Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Double pork bowl ダブル豚丼

This is sort of leftover control but it was pretty good. On the previous weekend, we ended up getting quite a large pork loin roast. Instead of cooking all of it one way, I decided to divide it into two portions. From one half, I made several loin chops which I made into "tonkatsu" pork cutlet and from the other half, I made Japanese/Chinese style pot roast or "chasu" pork (in this version, I also used star anise). Toward the end of the week, I made this double pork bowl using both the tonkatsu and the pot roast.

I heated the tonkatsu in the toaster oven. For the pot roast pork, I added sliced onion and the pork with the cooking liquid in a small frying pan and cooked the onion until soft and the meat was heated up. I just put these two kinds of pork on a bed of rice.  I poured the juice from the pan over the onion and pot roast pork, then placed the sliced tonkatsu and added tonkatsu sauce. For the green, I also added blanched broccoli.

The pot roast was the very last piece left.

As leftover control dish was pretty good.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Cappuccino and the new frother カプチーノ

At home, we almost exclusively drink espresso or espresso-based coffee. On the weekend, we usually have cappuccinos in the morning with breakfast. In the late morning, we have macchiatos. Sometimes, in the afternoon, we have straight espressos.

We went though several iterations of espresso makers. We have been using an Italian-made basic espresso machine called Rancilio Silvia for more than 10 years. We are on the 4th and probably best model we have had. Before this one, we used Gaggia classic which also made decent espresso coffee. Silvia is a totally manual model without anything automatic or fancy. It has only one boiler so you have to wait  (probably close to 1 minute) for the boiler to heat up for steaming the milk after brewing the coffee.

It requires some effort but it does make a good espresso and also steam. It froths the milk adequately for cappuccino and latte. I have replaced and upgraded parts during the year but one advantage of owning Silvia is many 3rd party tune-up/ improvement parts in addition to the replacement parts are readily available. One noteworthy is  the flat shower screen (with flat screw head). Being an Italian machine, the screw head of the original shower screen protruded which made an indentation mark and broke the integrity of surface of the coffee pack  (since the Italian method does not make a "pack" of coffee grind but uses loose coffee when brewing espresso, this may not be a problem for them).

The frother of Silvia is a no-frill basic steam wand and requires some practice to make nice froth but the froth is not as stable or creamy as one made with a commercial espresso machine. Recently, I got a milk frother Nespresso Aeraoccino4 and it works really well. It is rather small and I have to run it twice for 2 cups of cappuccino or latte but it can make small amounts of frothed cream for macchiato. the Breville model can handle larger amounts but not a small amount of cream for macchiato.

To prevent overflowing, it is important not to overfill beyond the max line for frothing milk. It does produce a very creamy stable foam and heats up the milk nicely.

The picture below shows the pattern on the crema indicating good extraction. Silvia is very pesky to have a perfect dose and grind. I use low-speed bur grinder Rancillio Rocky grinder to get the perfect fineness of the coffee grinds. I tamp it only lightly. The machine also requires regular cleaning (back flush using a blank back flush basket with detergent - I use Cafiza) once a week and descale the machine using espresso decalcifier/descaler once a month. Since I use reverse osmosis filtered water, I do not have much of a calcium deposit problem. There are articles explaining how to make good espresso using Rancilio Silvia.

We get green beans (several espresso blends) and roast them at home (using both hot air and direct heat drum roasters) but that is for another time.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Braised Japanese sweet yam with pork さつま芋と豚肉のきんぴら

I made this dish since we had leftover Japanese sweet yam. I braised this like I would "gobo" burdock root.

I could have added deep fried tofu or abura-age to the dish to make it vegetarian but I used strips of pork instead and garnished it with black sesame (white sesame may have been better).

Japanese "satsumaimo" sweet yam, washed and thinly sliced and then julienned (amount arbitrary, here I used 1/3 of medium yam)
Pork cut into strips (again the amount is arbitrary, I used pork tenderloin but pork belly would be better).
2 tsp peanuts oil and 1/4 tsp of dark sesame oil
2 tsp each of soy sauce and mirin

In a wok, add oil and heat up on medium high flame. Once the oil is heated up, add the pork and stir until the color changes. Add the sweet yam and stir to coat (below picture).

Add the mirin and then the soy sauce and braise until most of the liquid is gone (see below).

Compared to a classic burdock root kinpira, this one is still bit crunchy and fresh tasting. Perfect small dish for Japanese sake.

