Thursday, September 28, 2017

Shiitake risotto with lamb chops 椎茸リソトとラムチョップ

My wife likes lamb. I got a rack of lamb from New Zealand. I asked how she would like it cooked. She suggested I separate the rack into individual lamb chops rather than cooking it as a rack. That way each chop would be individually cooked to the same doneness. For a side, since we had just gotten some shiitake mushrooms (which are getting increasingly difficult to find) we decided to make "shiitake risotto". So we just made "shiitake risotto" or what is actually a cross between shiitake "Okayu" おかゆ porridge and risotto.

I cleaned up some of the excess fat and separated the rack into lamb chops. I simply seasoned with salt and pepper.  We also served skinned Campari tomato (seasoned with Kosher salt and Spanish olive oil) and blanched green beans sautéed in butter.

The lamb chops were first seared in the frying pan and fished in a 350F oven for 3-4 minutes for medium.

We came up with this risotto recipe on the fly.

1 cup of cooked rice (we used rice we cooked and then frozen in small portions. We thawed it by microwaving for about 30 seconds)(My mom introduced us to this method of left over rice control. It keeps well, cooked rice is always available and it comes out perfectly when lightly microwaved).
3-4 Fresh shiitake mushroom (caps sliced into strips, the stems with bottom removed, torn length-wise in thin strips and then cross cut into small pieces)
2-3 tbs sake
3 cup Japanese dashi (#2) (I made this using a dashi pack with bonito and kelp)
2 tbs butter (unsalted)
1 tsp light colored soy sauce
salt, additional pats of butter
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Sautee shiitake mushroom (Chopped up stem first and then caps) in melted butter (#1)
Meanwhile prepare the dashi and keep it warm (#2)
Add thawed rice and sautee (#3)
Add the sake and stir until most of the liquid is absorbed.
Add warm dashi in increments and stir until desired consistency is attained.
Season with light colored soy sauce and salt (#4)
Add a few pats of butter to finish (#5)
Meanwhile sear the both sides of the lamb chops (#6) and finish in a 350F oven for 3 minutes.
We decided to add grated Parmigiano cheese to the risotto.

The risotto was very good. Nice strong shiitake flavor was the major flavor with a background of Japanese dashi and soy sauce. The butter and cheese went amazingly well. The lamb chops were a bit gamy (lamb-ey) but my wife liked the flavor. (She claims that is what lamb is all about). It was done medium with some pink left. This was satisfying ending dish for the evening.

For this, we opened really good Virginia red called RdV Rendezvous 2013 (by the best Virginia red wines we ever tasted). Rendezvous is sort of right bank equivalent and another red called "Lost mountain" is the left bank equivalent. These reds are in the same league as top Napa and Bordeaux red wines. We heard about this in Washington Post article. We visited the Vineyard and we are impressed. I think this requires a separate post.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Pumpkin Yogurt パンプキンヨーグルト

Since Halloween is approaching, it is "pumpkin" season and my wife is into pumpkin dishes. Digression alert: apparently pumpkin flavor has become extremely popular. It is appearing in everything from coffee to dog food (really?).  Not be left behind by any trend, my wife was inspired to make this dish. She prepared canned pumpkin puree with pumpkin spices and mixed into plain yogurt. She decided to add finely chopped Japanese apple pear.  Here the addition of Japanese apple pear really worked well. I should have done a better presentation for the picture but this is how we take yogurt to work every day for breakfast; in small plastic containers. From my perspective, while it is very unique, it was also very seasonal and surprisingly good .

One of the secrets my wife uses for her pumpkin recipes is to heat up the puree with the spices mixed in. This gets rid of the "canned" taste in the puree, evaporates some of the water content, concentrates the pumpkin flavor and blooms the spices.

One 15 oz. can pumpkin puree
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 cup sugar
Japanese pear finely diced
1 1/2, 32 oz. containers of plane yogurt (we use Dannon) (come to think of it we eat a lot of yogurt)

Put the puree and spices in a sauce pan. Cook on medium heat stirring constantly for about 5 minutes or until the puree thickens, pulls away from the sides and the spices become nicely fragrant. Let cool.
Add the yogurt and sugar. Mix well add the diced apple pear.

