Friday, March 29, 2019

Bonito tataki yamakake variation 鰹のタタキ山かけ風

I made this dish from the leftover bonito tataki 鰹のタタキ I served the day before. I first made it into "zuke" (marinated fish) by putting the leftover bonito into a small ziploc bag and adding concentrated noodle soup base  or "mentsuyu" 麺つゆ (from the bottle)  to preserve the tataki. The next day, I made a sort of "Yamakake" 山かけ variation. Classic yamakake is tuna sashimi or zuke mixed with grated nagaimo 長芋.  Here I made small cubes of nagaimo instead of grating it and used bonito tataki instead of tuna.

I dressed this using Ponzu sauce (from the bottle) and garnished with scallion.

Of course, sake is called for here. This is our new house-sake "Tengumai" daiginjo from Ishikawa prefecture 天狗舞純米大吟醸. We first had this in Kanazawa 金沢 (it was "yamahi junmai" 山廃純米). Recently we re-discovered this brand of sake and like it very much. Compared to our other house sake Yaegaki "Mu" daiginjo 八重垣無大吟醸 which is clean and fruity, tengumai has a bit more complexity and depth.

Ingredients (amounts are all arbitrary):
1. Nagaimo, peeled and cut into small cubes (#1).
2. Scallion, finely sliced and soaked in water and then drained (#2).
3. Bonito tataki, marinated in concentrated noodle sauce (from the bottle) overnight and cut into cubes (#3).
4. Mixed together and dressed in Ponzu sauce (from the bottle) ( #4).

This was a nice small dish. My wife liked this version since the nagaimo was nicely crunchy (instead of slimy). The bonito tataki lost any hint of fishiness and had a nice favor and texture. Perfect to have it with a bit of good cold sake.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Bonito tataki carpaccio style 鰹のタタキ、カルパッチョ風

This is a just a variation of "Katsuo-no-tataki"カツオのタタキ or bonito filet with the surface cooked/smoked with a fire fueled by straw. Since we had this frozen bonito in our freezer for sometime, we decided to finally eat it one weekend.  Instead of the usual way of serving, I decide to serve it carpaccio-style. This was inspired by and adapted from a recipe I saw on line. The dressing is garlic infused light olive oil with anchovies. Served with cucumber, tomato, sweet onion, fried garlic chips, lemon zest and lemon juice. The picture below is just one slice with all the garnish.

The picture below shows the serving dish of bonito I arranged to share one evening. This is a bit more than half of the bonito tataki package we opened.

 Here is the package of bonito tataki which was thawed in the refrigerator for over one day. To remove some taste of fishiness, I dried the surface with paper towel and then covered it with a rice vinegar soaked paper towel for 5 minutes.  I sliced it into pieces that were a bit less than half an inch thick.

I assembled the garnish from ingredients I had on hand. I sliced half a sweet onion (Vidalia) and some American mini cucumber.  I kneaded the cucumber with a pinch of salt and let it stand for 5 minutes. Then I wrung out the excess moisture. I added a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar on the bottom of the serving plate and placed the onion and cucumber on top.

I happened have some skinned and prepared Campari tomatoes. So I sliced them and layered the tomato and bonito slices in concentric circle as shown below. I scattered some lemon zest over the top using a micro-grater.

For the sauce, Initially I though about a mixture of balsamic vinegar and soy sauce (which is a similar combination used in the sauce that traditionally accompanies bonito tataki. I also considered a Ponzu sauce, which is a mixture of Japanese Yuzu citrus juice and soy sauce). But taking a cue from the aforementioned recipe on line, I made a mixture of garlic infused oil (the oil left over after the garlic chips were fried and set aside) and anchovy paste (I added to taste).

I drizzled the dressing on top of the bonito and tomatoes then squeezed on some lemon juice, and added the fried garlic chips. We ate the slices of bonito with tomato, cucumber and onion. I had my serving with the garlic chips but my wife avoided them. The bottom onion slices absorbed the balsamic vinegar and olive oil. The sauce was very good too. Surprisingly, unless someone mentioned the sauce contained anchovies, I never would have guessed. The anchovies did give it an added dimension of complexity even though they did not announce their presence.  The combination was quite good and different from our usual way of serving bonito.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Squid three kinds いか塩辛、明太、柚子胡椒

We like octopus and squid. So when we went to our Japanese grocery store, we got two kinds of  pre-made packages of "ika shiokara" イカ塩辛 (thinly sliced raw squid marinated or fermented in its inards  - mostly liver-  and salt. My wife refers to this as "squid and guts"),  and squid in spicy cod roe or "Ika mentai" イカ明太. Both came from Hakodate 函館, Japan's squid capital. Both packages touted  "direct from the manufacturer" and  "O-sashimi shokkan"おさしみ食感 (texture of raw squid). We also got frozen squid sashimi which was cut into similar thin strips (called "Ika So-men イカソーメン,  somen is a thin Japanese noodle).

