Bunyols de Bacallà (Salt Cod Fritters)

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Recipe: "Bunyols de Bacallà (Salt Cod Fritters)" from "Catalan Cuisine" by Colman Andrews
Rating: Great
Status: Made once. The recipe makes about five 1-cup sized servings (about 5 cups of the puree), depending on the size of the potatoes.

Recommendation: Use a large mortar and pestle to mash the cooked salt cod into a fibrous pulp, since "most of the fish must be broken down to individual fibers to achieve the fluffy texture prized in brandade" though it is okay to leave some bits of cod intact for flavor and texture if it is tender [from "House Salt Cod Brandade" in "The Zuni Cafe Cookbook" by Judy Rodgers].

Fried Eggs in Bread Crumbs

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Recipe: "Fried Eggs in Bread Crumbs" from "The Zuni Cafe Cookbook" by Judy Rodgers
Rating: Great.
Status: Made several times.

Above is my variation on Judy Rodger's recipe for "Fried Eggs in Bread Crumbs"--sunny side up eggs on anchovy bread crumbs which have been dressed up with maitake and porchini mushrooms sautéed in butter, asparagus coins and tips sautéed in olive oil and finished with lemon juice, raw ribboned asparagus, shaved Parmesan, and drizzled balsamic reduction. For herbs, I used tarragon and thyme.

Judy Rodger's original recipe is available online on WashingtonPost.com.

Chicken and Andouille Gumbo

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Recipe: "Fried Chicken and Andouille Gumbo" from "Real Cajun" by Donald Link
Rating: Good
Status: Made once.

This recipe is available from Donald Link's "Real Cajun" cookbook.

This recipe is a marathon. I spread the work out over three days (the gumbo should be refrigerated in between stages to store it). The first day (with frying the chicken and making the roux) is pretty long; after that the gumbo mainly needs to be simmered for a long time, so the work is much easier.

Additional Notes:
  • I made 1/2 recipe with skin-on bone in chicken legs only (no white meat). Use a splatter guard when frying the chicken; the oil pops and splatters.
  • Use good quality stock with a robust taste to ensure a flavorful gumbo.
  • The resulting gumbo is only mildly spicy; the spice level is just noticeable but it doesn't overwhelm the gumbo's flavors (though note that I used only half of the recommended amount of jalapeño). It is a good level of spiciness for William.
  • Roux isn't hard to make; it just takes time, patience, and stirring. But it is a technique that requires some learning and experience to become comfortable with. My hint comments for making roux are here. The roux in this recipe is interesting because it's made with a mixture of oil and the chicken fat rendered from partially frying the chicken pieces. Unlike previous gumbos that I've made, this meant that I didn't use roux that I had prepared in advance. Frying the chicken and making the roux is part of what makes this recipe take so long; these two steps take an hour and half or even longer.
  • At the end of cooking:
    • Make sure you taste for salt and adjust. I found that my gumbo needed a lot of extra salt (which is fine, since it means that there isn't too much salt in the recipe). As Donald Link points out, getting the salt level right is really important in Cajun food, and I think that's especially true for this gumbo. I like the gumbo to be salted to the point where after you taste a spoonful, a faint trace of the saltiness lasts on your tongue for an additional second after you swallow (If you are serving this on rice, also remember that the bland rice will dilute the saltiness).
    • Once the gumbo is done, I prefer the chicken to be pulled off the bone and picked through (bones and skin discarded), and the chicken pieces to be put back in the gumbo. I think this is easier to eat and I think it tastes better since this makes sure that the chicken is coated in gumbo. In addition, since the gumbo doesn't have many ingredients in it, the chicken pieces help to add more bulk to the gumbo.
    • When the gumbo finished cooked, mine was a little thick (probably a lot of liquid evaporated). I thinned it out with a couple cups of stock. Getting the consistency right is also very important to the success of this dish; the best way to learn the right consistency is through tasting and trying out various thicknesses when you eat the gumbo on rice, so it takes time to learn. The gumbo should be a little thinner than a gravy but not as thin as a stock. If the gumbo is too thick is tends to taste cloying, heavy, and greasy; I usually thin it until it no longer tastes heavy and greasy but still has body. When reheating, taste for consistency and salt, and add water as necessary since it tends to thicken further when it's stored. The gumbo may need additional salt after it is thinned out.
  • I recommend serving the gumbo with rice.

