Monday, April 30, 2018

Cornmeal bread コーンミールブレッド

This is another baking project by my wife. This recipe is from the "Beard on bread" cookbook. "Beard on bread" sounds funny. I imagined a beard growing from the surface of the bread but of course "Beard" is the name of the late, famous "cook, cookbook author and TV personality" James Beard. The annual  James Beard Foundation Award is considered the "Oscar" of the culinary world. In any case, my wife looked through the book and decided to make this bread.

1/2 cup cornmeal
1 cup boiling water
1 Tsp salt
2 packages of active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (100 to 115 degrees)
1 Tbs. granulated sugar
1 cup warm milk
1-2 Tsp salt
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
4 to 4 1/2 All purpose flour

Pour the cornmeal and salt into the boiling water. Stir vigorously until it cooks and becomes thick. (You are basically making polenta). Before the cornmeal completely cools and solidifies, add the cooked cornmeal, warmed milk, salt and brown sugar to a stand mixer with a dough hook. Stir to make a creamy mixture with no lumps. Let cool until slightly warm. Bloom the yeast in the 1/2 cup warm water and 1 tbs. granulated sugar. Add to the milk mixture. Add the flour one cup at a time. Stir until the dough is smooth and elastic. (Add more flour if necessary). Knead in the mixer for 7-10 minutes.

Put the dough in a bowl with a small amount of vegetable oil. Coat the dough in the oil. Cover and let rise until doubled in a warm place. When doubled punch the dough down and make two loaves. Put in a well greased loaf pan (the more butter used to grease the crunchier the crust because the dough is basically frying). Let rise again until almost doubled. Bake in a 425 degree oven for 10 minutes then lower the temperature to 350 and continue baking another 20 to 25 minutes or until the loaves are nicely browned and sound hollow when tapped. The original recipe said to take the loaves out of the pan and put on the rack of the oven for a few minutes to crisp the crust. We didn't do that.

This bread reminds of us of English muffin bread my wife makes. Both have a nice crunchy texture. This one has a pleasant faint corn flavor, of course, from the cornmeal. This bread can be used in any dishes where English muffin bread is called for and also good every day bread.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Pork chops Japanese style ポークチョップ

Pork chops are a rather popular cut in the US. Most popular are loin chops with rib attached (rib chops). One weekend, I bought a rather large pork loin without bones. Since it was large, I decided to cut off 4 loin chops before I trussed and seasoned the remaining loin for our usual  hot smoked pork on our Weber grill.  I wondered how I should cook the chops and decide to use a Japanese recipe. I grew up with simply sautéed pork chops in Japan but I wanted to do something a bit different. After reading through a few recipes, I made modified Japanese pork chops. I served them with sautéed pencil green asparagus and  corn shuffle my wife made unmolded and cut in half.

The sauce also included onion and shiitake mushroom.

I probably over cooked it and it came out a bit dry but the sauce helped.

Ingredients: (for 4 servings).
Four Pork loin chops (or rib chops).
Salt and pepper for seasoning
Flour for dredging
Olive oil

For sauce
One medium onion, halved and sliced
4 tbs ketchup
4 tbs worchestershire sauce
1/3 cup dry red wine
3 fresh shiitake mushroom, stem removed and sliced
2 tbs butter (or olive oil).

Season both sides of the chops with salt and pepper, dredge them in flour.
Cook in a small amount of butter or olive oil until nicely browned (see below), turn them over and repeat.
Set the chops aside on a plate
Add the onion in the same pan and sauté until cooked and add the shiitake mushroom and continue cooking for several more minutes,
Put the vegetables in on the side of the pan, add the ketchup and cook it while stirring until the ketchup becomes caramelized and dark.
Add the red wine and Worcestershire sauce and mix and cook for a few minutes until the sauce lightly thickens.

Put back the chops and coat them with sauce (see below) to complete cooking the chops.

Serve hot with the sauce on the top. In Japan, the chops are served precut into bite sized pieces for ease of eating with chopsticks. This was not bad but the chops were a bit on the dry side.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Salmon "Zuke" bowl サーモンのずけ丼

The day after our hanami was cold and rainy so we could not do another day of hanami outside. Since we had to finish up our sashimi salmon, I made a salmon "Zuke" bowl for lunch.

I first sliced the salmon sashimi a bit thinner than I would if I was serving it as sashimi. I then marinated the pieces in a concentrated noodle sauce (from the bottle. I was a bit too lazy to prepare a "Zuke" sauce myself) for 2 hours in the refrigerator. Since salmon is rather oily, it did not absorb the marinade as much as tuna would. I warmed up some frozen rice from our stash in the freezer and dressed it with sushi vinegar for an instant sushi rice. I added the rice to a bowl (this was a baby size), topped it with the marinated slices of salmon. I garnished with sugar snaps (boiled and then cooled in seasoned broth. The recipe is from "Otsumami Yokocho" おつまみ横町 cookbook), thinly sliced green part of scallion and dried nori strips.