Monday, February 19, 2018

PA Dutch Oatmeal cookies オートミールクッキー

After making oatmeal for breakfast, my wife remembered that she used to make oatmeal cookies based on PA Dutch recipe from an old PA dutch cookbook she has had forever. She has not made this for long time for some reason, so she decided to see if they were as good as she remembered. They were! This cookie has a nice soft texture and is an excellent cookie with tea.

The oatmeal, raisins and nuts make this cookie.

1 cup butter (or shortening)
1 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1/2 Tsp. baking soda
2 Tsp. baking powder
1/2 Tsp. salt
1 Tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 Tsp. grorund cloves
1/2 Tsp. nutmeg
1 Tsp. vanilla
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cup uncooked rolled oats
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts toasted)

Toast the oats in the toaster oven stirring frequently until light lightly browned and fragrant.
Toast the walnuts and remove brown skin by rubbing in a dish towel. Let them cool.
Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add eggs in thirds beating well after each addition.
Add dry ingredients including the oats alternately with the buttermilk, mixing until blended after each addition. Blend in the nuts.
Drop by teaspoonful onto creased cooked sheets. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 15 minutes.

Eating this cookie was like meeting an old friend you haven't seen for awhile. It was as good as we remembered; one of the best cookies ever (not to "oversell" it, of course). It has a soft texture, the oatmeal gives it a bit of "tooth" and the toasted nuts a burst of flavor and crunch. The spices give it a complex range of flavors. Wonder why we stopped making these? Having dusted off the recipe we will be making more...since the ones we just made are almost gone.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Oatmeal for breakfast オートミールの朝ごはん

I did not like oatmeal for breakfast because, for me, it has a peculiar slimy texture. It is kind of funny for me to say that I do not like a slimy food since many Japanese foods are characterized by their slimy texture which has never deterred me from enjoying them. In any case, it was a cold day and my wife decided to make "a breakfast which sticks to your  ribs. So here we go, oatmeal and cappuccino for breakfast.

Unexpectdly, this was much better than I remembered it. The cinnamon and raisin  flavors were nice and a pat of butter did not hurt. Amazingly, there was no slimy texture to the oatmeal.

I am not sure what made the difference. My wife toasted the oatmeal before making the hot cereal. I wonder whether that made a difference or Quaker oats may have changed the processing to reduce/remove the sliminess. The cappuccino was topped with very stable and creamy froth which was made with a new Nespresso milk  frother.

1 cup Quaker Oats old fashioned
1 3/4 cups Milk
1/8 Tsp. salt
1 TBS. brown sugar
1/2 Tsp. cinnamon
1/2 Raisins
several pats of butter

Toast the oatmeal in the toaster oven until it is lightly browned and fragrant (picture below). My wife does this because it brings our a nutty flavor that is nice.
Bring milk to a boil. Stir in salt, brown sugar, cinnamon and raisins.
Then add the oatmeal and bring back to a boil. Simmer for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Serve with a little pat of butter to melt on the top. As an added luxury supply a little pitcher of heated milk (or to be really extravagant cream) to add on top.

Oatmeal for breakfast has been a mainstay for my wife since she was a kid. She didn't even notice it was "slimy" until I pointed it out to her. She served it to my mother and I, "as a treat" many years ago and we both gagged on it. My mother choked it down because she thought it was healthy but I couldn't finish the bowl. My wife tells of the oatmeal that was served at the overnight camp she attended. It came complete with a thick skin that formed as it cooled in the crisp mountain air. The servings were offered "with skin or without". My wife loved the oatmeal and opted for "with skin".

So given this history, I was pleasantly relieved at how good this oatmeal was. I even surprised my wife for going back for a refill. Only problem is that it really "sticks to your ribs" and I was not hungry even by dinner time.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Panettone Christmas bread パネトネクリスマスブレッド

Before Christmas,  my wife baked quite a few breads including Italian Christmas Panettone bread. She tried making Panettone last year but because of a time constraint (she baked on Christmas eve!), she made a quick bread version instead of the traditional yeast version. Although the quick bread was excellent in it's own right, she really wanted to make a traditonal yeast Panettone. This time, we had enough time to start with "biga" starter. She had a bit of technical problem but made it before Christmas.

It came out a bit on dark side. Later we learned that when using a paper mold, the temperature and baking time may have to be adjusted (?????? 10F lower and 10 minutes shorter ????). My wife found the original recipe  on line.

