Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Sushi Taro Michelin ☆ Part 3, すし太郎 ミシュラン☆ その3

Chef Masaya asked if we would like soba. We know he is passionate about soba and actually makes it by hand out of pure buckwheat flour which is extremely difficult. In turn, we are passionate about the results of his labor. We particularly remember the 100% buckwheat soba 十割蕎麦 that came with the last years Osechi box 御節箱.  For this dinner he gave us a choice of warm or cold dipping sauce. After some indecision, I chose warm and my wife chose cold. I asked for only a small amount which, of course, Masaya knew without our asking. 

While it took some time to prepare the soba, he served us a wonderful Japanese snow crab or "Zuwai-gani" ズワイガニ stuffed in it's own shell with roe or "uchiko" 内子 to share. This is a real delicacy harvested from the cold waters of the sea of Japan in winter. The last time, we visited "Maguro Ganchi" まぐろがんち(a restaurant specialized in "maguro" = tuna and "Ganchi" = crab in the local dialect) in Kanazawa, 金沢, we could not have zuwai-gani crab since it was out of season. I really should have taken a picture of Chef Masaya's crab dish but I was too busy enjoying it. This was served with a very special sauce; Jalapeno pepper infused soy sauce. We really liked this unique sauce. It had a nice fresh Jalapeno flavor without much heat, which went so well with the sweet succulent crab meat. My wife, who never in her life would have entertained the concept of imbibing soy sauce, in a surprise move upended the dipping dish and finished what remained in one draught-- it was that good. (I'm hoping Chef Masa was not looking).

Then came the soba in a shared portion. To our surprise, he served cold and hot dipping sauces for both of us. The cold sauce had nice "sudachi" すだちcitrus flavor and the hot sauce had a duck meat with the skin grilled and caramelized. It included grilled Tokyo scallion ("Kamonanba" 鴨南蛮 style). The soba had such a nice texture and fresh flavor. Both were excellent but I particularly liked kamo-nanban style dipping sauce. It was rich with tremendous umami. Once again my wife could not resist going for the sauce. With evident reluctance, however, she restrained herself from draining the bowl.  We really appreciated tasting Chef Masaya's handmade soba.

At this point, we were quite full but when offered, who could refuse dessert?  One was a very delicate green tea custard or "maccha purin" 抹茶プリン and the other was "anmitsu ice cream monaka" with shiratama  白玉餡蜜アイスクリーム最中. Again, I was too busy digging into the desserts to take pictures. I never got a snap of the maccha purin and as you can see in the picture below I remembered to take a picture of the ice cream monaka only after it was half finished. It was a clever hydrid of "monaka" (a very traditional Japanese sweet, light crunchy shell filled with sweetened red bean paste),  "anmitsu" ("shiratma" 白玉  rice flour dumpling, sweet red bean paste with sweet sauce). This combination really worked. Despite our being so full at this point, we shared and finished both desserts without a problem. 

As usual, we so enjoyed the evening. This is something which should be experienced at least once. But once we experienced it, we found we have to come back again and again. Every thing was exquisite. All the unique flavors remain as lasting taste memories; the unctuous taste of the chutoro, for example. All the chef's attention, details, seasonality, and new innovation without totally deviating from a classic Japanese cuisine are indeed worth much more than one Michelin star to us.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Sushi Taro Michelin ☆ Part 2, すし太郎 ミシュラン☆ その2

Our sashimi and sushi course started visually  with "daikon and other sashimi garnishes" 刺身のつま and freshly grated wasabi artfully displayed on a beautiful plate. We were served two kinds of sashimi soy sauce, one with grated ginger one without.

