not bother me at all) which can be reduced by soaking finely sliced cabbage in cold water for a few minutes.

Ingredients:
Cabbage: 1/4 head cut into fine strips.
Onion: One medium, cut into think strips.
Lemon: Juice of one lemon and zest (using a micrograder).
Fennel seeds (optional, 1/4 tsp).
Parsley: 4-5 sprigs, leaves removed and finely chopped.
Salt and pepper to taste.

cabbage stir fry composit

First, I added oil to a frying pan on medium heat and added some Fennel seeds. When the Fennel got fragrant, I added the onion and sautéed until soft and the edges browned slightly. I seasoned with salt and pepper (#1). I then added the cabbage (soaked in cold water for 5 minutes, and drained) (#2). When the cabbage was cooked, I added the lemons zest, lemon juice and continued stirring, I added chopped parsley, mixed and the cut the heat (#4). I tasted and adjusted the salt and pepper. I garnished it with crispy bacon (the first picture).

This is a good way to serve cabbage. I still like the Japanese style with strips of deep fried tofu seasoned with soysauce and mirin but this is a good Western style variation.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Cold salmon and simmered vegetables 冷製サーモンと野菜の煮付け


This was a starter dish for one evening made up of leftovers. Cold salmon was leftover from pan fried and oven finished salmon filets. Straight out of the oven,  the skin was nicely crispy and we preferentially ate all the skin leaving good sized chunks of meat behind as leftovers. I simply served these salmon chunks cold with baby arugula dressed with honey mustard dressing.



On the right are simmered vegetables which started life as "oden" おでん. I served the oden several times stretching it out by adding boiled eggs, tofu, and fish cakes. These carrots, daikon, and konnyaku コンニャク were the remaining survivors of this never ending oden, I added a top portion of boiled bamboo shoot (leftover from when I made mu shu pork). I seasoned the oden broth further by adding soy sauce and mirin and made the remaining veggies to "Nitsuke" 煮つけ (compared to oden, nitsuke usually has much stronger seasoning).

Finally all the leftovers have been accounted for and served. I do not remember what we drank with this but either red wine or sake would be just fine.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Grated nagaimo and onsen egg トロロ温泉卵入り

This is a classic way of eating nagaimo 長芋 or yamaimo 山芋 in Japan. This preparation of grating or "Tororo" トロロ, however,  is not for most Western audiences since it is ultimately "slimy". My wife appears to have overcome the sliminess most of the time after gradual conditioning over the years. Although grated nagaimo  has right consistency as is, yamaimo tends to become very thick and to eat as "Tororo", it may have to be diluted with dashi (or my mother used to dilute it with miso soup since this was often served as a breakfast item and miso soup was also regularly served for breakfast).




I grated the nagaimo, seasoned with soy sauce with wasabi and chopped scallion. Since I had onsen eggs 温泉卵 which I had made previously sitting in the refrigerator, I dropped that in the middle and garnished it with thin strips of nori seaweed.



When you dig in you see the nice creamy egg yolk. The egg can be poured over rice and enjoyed as is the traditional way, we just ate as a accompaniment for sake. Since the potato has lots of starch, this is surprisingly filling and remarkably went well with sake.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Three appetizers お通し三種

This is another one of my otoshi お通しappetizer threesome. We got small covered containers and divided wooden trays  at a small shop in the Nishiki Market 錦市場 in Kyoto 京都 some years ago. Square and pentagonal bowls were from Gumps in San Francisco. This was one of the warmer days so far this year and for the first time, we were having this outside.



When you open the lids, it is ”fermented squid and guts” or shiokara 塩辛 . When written out in English it sounds very un-appetizing but it is one of the delicacies perfect for sipping sake and my wife's favorite. This one came frozen in a small pouch and. It is not as salty as ones we had before and was quite good.

The left is wakame seaweed 若芽 and cucumber salad (dressed with sushi vinegar, sesame oil and light colored soy sauce), the right is onsen egg 温泉卵 (cooked in my Sous Vide machine), dressed with ponzu sauce and garnished with finely chopped scallion and salmon roe or ikura いくら.