This pumpkin yogurt gets better with time as all the flavors meld together. The asian pear exudes sweet juice that adds nicely to the pumpkin flavor.  It also adds a pleasant crunch. This is quite a unique yogurt and the addition of juicy crispy Japanese pear really worked.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Savory bread pudding Version 2 甘くないブレッドプディング 第2弾

This is my wife's second attempt at making savory bread pudding. This time, she used store bought bread rather than bread stuffing. One weekend, we had this as a lunch with vegetables (asparagus, baby corn, green beans all previously blanched, sautéed in butter with skinned Campari tomato seasoned with salt and pepper).

This was just perfect for a light weekend lunch. It is almost quiche-like with eggs, bacon and cheese 

112 g dried bread
2 pieces bacon
2 onions diced
1/2 lb. mushrooms (or to taste)
1/4/ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Chopped parsley
2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried sage
Several Jalapeno peppers diced (optional)
1/4  tsp salt
3 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup cream
1/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese

Cut the bread into cubes and lightly toast in the oven to make them crisp "stale".
Cook the bacon in a frying pan until crisp, add the diced onions to the remaining bacon fat and cook until caramelized.
Add the mushrooms and cook until they are slightly wilted. Add the Parmesan cheese, thyme, sage and salt to the onion/mushroom mixture and mix well and cool to room temperature.
In a separate bowl whisk the eggs, milk and cream together.
Add to the onion/mushroom mixture and mix well. Gently add the bread cubes and stir gently. Give the bread a few minutes to absorb the liquid.
Pour the bread mixture into a greased baking pan (#1).
Spread the grated Gruyere cheese over the top (#2).
Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes to an hour or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean and the mixture is browned (#3).

Compared to the previous version, this one had a lovely pudding texture with  nice herb flavors of thyme and oregano. Like quiche, this is a good almost all inclusive (carbohydrate, protein, fat) meal. the only thing we needed was the side of veggies.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Corn Jelly コーンジェリー

This was my wife's idea. Since she really liked the corn cob broth she made and she had some corn broth left she came up with the idea of making corn jelly.  The idea was to jell the corn cob broth and use it like fruit jelly.

We tried it on piece of the homemade bread my wife made.

And also on a type of cracker with sesame seeds.

We needed to add more pectin but finally it nicely jelled.

This is the type of fruit pectin we used. After we tasted the assertive acidity in the resulting corn jelly, we checked the package. It contains citric acid. It does not say how much but says it helps the pectin to work. In addition, there is not one word of instruction in or on the package to explain how to use it. My wife got a general idea from looking at jelly recipes on the internet. Nonetheless it was trial and error and the first attempt was error. It did not jell. We determined that we may have made two mistakes, first was not using enough of the Sure Jell powder and the second was not boiling it long enough. So we heated it up again added more powder and really boiled it. We must have done something right because it jelled.

1 cup corn cob broth
1/2 pouch of Sure Jell pectin
1/4/ cup sugar
1/2 tsp of butter (to reduce the bubbles)

Heat the broth until it comes to a boil.
Add the pectin gradually while whisking.
Add the butter
Let it comes to vigorous boil and maintain the boil for one minute then cut off the heat.
Pour it in to a glass jar and loosely cover until it cools to room temperature.

The resulting jelly was not what we envisioned and we were a bit disappointed.  All we could taste some citrus/acidity and sugar. It taste like apple jelly; any vestige of corn flavor was completely lost. Although it was not corn flavored jelly it still tasted good on buttered toast. We need to work on this recipe.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Hanpen stuffed with cheese はんぺんのチーズ焼き

This is a slight variation on what I posted before. "Hanpen" fish cake stuffed with cheese cooked with olive oil and seasoned. I served this with chicken liver simmered in red wine as a starter one evening.

When I made oden おでん a few days ago, I used kelp to make broth. I recycled the used kelp into "tsukudani" 昆布の佃煮 and used it as a topping.

The cheese melted nicely and this was also seasoned with concentrated noodle sauce and grated ginger.

This is the second time I made this chicken liver dish. Although the liver was a bit mangled up into pieces rather than whole lobes and it may not have looked as nice as the last batch I made, it still tasted really good. The red wine I used this time was California cab (I think it was Louis M Martini Cab from Napa  2014). It is not as tannic as what I used last time and the overall dish came out better than the first batch.