Prepared fillets and blocks of fish for sashimi and sushi served at traditional sushi bars in Japan are usually placed in wooden boxes which are  called "Neta-bako" ネタ箱.  At Sushi Taro, they went further by displaying these boxes in front of the guests and describing all the sashimi items available for the evening at the start of  the sushi and sashimi course.  We made mental notes of our favorites throughout the presentation and selected those "must have" items when we are then invited to choose. We also deferred to the chef's choice on any other selections and have never ever been disappointed. This evening, we noticed three different kinds of "uni" ウニ sea urchin (left box). They were uni from Maine (back left), California (front left ) and Hokkaido 北海道, Japan (front right). The center box was all tuna, bluefin tuna ootoro 大トロ(right) from Boston, chutoro 中トロ (back left) and akami 赤身 (front left). 

The left box below was all white flesh "shiromi" 白身 fish including "madai" まだい sea bream and "hirame" ヒラメ flounder or flat fish. The right box was all "hikarimono" 光り物 or blue skinned fish. There were two more boxes on the right, one with partial view, contained several kinds of salmon and arctic char. The right most box which is not in the pictures contained "raw" octopus legs 生ダコの足 and ankimo あん肝 among other items.

We would have liked to try everything but, of course, we could not. We asked for our "must-have" items of uni, raw octopus, and ankimo. Beside these boxes, shell fish were also displayed on an ice filled large earthen bowl. Today's choices were scallops and abalone. We choose the scallop. We asked Masaya to provide us with his choice of sashimi and sushi to round out the selection. (That is indeed the whole idea behind "Omakase" おまかせ ; let the chef choose for you).

The uni was our first sashimi. While we have eaten each type of uni separately in the past, we had never had the opportunity for an "uni tasting" to directly compare their different characteristics. I was so eager to taste them and forgot to take a picture. Chef Masaya served them with salt on the side. All the uni was wonderful. It was a pleasure to experience the characteristic variations of each type side by side. Within the family of Uni, the California uni was it's usual brash self; bright golden yellow, creamy with a nice custard consistency and mild fresh ocean taste. The Maine uni was the country cousin with a firmer slightly grainy feel and somewhat gamey but pleasant taste.  My expectations were high for the Hokkaido uni (especially since I am from Hokkaido). The Hokkaido uni was the demure dignified cousin; smaller in size than the rest with a denser creaminess than the California uni and subtle flavor.  Masaya said the Hokkaido uni was "Bafun-uni" バフンウニ. It was so named because of its short spikes and round shape resembling "bafun" or horse droppings (not a particularly appetizing, yet oddly descriptive name).  We could certainly enjoy each kind of uni any day.

The next was a "raw" octopus leg. Most of the octopus legs we can have here, for that matter even in Japan, are pre-boiled since the octopus flesh is very perishable. I do not recall eating "raw" octopus in the U.S. The last we had was at "Tako Grill" in Kuroishi 黒石市, Aomori 青森県, Japan. In the picture below, on the left were nice cross slices of leg after the skin had been removed. On the right were the octopus leg "suckers" 吸盤. The leg had a soft consistency. It was sweet, and quite a different experience from pre-boiled octopus. The suckers had a nice crunchy almost cartilage-like snap to it. I particularly liked the sucker.

We had scallop (the order is unclear and no picture).  It was very tender and its sweet taste lingered softly on the tongue. More sashimi items followed. There was Ankimo with gel of ponzu and hirame (top left in the picture below). The hirame had lots of umami. I forgot to ask but this hirame must have been "matured" at at least a few days. It was packed with flavor. Chutoro was next (top right). The buttery taste of the chutoro lingered at the back of the palette much as the complex flavor of a fine red wine would. Then, came sanma or pacific saury (enjoyed with ginger soy sauce). I am not 100% sure but the last one was "Kamasu" かます, a type of barracuda, a rare sashimi item, with the skin side char broiled and caramelized. It contrasted with the soft flesh of the fish. 

Next was ootoro. Chef Masaya sliced it rather thin and shallowly scored it on the back ("Kakushi bocho" 隠し包丁or hidden knife work) since ootoro can have inter-veining "suji" 筋 or sinew. It looked and tasted almost like well marbled Japanese beef.  All the tuna was, of course, excellent. Next was grilled sea eel or anago アナゴ accompanied by deep fried strings and grilled  Tokyo scallion (top right). 