Although, the package of "Ika somen" came with packets of soy sauce and wasabi, I decided to make a sauce from "Yuzu kosho" 柚子胡椒 and soy sauce. My plan was that I would make the third squid item. Yuzu kosho is a spicy paste made of Japanese "togarashi" pepper (usually green but could be red pepper), Japanese Yuzu citrus zest and salt. I used the kind that comes in a tube. Since this was a newly opened tube, more yuzu kosho than I intended came out and the mixture was one part yuzu kosho and 2 parts soy sauce. I dressed the "Ika somen" in this mixture and served all three in our newly-acquired three-well dishes. These multi-compartment dishes make it possible to serve 3 small food items compactly instead of in individual containers--greatly reducing the number of dishes to clean.

From left to right; squid "shiokara", squid "mentai" and squid "Yuzu kosho". All great with sake. "Shiokara" is not too salty and slightly sweet. "Mentai" is a bit spicy but the squid texture is exactly like raw squid. "Yuzu kosho" has a nice yuzu citrus flavor with some heat and went well with the two others.

This type of snack is made for sake. We had our tried-and-tested house sake "Mu" daiginjo 無大吟醸 served in Izakaya style.

Just a bit of squid and sake really went well. We like to enjoy squid sashimi this way more so than the usual wasabi and soy sauce.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Butter Chicken バターチキン

Recently "butter chicken" was the theme for a cooking competition about Indian cuisine on the Netflix series called "Last table". We are not familiar with this dish and have never tasted it. So a few days later when my wife saw a recipe for butter chicken in the Washington Post  she decided to try it. But the recipe called for an herb call "fenugreek". The article even said that it was the fenugreek that gave the dish its distinctive flavor i.e. it wouldn't be butter chicken if it did not include this herb. Naturally we did not have fenugreek. So I promptly ordered some through Amazon. When this herb arrived, my wife made this "butter chicken". We had this dish with a baguette to mop up the sauce.

The green is the fenugreek leaves. It did have a particularly distinctive smell but in the sauce, its flavor appears very subtle.

This is based on the recipe from Washington Post but has been modified.

4 chicken thighs (trimmed of excess fat), cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
fresh lime juice (from 2 limes)
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (or more to taste).
3/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
2 teaspoons garam masala (spice blend)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup plain, full-fat yogurt
2 cloves garlic minced
One 2-inch piece peeled fresh ginger root, minced (1 tablespoon)

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
15 ounces canned plain tomato sauce
1/4 cup dried fenugreek leaves, soaked in a bowl of water for 15 minutes and skimmed off the top.
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper.
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup heavy cream (we used much less)
1 teaspoon ground cumin

1. For the chicken: Combine the chicken pieces with the lime juice, cayenne pepper, paprika, garam masala, salt, yogurt, garlic and ginger in a mixing bowl until evenly coated. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, and up to overnight.
2. Take the chicken pieces out of the marinade and put into a frying pan with some peanut oil (there will still be marinade on the pieces). Cook stirring occasionally until the pieces are tender. Remove the chicken from the liquid that forms in the pan and discard the liquid.
3. In a clean frying pan melt 3 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. As soon as it melts (without browning), pour in the tomato sauce. Stir in the fenugreek leaves, cayenne pepper, sugar and salt. Increase the heat to medium-high; cook just long enough so the sauce begins to bubble. Reduce the heat to medium-low, partially cover and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Put the chicken pieces into the sauce, along with any accumulated juices. Stir in the cream and cumin, then cover and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, so the chicken absorbs some of the rich flavors in the sauce.
5. Uncover the pan and add the remaining tablespoon of butter; once it has melted, stir it into the sauce. Serve right away.

Although my wife cut the cayenne pepper in half from what was specified in the original recipe, it was still plenty spicy for us. She added some yogurt to "turn down" the heat in her serving but for me, it was just right amount of heat without yogurt. We are not entirely sure the fenugreek really added any particular flavor but this was a good curry dish. The chicken was very tender and flavorful due to the marinade.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Potato and salmon salad filled rolls ポテトとサーモンサラダ入りのパン

Since my wife had just made sweet potato bread stuffed with a mixture of Japanese sweet potato puree and ricotta cheese (which was excellent BTW) I mentioned in passing that stuffed breads (for example breads filled with curry sauce "kare-pan"カレーパン, sweet red beans "An-pan" あんぱん, custard cream "Kuri-mu-pan" クリームパン and so on) were very popular in Japan.  I even sent her the link to a recipe for potato salad filled rolls. The recipe was in Japanese but it included pictures and I verbally translated how the bread was made. To my surprise she took to the project of "stuffed bread" like a piranha.

I regularly make potato salad and salmon salad over the weekend because they are good staples to have; the potato salad as a side for any main dish or by itself as a snack. The salmon salad is great on crackers or bread as canapés or sandwiches.  I came home one day and the kitchen was filled with the nice smell of baking bread. My wife had noted that I made more potato salad than we could reasonably eat before it went bad so she put together potato salad stuffed bread as per the Japanese recipe. Then noting a similar surplus of salmon salad decided to "go for broke" and put together salmon salad stuffed bread. Based on my description of the Japanese recipe she took her favorite white bread dough as the base. The main element she learned from the recipe was to cut the top of the rolls to form a vent for the steam from the filling to escape. This would prevent the development of a large void in the bread covering the filling .