Despite the high done exterior the inside was still moist.

400 grams All-Purpose Flour (divided)
175 grams Cultured Buttermilk, divided
125 grams Egg Yolks (the yolks of about 7 eggs
200 grams dried fruit (I used raisins)
100 grams Bourbon
75 grams walnuts, crushed and toasted
75 grams Sugar
12 grams Salt
10 grams plus a pinch Instant Yeast
150 grams Butter, cold but softened
1 egg
Zest of 1 lemon

For the Biga:
The night before you plan to bake, combine 200 grams of flour, 125 grams of buttermilk, and a small pinch of yeast in a medium bowl with your hands until all of the flour and yeast are hydrated and no clumps remain. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 12 to 16 hours. The biga should double in size. (This biga comes out very dry next year my wife said she might try adding a bit more liquid.)(My wife left it for a day and overnight until it doubled in size).
At least a day before you plan to bake, combine the dried fruit (raisins), bourbon and lemon zest. Allow to sit, covered, at room temperature overnight until the fruit absorbs the alcohol. Shake periodically to make sure the fruit hydrates evenly (#1 in picture below).
Place the remaining 200 grams flour, all of the biga, the egg yolks, the remaining 50 grams buttermilk, and the yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Mix on low speed until the dough is fully incorporated and smooth. About 4 minutes.
  1. When the initial mix has come fully together into a smooth ball, add the salt and sugar. Continue mixing on slow speed until the dough is once again smooth, about 4 minutes (#2).
  2. When the dough has once again come together, turn the mixer to medium-high speed and knead until the dough forms a slightly stiff, but stretchy and elastic ball, about 4 minutes.
  3. Return the mixer to slow speed and add the butter in small pieces. Mix until butter is fully incorporated into dough, scraping down the sides of the work bowl with a spatula as necessary. When the butter is fully incorporated, the dough should feel looser, and stretchier than before, but not greasy. About 10 minutes. If the dough continues to feel greasy but you can't see any pieces of butter in the bowl, allow dough to continue to mix on slow speed until the oily feel has fully dissipated, up to 5 minutes longer.
  4. With the butter is fully incorporated, drain any excess liquid from the dried fruit. Add the cherries and toasted hazelnuts to the dough. Mix on low speed until dough re-forms into a coherent ball with dried fruit and nuts evenly distributed throughout. 
  5. Using a dough spatula, transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface, shape into a ball, and place the ball seam-side down into the panettone mold. The ball of dough should fill somewhere between a quarter and a third of the mold.
  6. Beat egg well and brush over the top of the panettone. Lightly but securely cover your filled panettone mold with plastic wrap. Allow to proof in a warm, slightly humid place until the dough fills the mold roughly 2/3 high, 10 to 12 hours (#3).
  7. 1 hour before you plan to bake, adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 350°F (325°F for a convection oven). When the panettone is appropriately risen, apply a second coat of egg wash, place it on a rimmed baking sheet, and place in oven.
  8. Bake the panettone until the top is a deep, golden brown, and a pastry tester or knife pushed into the center comes out clean, approximately 45 minutes, rotating the loaf midway through the bake (#4).
  9. When done, allow to cool for at least 2 hours and up to overnight. Stored in a plastic bag, the panettone will stay moist and fresh for at least 4 days. 

The Panettone was very good. It had a fairly dense but moist texture. The bourbon flavor of the dried fruit really came through and was a very nice addition.

This was a weekend bake-a-thon. In addition to the panettone (upper right), my wife baked stollen (left), English muffin loaves (upper center), and white bread loaves (lower right) and I baked focaccia (lower center).

After tasting the home made panettone, we decided see how the taste of the homemake bread compared to the taste of two commercial panettone brands. Both came from Amazon.

The first one is called "Granducale" Panettone Classico.

The second is called Madi Gran Panettone.

Both were quite good. The below is the Madi brand. Very uniform fine texture with nice citric taste from candied orange rind.

This is Granducale brand. This one had occasional large holes and had a slightly more moist consistency.

We felt both the commercial brands were equally good with a very slightest edge going to the Grandducale. They were also fairly similar in flavor to the homemade one although the homemade one was considerably denser. Now, given how complicated it is to make our own Panettone we have to ask, it is worth to bake Panettone ourselves?