 Chef Masaya knows that we are not big eaters, and adjusted the portions by serving us more sashimi than sushi. After this, we had a few sushi items. I particularly remember the chutoro tuna and tai sea bream. 

more to come including dessert. To be continued......

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Sushi Taro Michelin ☆ Part 1, すし太郎 ミシュラン☆ その1

Finally Michelin came to Washington, DC and bestowed a galaxy of stars upon the city. While no 3 star constellations appeared, once they were done, 2 stars appeared behind the name of three restaurants, and one star for eight others. Among the eight restaurants which received one star was our "special occasion" Japanese restaurant "Sushi Taro" すし太郎 in Dupont Circle. We didn't need Michelin to tell us how good Sushi Taro is. We had discovered that some time ago all on our own. We gave it top rating among all the excellent restaurants we have visited even in Japan. The "star" is well deserved and as far as we are concerned, it shines bright as Venus. Despite our concern that, with the additional fame of a star, we would have difficulty getting a reservation, we were able to get a seat recently and had a fabulously memorable dinner. 

The night we were there, the main dining room was crowded and bustling but the Omakase Sushi Kaiseki 会席 area, which was separated from the main dining room, was serene and quiet. The roof top garden of bamboo highlighted in the large picture window in front of us contributed to the sense of tranquility. This was an Omakase (chef choice) dinner consisting of multiple small dishes reflecting the season and the best ingredients available. Sushi Taro deviates from a regular Kaiseki by prominently featuring sashimi and sushi. The counter accommodates 6 guests. They take only two parties and one seating per night. Each party gets the full undivided attention of Nobuhiro "Nobu" Yamazaki 山崎信博 (chef owner) or Masaya "Masa" Kitayama 北山勝也 (chef de cuisine)  for the entire length of the dinner.

We were warmly greeted by Chef de cuisine Masaya Kitayama. After choosing our sake, "Kubota Manju Diaginjo" 久保田万寿大吟醸 from Niigata 新潟 and our Guinomi ぐい呑 sake cups, an incredible course  of delicacies started. With the permission of Chef Masa, I took, or at least tried to take, some pictures. (Sometimes I got so wound up with excitement to taste the dish I forgot to take a picture.)

1. Grilled Goma-dofu 胡麻豆腐 with sesame sauce.

This is a variation of Sushi Taro's standard opening of "goma-dofu". The thin grilled crust contrasted with soft but elastic inside. Of course, freshly grated wasabi was nice with perfectly smooth sesame sauce.

2. House-smoked oyster with persimmon dressed in 150 year old balsamic vinegar 牡蠣と柿の和え物. 

This was an autumnal dish using a persimmon as a bowl which contained bite size pieces of house-smoked oyster (Kaki 牡蠣 in Japanese) and persimmon (Kaki 柿 in Japanese). So this was a whimsical play on words "Kaki and kaki in kaki". Crispy bits of deep fried "onion" (I am guessing this was  Tokyo scallion or "nihon negi" 日本ネギ) added nice flavor and crunch. The aged balsamic vinegar was sublime with just a hint of acidity and sweetness, which further brought out the sweetness of  the persimmon. The oyster was lightly smoked and very tender. Every aspect of the dish worked well together. 

3. Hassun 八寸 appetizer: 

Okinawan mozuku seaweed in sweet vinegar 沖縄モズク, chestnut encased in edible imitation "Iga" outer spiky shell イガ栗揚げ, mustard stuffed-lotus root 辛子蓮根,  stuffed ginko nuts 銀杏 (clockwise starting from left back) and pickled myoga ミョウガの甘酢漬け (center).