I just thawed the "hanpen" fish cake. Cut it into 4 pieces and made a pocket using a small knife and stuffed the pocket with cheese (I think I used double Gloucester). I fried both sides in a small amount of olive oil until golden and the cheese melted. I added a small amount of concentrated noodle sauce (or soy sauce). I added a dab of grated ginger and the kelp tsukudani. This combination is always good. The kelp's slight saltiness went well.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Fresh Corn Polenta 新鮮コーン入りポレンタ

We thought we must have posted our polenta recipe a long time ago but we have not. We just mentioned it in passing. Since it is still local corn season, my wife decided to make polenta with fresh corn kernels. This is perfect for breakfast but we also had this as our ending "shime" dish one evening. We served it with a fried (pasteurized) egg. As you can see, the one in the picture is a bit overcooked the egg (you should have runny yolk with polenta or scrapple).

This is a picture of the polenta just before frying. You can see the fresh corn kernels.

1 cup corn meal
3 cups of corn cob broth (#3)
1 tbs butter
3 tbs sugar
1/2 sp salt
1 cup corn kernels (ears of corn microwaved for 4 minutes, covered with paper towel, kernels removed) (#1 and 2).

1. If you try to remove the corn from the cob on a cutting bored, the kernels go all over the place. I placed a Pyrex ramekin upside down in a metal bowl and put the ear of corn on top of the ramekin. I then cut off the kernels using a knife (from top to bottom). The kernels are captured in the bowl (#1 and 2).
2. For making the corn cob broth, put 4 cups of water in a pan and add 6 corn cobs after the kernels have been removed. Also add coarsely chopped one medium onion and boil gently for 1 hour (#3). if you want stronger broth after straining the liquid it can be further reduced.
3. Pour the corn cob broth into a pan. Add the butter, sugar and salt and let it come to a boil. Add the corn meal in a steady stream while vigorously whisking to prevent lumps from forming (#4).
4. As the mixture gets thicker switch the whisk to a wooden (bamboo) spatula and continue stirring (this is where I help my wife since stirring polenta is hard work). Keep cooking and stirring until the polenta starts coming off the side of the pan. Add the corn kernels and mix. (#5).
5. Place the polenta in a loaf pan which has been rinsed with cold water (not oiled) (the residual water on the pan allows the cooled polenta to drop out when the pan is inverted . Make sure there are no air bubbles trapped. Smooth the surface (#6).
6. Cover with a plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight after cooled to the room temperature.
7. Just before serving, slice the polenta into 1/2 inch thick pieces (#7).
8. Dredge with flour and pan fry using peanut oil turning once until both sides develop a nice brown crust (#8).

We have not had polenta for some time and this tasted really good. Using the corn cob broth and fresh corn kernels really added a nice fresh intense corn taste. The kernels provided a sweet burst of flavor and a nice crunch element to the texture. Our only regret was that the eggs were overcooked.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Squid salad Japanese style 和風イカサラダ

Again, I got cleaned squid. I asked for 1 pound but I ended up with a bit more since the fish monger at our grocery store threw in the reaming squid since not much was left after my purchase. Again, I was not sure what I would make. I decided to quickly boil them so that they would last until I could decide. So I cooked the squid in boiling water with sake and salt for 30 seconds and drained. I kept the cooked squid in a sealable container in the refrigerator and served them as an appetizers over the next 5-6 days until we finished them.  Apparently the quick blanch helped to keep them from going bad over that time. Although with karashi-sumiso sauce 芥子酢味噌  have been our most common way to have this, we had it like sashimi with soy sauce and wasabi ワサビ醤油, sautéed in butter with garlic, celery seasoned with soy sauce イカとセロリの炒め物,  with black olive, olive oil and balsamic vinegar カラマリサラダ and this dish, seasoned with soy sauce and grated ginger.

The pickled myouga 茗荷の甘酢ずけ in sweet vinegar really made this dish, I also added sliced scallion.

Although the squid was tender due to the initial short boiling, I cut up the squid ring and also tentacles especially for my wife.