These are the ultimate for sipping sake. We gazed at our plum blossoms, tasting a little of these appetizers and sipping more sake.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Duck fat roasted potato 究極のオーブンポテト

My wife is always in pursuit of the "ultimate" fried potato without actually frying. She has been making "oven fried potato" which is very good but a bit of work. This time, from the same source, "Cook's illustrated",  she saw a recipe for "duck fat roasted potato" with rosemary. Duck fat is not something we regularly stock. When I cook duck breast I usually mop up the fat with paper towels but last time, I poured the rendered duck fat into a small ramekin since the amount of rendered fat was unusually large. I did not have any intention of saving it but my wife apparently covered it and placed it in the refrigerator. So when she came across this recipe, it was like the stars and the moon were lining up properly and she had to try it. The below is the final product; nice thick crispy crust and soft center with nice rosemary flavor.



Unlike myself, my wife measures, weighs and follows the recipe precisely. She had to scale the original recipe to 2/3 but the amount given below is from the original recipe.

Ingredients:
3 1/2 lb Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces (#1)
              Kosher salt and pepper
1/2 tsp   baking soda
6 tbs      duck fat
1 tbs      chopped fresh rosemary

Instruction:
  1. Preheat oven to 475F with a rimmed baking sheet on the top shelf
  2. Add 10 cups of water to a pot and boil over high heat, add potatoes, 1/3 cup of salt and baking soda. Return to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Drain potatoes. Return potatoes to pot and place over low heat. Cook, shaking pot occasionally, until surface moisture has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add 5 tablespoons duck fat, 1 teaspoon of salt, mix to coat (#2).
  3. Remove (hot) baking sheet from the oven spread potato in one layer and bake for 15 minutes (3#, surface is showing just few brown spots).
  4. Using metal spatula, turn the potatoes over (#3), the bottom developed nice brown crust. We made sure that the pale side of potatoes is down and brown side up #4) and baked 12-15 minutes longer. While potatoes roast, combine finely chopped rosemary and the remaining 1 tbs duck fat in a bowl.
  5. Spoon rosemary mixture over the potatoes (#5) and using spatula turn.  Bake an additional 3-5 minutes (#6). Season with salt and pepper as needed.


ultimate orasted potato

This is less work than oven-fried potato and the result is better. Because of the par-boiling and baking soda, a thick crust forms during baking and the fresh rosemary adds a nice flavor. Although the entire kitchen smelled of duck fat, we did not taste not much "duck" flavor on the potato.

We may try this with just olive oil or with bacon dripping. Another alternative may be using white potato instead of Yukon Gold. In any case, this is indeed a fantastic oven potato. The leftovers heat well in the toaster oven.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Pork and Potato 豚肉じゃが

Nikijaga 肉じゃが is traditionally made from thinly sliced beef and potato which I posted some years ago. As usual, when I prepared pork tenderloins, I hand-chopped trimmings into ground pork. After consulting with my wife, I made two dishes; mapo tofu 麻婆豆腐 (which I will posted soon) and nikujaga made from ground pork. Either using beef or pork, this is a Japanese version of meat and potato comfort food.



For green, I added steamed green beans at the very end and the noodle is "shirataki" 白滝 or threads made of konnyaku コンニャク (devil's tongue).



The amount of ingredients is arbitrary but these are the estimates.

Potato: 4 large Yukon Gold potato, peeled, eyes removed and cut into 1 inch chunks.
Onion: 2 medium, cut into small wedges.
Pork: about 150grams or 1/3 lb (you can use whatever amount and also thinly sliced rather than ground).
Green beans: Either boiled or steamed, still crispy.

Seasoning:
Dashi broth: 250-300ml or about 1 cup, just enough to cover the ingredients. I used one I previously made from a dashi pack (Bonito and kelp).
Sugar: 1 tbs
Mirin: 2 tbs
Sake: 2tbs
Soy sauce: 2-3 tbs, I added in several increments as I tasted.
Vegetable oil: 1 tbs

In a pot, I added the vegetable oil on medium flame. When the oil was hot, I added the ground pork and cooked until the color chanced (2-3 minutes) and it was done. I added the onion and sautéed until soft (3 more minutes), then added the potato, mixed and added the broth to cover.  When the broth came to a boil I turned down the flame to simmer and added the seasoning. I added the soy sauce in several increments tasting the broth each time. I cooked with a lid on for 20 minutes until the potato was cooked through. I removed the lid and reduce the broth a bit, gently shaking the pot for 5-7 minutes. I added a small amount of soy sauce to give a fresh taste and then added the green beans. After a few more minutes, I turned off the fire and served warm.

I think this is perfect for a small dish served with either wine or sake. I must say, I rather like the pork version of this dish since that is how my mother used to make it and I generally like pork more than beef.