We were told that the chestnuts were from California. Among the batch of chestnuts Chef Masa received, he carefully chose those that did not have the tough inner shell separation characteristic of California chestnuts. The ones he used in this dish were visually perfect; just one example of his impeccable attention to detail. The chestnuts were cooked in a special way called "Shibukawa-ni" 渋皮煮. With this method, the papery brown inner skin is left on but is not bitter. The chestnut was encased in a puree of white fish ("surimi" すり身) and short segments of dried somen noodles ソーメン were attached to imitate "spines" of chestnut outer shell and deep fried. It was then partially opened up to show the chestnut inside, a nice depiction of chestnuts peeking through the outer spiny shell, but all edible.  Each morsel in the dish provided a different taste and texture which were distinct and unique but went well together as a whole. For example, the stuffed lotus root had a nice crunch and a slight zing of mustard, which went well with the soft texture and vinegar of the seaweed which in turn played in tune with the somewhat sweeter vinegar but coarser texture of the myoga with its own unique flavor. All the items were perfect for sipping sake..

4. Simmered abalone 鮑の柔らか煮, Japanese "Komatsuna" greens 小松菜 and Japanese "sato-imo" taro 里芋 in oyster broth.

The broth was very special with an intense brininess and pleasing essence of "Ocean". It was made from the cooking liquid in which many oysters were simmered for another dish according to Chef Masaya. This concentrated oyster broth was the basis for the seasoning for this dish. Chef Masaya told us that abalone does not have much of its own flavor but has a nice texture. To boost the flavor of the abalone, he let the oyster and other umami flavors of the broth permeate the abalone. Although it is generally not polite to drink the broth in this kind of dish, it was way too good to leave behind; without shame we both drank it dry.

Next is the sashimi and sushi course (to be continued).

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Salmon sashimi 鮭の刺身

This was the last serving of sashimi fish (tuna, salmon and uni) we got from Catalina. I served all that was left. We have enjoyed the contents of this shipment for lunches and evening repasts for the past 3 days.

Besides Sashimi, I also served cucumber cups with moromi-miso もろみ味噌 and soy sauce marinated salmon roe いくらの醤油漬け.

I served two kinds of salmon sashimi. The rolled up one is kelp-cured and the flat one is straight salmon sashimi. 

Because the tuna had a bit of unpleasant sinew and only a small piece was left, I made "tuna nuta" マグロのぬた. I cut the tuna into small cubes and served it with wakame seaweed 若芽 and thinly sliced rings of red onion and dressed it in nuta or sumiso 酢味噌 sauce

Although we enjoyed the sashimi fish we got this time from Catalina, the tuna was a bit disappointing because of the unpleasant sinew in the meat. The Northwestern uni was just OK; with its gamey flavor and soft texture it was nothing comparable to California Gold Uni we used to get. The highlight was the salmon. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Kelp-cured salmon molded sushi 鮭の昆布締め押し寿司

The day we received sashimi-grade salmon, I made instant gravlax for lunch. While I was preparing the gravlax, I also prepared "kelp cured salmon" 鮭の昆布締め. Usually, white meat fish is used for this preparation but I wanted to experiment. After almost 3 days curing, I made molded sushi or "Oshizushi" 押し寿司 out of it. I served it with French style green beans dressed with sesame dressing インゲンの胡麻和え and simmered burdock root ごぼうのしぐれ煮. I also served my potato salad topped with salmon roe soaked in sake and soy sauce イクラの醤油漬け.  I served miso soup with tofu, and onion on the side.

Actually one mold made 7 pieces. Since it was an uneven number,  but wife and I split one before plating. I garnished it with fresh dill. You cannot see it well but I made two layers of sushi rice; one seasoned with dried "aonori" seaweed 青のり and the other with red perilla salt or  "Yokari" ゆかり(see #6 in the composite picture below).

Kelp cured salmon
Sashimi-grade salmon, thinly sliced (#1).
Dried Konbu kelp, briefly hydrated until pliable,  moisture blotted (three 4 inch pieces of kelp).