This is not a really a recipe.
I washed the squid, cut the body into rings and cooked for 30 seconds in boiling salted water with a splash of sake, drained and cooled. I placed then in a sealable container and refrigerated.

The dressing was a mixture of grated ginger and soy sauce. I sliced pickled myouga thinly and sliced scallion on bias thinly. This was really a simple and good dish. I thought the boiled squid I prepared was really good way to make it last for almost one week. Even the sautéed  dish came out really good. Since the boiled squid does not exude liquid, it does not produce much sauce but the cooking time is short and the squid remained very tender. I found it sometimes better to prepare squid this way rather than making one dish since we enjoyed it several different ways during the week.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Banana Bread バナナブレッド

We thought we must have already posted my wife's banana bread recipe but realized we did not. This time, she made it from red bananas instead of regular bananas. The red bananas have a denser sweeter texture. When using regular bananas my wife found the the bread tasted best if the bananas were extremely ripe--as in almost completely black. On a number of occasions, I saw the blackened bananas sitting in a bowl on the counter and went to throw them out.  My wife would object claiming they were almost ready for banana bread. Another technique she used was to freeze the ripened bananas (after peeling) until she had enough to make the quantity of bread she wanted. This is a classic quick bread which she has been making for long time and we have been enjoying as a breakfast bread.

This post is mostly to have her recipe on line so that she can refer to it easily. Beside using red bananas, she added pecan nuts.

She let it cool down just a bit before removing the loaf from the pan.

Bananas add flavor as well as moist texture without adding too much fat.

3 cups All Purpose flour
2 Tsp. salt
2 Tsp. baking soda
2 cups mashed bananas
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup butter melted
2 Tsp. vanilla
Toasted pecans, chopped (optional)

In a bowl stir together the flour, salt and baking soda. In another bowl, stir together the remaining liquid ingredients. Mix the liquid ingredients with the dry ingredients. Pour into a greased loaf pan (this recipe makes 2 loaves). Bake in a 325 F oven for 50 to 60 minutes until a wooden skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes then remove from the pan.
This recipe is extremely easy to scale up. The amount is all based on the quantity of bananas available. My wife has made up to 10 times the recipe which is the maximum our large bowls can handle. 

As far as I am concerned this is the best banana bread! It is moist, sweet, and tastes of vanilla and bananas. Over the years, my wife has tried other recipes but keeps coming back to this one. It tastes great in the morning with a cup of coffee.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Country pate version 2 田舎風パテ第二弾

This is my second attempt at making "Country pate". One weekend, I got ground pork and chicken liver to make the pate but the chicken liver looked really good so I made "Yakitori" and liver simmered in red wine instead. Since I had the ground pork, I decided to make country pate using bacon instead of the chicken liver. I read a few recipes and came up with my own rendition. It came out quite nice. The texture was better than my first attempt. I served this with Dijon mustard, thinly sliced cornichon and skinned Campari tomato.

Besides pork and bacon, I added shelled pistachio nuts, shiitake mushroom and onion.  Seasoning included thyme, black pepper and reduced brandy.

Ingredients (made 3 small loaves):
1.25 lb ground pork
2 strips of thickly cut bacon, uncooked, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
4 fresh shiitake mushrooms, stem removed, bottom cut off, torn length wise into thin strips, caps and stems, finely chopped
2 tbs light olive oil for sauteing
1 large egg
2 tbs cream
1 cup brandy (I used Christian brother VS which I use for cooking) reduced to 1/3 cup (#2)
1/4 tsp thyme (I used dry)
1/4 tsp Freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp Kosher salt
1 cup shelled pistachio nuts
3 bay leaves