Crawfish Etouffee

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Recipe: "Crawfish Etouffee" from "Real Cajun" by Donald Link. The other dish in the picture is collard greens with ham hocks.
Rating: Great.
Status: Made once.

Recipe is available in "Real Cajun" by Donald Link.

Additional Notes:

This is actually quick and easy if you have a food processor to cut up all the vegetables.

I made 1/2 the recipe, which was enough for two meals for the two of us. I used frozen crawfish tails (since fresh crawfish wasn't available) and substituted an equal amount of butter for the crawfish fat.

William thought it was a bit spicy (he has a low spice tolerance). For him, next time I make this, I'd possibly leave out the jalapeño or reduce it; though the jalapeño does give more depth in the spiciness, so it is a great addition for those that can take the heat.

When I first made the dish, the recommended amount of flour didn't quite thicken my étouffée enough. It should be the consistency of a thick gravy. If you need to thicken it after the stock has been added, be sure to stir the flour in a little cup with some of the sauce before adding it into the dish--otherwise the flour gets clumpy and will be difficult to dissolve into the sauce.

Japanese Fried Chicken (Tatsuta-Age)

Recipe: "Tatsuta-Age" from "Japanese Soul Cooking" by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat
Rating: Great
Status: Made once.

Recipe is available from Japanese Soul Cooking" by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat.

Be sure to serve this with the lemon wedges, and we prefer this served with some sansho salt for dipping. To eat, I recommend squeezing lemon juice over the fried chicken and then dipping each piece in sansho salt before eating.

To make sansho salt (enough for 2 people): Mix 1 tsp kosher salt and 1/4 tsp ground sansho (about 6 or 7 ground berries if you are lucky enough to be able to find them). Divide in half and place in a small container, such as a soy sauce dipping container. (Recipe is "Fragrant Pepper Salt" from "Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen" by Elizabeth Andoh). If serving the fried chicken with sansho salt, don't salt them after frying; the external salt will be added at the table via the sansho salt.

Japanese Seasoned Salmon Flakes

Recipe: "Seasoned Salmon Flakes" from "Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen" by Elizabeth Andoh
Rating: Great! I love this recipe.
Status: Made several times.

These salmon flakes can be used as a stuffing for Onigiri (Rice Balls) or to make "Rice Tossed with Salmon Flakes" (recipe also in "Washoku"). Once made, the salmon flakes last for about a week; these are nice to have in your fridge to make impromptu snacks or to dress up plain rice.

The recipe for these salmon flakes is available in "Washoku" by Elizabeth Andoh.

Additional notes:

In this recipe, either you can salt cure your own fresh salmon or you can use salted salmon.

I found that the seasonings in this recipe were too light. I recommend increasing the seasonings, the sweet ones (sake, mirin or sugar) and salty (soy sauce) to taste. I like my salmon flakes to be slightly sweet, with a noticeable salty taste.

I used regular soy sauce instead of light soy sauce; regular soy sauce will slightly darken the color of the salmon flakes to dark pink; light or white soy sauce should help to maintain the pink color. When I made these flakes, 2.5 oz of salted salmon needed 3 tsp of soy sauce (I used regular soy).

In additional to onigiri, the salmon flakes are also really nice mixed into rice, similar to "Rice Tossed with Salmon Flakes" from "Washoku" by Elizabeth Andoh. For my version, I didn't measure the ingredients. Just before serving (so that the toasted sesame seeds stay crispy, and the green herbs/scallions stay fresh), I mixed in some salmon flakes, toasted sesame seeds, minced scallion (julienned shiso leaves or dill springs was suggested but I substituted scallion), and a small pinch of salt (not enough to make the rice salty; I kept it still fairly bland so that it would contrast with the other dishes I served it with). This rice dish is very nice, and it is much faster to make than rice balls. I was surprised that the rice is subtly different in flavor than the rice balls with salmon flakes.

Japanese Kelp and Mushroom Relish

Recipe: "Kelp and Mushroom Relish" from "Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen" by Elizabeth Andoh
Rating: This is a good way to use up konbu which is left over from making dashi or other items.
Status: Made twice.

