California Roll

Monday, January 13, 2014

It's Dungeness crab season in Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. So, it is time to eat crab.

My favorite way to eat crab is to dip freshly steamed and chilled crab in cider vinegar. I ate lots of crab this year like this, so I decided to make California rolls since they are a favorite; I find them comforting since they are the first type of sushi that I ate and I used to eat them often.

Recipe: "Classic California Roll", "Master Recipe for Sushi Rice", and "Sushi Vinegar Dressing" from "The Sushi Experience" by Hiroko Shimbo.
Rating: Great if fresh real crab is used.
Status: Made twice.

For my rolls, I picked out all the meat from freshly cooked Dungeness crab (and made stock from the crab shells to be used in something else later--I don't like to waste good flavor). For the size of rolls that I made, one small crab (about 1.5 lbs uncleaned) gave about 0.8 lbs of meat, which was enough for 4 rolls (8 pieces per roll) and 4 pieces of crab nigiri. I used just under 1.5 cups raw rice = 2 rice cup measures of raw rice = 4 cups of lightly packed cooked rice.

The first time I made these rolls, I used a half sheet of nori per roll as Hiroko Shimbo recommended, but I found it difficult to enclose all of the ingredients. So next I used 3/4 a sheet of nori (she mentions in the notes that this size makes a slightly bigger roll, but she prefers the half sheet since it makes small pieces that are easy to eat in one bite); the 3/4 sheet size worked out much better for me since I was able to easily close the roll.

I think these rolls are best when Sriacha mayonnaise is included in the roll. The sauce brings out the flavor of the crab, similar to how mayonnaise improves the taste of lobster in a lobster roll. Small amounts of Sriacha mayonnaise can be made by mixing equal amounts of Sriacha and Kewpie mayonnaise and optionally a few drops of sesame oil (taste and add more Sriacha or mayonnaise as necessary).

To make these rolls: Wrap the sushi rolling mat in plastic. Coat all but the top 1/2 inch of the nori with sushi rice, and then cover the rice with a coating* (such as toasted sesame seeds) to make it not stick. Flip the nori over to make an inside-out roll. After you flip the nori over, make sure that the uncoated edge of nori underneath is located at the edge closest to you (so you will begin rolling from edge which has no rice on either side and end with the edge coated in rice). The bottom edge of the nori should be lined up with the edge of the mat (this makes it easier to begin wrapping). Spread about 2 tsp of Sriacha mayonnaise in a line across the nori, about 1/4 of the way from the bottom. Lay the ingredients (crab, cucumber sticks, and avocado slices) on top of the sauce and then roll the sushi using the mat as a guide. Slice into 8 pieces, with a slightly damp knife (clean the knife with a damp cloth after each cut to help prevent sticking).

It takes experience to make a tightly rolled and evenly cut pieces (mine are still slightly uneven, but one day I'll get there), but the pieces are still fun to make and wonderful to eat.

The recipe is available here or in the cookbook "The Sushi Experience" by Hiroko Shimbo.

* In the picture above, each roll is coated in half toasted black sesame and half aonori (seaweed powder). I like the colors! Toasted unhulled brown sesame seeds or flying fish roe is the most traditional coating, but you can also use ito-katsuo (julienned bonito fish flakes).


Saturday, January 04, 2014

Recipe:  "Osaka-Style Okonomiyaki" from "Japanese Soul Cooking" by Tadashi Ono & Harris Salat
Rating: Great!
Status: Made several times.

This is the recipe that I bought "Japanese Soul Cooking" by Tadashi Ono & Harris Salat for since T. Susan Chang named it one of her best 12 recipes of 2013. We also loved this recipe! The recipe is available at T. Susan Chang's site, "Cookbooks for Dinner".

I like to freeze my dashi (recipe here) in an ice cube tray, which makes it easy to melt a few cubes anytime we want to make this recipe (or any other Japanese recipe which calls for a small amount of dashi).

We've made this with thinly sliced pork belly (often available at Japanese markets) and with bacon. I greatly prefer the pork belly because I like the taste of the sauces and toppings best, and these stand out more with the more delicately flavored pork belly. Since bacon has a stronger flavor (it is cured pork belly) it tends to make most of the pancake taste like bacon. However, on days when I don't have time to run to Japantown for pork belly, bacon will work as a substitute. Safety note: Preferably use thinly cut pork belly or bacon. Thickly cut bacon or pork belly (the kind that is a millimeter or so thick) can be used, but since it can render lots of fat, if there is a thick coating of fat, pour off any excess oil (or mop it up with a paper towel) after you cook the meat side of the pancake before you flip the pancake. Otherwise, you may burn yourself if the hot oil splatters when you flip the pancake.

