Saturday, June 25, 2011

和風ハンバーグ (Japanese Style Hamburger)

"Mmhmm...this is a tasty burger!"

I must say, Yuki Morishima, the "Asian Grandmother" behind this recipe, knows how to make a good hanbaagu (hamburger). In the Japanese style, it's made as a hamburger steak (Hamburg steak), rather than served on a bun. This was easily the best wafuu (Japanese Style) hamburger I've had. I've generally been unimpressed with the wafuu hanbaagu I've had in the past; they've been a little bland. This version was very savory and flavorful, though, and the textures were great with the crisp, seared exterior and soft interior (another thing past versions have lacked).

Wafuu hanbaagu is part of the Japanese "youshoku" (洋食), literally "Western food", which is a set of Japanese interpretations of Western dishes, which emerged during the Meiji Restoration. Youshoku is great! Really a bunch of comfort food, like breaded, fried pork cutlets (tonkatsu) potentially in combination with curry, korokke (croquette), breaded, fried shrimp, omurice (rice omelette), and more.

I'm not quite sure why, but making this successful dish gave me particularly great satisfaction. I went on to start inventing my pork meatball recipe, which I'd been thinking about since having some really good ones that family friends made a year or two ago. [They turned out well, and are great in soup with rice, though I want to do further refinements.]

What are the white, crumbly things? Tofu! Morishima-san made a healthier version, the health benefits of which I promptly eliminated by including more beef and making a satisfyingly thick patty.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

SORBET sans machine

Whooowutt?? This was a revelation. You mean I can make my own icy treats simply and easily, without a large capital outlay?

I can't remember what got me searching, but I found a couple recipes for sorbet that didn't rely on an ice cream maker and decided to try this delicious-sounding raspberry, honey, black-tea sorbet. The addition of the tea into the mix is brilliant! Alright, well I used wulong instead of black tea, but it was great anyway. Really, I'm pretty sure a lot of teas would be good. Seeing the couple recipes on that page and the one I saw elsewhere were really eye-opening. This is such a flexible concept. You can really try combining a lot of different fruits, teas, or whatever you want. You do need a food processor or blender, though. Otherwise, the process is very easy.

Essentially, all you need to do is cut up your fruit of choice and freeze it (cutting not necessary with small fruits like raspberries), blend it, and put it back into the freezer for it to firm up. That's the bare-bones process. Now if you're making a syrup, like in the recipe pictured here, then there's that to make and refrigerate before throwing it in to blend with the fruit. Also, I learned from my summer roommate that to get a smoother consistency, you can take the liquid mixture out of the freezer every five minutes, stir it and put it back, for two hours.  Yeah...too much process for me, but I may try it some time to see how the texture differs. Also, with the food processor, there were some larger icy granules in the sorbet, probably because it doesn't cut things up as fine as a blender would.

Regarding this recipe, I must say, the creator really has a sweet tooth. I looked at the recipe, halved the sugar and water, and still found it to be too sweet for my taste. [**note: my mistake. On looking at the ice cream recipes on the page, I realize that the syrup recipes are meant to be larger batches than the sorbet/ice cream recipes require, such that you make them and only use part of the total amount made.**] Next time with this recipe, I'd probably reduce the honey a little since its flavor was a little strong, and maybe just drop the sugar altogether while reducing the water more so the syrup's not too watery, too. Next time in general, I'm going to try adding a little banana into the mix to give the sorbet a smoother texture.

I really like these applications of fruit where they can be softer and maybe a little overripe (the other one in mind being overripe bananas for banana bread). Means you can take advantage of sale prices. Berries are expensive.

Check out pics from the process below:
 raspberries, frozen

 raspberries and syrup, ready to blend (or rather, food process)


after freezing again, prêt à manger!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Black Bean Steamed Fish

Have you ever had black bean steamed fish? You have to try it! Black bean steamed fish done well is definitely one of my favorite dishes from Chinese cuisine. Now, I've done steamed fish before (generally salmon), but I haven't gone for black bean steamed fish. Mostly just an addition to the ingredients of what I was already doing. I recently picked up some flounder filets and tried two approaches to black bean steamed fish. I can't say I know too much about different fish types and how they handle under different cooking methods. But I wanted a white fish, since that's what the dish is usually made with (I think there are a couple species, though I couldn't name them). Well, it turned out the flounder filets, once I opened the bag (I do like me some Costco, though I don't often buy meat there), were rather thin--definitely not one of the usual fish used. To make up for this, I stacked filets two-high so that the cooking time would be slower, which worked out well.

I made a mistake with the first approach (pictured above): although I compensated for the thinness of my filets with respect to cooking time, I didn't compensate for the fact that my four filets was more like two of the thick ones the recipe was referring to. Consequently, the flavor was off; I think there was too much alcohol or maybe salted black bean. Or maybe it was that I simplified the process and didn't pour out the sauce to another dish and transfer the fish after the oil pour, which may have meant that there was excess oil left in the dish, leading to the bitterness. Though, I would have thought that it would have run off the fish. On top of that, the second pair of filets (remember, I stacked them, and I eat leftovers) tasted just fine, good actually, so I'm not sure what was going on.

The second approach, pictured below, went smoothly and turned out well. I'd change some things about the process though, discussed below.

The two approaches split factors of what I'm used to in black bean steamed fish between the two of them. The first one keeps the hot oil pour at the end, but switches out green onion for chives. The second one just puts all the ingredients in and steams the dish without the oil pour, but it uses green onion and has you put the fish on a bed of the flavoring ingredients. Next time, I'm going to have to mix the recipes and change the last segment of process to get to what I prefer. I'd also like to try working with a whole fish some time (that's how it's done in restaurants), though I'll have to learn how to gut a fish, and maybe get a boning knife.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Thai Tamarind Chicken

 I always forget the garnish before I shoot...cilantro (aka coriander?) in this case

I have tamarind paste on hand from another dish I made earlier and wanted to use more of it rather than let it just sit in the refrigerator, so I looked up random recipes on the Internet and pulled out one that looked good. Wow, this was delicious! So savory and flavorful. However, the tamarind flavor wasn't very strong to me, despite the recipe's warning that tamarind paste is very strong and needed taste-testing and careful balancing with fish sauce and sugar at the end. It didn't need any adjusting for me. Well, supposedly freshly made tamarind paste is stronger than the pre-made kind, which the recipe calls for and which I used, but maybe it's just the container I had or the brand. In the previous dish I used it in, the tamarind flavor didn't really come out much either.

The interesting thing about this dish was the basting/glazing technique. I'm not sure what to call it when you spoon the sauces a meat is sautéing in over it as it cooks. Still called basting if you're not roasting or baking it? I mention glazing since "miso-glazing" uses the spooning technique and creates something of a "glaze" on the food. In any case, for this dish, you are asked to add the sauce a couple tablespoons at a time, waiting for it to cook out before adding more. I'm not sure why, but I'd guess that doing it this way makes for a more viscous coating of sauce on the chicken and mushrooms.

Oh man, the mushrooms, mmmm...

 the ingredients

 stir frying away

with the last bit of sauce, I added the chilies in, too (jalapeno in my case)