I love the way that Elizabeth Andoh's recipes frugally turn side products into new dishes. This recipe is wonderful because it turns a side product of making dashi, large pieces of rehydrated konbu (kelp), into a umami-filled side dish. The rehydrated konbu, leftover from dashi or other dishes, can be stored in a container in a closed container in the fridge for up to a week until you have collected enough to make this dish. Discard the kelp if it develops a sticky, pasty whitish substance on the surface.

This kelp and mushroom relish is also great as a filling for onigiri (form each rice ball from about 1 cup of hot cooked rice which has been mixed with a pinch of salt and use about 2 tsp of minced filling per rice ball).

The relish can be stored for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

The recipe is available at BeyondSalmon.

Some additional notes about the recipe:

Either dried shitake mushrooms or enoki mushrooms is nice, but using a mixture of both types of mushrooms is wonderful. The dried shitake mushrooms absorb the sauce and turn into umami bombs, and the enoki mushrooms add texture.

Boiling the kelp softens it (as well as removes any possible bacteria from kelp that has been stored in the fridge for up to a week), so you don't need to julienne the kelp too thinly. About the 1/4 inch thick is fine. In fact, if the kelp is julienned too thinly, it will break easily and the relish won't have enough texture. It's best if the kelp has a small amount of chewiness.

Either my soy sauce has a higher salt content or there may be slightly too much soy sauce in this recipe. I recommend adding the soy sauce to taste, starting conservatively, letting it boil down and then tasting and adding more soy sauce if necessary. Also note that the dish gets a little saltier after it sits overnight in the fridge; the dish should have only a light soy sauce flavor when its done cooking.

One improvement that I'd like in the recipe is to have the weight equivalents of the dried and rehydrated konbu. The current recipe only specifies the surface area of the kelp (presumably the rehydrated kelp). In the picture above, the relish was made from 1-1/2 oz dried konbu or about 2 long dried 12-inch sticks of konbu (leftover from making dashi). For the vinegar, since it is just added to the boiling water to tenderize the konbu and eliminate bacteria, I use cheap white vinegar (instead of my nice rice vinegar that I reserve for making sushi rice), and I just pour a small dollop into the water (exact quantity isn't important). I used 1 dried shitake since it was already rehydrated from another recipe and 1 package enoki mushrooms. 1 package of enoki was the right amount of mushrooms for this amount of konbu. I tripled all of the other ingredients in the recipe (sugar, sake, mirin). I lost count of how much soy sauce I added, but it was about 5 Tbsp.

The relish improves after it sits in the fridge overnight or for 1 or more days. I think this is because this gives the konbu time to release its flavor into the sauce (apparently the konbu still has lots of flavor to release), so the sauce gets even more umami.

Onigiri Burger

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Mos burger is a Japanese fast food chain which offers Asian-style fast food. Several of their "hamburgers" use rice pressed into a bun shape instead of hamburger buns. I was recently able to try them at a baseball game I went to in Taiwan; Mos burger was one of the stands in the stadium. Unfortunately, I thought their fillings could have been better, but I was impressed by the idea of the rice bun enough to make my own version.

My "onigiri burger" or "rice burger" is loosely inspired by Mos burger; however the flavorings are quite different than what Mos burger offers, and I choose to season my rice with furikake, which is a Japanese condiment often sprinkled on top of rice. These onigiri burgers are a messy but fun and satisfying dish.

The recipe below offers two variations: one made with a hamburger patty and one made with thinly sliced leftover roast pork. You could also experiment with other meats or fillings--Mos burger offers several options too (chicken, fish, pork, beef). The hamburger patty tastes somewhat similar in spirit to loco moco, the Hawaiian dish of white rice, topped with a hamburger, fried egg, and brown gravy but with furikake seasoning and no gravy. Roast pork slices taste breakfast sandwich-y because of the combination of salty pan-fried pork and eggs.

Despite how long the recipe looks, if you have left over hamburger patties or roast pork, this recipe is actually quick to assemble. You can make the furikake and toasted bonito flakes while the rice is cooking, and then all that's left to do is to form the rice buns, fry some eggs, warm up the meat, and assemble everything.

