Monday, November 30, 2015

Simmered Nagaimo and Fried tofu 厚揚げと長芋の煮付け

I bought atsu-age 厚揚げ at our Japanese grocery store one weekend thinking I would either add it to oden おでん or just grill it in the toaster oven but neither happened.  I realized "the best tasted before date" was a few day AGO. So, instead of grilling, I switched to “emergency mode” and quickly made this dish which is like oden but has only a few items.



Again, I made this with what I had on hand.  I had half a nagaimo 長芋 in the refrigerator left over from when I made yamakake  山かけ more than a week ago. I also had some nice thick shiitake mushrooms which I also bought at the Japanese grocery store sometime ago that needed to be used.



So this is the dish I came up with.

Broth: I made broth from dashi pack (dried bonito and kelp), added sake, mirin, light colored soy sauce. I supplemented the soy sauce with salt added in increments as I tasted. I used the salt because I did not want the nagaimo to become too dark as it would have if I used all soy sauce but I also wanted properly seasoned simmering broth. (I ended up using about 1/2 tsp of Kosher salt).

Atsu-age: I placed them in a colander and poured hot water over them (from the instant hot water dispenser which is connected to Culligan reverse-ososis filtering system) to remove excess oil. I then cut them in half.

Nagaimo: I peeled and cut into 1 inch-thick rounds and then halved them. I immediately soaked in water with a splash of rice vinegar.

Shiitake mushrooms: I removed the stems and cut into half inch slices (this was rather large and thick shiitake, possibly from Japan).

I placed the nama-age, nagaimo and shiitke in the broth and gently simmered it for 40-50 minutes. I served it in a bowl with a bit of the simmering broth and garnished it with chopped scallion.

This was a good combination. When cooked, the nagaimo looses it's sliminess and has a nice crunchy texture. This was perfect for cold sake.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Smoked salmon with poached egg スモークサーモンの温玉乗せ

This was breakfast for one weekend. I have  posted a similar dish before but we like this variation a lot. This is an open sandwich with salmon and soft poached egg.



I garnished with ikura salmon roe which made it very luxurious. This time, instead of creme fraiche, we used cream cheese spread with onion and chives.



Since We had freshly made cucumber onion salad, I served it on the side.

Bread: We used a slice of toasted store-bought semolina sesame bread
Cream Cheese: We used store bought whipped cream cheese with chive.
Poached egg: We used commercial pasteurized eggs from Davidson.
Smoked salmon: This was "pastrami"style.
Cucumber, onion salad: Made of sliced mini cucumber, sweet onion (salted and soaked in water) dressed in Greek yogurt (home made) and rice vinegar.

The runny yolk really makes this dish wonderful. The addition of salmon roe added richness and saltiness which was perfect. The cucumber salad was refreshing with a lot of fresh dill flavor; a perfect accompaniment. With Cappuccinos, this was a perfect breakfast for us.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Sautéed baby octopus タコのソテー

This is one of the dishes I made from a package of frozen small octopuses (octopi?) (we’ll call them guys) which I found in the frozen case of our Japanese grocery store. The package indicated this was a product made in the U.S. for an Italian American clientele. The package contained three little guys and I used two in my oden おでん (I did not take pictures but I posted octopus in oden previously). I made one into this dish. This was sautéed in olive oil and seasoned with salt and black pepper. We had this with red wine.



I washed and salted the thawed guys. I kneaded them in a metal bowl in an attempt to tenderize.



I then boiled them in water with added salt, sake, and a small splash of rice vinegar for 30 minutes on low heat.



After 30 plus minutes, the octopus shrank quite a bit.



I cut two into several long pieces and placed then in my oden pot and simmered for 1 hour or so with other oden items. This was very tender and nice. The remaining one, I cut into bite sized pieces, placed them in a ZipLoc bag and added olive oil. I kept this in the fridge for a few days before we got back to it. I simply sautéed it in olive oil and seasoned it rather severely with salt and freshly ground black pepper.



The octopus was very tender and the flavor profile went well with wine. If I find a similar package again I will definitely buy one but so far I have not seen this item in the Japanese grocery store.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Dutch baby ダッチベイビー

We like to eat different things for weekend breakfast. Somehow we remembered that we used make Dutch baby quite often but we have not made it for some time.  In addition, I realized that I have not posted this before. So, one Saturday, I asked my wife to make it. We served this with roll-up smoked salmon with dill cream cheese, cucumber onion salad dressed in rice vinegar and Greek yogurt and wedges of tomato dressed in my mustard honey dressing.