I placed the slices of salmon on the kelp (#2) and covered them with another piece of kelp. I added one more layer of salmon slices and topped with more kelp.
I wrapped the kelp and salmon in aluminum foil and placed the package in the refrigerator.
I cured it for 3 days.

Kelp cured salmon molded sushi
Kelp cured salmon slices
Sushi rice
Dried "aonori" powder
Yukari (powder of dried red perilla leaves mixed with salt)

I soaked the wooden mold in water for 10-15 minutes. I placed one layer of the kelp-cured salmon slices on the bottom of the mold (#3). 
I divided the sushi rice into two portions; I mixed one with dried "aonori" seaweed and the other with Yukari powder making green and red colored rice.
I first placed the aonori rice in the mold over the salmon piece and pressed using the wooden lid of the mold. I then layered the Yukari rice on the top (#4) and pressed using the wooden lid.
I cut the molded portion into 7 pieces (#5).
As you can see the rice layers are green and red (#6)

Since I had potato salad which I made a few days ago and "ikura" salmon roe which I marinated in a mixture of sake and soy sauce, I made the dish below (I put the potato salad in a round mold and topped it with the salmon roe)

With the combination of side vegetables, potato salad and miso soup, we were quite full. Compared to kelp-cured white fish, the salmon has too strong a flavor and is too oily to have a lot of kelp umani flavor transferred to the fish. But still we could taste the subtle difference between straight raw salmon and this preparation of salmon.  The combination of aonori and yukari rice was a great success and the saltiness of yukari rice and nori flavor really added to this dish.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Philly and Tekka rolls フィラデルフィア巻き、鉄火巻き

We received tuna, salmon and uni from Catalina on Saturday morning. For Sunday lunch, I made one of the American-invented rolls called Philadelphia roll (or Philly roll for short). I also made the more traditional tuna "tekka" roll. I made Philly roll as a medium sized roll or "chumaki" 中巻き (left in the picture below)  and tuna roll as a "hosomaki" 細巻き (right).

Philly roll is so named because it is made with Philadelphia cream cheese.* It also included salmon and cucumber. The salmon and cream cheese combination is, of course, the traditional match used for Salmon Lox and cream cheese on a bagel; a classic (New York) Jewish breakfast. Philly roll can be "Uramaki" 裏巻き, (rice outside and nori inside) or "Omotemaki" 表巻き (Nori outside and rice inside). I decided to make it "Chumaki and omotemaki".

*Cream cheese may have the origin in Europe but is usually considered an American cheese. Philadelphia brand became the most popular version of this cheese which is now a part of Kraft Foods.

I served it with miso soup made of wakame seaweed, tofu and scallion.

Ingredients (for one medium roll):
Sushi rice, about one cup (#1, picture is the amount of rice for one medium Philly roll and one small tuna roll),
Sheet of nori (#2)
Cream cheese, cut into sticks (#4)
Salmon, sushi grade, cut into sticks
Cucumber (American mini cucumber), cut into quarters lengthwise with center soft part with seeds removed.

To make sushi rice, I mixed seasoned rice vinegar (with sugar and salt or from the bottle) and let it sit for 10-15 minutes loosely covered with a tea towel (to lower the temperature of rice and let the rice absorb the vinegar, #1).
I placed a full sheet of nori with shiny side down on the sushi mat (#2).
I spread the rice in thin layers  making sure to leave about half an inch of uncovered edge of nori on the far side (moisten your hands with water with a splash of rice vinegar in it, #3).
I smeared the wasabi in a horizontal line on the nori using a finger. The line was approximately where the contents of the roll would be placed.
I put the salmon, cream cheese and cucumber on the side close to me (#4).
I rolled the mat with the nori/rice on it to make sure the edges of the nori sheet overlaped. I then squeezed the mat with the roll in it to make a firm roll (#5).
I also made a small roll with tuna in the center using a half sheet of nori (#6).