Saturday, February 10, 2018

porridge with nagaimo 長芋お粥

My family never had a tradition of eating "Nanakusa-gayu" 七草がゆ or "seven herb porridge" which is usually eaten on January 7th. I am not sure of its history or reasons for it but in Japan, a package of 7 herbs for this dish appears in the market when the date nears. I made this porridge after we ran out of osechi and other dishes I made for the New Year. This is a rather interesting recipe which came from Buddhist monk Nishikawa 西川和尚. This porridge contains both grated and cubes of nagaimo 長芋. I made a slight modification and added baby water cress and topped with aomori powder and the meat of pickled plum. I served it with Mackerel simmered in miso sauce サバの味噌煮, red wine simmered chicken liver 鶏レーバーの赤ワイン煮 and simmered Japanese "kabocha" squash カボチャの煮物 for one weekend lunch.

This is a rather simple recipe. Instead of using a totally vegetarian broth (i.e. kelp broth), I used a combination of kelp and bonito flakes for the broth.

Ingredients (for two small servings):
3/4 cup of cooked rice (we microwaved frozen cooked rice to thaw it )
Nagaimo, 5 inch pieces, peeled, 1/3 grated and 2/3 cut into small cubes
1 cup of Japanese broth
Baby water cress, stems removed, an arbitrary amount
Dried aomori and umeboshi pickled plum meat finely chopped for garnish

Add the cooked rice to a pan and add the broth, mix and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the grated nagaimo, mix and simmer another 2-3 minutes.
Add the cubed nagaimo, add the water cress, season with the salt and cook 1-2 more minutes (do not over cook the nagaimo cubes).
Serve hot with the garnish of the Aonori, pickled plum and fresh water cress leaves.

The simmered Japanese "kabocha" pumpkin was prepared as before.

So were the mackerel and chicken liver.

The graded nagaimo added to the volume and, of course, added a unique texture to the porridge. The combination of grated texture with the nice crunch of the cubes of nagaimo was unique. This is very gentle soothing dish for your stomach.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Scallop curry in a pouch レトルト帆立カレー

Japanese are quite fond of curry. It was said the original Japanese curry was first served on Japanese Navy ships and is based on English modifications to Indian curry. Now, in Japan, many curry restaurants have proliferated including ones serving very authentic regional curries such as those in India, Thailand, and Nepal in addition to Japanese style curry. Japanese have three choices if they want to eat curry at home; 1. make it from scratch using authentic methods and spices, 2. Use commercial "curry roux" which is readly available and 3. or heat up Curry-in-a-pouch which is called "retoruto-kare" レトルトカレー.  Food-in-a-pouch or "retort pouch" / "retortable pouch" was initially developed by the US military to replace canned or bottled food, reduce the weight and waste and also to make a meal-ready-to-eat (MRE) that could be heated quickly. It was also used during space travel. In the US, food-in-a-retort pouch did not become very popular among the general populace, perhaps, because of the widespread use of frozen food. But, in Japan,  curry-in-a-pouch has been extremely popular. One servings of curry comes in a pouch and the price ranges for $1 to $10 encompassing mass-produced cheap varieties to high-end varieties with a restaurant's or hotel's name attached to it. In recent years, another category of curry-in-pouch called "gotouchi kare" ご当地カレー is getting popular. There are even specialized websites from which you can buy quite interesting varieties of "locale-specific" or "Gotouchi" curry. We recently ate one such example which was sent to us as part of my mother's New Year "care" package. This one was scallop curry from Hokkaido. I added shrimp, blanched green beans and broccoli. Of course, I also served Japanese curry condiments "rakyo" ラッキョウ and "fukishin-zuke" 福神漬け.

The curry contained a goodly number of scallops which were nice and tender but I am not sure it added anything substantial to the curry. The curry roux was moderately hot and had nice flavors and texture. My wife added yogurt to dampen the heat (and also because she just likes yogurt in her curry.)

This seafood curry in a pouch came from "Sato suisan" 佐藤水産 or Sato seafood in Sapporo.  I found out that, beside selling Hokkaido seafood products, this company also runs seafood restaurants with one located near the opening of Ishikari river 石狩川 called "Old River" restaurant. This curry is supposedly from this restaurant using fresh Hokkaido vegetables and seafood (two varieties of seafood curry are available;  scallop 帆立 or sea whelk  ツブ) without animal fat or meat.

As per the directions on the back of he package, I boiled the pouch in water for 5 minutes. They also recommend adding cooked (sautéed in butter) vegetables.