The pancake nicely puffed up.



This is rather easy recipe but I will asked my wife to fill in.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
2 Tbs. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine the ingredients until moist (first picture below). Melt butter in a cast iron skillet over medium heat (second picture below). Pour batter into the pan and cook 1 minute (do not stir) (third picture below). Transfer pan to oven and cook for 18 minutes.





She also used a heavy cast iron skillet, preheated on medium high flame.



When the batter was poured in the edges bubbles up and made noise.



She placed the skillet in the oven and cooked for 18 minutes. It browned and puffed up nicely.



This is after it was taken out from the pan.



She cut it into 4 pieces and we each had two.



We should make this more often. This is indeed a wonderful pancake for breakfast.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Filet Mignon with Béarnaise sauce ヒレステーキバーネィソース添え

We do not eat this type of dinner often but we decided to have filet mignon with Béarnaise sauce and also opened a bottle of 2010 Joseph Phelps Insignia for the evening.



As sides, my wife made oven fried potatoes and sautéed  green beans and snow peas.



I could do without Béarnaise sauce but this is my wife's favorite sauces. Diversion alert: My wife told me about the culinary adventure she had solo in her youth at a 3 star restaurant in Paris. Although she studied French for many years she had no culinary vocabulary (the focus of her training was on the vocabulary that would enable her to discuss literature or political and economic issues in international academic/diplomatic circles), she  found herself quite adrift when faced with a French menu. That evening she spied something called rognon d'agneau avec Béarnaise. She didn’t know what rognon meant but she knew d’agneau meant lamb which she loved and, of course, she really liked Béarnaise so she ordered the dish. Not only that, but as a true French aficionado, she ordered it “bleu” or rare.  She smelled the stench the minute it emerged from the kitchen. They placed it in front of her bleeding all over the plate and reeking of urine.  She tentatively cut into it wondering what part of the lamb she was facing when she noticed the two waiters standing over in the corner snickering at her.  After several mouthfuls it dawned on her; she was eating basically raw lamb kidney! The only thing she could eat on the plate was the small container of béarnaise sauce which she licked clean. (Being a 3 star restaurant the sauce was pretty good). Now she does not enter a French restaurant without her French/English dictionary in tow.

I first salted the filet mignon and left them in the refrigerator uncovered for several hours (sort of a quick dry aging) and took them out 30 minutes before cooking. I seasoned with fresh ground black pepper and seared them (below). I finished cooking them in a 400F oven for 6 minutes for medium-rare.


For the Béarnaise sauce

1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 tablespoons minced shallots
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoons Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar ( I used rice vinegar)
1 large egg yolks
1/2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon

In the top pan of the double boiler directly on medium flame, I added a thin pat of butter and sautéed the shallot until it was semitransparent. I added vinegar, salt and pepper and reduced it close to half. I let it cool down off heat and then placed the top pan over the bottom part of the double boiler which had water in it at a gentle simmer. I added an egg yolk and whisked until frothy. I added tarragon and small cubes of butter and kept whisking until the sauce reached the proper consistency. (below, I did not use the entire stick of butter). I tasted and adjusted the seasoning as needed.



The sauce was a bit thicker than I intended but it tasted great (with this much butter and egg yolks, better be good). My wife wanted to save the small amount of remaining sauce but, of cause, it breaks if reheated after refrigeration.

Insignia is such an elegant California red. Some years ago, we visited the Joseph Phelps Vineyard. As a preferred customer, we tasted wines with Riedel glasses that they provided for the experience. After tasting, we got nice cheeses, sausages and baguette from a fancy grocery store in Calistoga and went back to the winery. We got a bottle of Insignia and two Riedel glasses and had a wonderful lunch at a picnic table under the large oak tree overlooking the vineyard. That is one of the most wonderful memories. We are still J-P wine club member and get an occasional shipment from them.

Insignia is not a candy wine but such a classic wine, to us, it is what the best Bordeaux wine should have tasted like i.e. without the funk.