 In the picture below, the left front is the salmon salad filled and the right back is the potato salad filled rolls.

Here are the cut surfaces. The left two are the salmon salad and right two are potato salad. Probably, she could have put more fillings but this is her first try and never having made this kind of bread was not the least bit sure it would turn out.

The picture below shows the salmon and potato salad filled rolls just after they came out of the oven.

Both rolls were really great. It was amazing that the flavor of the salads remained fresh and permeated the bread. The salmon salad filled roll had the assertive salmon and dill flavor of the salad which we thought would be good for lunch or even breakfast. The potato salad filled one was a bit more subdued but this starch-on-starch approach really works. Now my wife has ideas about other fillings she could use. Did I mention that, in Japan, filled breads even made of "pasta" (such as spaghetti  or fried Japanese noodles) are very popular. The possibilities are limitless. I "tremble in fear" at the thought of what kind of filling my wife will come up next...but I will be first in line to try whatever she makes.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Meat ball and wonton soup 中華風肉団子ワンタンスープ

This what I made out of the remains of my failed attempt at making shumai. Since the meat fillings and the wonton skins came apart but the fillings were quite tasty, I immediately came up with the idea of making meat ball wonton soup and served it as a lunch the next day.

I cut the wonton skins into wide strips making it like a type of noodle. I added tofu, broccoli, and carrots.

I also used the stems of the broccoli.

Since this was re-purposing failed shumai, I just made this soup without any recipe and using mostly other leftovers and made it a sort of a Chinese soup.

Earlier in the day, I prepared blanched broccoli florets (which I often do for the week to have a supply of fresh vegetables) and the stems were left (I usually do not use them). But this time I sliced them and put into the soup. I also had half of a good sized carrot left over from another dish. I peeled and made large match sticks. For the soup, I used a mixture of leftover Japanese dashi (which I made earlier with a kelp and bonito dashi pack) and chicken broth (Swanson, I had leftover in the refrigerator). I also used a Japanese silken tofu meant for eating "raw" which was passed "best enjoyed by" date.

I put some peanut oil and a splash of dark roasted sesame oil in a sauce pan and I added finely chopped ginger root, garlic, the sliced broccoli stems and carrot. I  sautéed them a bit. I added the liquid and added the meat filling (or meat ball) and wonton skin cut into strips. I seasoned it with salt, light soy sauce, and a bit of mirin. I cooked it for 10-15 minutes and then added the blanched broccoli florets.

This was a quite good soup. Nice flavors from the meat filling and wonton noodles gave a nice texture. The broth was also quite good with nice ginger and sesame oil flavors. Although I will try making shumai again, this was a nice recovery dish.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Shumai with daikon 大根入り焼売

This was my first attempt to make shumai 焼売 and I am posting this as an example of how things don't always work out well in the cooking world. (I can only hope my next attempt may be better). I followed a recipe I saw in a Japanese newspaper on line (Asahi shinbun). Although the meat mixture was just fine, the wonton skin did not stick together or to the meat and the dish became "meatballs with wonton noodles". In any case, I served several examples with two sauces; on the left is rice vinegar with white pepper and the right is soy sauce.

As you can see the skin got loose and separated from the filling after steaming. In any case, it tasted great.

I followed the recipe closely. One unique item in this recipe was using pre-cooked small cubes of daikon in the filling.

Ingredients: (make 14-15 shumai)
Minced (or ground) pork 200 grams (I used my usual hand minced pork tenderloin trimming but meat from the fattier portion may work better).
Daikon 100 grams
Shiitake mushrooms; 1 dried (I used two fresh including the stems torn lengthwise and then chopped. I am sure the dried mushroom may have more umami flavor but I did not have time to rehydrate some).
Wonton skins

Salt 2 grams (probably 1/2 tsp)
Soy sauce 1 tsp
Ginger juice 2 tsp
Sake 2 tbs
Dry shiitake soaking liquid 2 tbs (I used dashi instead).
Sugar 1/4 tsp
Sesame oil 1tsp
Potato starch (Katakuri-ko) 1/2 tsp

1. Peel and cut the daikon into 7 mm cubes and cook in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and cool.
2. Mix the seasoning into the pork starting with the salt and mix well.
3. Add the daikon and mushrooms and mix (#1 and #2).
4. Prepare the steamer for continuous steam (#3).
5. Meanwhile, make the shumai by placing the filling in the middle of the wonton skin placed on a circle made from the index finger and thumb, push it in and add more filling to make a cylinder (#4).
6. Place them on the steamer (#5) and cook for 10 minutes (#6)

I think I made 2 mistakes. When I formed the shumai, I needed to pinch firmly so that the side of the wonton skin would adhere better to the filling. When steaming, I should have placed the shumai slightly apart so that they would not stick to each other.

In any case, despite this, they tasted really good. The addition of the daikon added a nice texture and taste. The dipping sauces were also nice. I ended up dipping the shumai in both. I also used some Japanese hot mustard. Later, based on the philosophy that when an unsuccessful attempt at something results in lemons make lemonade, I converted these shumai into another dish. Stay tuned more to follow.