1. Cook the onion and garlic in olive oil. When cooked, add the shiitake mushrooms and continue cooking for several more minutes. Then season with salt and pepper and place the mixture in a metal bowl and let it cool to room temperature (#1)
2. Meanwhile reduce 1 cup of brandy to 1/3 cup (#2), be careful not to ignite the alcohol while reducing.
3. Mix together the bacon, ground pork and #1 and #2, pistachio nuts, egg, cream, thyme, black pepper, salt, and mix well (#3).
4. Grease the bottom of a small loaf pan and place a piece of parchment paper on the bottom and one bay leaf (#4).
5.  Place the meat mixture in the pan, tapping a few times to remove any trapped air (#5) and tightly cover the opening with aluminum foil.
6. In a 350 F oven, cook the pate in a  bain marie (fill a large baking dish with boiling water which comes to half way up the depth of the loaf pan) for 1 and half hours (or until the center of the pate registers 166 F).
7. Let it cool down to room temperature and refrigerate overnight.
8. To remove the pate from the pan soak the bottom of the loaf pan in warm water; the pate comes out easily (#6).
9. Wipe off the excess fat and gelatin from the surface and wrap the pate in plastic wrap and refrigerate for one more day before serving.

We like this version much better than the first version I made. It has a better texture. Although we did not taste the shiitake mushroom, it must have contributed to the texture. We are not sure that the reduced brandy did anything either. In any case. this pate is perfect accompaniment for red wine.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Kamo eggplant with pork miso stuffing 賀茂茄子の肉味噌詰め

The other day, I found a round Japanese eggplant at our Japanese grocery store. This was either Kamo-nasu 加茂茄子 or Mizu-nasu 水茄子  but it had no label. I asked the cashier and was told it was "Kamo-nasu". Kamo-nasu is often used in Kyoto cuisine 京都料理 and has a nice firm flesh. Dengaku 田楽 is the most common way to serve this vegetable. (While I am writing this I realized I never posted eggplant "dengaku". When I made this, I thought I must have already posted the usual miso-dengaku and decided to make this variation using pork meat).

It is miso flavored but I also added ground pork and white sesame paste. I garnished it with roasted white sesame seeds.

I served this one evening with pork belly "Kakuni" 豚の角煮 I made recently.

One Kamo-nasu (#1) (or you can use regular American eggplant), cut into four disks after removing the skin in an alternate pattern. I removed some of the flesh of the eggplant to make space for the stuffing (#2).
Light olive oil, as need, to bake the eggplant (or you could deep fry).

For stuffing:
1/4 lb of ground pork (I used trimming from pork tenderloins and hand chopped)
1/4 tsp finely chopped ginger
1/4 tsp finely chopped garlic
2 tbs miso (I used white miso)
2 tbs mirin
2 tbs sake
1 tsp roasted white sesame paste "nerigoma" 練りゴマ.
1/2 tsp of dark roasted sesame oil
1 tsp vegetable oil
Finely chopped flesh removed from the eggplant as discussed above.
1 tsp potato starch slurry (potato starch and sake in equal amount)

For eggplant,
I decided to bake rather than either cook in a frying pan with oil or deep fry.
I lined the baking sheet with aluminum foil and coated with the olive oil.
I painted all the surfaces of the eggplant slices with the oil and baked at 350F for 30 minutes in the toaster oven (convection mode) (#3 and 4 above).

For stuffing:
In a non-stick frying pan, I added the vegetable and sesame oil on low flame and sautéed the ginger and garlic until fragrant. I added the finely diced flesh of eggplant, pork and turned up the flame and cooked the meat until cooked and separated.
I first loosened the miso with sake and mirin by adding the liquid in increments while mixing in a separate container. I added the sugar and mixed well. (If the consistency was not liquid enough, add water or more sake).
I added the sauce into the cooked meat mixture and cooked until the liquid was reduced in half about 10 minutes.
I added the sesame paste and a splash of sesame oil and mixed well.
I tasted the stuffing (you can adjust sweetness by adding more sugar or mirin at this point).
I finished with the potato starch slurry to thicken the stuffing. Make sure to cook for about one minute before cutting off the flame.

I kept both the baked eggplant and the stuffing in the refrigerator until just before serving.
I layered the miso-pork stuffing on the top of the eggplant slices and placed in a preheated 350F toaster oven for 15 minutes or until warmed up completely.
I garnished with sesame seeds and served hot.

This was very good. The eggplant was soft and sweet which was well complemented by the ginger miso and pork flavors of the stuffing. The only problem was the skin of the eggplant--it was tough. I could probably leave the skin alone rather than making an alternate peeling pattern since we had to remove the skin to eat the eggplant anyway. This combination of the pork belly dish and the miso-pork stuffing dish went very well together.