Recipe: My own
Rating: Great!
Status: Made 3 times.

Serves 2 (Makes 2 "burgers")

Onigiri Burger (rice burger):
  • 2 cooked burgers (each made from about 1/4 lbs) of meat or enough leftover pork shoulder roast for 2 sandwiches
  • kewpie mayonaise
  • 1.5 g bonito flakes (a few tablespoons)
  • 1 cup rice cooker measurement (3/4 cup) of raw Japanese short grained rice
Furikake (Ingredients that will be mixed with the rice):
  • 1/2 sheet of nori
  • 1 tsp aonori
  • 1 Tbsp toasted brown or white sesame seeds (See here for how to toast sesame seeds. Wait until they are cool before adding them to the mixture)
  • 1/2 tsp umami dust (recipe below)
  • 1/8 tsp shichimi tōgarashi
  • 1/2 tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  • plastic wrap
  • (optional) rice cooker
Mix the Furikake:

Recrisp nori by briefly passing it over a flame if the package has been open for a while and the nori is no longer crisp.

To cut nori into slivers (1/2 inch long or shorter): Using scissors, cut nori into long thin strips about 1/2-inch wide or thinner. Stack the strips and cut crosswise into thin strips.

Mix the nori and the rest of the furikake ingredients together in a container with a lid. Store tightly covered in order to keep the nori crisp.

Many premixed furikake mixtures are sold in Japanese grocery stores. If you don't want to make your own, one of these could probably successfully be substituted for this mix. Choose one with compatible flavors and check labels to make sure that it doesn't have any additives or preservatives that you don't want. If the premixed furikake mixture that doesn't have salt, add 1/2 tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt to the rice in addition to the furikake.)

The onigiri burger would probably also taste fine with no furikake, though I haven't tried this variation yet. If you choose to make this version, mix the cooked rice with 1/2 tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt before forming the buns.

Toast bonito flakes:

Toast some bonito flakes on medium in a dry un-oiled pan, stirring constantly, until fragrant (it should only take a minute or two). Let cool and then store in a tightly covered container to keep crisp.

Rice Buns:

Cook the rice using your preferred rice cooking method (stovetop or rice cooker machine). I prefer my rice to be cooked to a toothsome or firm texture, cooked through but not mushy or too soft ("al dente"), though you should cook it to the texture that you prefer (softer rice is okay to use). Some rice cookers have a "sushi" setting which makes a firmer rice; I recommend using this setting if you have it and want firmer rice. Using slightly less water than normal will also make the rice firmer. If your rice comes out too soft, you should need to reduce the amount of water next time. Less water will make firmer rice; more water will make softer rice.

Once the rice is done, use a rice paddle or large spoon to fluff the rice. You can leave it on the warmer setting if you are not ready to form the patties yet. (Don't mix the furikake into the rice until just before forming the patties so that the furikake stays crisp.)

When you are ready to form the patties, use a silicone rice paddle or a large spoon which is slightly damped with water to prevent sticking, mix the rice with the furikake. Divide rice into 4 portions. Tear off an approximately 11 inch by 11 inch square piece of plastic wrap. Spoon 1 portion of the rice on to the plastic wrap. Leave the remaining portions in your rice cooker if it has a "warm" setting; otherwise leave it in the rice cooker or pot with the lid on. Using a scale may help you to proportion the rice more evenly (or you could use a small bowl or measuring cup to estimate volume instead).

If the rice is to hot to hold, you can wait a few seconds for it to cool down before forming it. To form, gently hold the rice in the plastic wrap, and squeeze the edges towards the middle to make them stick more firmly together. The rice will have formed a loose ball. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and place on a counter or plate. Press flat. If necessary loosen the plastic wrap by lifting it up and re-draping over the rice. Alternative between gently pressing the edges into a circle shape, loosening the plastic wrap, and pressing flat until the rice is shaped as a thin circle, 1/2 inch thick or a little thicker (otherwise the final hamburger will get really thick). Alternatively, if you don't want to use plastic wrap you can wet your hands with water, and shake off the excess, and form the buns directly with your hands (the moisture will prevent the rice from sticking to your hands). After forming the rice buns, open up the plastic wrap so that the heat won't make moisture condense on the buns and set aside. Repeat to form a total of 4 rice patties (2 tops and 2 bottoms).