We could not finish the steak but enjoyed our dinner and wine.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Drinking snacks from frozen tuna block 冷凍キハダマグロのさくの酒のあて

One week we could not stop at our Izakaya substitute Tako Grill. So, on the following weekend,  I tapped into our frozen emergency rations, i.e. frozen yellow fin tuna sashimi block to make several drinking snacks.

The first one was tuna and avocado cubes. This was similar to what I have made before; cubes of tuna sashimi and avocado dressed in soy sauce, sesame oil, with grated garlic. This time, however, I garnished it with crispy garlic chips since I had them already made.



The second was pseudo negitoro ネギトロ擬き.  Oh the magic of adding mayonnaise; it really tasted like real negitoro! I was thinking of serving this as a "shime" ending dish either as small sushi rolls or hand rolls but instead, I served it with nori sheets so that we would not get filled up. This worked very well. We made small rolls of negitoro wrapped in nori—excellent!



The third one was our usual yamakake 山かけ. I marinated the cubes of tuna for 1 hour or so in soy sauce and sake mix.



Because of the grated nagaimo yam, this dish is more filling than it looks. At this point we finished the entire block of yellow fin tuna. We wanted one more dish. So I served freshly made non-frozen fish cake or satsuma age さつま揚げ which I bought at our Japanese grocery store. I served it with burdock root salad dressed in sesame mayonnaise and Japanese shishitou green pepper 獅子唐芥子prepared in "Tsukuda-ni" 佃煮 style. I just broiled the fish cake  in a toaster oven until  thoroughly heated up and the surface showed some brown spots.



For this evening, we enjoyed Niigata 新潟 sake Kubota Senju 久保田千寿、吟醸. We were not a big fan of Kubota in the past. I remember the Kubota series, even the higher end ones, tended to be too dry and a bit yeasty but this one was quite fruity and crisp but not too dry and had no yeastiness. Several days, later we had a chance to taste 久保田万寿 Kubota Manju which is daiginjou. This one tasted drier than Senju. For the price, I consider Senju a much better buy.

At this point we were getting quite filled up but my wife wanted a small desert and served some grapes and a mini chocolate something. For a low quality frozen yellow fin tuna sashimi block, these dishes were quite enjoyable. We were especially impressed with the pseudo negitoro.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

US-made Ramen noodle #3 ラーメン その3 アメリカ製

Last time I posted ramen noodle ラーメン, I promised that it would be the last post on ramen but I lied. We only rarely eat ramen noodles and, by no means, we are aficionados (Japanese expression would be ramen-otaku ラーメンオタク, which sounds a bit more sinister), not even close.  For that matter, usually neither of us can finish one traditional Japanese sized serving of ramen and end up splitting the package of noodles between the two of us. The last several times I made ramen was when my mother sent me a box of ramen noodles from Nishiyama seimen 西山製麺 in Sapporo 札幌.

This time, my excuse for posting another ramen is that recently at my Japanese grocery store I found frozen ramen noodles which are made in US . This company called Sun Noodle appears to have originated in Hiro, Hawaii by a Japanese American who was born there. They have facilities in other locations including Los Angeles and New Jersey. They also run a pop up ramen restaurant in New York and give ramen classes. Besides specialty retail stores, they provide ramen noodles to restaurants and appear to be very dedicated to introducing authentic ramen noodles to Americans. I was curious about how good these noodles would taste. This particularly package came with seasoning packets. I chose a classic "shoyu" or soy sauce flavor.



I divided up one serving of the noodles into two and made two half ramens or "han-ramen" 半ラーメン.



I made sort of classic ramen toppings with roasted pork チャーシュー, seasoned bamboo shoot or menma めんま, seasoned soft boiled egg or "ajitsuke tamago" 味付け玉子, nori and chopped scallion.



Of course, I used pasteurized eggs for this.



Some years ago, we bought sporks, a hybrid fork and soup spoon designed specifically to eat ramen in chain noodle restaurants called "Sugakiya",  from the  museum store of MOMA . I got the sporks out since I remembered that we had them. This spork is very awkward to use and we switched to chop sticks. Good idea but not really practical.

