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

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.

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