This does not look like a lot of sushi but we were quite full after eating this. My wife likes miso soup for lunch. This was a good starter after we received the sashimi items. Our expectations for a dinner of the other sashimi items we had received grew after enjoying this lunch.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Ahi tuna from Catalina カタリナオフショアからのアヒマグロ刺身

We tried "Fresh Wild sushi-grade Ahi tuna" from Catalina. According to them "Ahi" tuna could be Bigeye (Mebachi メバチマグロ) or Yellowfin (Kihada キハダマグロ).  Quoting from the Website "Ahi sushi is one of the most popular items among sushi fans. In the Hawaiian language, “Ahi” (ah-hee) refers to two species of tuna: bigeye and yellowfin." The one we got appears to have been "Bigeye" which is good since we like bigeye much better than yellowfin as sashimi. We also got fresh salmon and one tray of Pacific Northwest "Uni" or sea urchin roe. Obtaining decent uni from Catalina (or anywhere else) is more and more difficult and this was the first time we tried Pacific Northwest uni.

The tuna was about one pound. I first removed the skin. The white line separating the meat (sinew or fascia) is visible in the picture.

I made the piece into "Saku" blocks. You can see the sinew separating the meat especially on the right two larger blocks.

The first dish I made was  "tuna and avocado cubes" dressed in a mixture of dark sesame oil, soy sauce, sake and garlic ( I posted this before).

Since I did not have chives, I used chopped scallion instead for garnish.

Since the tuna was cut into small cubes, this tasted good without much problems with the sinew.  But when I served it with the salmon and uni as sashimi, the sinew became very unpleasant. Usually, more noticeable sinew or "Suji  すじ is present in Ootro or a very fatty potion tuna but this red meat or "akami " 赤身 had lots of "suji".

The salmon* was very nice and was the best among the three sashimi items we bought. The uni was certainly acceptable but the consistency is a bit too soft or liquid. It also had a gamey taste akin to but even greater than Maine uni. It is far cry from the nice firm but creamy California Gold uni we used to get.

* Digression alert: Salmon sashimi or sushi did not exist while I was in Japan. The reason Japanese did not eat raw salmon was because of the parasite called Anisakis which produced acute GI problems if ingested. It is killed after the salmon has been frozen (-4F for at least 24 hours) but marinating with vinegar does not get rid of it. About 1995, Norwegian purveyors convinced Japanese customers that their salmon was safe to eat raw since anisakis are not present in their farm raised salmon. Pacific Northwestern salmon has anisakis (I am not going into the life cycles of anisakis but where seals and other sea mammals are present, anisakis infestation is a problem.) The one we got was from New Zealand. As per Catalina website "Mt. Cook Alpine salmon is pure king salmon. It is naturally free of parasites, GMO, antibiotics, chemicals, mercury and other heavy metals due to being sustainably farmed in the pure glacial waters of New Zealand’s Southern Alps. " The salmon as sashimi is not our usual choice but, among the three we got, I prefer the salmon (meaning the tuna and uni weren't that good).

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Instant Gravlax 即席グラブラックス

This was the first  time we got sashimi-grade salmon from Catalina.  Since it arrived on a Saturday morning, I decided to make instant gravlax (instead of regular gravlax which takes at least 2 days to make) for lunch. I served it with my cucumber-onion salad garnished with dill and horseradish Greek yogurt sauce. I cured thinly sliced pieces of the salmon rather than the whole fillet to speed up the curing.

Since the curing was short, the flavor it added to the salmon was subtle. I splashed on our favorite Spanish olive oil.

This is based on the recipe: "Super Quick Gravlax" by Jamie Oliver. The original recipe used a filet of salmon and cured it for 4 hours. I used thin slices and cured it for one hour. We had this with lightly toasted pumpernickel bread.