We like to cook these either in a cast iron pan (any size larger than the pancake is fine, since the pancake doesn't spread out) or on a griddle. Our griddles make this especially fast to cook since they are large enough to cook multiple pancakes at the same time. If you make the pancakes about 6 inches wide, then it is easy to flip them with a spatula since the ingredients bind together as the pancake cook (our cast iron pans are too heavy to use the inverted pan onto a large plate technique that T. Susan Chang mentions).

We like to top our pancakes with Kewpie mayonnaise, Bulldog tonkatsu sauce, bonito flakes, and aonori (powdered seaweed). Since one pancake per person isn't quite enough for a full lunch or dinner for us, we may try topping it with a fried egg next time before adding the other toppings.

We also found that if you make extra pancakes, it is easy to reheat them (and they will still taste great) if you leave off the toppings. Re-pan fry to heat them up and then add all the toppings.

This book also has another great Okonomiyaki recipe, a Hiroshima-style one which has pan-fried ramen noodles in it.
Recipe:  "Hiroshima-Style Okonomiyaki" from "Japanese Soul Cooking" by Tadashi Ono & Harris Salat
Rating: Great! This is "man food"--meaning that it is very filling, and messy in a good sort of way.
Status: Made twice.


Recipe: "Classic Tonkatsu" from from "Japanese Soul Cooking" by Tadashi Ono & Harris Salat
Rating: Great! Quick and easy.
Status: Made several times.

We made tonkatsu using the recipe from "Japanese Soul Cooking" by Tadashi Ono & Harris Salat. We loved it! It was especially easy to make since the Japanese grocery store that I went to (Nijiya Market) sold pork loin specifically cut to the right thickness for tonkatsu (the label says "pork loin (for tonkatsu / cutlet)"), though many meat counters at American supermarkets can cut off filets (no thicker than 3/4 inch, 1/2 inch slices are okay. 1/4 inch slices can be used to make very thin and wide tonkatsu) for you from the large hunks of pork shoulder or pork loin in their display cases. Preferably the filet should feel soft and malleably when you press on it, not dense and difficult to pound. Pieces with lots of fat and marbling work taste best as tonkatsu, since lean pieces become dry. Don't cut off the excess fat, even if it looks like a lot.

The green cabbage should be very thinly sliced (it is a bit too thick in the picture above).

Don't forget the dab of Japanese mustard on the side--dabbing a small bit of mustard on the pork is especially nice.

The recipe is available in the following book except.

Recipe: "Katsudon" from from "Japanese Soul Cooking" by Tadashi Ono & Harris Salat
Rating: Great!
Status: Made once.

If you make extra tonkatsu, then you can make katsudon with the leftovers which is a type of comforting Japanese one-dish meal (a donburi with tonkatsu), with rice, egg, and a sauce made from dashi, soy sauce, mirin, sake, and onion. The recipe, which is also from "Japanese Soul Cooking" by Tadashi Ono & Harris Salat, is available here.

If you refrigerated your leftover tonkatsu, then first warm it up for a few minutes in an un-oiled pan (the fried crust of the tonkatsu should have enough oil in it to keep it from sticking) heated on medium before beginning the recipe.

I used a 10-inch pan instead of the 6-inch pan recommended by the recipe. The larger pan works just fine if you have a very wide bowl to serve it in, though it will make a thinner omelet (and the egg probably won't cover the entire pan).

Instead of garnishing with mitsuba as the recipe recommended, I used some shredded cabbage left over from the previous night's tonkatsu, and also some daikon radish sprouts seasoned with some ponzu sauce. Another possible substitution for the mitsuba that is easier to find in American supermarkets is scallions, though I haven't tried this yet. I also added a dab of Japanese mustard on the side of the bowl.

If you love tonkatsu sauce (e.g. Bulldog brand tonkatsu sauce), then another optional variation is to drizzle a very small amount of the sauce directly over the tonkatsu. Since the tonkatsu sauce tends to overwhelm the other flavors, use only a very small amount of sauce; I prefer the donburi without any tonkatsu sauce so that the donburi sauce is the focus.

Another great way to server tonkatsu is with a Japanese curry. This curry is mild (I used the full amount of S & B brand curry powder and garam masala suggested in the recipe and the spice level was fine for William). The Japanese also like their curry to be slightly sweet and fruity; this curry gets its sweetness from a grated apple. The curry can successfully be made a day ahead.

Recipe: "Retro Curry" from "Japanese Soul Cooking" by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat served with Tonkatsu, white rice, and Japanese mustard.
Rating: Good, but they suggested adding way to much liquid to the curry. I had to remove some of the sauce and boil it down in a separate pot (so that the main ingredients didn't get over cooked) to make it the right thickness. And of course, the curry needs to be salted to taste at the end of cooking (the amount of salt suggested in the recipe is way too low).
Status: Made once.

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