 

Toppings:
Pork: This was re-purposed left-over barbecued pork. The weekend before we barbecued pork loin on our Weber grill. It was hot smoked and seasoned with salt, black pepper and fresh rosemary. Since I had a one inch thick end piece left, I decided to make it into a ramen topping. I had left over clear soup which was based on broth made from a "Dashi pack" with dried bonito and kelp. I reused this soup by adding more mirin, soy sauce, and sake. I also added one star anise and slices of ginger. I made this simmering sauce rather strong. I then simmered the barbecued pork in it for 30 minutes. I let it cool down to room temperature and placed it in the refrigerator. Just before serving, I sliced it to make 4 good sized portions (2 per person).

Seasoned eggs: I made two soft boiled eggs (7 minutes in simmering water) using pasteurized shell eggs. I peeled the shell and placed the shelled egg in the simmering sauce I used for the pork (above).  I placed it in the refrigerator and marinated overnight.

Seasoned bamboo shoot: I just used a commercial product that came in a jar which I bought at the Japanese grocery store when I got the ramen noodles.

Ramen Broth: I made broth from a dashi pack which contained dried fish (bonito, sardine, kelp). I made it rather strong. I had a choice of adding the pork simmering sauce I made or the seasoning packet that came with the noodles. Since this exercise was to see how good these US made ramen were, I added the seasoning packet to the broth. I did not add the entire package at once but in increments as I tasted it. I used about 70%. This made a rather classic shoyu ramen broth. With my strong fish based broth, it had a clean classic taste.

Ramen noodles: I followed the instruction on the package. After I thawed the noodles, I boiled the them but rather than timing it, I checked the doneness as I cooked the noodle. Some ramen fans really like "hard" or undercooked ramen noodle but we like an properly cooked (just a bit al dente) noodle. I then drained the noodles and placed them in the ramen broth.

We were quite impressed with the quality of these US made ramen noodles. The noodle was straight (not curly) and had a nice toothyness. I assume they were in the style of "Tokyo straight noodles". The company makes 6 different ramen noodles. The slices of pork were also unexpectedly good despite my impromptu repurposing especially since the slices had more fat than the rest of the loin. The best was the egg.  The egg yolk was still runny and the white absorbed the nice flavor of the pork simmering sauce. We were quite satisfied with this ramen.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Chestnut flour crepes with honey Ricotta 栗の粉クレープ

This is a continuation of the seasonal chestnut flour recipes. This is a  recipe by Mario Batali.  We served it with very ripe and sweet Mission figs.



This is a rather simple recipe.

Ingredients
1 cup chestnut flour
2 extra large eggs
1 1/4 cups water
2 cups ricotta
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions
Sift the flour into a mixing bowl and beat in the eggs, 1 at a time. Add the water, whisking until smooth. Allow to stand 15 minutes.

Place the ricotta in a mixing bowl and stir in half the honey.

Heat a 6 to 8-inch nonstick frying pan over medium heat and brush with some of the olive oil. Add 2 tablespoons crepe batter and roll pan to distribute evenly and thinly. Cook until the crepe is firm on the underside and is curling up at the edges, about 1 minute (see below picture).



Flip the crepe and cook on the raw side for about 30 seconds (see picture below).



Continue making crepes until all the batter is finished, stacking each finished crepe on top of the previous one, to keep them warm. To speed up the crepe making process use multiple skillets.

To serve, spoon 2 tablespoons of the ricotta honey mixture in the center of each crepe, roll it up and placed a dollop of honey Ricotta (the original recipe suggested to put honey but that would have been too sweat for us).



We really liked the honey ricotta. The crepes are a bit dry/brittle (or "bosoboso" ボソボソusing Japanese expression) but had a unique flavor of chestnut. We will not get chestnut flour just to make this crepe in the future, though.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Chestnut Flour Cake: Castagnaccio 栗の粉のケーキ:カスタナチオ

Since my wife got chestnut flour, she searched for some recipes and came up with this Tuscan chestnut cake. This is indeed an interesting cake. As the recipe indicated, it requires wine to "wash it down".



This is a flat cake without any leavening agents. It is savory in taste with rosemary, pine nuts, walnuts and raisins.

 

My wife put some of these in the batter and some on the top.

 

We made a few variations from the original recipe.

INGREDIENTS

2 ounces raisins
16 ounces chestnut flour
2 tablespoons sugar
Zest of one lemon,
Pinch salt
2 cups water
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for pan
1 fresh rosemary sprig, leaves picked and finely chopped
1 ounce toasted chopped walnuts
1 ounce toasted pine nuts

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Place the raisins in a ramekin of water to soften for 20 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, sift the chestnut flour. Add the sugar, lemon zest, and pinch of salt, mix well and then gently start adding the water to the mix.