The rice buns can be prepared several hours beforehand; to store, wrap the rice buns up in the plastic wrap so that they won't dry out once the rice is cool (if you wrap them while they are hot, moisture will condense on them; this is acceptable but not preferable). If you need to store them overnight, they should be refrigerated and wrapped in plastic wrap; they can be rewarmed by toasting (see below).

Optionally, the rice patties can be toasted just before serving (Mos burger toasts their rice buns). Toasting the rice patties helps them hold together better and make them less sticky than cooked rice, and as a result the dish will be less messy (untoasted rice buns have a tendency to fall apart). To toast: heat a well-seasoned cast iron pan on medium. Remove plastic wrap from rice patties and add the rice patties flat. Let sit undisturbed for at least 30 seconds; the rice patties may stick initially but as they cook they should detach from the pan. Cook, rotating occasionally to make sure that they cook evenly. I recommend cooking for a total of 3 minutes on one side only; the patties won't brown in this amount of time and the rice won't become very crispy--which is how I like it. However, you can also toast the rice buns until the bottoms become slightly browned if you want crispy rice (about 4 to 6 minutes, depending on temperature), and you can toast both sides of the bun if you prefer. If you need to use another type of pan for toasting the rice buns and are worried about sticking, then you can lightly brush the bottom side of the rice buns with sesame oil.

I prefer untoasted or lightly toasted rice buns, since this way the rice stays soft and moist and it melts into the other ingredients. If the rice buns are too crispy, I think it overwhelms the delicate nori and bonito flavors of the onigiri burger.

If using hamburger patties:

Cook or warm up hamburger patties. Preferably the hamburger patties should be thin; otherwise the entire rice burger will become very thick. Sprinkle a tiny bit of salt on top if you are using a hamburger patty.

If using leftover roasted pork shoulder:

Slice the roasted pork shoulder paper thin or up to 1/8-inch thick (it's okay if the slices are so thin that they only make it part of the way through the meat, though aim for some longer slices since this will hold together better). Thin slices are best, since you want them to break into pieces about as easily as the rice breaks apart.

Pan fry the slices (use a small amount of pork fat or oil to moisten the pan) it until the edges are golden and crispy. When assembling, sprinkle some surface salt on top of each layer; taste a small pieces and add more salt if needed. The salt should be noticeable; it should taste like nicely salty pork breakfast meat. Use a few slices (about 3 slices if they are 1/8 inch thick plus any small scraps) instead of the hamburger.

Pan Fry Eggs:

Pan fry two eggs, sunny side up, in lots of neutral-tasting oil which is heated to medium so that the sides bubble up and crisp. The edges may brown. If the oil splatters too much, turn down the heat slightly. Lightly salt the tops of the eggs when they are cooking. Set aside.

Assemble the Onigiri Burger:
  • Pick one rice patty for the bottom. Leave the plastic wrap underneath this rice patty--since the rice is sticky, the onigiri burger should be served with the plastic wrap to use to hold the onigiri burger when eating.
  • Squeeze some kewpie mayonnaise over the bottom rice patty.
  • Top with warmed hamburger patty or thinly-sliced pork shoulder roast. (If you forgot to salt the meat, then salt the top of the hamburger patty now, or gently salt between each layer of the pork slices.)
  • Add fried sunny-side-up egg on top of the hamburger patty.
  • Sprinkle toasted bonito flakes on top of the egg. Sprinkle salt on top very lightly; this is just to give it some surface salt. (If you forgot to salt the egg when cooking, then sprinkle a bit of extra salt on top of it now.)
  • Remove the plastic wrap from the top patty. The bottom piece of wrap should be enough. Top the onigiri burger with rice patty.
Serve immediately, on top of a piece of plastic wrap so that the wrap can be used to hold the burger (otherwise it may be difficult to hold since the rice may stick to your fingers and fall apart).

Umami Dust, recipe from Umami Burger via foodandwine.com:
  • 3 tablespoons bonito flakes
  • 1/2 ounce crumbled dried kombu
  • 1/2 ounce dried shitake mushrooms
Use a spice grinder to grind all ingredients into a fine powder.