Sashimi grade salmon (#1, This was fresh New Zealand salmon) thinly cut on the bias from the belly portion of the salmon (#2).
Sugar (1 heaping tbs) with molasses (or brown sugar) and Kosher salt (1 heaping tbs) (#3).
Vodka (50ml)
Zest of one lemon and orange (I did not have orange so used frozen Yuzu skin)
Fresh dill, finely chopped (2 tbs)

I mixed all the curing ingredients in a sealable plastic container (#4). I mixed but did not dissolve the salt and sugar. I coated each slice of the salmon with the cure (#5) and covered it with plastic wrap (#6) and let it stand in the refrigerator for one hour.
After one hour, I took the salmon out and removed the excess salt/sugar by patting with a paper towel (#7).
I sprinkled on more fresh chopped dill (#8).

The gravlax was very nice with lemony and citrusy flavors and a hint of sweet molassy taste. It is not as flavorful as a regular gravlax but it was great in its own right. The horseradish Greek yogurt sauce (mixture of homemade Greek yogurt, prepared horseradish, olive oil and salt) was a bit too assertive for this delicate dish. I made several small, open face sandwiches with the gravlax and cucumber onion salad on the pumpernickel bread.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Smoked trout spread, Greek yogurt and cheeses マスの燻製のスプレッド、グリークヨーグルト、チーズ

These are appetizers we had one day which included Greek yogurt my wife made using a special yogurt from a farm in Pennsylvania near where she grew up (left upper brown container) and smoked trout spread (lower right tan container). We also served two interesting cheeses; Blue castello (Denmark) (lower left) and Bucheron Sevre Belle (France) (upper right).

The picture below is a close up of the Greek Yogurt made from a special "high-octane" yogurt which was mixed with our favorite Spanish olive oil and seasoned with salt.

This picture shows the smoked trout dip. We used to make this smoked trout cream cheese spread often when we regularly bought artisanal apple wood smoked trout from a nearby gourmet grocery store. We haven't made it recently, however, because the smoked trout is no longer available.

The picture below shows the Blue castello (Denmark) cheese which was a nice, mild but not too mild blue cheese. It was a bit more assertive than our favorite "Cambozola". It is a bit more crumbly but has a nice blue cheese taste. Cambozola is more creamy and has "Camembert" characteristics.

Bucheron Sevre Belle (France) is aged but not too aged and even the rind was nice to eat. It is a nice cross between fresh and very aged (and fuzzy) goat cheese.

Smoked trout spread

1. Hot smoked trout. We used to buy smoked trout from the grocery store but this one was made from fresh trout hot smoked in the Webber. I used soaked hickory chips and indirect heat for about 20 minutes (#1). My wife carefully deboned (#2) and flaked the meat (#3), of a whole trout.
2. One package of Philadelphia Cream Cheese, (#4).
3. Fresh dill, chopped, 1/4 cup (#5)
4. Lemon juice of one lemon
5. Horseradish to taste (we also added wasabi). 

Just put everything in the food processor and process it until creamy and homogenized (#6). Taste and adjust any seasonings you like .

Greek yogurt spread with olive oil


Greek yogurt*
Olive oil (we use our favorite Spanish olive oil)

* The Greek yogurt was made using "Seven Stars Farm" yogurt from Pennsylvania which my wife found one day while cruising down the dairy isle at the local Whole Food grocery store. The name "Seven Stars Farm" and the picture of the star constellation on the package  jumped out at her from all the other packages in the cold case. She stopped dead in her tracks and exclaimed "I know where that is!!" This farm happened to be across the road from where my wife went to high school.  At that time, however, they did not make yogurt, it was just a dairy farm selling to milk wholesalers according to my wife.. We didn't have any choice but to get one--or rather, to be more exact, to get several. Although the the percentage of fat of this yogurt appears to be slightly above the usual 4% (we estimated 4.5% from their nutritional facts), it looks and tastes like it has much more fat content than that. It even has a thin layer or yogurt from cream on the top which gives it some yellow color. While we really like Danon 4% whole milk yogurt and regularly use it to make Greek yogurt, Seven Stars Farm yogurt definitely has a much "higher octane rev"; it is really something special 

Making Greek yogurt, my wife has really got this down to a precise and easy process.