As a side, I served cucumber and radish "sunomono" 酢の物 salad.

I also served miso soup (julienne of daikon, "abura-age" deep fried tofu pouch, and scallion). This was a good light lunch for us. Now only half of the salmon sashimi is left.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

World's best cookie 世界一のクッキー

This is probably the very first cookie my wife made after we got married. She sent this cookie to my family in Japan and it was a hit. My mother and niece make this cookie using my wife's recipe. My wife has not made these cookies for a long time but she started to make cookies again recently and decide to go back to where she started. This cookie is called World's Best Cookie.

This is a type of crunchy and crumbly cookie and deserves a name like the "World's Best". Since one of the ingredients is "corn flakes", I was sent to the grocery store to get a box. We have not bought or eaten corn flakes for many years and I was surprised to find that the smallest box I could find was quite large.

Ingredients (#1 picture below, makes over three dozen cookies):
1 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup rolled oats, toasted in the toaster oven
1 cup cornflakes, crushed
1⁄2 cup shredded coconut
1⁄2 cup pecans or walnuts, toasted. If walnuts use cloth to rub off brown outer skin, chopped
3 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees
Cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy
Stir in egg, oil, vanilla.
Combine flour, baking soda and salt.
Combine with egg mixture until well blended.
Stir in the rest of the ingredients.Place on a parchment paper on ungreased cookie sheet into balls the size of walnuts using an ice cream scoop (#2) and flatten with a fork in criss cross pattern (#3).
Bake for 12 to 18 minutes.
Cool on cookie sheet for a few minutes before removing (#4).

I am sure over indulging on cookies these days but with coffee or tea, this cookie really hits the spot. I am taking a few to work with me so that I can have a snack in the afternoon.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Hanami 2018 花見 2018

Because of a recent Nor'easter, the 30 year old cherry tree  which was the main focus of hanami celebrations in our backyard because it formed a wide canopy of blossoms over the deck, was totally destroyed just when the buds were getting ready to bloom. Although some of the cuttings we brought inside did bloom the tree itself was a "goner". We had to replace it but the replacement was a young "Yoshino" 染井吉野 cherry tree only 6 feet tall. Luckily further back in the yard we have a cherry tree that we estimate must be over 50 years old. Even though it suffered some minor injuries from the nor'easter it rescued Hanami with its full bloom on a Saturday in April. It was very warm, even hot in mid-day on our deck particularly because we lost the shading canopy of the destroyed cherry tree. Nonetheless thanks to the old tree we still enjoyed "Hanami" 花見.

We decide to defrost a package of salmon for sashimi which we bought for the New Year but did not eat. It was a rather large piece of salmon. Since this was Hanami, I served salmon sashimi in a colorful way with ripe avocado garnished with thin slices of radish and cucumber.

The salmon was quit good and went well with the slices of avocado. Both had a nice melt-in-your-mouth texture. We had this with regular wasabi and soysauce.

This was followed with Japanese "dashimaki" 出汁巻 omelet with dried "aonori" 青のりseaweed (upper left), blanched baby "Bok Choi" "ohitashi" お浸しwith dried bonito flakes (upper right) and cold simmered daikon round with ginger miso with Yuzu zest.

We have been making variations of dashimaki using cooked and chopped baby kale and chicken broth but this time, I went traditional with a Japanese broth and dried "aonori" seaweed.

Since it was rather hot, I served the simmered daikon  cold.  It was first boiled with grains of rice and then simmered in kelp broth) with a ginger Yuzu miso sauce (finely chopped ginger, mirin, sake and sesame oil and Yuzu zest). I should have done a better job cutting the chives I used for garnish.

You cannot see well but blanched baby bok choi with dried bonito "Katsuo bush" flakes and soy sauce.

We were glad we could still do hanami in our back yard. The Grand Daddy old tree, while not as spectacular as the one we lost, went a long way to filling the void. Unfortunately, the next day was rainy, windy and cold so it was an only one day hanami this year except for the mini-hanami or the unexpected early hanami we had when the cuttings of now-demised cherry tree bloomed.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Nabe cooked on an induction cooker, IH 適応土鍋で鱈ちり

Some years ago, when we remodeled our kitchen, and were exiled to cook in the basement for the duration of the construction, we got a tabletop induction cooker.  We also had a butane canister gas table top cooker from our days in California. Although we used it for Nabe and Sukiyaki dishes, the gas cooker and the canisters were almost 30 years old and we were worried about their integrity.  Despite their age, they seemed to work fine but we did not buy extra gas canisters after we used them up.  Although our Sukiyaki pot was cast iron and compatible with induction cooking, we could not use our Japanese "Donabe 土鍋" earthen pots. So I just cooked our nabe dishes on the regular gas range and served them at the table which is not as much fun as tabletop cooking.