This makes much more powder than is needed for these onigiri burgers, but the umami dust keeps for many months in a tightly covered container. It can be sprinkled on many items, include regular American burgers, which is how umami burger uses it


Saturday, May 03, 2014

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Taro Chips and Sweet Potato Chips

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Recipe: Taro Chips (inspired by University of Hawaii's recipe)
Rating: Stupid easy, and tasty
Status: Made once.

Taro chips uses the same technique as making potato chips and sweet potato chips, but there are a few details that should be pointed out.

Taro skin contains an irritant that makes some people itchy, so try not to touch it. Use a plastic bag (or plastic gloves if you have some) when handling it. Use a knife to peel off the skin (it should be easy to do, since taro isn't as hard as squashes). Discard the skin. Taro must be eaten fully cooked; it is toxic when raw.

Taro chips can be fried at anywhere between 260 F to 320 F. Some of the edges will brown at 320 F, which I like since it then the chips are three colors (brown edges, white interior with purple dots). 260 F will produce very light colored chips.

  • 1 Chinese taro (also called "Bun Long"). This variety is best for taro chips; other types of taro don't work as well. Choose a mature taro (not "baby taro") which is a few inches wide (example, second example). This type of taro has purple fibers when cut crosswise. The amount of taro you need varies on how many chips you want to produce.
  • high-heat oil, such as peanut oil
  • kosher salt
  • Deep heavy bottomed pot for deep frying
Use a knife to cut off the skin from the taro. Discard the skin.

Use a mandoline to slice the taro into large paper thin slices. The raw slices have a tendency to stick together; don't worry about this too much.

Pour at least 3 inches of high-heat oil into a large deep-sided heavy bottomed pot. The pot should not be more than a third to half full. Heat oil to 320 F (or the temperature of your choosing). Line a wire rack with paper towels.

Fry taro slices for 2 minutes: Place a small batch of taro slices in the oil (it is okay if the slices are stuck together). As soon as you put the slices in, bubbles will form and steam will rise; this is the moisture inside of the chips evaporating. Use chopsticks to gently push the slices around to help separate them; they will become easier to separate as they start to become cooked. The taro slices will start out floppy but as they cook they will stiffen. The taro chips need to be separated before they become fully stiff, otherwise they will meld together. Fry the chips for about 2 minutes, turning occasionally. The taro chips won't brown like regular potato chips. You'll be able to tell that they are cooked through when they are stiff, there are no longer bubbles around them, and they've been in the oil about 2 minutes. The edges might slightly brown if you are cooking them at 320 F.

Immediately remove the chips from the oil with a spider or slotted spoon. Drain well and place on a wire rack to cook. Salt while still hot so that the salt sticks to them.

Recipe: "Fingerling or Sweet Potato Chips" from "Ad Hock at Home" by Thomas Keller
Rating: Stupid easy, and tasty
Status: Made once.

  • 1 lbs large sweet potato (peeled) or 1 lbs large fingerling potatoes (scrubbed)
  • high-heat oil, such as peanut oil
  • kosher salt
  • Deep heavy bottomed pot for deep frying
Use a mandoline to slice the sweet potatoes or potatoes (Slicing on a slight diagonal gives a better angle for cutting the chips. Slice fingerling potatoes lengthwise for visually unusual, bigger chips). The slices should be paper thin (i.e. as thin as possible but not so thin that the edges become uneven).

Pour at least 3 inches of high-heat oil into a large heavy bottomed pot. The pot should not be more than a third to half full. Heat oil to 325 F for sweet potatoes or 350 F for potatoes. Line a wire rack with paper towels.

Add a small handful of slices into the oil at a time. Use a spider or slotted spoon to separate the slices and turn occasionally. Fry slices for about 2-1/2 minutes or until golden brown;

Remove the chips from the oil with a spider or slotted spoon. Drain well and place on a wire rack to cook. Salt while still hot so that the salt sticks to them.

Variation: You can also flavor the chips. Many flavors are possible, for example a single drop of Tabasco on each sweet potato chip makes the chips have a nice spicy and vinegary flavor.

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