First, we needed a deep conical strainer like the one you see below (#1 and #2). (if the strainer has a rounded rather than conical bottom the whey does not drain out as well and the resulting Greek yogurt will not be as concentrated.)

Second, you need a better quality cheese cloth called cheese muslin. The cheese cloth from the grocery store tends to be very fragile and coarse and lets most of the curd pass on through as a tithe to feed the "sink God" that lives in the drain.  She spreads the cheesecloth in the strainer and adds the entire container of yogurt and folds the edges of the cloth over it (#2).

Since a rather large bowl would be required to accommodate the deep conical strainer she saves space in the fridge by using the yogurt container itself (#1) to catch the whey. That container is then fitted into a small metal bowl to catch any drippings that may fall from the cloth (#2), then, the whole thing is placed in the refrigerator.

Overnight, Greek yogurt or yogurt cheese is made (#3). You will be surprised with the amount of whey accumulated (#4).

I would like to say these snacks are a bit too rich for us but, really, who would I be kidding? They went perfectly well with red wine. Although we have made Greek yogurt spread before from Danon whole milk yogurt, this Greek yogurt is in an entirely different class. You could actually see the layer of butter yogurt on the surface after it was strained. Adding the spicy Spanish olive oil and salt really makes it. The smoked trout spread was no slouch either. The horseradish and smokiness both worked well and really complemented the wine. The two cheeses were also quite good. We filled ourselves with these wonderful spreads and cheeses and the appetizers became dinner.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Cold simmered daikon with miso chicken sauce 冷製大根のチキン肉味噌のせ

This is another "using-up" leftover barbecued chicken dish. I found that leftover cooked chicken, especially dark meat, can be versatile when cut into small pieces and used in various different dishes. Here, I came up with a miso chicken meat sauce with yuzu citrus and served it on cold simmered daikon with other vegetables.

I could have served this warm (both daikon and sauce) but the weather was still hot so I served everything cold.

I added additional Yuzu skin (chopped and previously frozen came in a pouch), which added additional bursts of fresh yuzu flavor.

The campari tomato was served with the skin removed (by briefly dunking in boiling water, then into ice water to peel). I soaked the skinned tomatoes in dashi broth seasoned with light colored soy sauce. The broccoli was just blanched and cooled.

Daikon preparation:
I cut 1 inch thick round of daikon and peeled.
I placed the daikon in cold water to cover completely and added a pinch of uncooked rice.
I simmered it for 30 minutes.
I made a Japanese kelp broth (water and piece of kelp), seasoned with salt, mirin and light soy sauce and simmered the precooked daikon for another 30-40 minutes or until tender.
I let it cool in the broth and then placed in the refrigerator overnight.

Miso chicken meat sauce:
Barbecued dark chicken meat (2 legs worth), deboned and finely chopped.
Ginger, finely chopped
Miso, 3 tbs or more
Sugar, 1tbs
Mirin, 2 tbs
Peanut oil with splash of dark sesame oil, 1tsp
Yuzu skin, 1/2 tsp (chopped, previously frozen)

In a small saucepan, I added the oil and sauteed ginger and added the finely chopped chicken and kept sauteing for several minutes then added miso, sugar, sake and mirin. I kept mixing on low flame until the consistency became thick (about the same consistency of the miso). I added a splash of sesame oil at the end and mixed well. I cut the fire and mixed in the Yuzu skin. I let it cool to the room temperature and refrigerated.

I served this dish cold. I placed the daikon in a bowl and added the chicken-miso sauce on the top and garnished with yuzu skin. The skinned campari tomato was kept in the same broth as the daikon overnight. The broccoli was simply blanched in salted water and refrigerated.

This is the good way to use the dark meat from barbecued chicken which can sometimes be a bit chewy. The smokey flavor goes well with the sweet, salty and nutty miso flavor. The fresh taste of Yuzu is also nice. We like this cold vegetable appetizer.