Induction cookers are much more popular in Japan than in the U.S. and are called "induction heaters" or "IH" for short.  As a result,  IH-compatible "donabes" have been available in Japan for some time.  Although I wanted to purchase one, as far as I know,  it is expensive to ship to the U.S. even if the Japanese companies would be willing to ship it.  Then, I came across Kinto store where they sell rather modern design Japanese table- and kitchenware. One of these items is an IH compatible Nabe (it came in two colors - black or white and two sizes - 40 and 82oz).

Instead of traditional earthenware, this is made of a much less porous heat-resistant porcelain with a special induction compatible plate embedded on the bottom. It comes with a steamer insert as well. It was reasonably priced and above a certain price break-point, shipping was free. I bought a small nabe (40oz) with some other items (so shipping was free). It is not a traditional design but we like the modern and clean line. This nabe can be used on gas, electric heating element, induction or in the oven. So, I took out our old induction cooker and decided to make "Cod and vegetable nabe" or "Tarachiri" 鱈ちり鍋 on the table. I would have used edible chrysanthemum or shun-giku 春菊  as a green if it had been available but I could not get it.  So, I used a small bunch of whole spinach. I also added scallion, fresh shiitake 椎茸 and hen-of-the-wood 舞茸 mushrooms, nappa cabbage 白菜 and tofu 豆腐.

 I got some black cod filets with the skin removed.  If the skin had not been removed (but hopefully cleaned and scaled, which is not always the case, here, when the skin is left on the fish) it would have helped hold the the fish meat together better and added a different texture and flavor. I salted the filets a few hours prior to cooking and kept them in the refrigerator uncovered before cutting them into chunks.

As condiments, I prepared thinly sliced scallions and grated daikon with Japanese red pepper (the daikon turned out to be too spicy for us).

For a change, we cooked and ate this in our sunroom. The pictures were not really good since it was getting dark and the lighting was quite dim by the time we had this.

Traditionally, the cooking liquid is just kelp broth without seasoning and the cooked food is served with "ponzu" dipping sauce and the garnish.  I made a minor deviation and made the broth with kelp and dried bonito flakes and added sake, mirin and a small amount of "usukuchi" light colored soy sauce. I first put in the vegetables and tofu and when they were almost done, I added the cod.

We used Ponzu sauce (from the bottle). As I mentioned the grated daikon was too spicy even without the red pepper flakes. We really enjoyed the tabletop cooking. There is something very comforting about the steam rising from the pot, the soft sound of the the liquid bubbling and lovely cooking smells. We ate much more than we thought we would. In Japan, the end of this nabe dish would include adding noodles or rice to the remaining broth, which, by the end of the dinner, would have built up some very nice flavors from the vegetables and fish or whatever ingredients were cooked in the pot. This broth was exquisite; very complex and slightly sweet from the veggies. Although it was really good we were too full for more than a few sips to taste let alone adding noodles or rice. Instead, the next day, we added rice to the leftover broth and whatever was left in the pot and made rice porridge with the addition of eggs as a lunch. With that we felt we had done justice to the nabe.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Refrigerator dried chicken thigh 冷蔵庫で乾燥の鳥腿

I learned from my own trial and error that drying salmon fillets in the refrigerator for a few days, after salting, before cooking, made for a wonderful crispy skin and flavor. The drying also reduced the messy splatter when the salmon was cooked. I have been doing this for some time when we have salmon. Recently, I read the same technique could be used to dry chicken thighs in the refrigerator before cooking. I thought, 'why didn't I think of  this myself since I had been doing the same thing with salmon?' So, we tried it. I dried the chicken thighs for two days and cooked them in a frying pan and served them with spaetzle my wife had made and green beans sautéed in butter.

Certainly, it is easier to get crispy skin.

Ingredients :
4 chicken thighs, deboned, thickest portion cut open to make even thickness, salted and dried for 2 days in the refrigerator uncovered with skin side up. The picture below shows what they looked like after drying 2 days in the refrigerator.