I thawed uncooked shell-on shrimp, cleaned and sautéed them in butter with blanched green beans and broccoli seasoned with salt and pepper.

We shared one pouch between the two of us and put it over rice  (pre-cooked frozen rice microwaved to thaw). The scallop was tender and the roux had nice heat, texture, and flavors albeit not particularly special. (My wife thought it tasted very similar to the curry I make with Japanese curry roux, although this curry doesn't include any animal products but the roux does). Certainly this is a very convenient  way to  enjoy curry at home.

My mothers package also included the "whelk" curry in-a-pouch which tasted very similar to the scallop curry but with the inclusion of "rubber tire" chewy whelk. My wife "graciously" passed all the welk she could find in her dish to me--even the one she had been unsuccessfully chewing on for awhile.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Focaccia bread フォッカッチア

This is a variation of my focaccia bread. Although this is a bit too thick to make sandwiches, it is much better as eating bread dipped in olive oil.

We like this particular Spanish olive oil. It has quite robust flavors. We recently got a newer pressing (for 2017).

This is not a recipe but a note to myself for future reference. I made this bread to reuse (rescue) the sponge (or starter or biga) my wife was attempting to make for her Panettone bread.  My wife started the "biga" as per the recipe she found on line (200 grams or 1 3/4 cup of flour, 125 grams or a bit more than 1/2 cup of buttermilk, a small pinch of yeast, mixed together and let to stand at room temperature for 12-16 hours or until the volume doubles).

It looked quite dry for sponge and she was afraid she had not followed the recipe precisely. So she prepared another batch which also looked quite dry for sponge. In any case, she did make Panettone using the second sponge which was successful. So, we had the first sponge left over. Rather than throwing it out, I decided  I would make a focaccia bread using this sponge.  Since the sponge was rather dry, I added more water and kneaded and left it in a Ziplock bag for several more hours (it was made 2 days ago). It started looking more like sponge. Since the sponge had 1 3/4 cup of flour, I added 2 more cups of bread flour, one package of yeast (proofed in a small amount of lukewarm water with a pinch of sugar) and about 1 cup of water (I added a bit more until a proper dough formed). I kneaded it in a mixer with a dough hook for 10 minutes.

I decide to let it rise three times. I finished kneading by hand to make a tight ball. In a large bowl, I added a small amount of olive oil and placed in the dough ball and turned to coat. I covered it with a plastic wrap and towel and let it rise for 1 hour or until the volume doubled. I punched it down and let it rise for the second time. After the volume doubled again, I punched it down and let it rest for 10 minutes on the board (to relax the gluten). Then, I spread the dough onto a 1/4 sheet non-stick baking sheet. I let it rise for the 3rd and last time for 30 minutes. I then, pressed the dough with my finger tips to make multiple indents. I brushed on chopped fresh rosemary soaked in olive oil and scatted oil cured black olive (after the stones were removed) and pushed them into the dough (see below).

I  baked it at a lower temperature than usual, at 350F for 30 minutes.

The focaccia came out less crusty and much thicker and bread-like in the center. This was one of the items in our bake-a-thon shown below. One weekend, we made Stollen (far left), English muffin bread (Upper middle), Panetonne (Upper right), White bread (Lower right) and my focaccia (center).

You may have notice both edges of the focaccia were already cut off for the tasting. We really liked the texture and flavor of the focaccia made this way.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Sea Urchin from Maruhide with squid sashimi 丸秀の雲丹とイカの刺身

Between Christmas and New Year, we got "uni" sea urchin from Maruhide 丸秀 in Los Angeles, again. We think this is the best place to get quality uni in the U.S. They sell two kinds of uni; one is conventional (treated with potassium alum or myouban 明礬) to maintain the shape and firmness, the other is soaked in 3% salt water (salinity of sea water). The vast majority of uni available, which comes in a tray, is myouban-treated. Done properly, you do not tase the myoban but sometimes, they use an excessive amount and the uni can taste bitter. We got both versions from Maruhide and both are excellent. The one packed in salt water may not last as long as alum-treated one and starts to lose its shape quickly.

I served the myouban-treated uni on the top of perilla leaves and squid sashimi. This is emulating our favorite way to eat uni at Tako Grill (see below).

Since we did not have appropriate squid sashimi, I used a package of precut frozen squid sashimi from the Japanese grocery store.

This uni was alum treated but we did not taste any bitterness and the combination of perilla, squid and uni is indeed our favorite way to eat uni.