Using a whisk, beat the mixture well making sure to eliminate any lumps, then add 2 tablespoons olive oil, and half of the raisins, nuts and rosemary and mix again.

Lightly oil an 11-inch pie plate with 2-inch sides with olive oil and pour in the batter it should be no more than 1/3-inch thick. Sprinkle the cake with rosemary leaves, the remaining softened raisins, walnuts, and pine nuts. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and bake for about 40 minutes.

We used a rustic looking ceramic pie pan.



We used finely chopped fresh rosemary from our herb garden.



This is a very interesting cake. It has the texture and taste of a very large chestnut smashed into a flat piece. The predominantly chestnut flavor and texture is accented by intriguing overtones on rosemary and pine nuts (I couldn’t detect any walnut flavor). The original recipe said that this was not “kid friendly” and they were right. This is definitely not for desert and will not go well with coffee or tea. But the flavor grows on you. Also over time the rosemary and pine nut flavor marry into the chestnut flavor and the cake gets better.  We were probably too careful about adding too much rosemary. This time of year the rosemary in our garden is extremely aromatic and tacky with oil—probably at its best for the season.  Next time we can be a lot more aggressive with that herb. This cake reminded me of when I was introduced to the Italian liquor Compari. When I first tasted it, the flavor was very strong/bitter, unique and distinctive and I wasn’t sure I liked it. But then it grew on me. The cake is rather crumbly and we ended up eating it in chunks rather than slices. Since the raisins, pine nuts and rosemary we put on the surface just fell off as we ate and while we stored the cake, my wife suggested that next time we just mix all of it into the batter.

We had this with red wine and that combination worked out well. This cake ranks next to my wife’s anchovy black pepper cookie . They are of a similar  genre. Both go well with sipping wine rather than as a "dessert".

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Chestnut flour pancake 栗の粉のパンケーキ

When we got this year's shipment of North American Chestnuts I prepared my usual Chestnut rice and other chestnut dishes. In an effort to expand our seasonal chestnut repertoire my wife hit the internet and came up with several recipes using chestnut flour. This is an ingredient we have never used before so my wife had to hit the internet again to find where we could purchase some. She got chestnut flour from Amazon and we made these pancakes one weekend. This also uses almond flour which we just happened to have in our freezer (how it got there and why is another story).  By the way, this pancake is gluten free if that is important to you.



For a pancake without any wheat flour, this one came out very fluffy. I also added my chestnut in syrup as a garnish.



I used a small amount of maple syrup but this pancake is rather sweet and may not need any additional syrup.



This recipe came from this site. We modified the recipe using our CCK (Common Culinary Knowledge)

Ingredients:

- 3 Large Eggs
- 1 Cup Chestnut Flour sifted
- 1/3 Cup Blanched Almond Flour sifted
- 3 Tbs Granulated Sugar
- 2 Tsp double acting Baking Powder
- Pinch of Salt
- 1/4 Milk*
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 1 Tbs. melted Butter

Directions: sift the flours. (This step can not be skipped because the chestnut flour has a tendency to clump and without sifting ends up with several hard lumps). Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and the wet ingredients in another bowl. Stir the two together. Adjust the amount of milk to get a pourable consistency. Ladle the batter into a hot pan with a little olive oil on the bottom. Cook as you would any other pancake.

*Note: It is important to have a appropriate consistency when making pancake batter. We had to add slightly over 1/4 cup of milk to get a "spreadable" consistency so that the batter would spread in the pan (see below). Probably we could have added more liquid to make it spread to fill the pan. We also omitted "vinegar or lemon juice" included in the original recipe since double action baking powder has it's own source of acid to activate and we judged that "acidic" taste will not be good in the pancake.



The pancake tends to brown quickly because of the sugar.



This is a great pancake.  Despite being gluten-free, it has a very fluffy fine texture. It is slightly sweet and because of the chestnut flour, it has a hint of chestnut flavor as well. Amazingly we were surprised that the pancake seemed to have a “chocolate” flavor. If we did not know how it was made we would have sworn that it included coco powder; although it clearly did not. Because of the special flours, this tends to be a rather expensive pancake to make but we really liked this and we will definitely make it again.