In a non-stick frying pan, I started cooking the skin side down first. I placed a slightly smaller iron skillet (the bottom covered with aluminum foil) on the top to weigh them down on medium low flame. The heat rendered the fat after a few minutes. I mopped up the excess fat with paper towels and continued cooking until the skin was crispy. (This is necessary otherwise the fat steams the skin and it will get soggy not crisp.)
I turned the thighs over and finished cooking on the other side.

This results in pretty good chicken with crispy skin but the effect is not as good as with salmon. I can get similarly crispy skin using the weighing-down method without the drying. Also, drying concentrates the "chicken" flavor of the meat. This strong chicken flavor is an individual preference and we did not particularly like it. So, the idea sounded really good and while the results are great with salmon they were not worth the effort for chicken in our opinion.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Butter dip biscuits バーター漬けビスケット

It was a snow day, so my wife was at home and when I came home, she had made cookies and this biscuit which is essentially bread fried in butter in the oven. It has a nice crunchy crust and nice buttery flavor. It may not extremely healthy for you but it certainly tasted good.

1/3 cup butter
2 1/4 cups flour plus more for work surface
1 tbs. sugar
1 tbs. plus 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup whole milk

Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl, then add the milk. Stir slowly with a fork until the dough just clings together.

Transfer the dough to a floured work surface gently knead about 10 times then roll out to an 8 X 12 inch rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. (Word of advice: make sure the dough is slightly smaller than the pan in which it will be baked). cut the dough in half lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 16 equal strips.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the butter in a 9 X 13 inch baking dish. Let it melt in the oven then remove from the oven. Working with one strip at a time, use both hands to pick it up and dip it into the melted butter in the pan, coating both sides. Arrange all the strips close together in the pan as you go. Bake (middle rack) for 20 to 22 minutes until golden brown.

1) Add 1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese to the dry ingredients
2) Add 1/2 a clove of minced garlic to the butter before it melts in the oven.
3) Sprinkle sweet paprika, celery seed or garlic salt over the butter dips before baking.
4) Add 12 cup minced chives or parsley to the flour mixture.

Baking doesn't get any easier than this. These are a cross between cookie/short bread and biscuit. They have a very nice crunchy crust and soft interior. They have a rich buttery slightly sweet flavor. The suggested variations look very good too--we'll have to try them.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Spaetzle with tongue stew シュペッツレとタンシチュー

When I made beef tongue stew, I mentioned to my wife in passing that spaetzle (Spätzle) may go well with it. So, one day when I was at work and she was home, she made spaetzle. But she did not have the right tool to physically form the spaetzle. She ended up cutting the corner off a Ziploc bag and dropped the batter into the boiling broth by cutting the lump of dough extruded from the bag into the broth, but it made a rather clumsy large spaetzle that looked more like gnocchi. Although it tasted good, the shape and size were not quite right. Recognizing that I was on the receiving end of a good thing I got her an appropriate spaetzle maker in the hope of encouraging the production of more spaetzle. This is her second attempt and the spaetzle came out much better.

I sautéed the spaetzle with butter and finely chopped parsley to accompany the tongue stew. After a few days in the refrigerator and reheated, the stew was better and the spaetzle went so well with it.

This is the contraption I got for my wife.

2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cup AP flour
1/2 water (add more to adjust the consistency to loose pancake batter).
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
Grating of nutmeg (#1)

In a large sautéed pan, boil the water and add bay leaves and add salt to taste.
Place the spaetzle cutter over the pan, pour the batter into the hopper on top (#3).
Move the hopper back and froth and let the batter drip down into the boiling water (#4).
When the spaetzle floated up on the surface (#5), let it cook for another 30 seconds.
Scoop them up using a slotted spoon (#6)
Dain and then coat them with light olive oil to prevent from sticking together (#7 and 8).

The combination of the tongue stew and spaeztle really works well. The spaetzle had a mild bay leaf flavor. Also this is a proof that you need the right tool for the right job. It was well worth it to supply the appropriate tool to make a dish like this.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Beef tongue sandwich 牛タンのサンドイッチ

This is an attempt at recreating the beef tongue sandwiches of my wife's childhood. She wanted one made exactly how she remembered . So we made it very simple. No fancy items such as lettuce or cheese. Just mayonnaise and mustard on pumpernickel. I added skinned Campari tomato and my cucumber onion salad on the side. This was lunch on the weekend.

I sliced a mid-portion of the tongue thinly and made several over lapping layers. I did not put on the second layer of bread for the picture to show the tongue meat.

This wife was very satisfied with this sandwich. She said this was exactly how she remembered the tongue lunch meat from the local PA dutch grocery store. The meat was very tender (due to marbling with fat) and flavorful. I have to admit this was a very good sandwich.