Grilled as you like it

Turkey Avgolemono November 30, 2009

Filed under: Cooking,recipes — laurel @ 7:45 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Avgolemono soup

Last Friday I attended the Gunma JETs’ Thanksgiving dinner for more than 50 local JETs, other foreigners, and friends. As you can imagine, a Thanksgiving dinner for 50 is quite a spread. I’m pretty sure there were 6 (small) turkeys! Not wanting to waste, I volunteered, as in past years, to take the bones home for turkey soup. I’m sure we were quite a sight bicycling home with our two giant bags of turkey bones, an empty wine bottle, and a pair of wine glasses (not that we would bicycle after drinking wine, as, of course, it is illegal… that’s merely a coincidence).

So on Saturday morning I got to work removing any bits of meat remaining on the bones that filled a good part of my refrigerator. After that, I had to nest everything together as efficiently as I could to get them into my two largest pots. Onto the stove went the pots. I filled them to the brim with water and set them simmering.

After several hours the house smelled like Thanksgiving, and I had a quart of turkey meat and three or four quarts of very concentrated turkey stock–it’s like jello once it cools. Ordinarily I would get more stock from so many bones, but my pots are small so they were packed so full that there wasn’t much room for the water. I’m sure it won’t be a problem to dilute it with water before I use it.

And after making turkey stock all day, what would make a better dinner than turkey soup? After I strained the stock I managed to find enough meat still on the bones–but now fall-off-the-bone tender–to make a very meaty soup. And avgolemono is nice and easy. I just cooked up an onion and some celery (I don’t think it’s traditional, but it’s tasty and I had some in the fridge) in a bit of olive oil, added some rice, stock, and meat, and finally finished the soup with lemon juice, egg, and chopped dill. Although this soup is easy, the egg and rice make a thick soup that’s filling enough to enjoy as a main course. And that’s just what I did.

So next time you have leftover turkey bones, why don’t you get in the mottainai spirit and make turkey avgolemono? Of course this recipe is delicious made with chicken too. In fact, the picture above is actually a chicken avgolemono that I made this spring, but trust me, it looks almost the same.

Turkey Avgolemono

olive oil
one onion, chopped
half a stalk celery, chopped finely (optional)
one half cup uncooked rice
white wine or sake
about 6 cups homemade turkey stock (or chicken)
some turkey meat (or chicken), chopped
two bay leaves
juice from one lemon
two eggs or 4 egg yolks
handful of fresh dill, chopped
salt and pepper

Heat some olive oil in a large pot. Add the onion and celery. Sprinkle with some salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft. Add the rice and stir. Add a splash of wine or sake and stir again. Add the turkey stock, bay leaves, and turkey meat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes until the rice is very tender.Turn off the heat.

Put half of the lemon juice and eggs in a bowl and whisk together thoroughly; make sure that there are no bits of unincorporated egg white or they won’t make your soup creamy. If you use all egg yolks the soup will be more yellow and taste richer. Don’t use all of the lemon juice at first because you don’t want the soup to be too sour–you can always add more later.  Gradually stir a few cups of hot soup together with the egg mixture to temper the eggs. Once the egg mixture is warm, add it to the pot of soup and stir well.

Add a handful of chopped dill or other green herbs like parsley and green onions. Stir soup and taste. Adjust your seasoning with salt, pepper, and lemon juice.


Daigaku Imo November 25, 2009

Filed under: Cooking,Four seasons in Japan,Japan,recipes — laurel @ 8:34 pm
Tags: , , , ,

What’s for dinner tonight? Well, it’s fall, so I’ve been getting lots of vegetables from teachers who have big gardens or small farms. I got some sweet potatoes last week, so I thought we should have daigaku imo with dinner (along with a grilled hokke, rice, and salad).

While the recipe on Just Hungry looks delicious, I can’t be bothered to deep fry at home, so I really liked the look of the recipe at Food Lover’s Guide to Tokyo. It was really easy- just chop up a large sweet potato, put it in a frying pan with the rest of the ingredients and cook it until the water’s gone and the sugar makes a nice syrup. Then sprinkle with sesame seeds.


Japanese food in the news November 18, 2009

Filed under: Eating,Four seasons in Japan,Japan — laurel @ 11:21 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

I stumbled across some interesting articles about Japanese food while reading the newspaper today. The first was an article about the reduction of next year’s Atlantic bluefin tuna quota by 40% in an effort to save the species from overfishing. I was surprised to read that Japan has stockpiled 24,600 tons of frozen bluefin tuna, which is nearly double next year’s scheduled catch of Atlantic bluefin. Based on the numbers in the article, it sounds like this means that the country has about a year’s supply of tuna on ice (as Pacific bluefin make up the other half).

I try to avoid eating bluefin most of the time myself, but it’s amazing to me that with the species facing such hard times every sushi shop in town is still able to offer a plate of hon-maguro or otoro for just a few hundred yen. It just doesn’t compute.

Read more at Asahi Shimbun: 2010 Atlantic tuna quota slashed 40%

The other article was about growing imports of that seasonal fall specialty mushroom, the matsutake. According to the article some imported matsutake can rival the quality of domestic mushrooms for a much lower price. Perhaps I should check them out. I’ve heard that you can find these mushrooms growing wild in Colorado too, so maybe I can make a hobby of it after I go home too. 🙂

Foreign growers cash in on demand for ‘matsutake’

Writing about Japanese food in the news reminds me that I also have yet to post this article from the Japan Times about Elizabeth Andoh and her upcoming book Kansha: Celebrating Japan’s Vegetarian Traditions.

Key ingredient in Japanese cuisine found in the mind


Yamagata and Yamadera November 16, 2009

Buildings on the cliff at Ryushakuji overlook the town of Yamadera below.

On the 4th of July weekend, we took Friday off and took a trip to Yamagata. I was inspired by my previous trip to Japan, when we spent 3 weeks studying haiku poet Matsuo Basho’s Oku no Hosomichi by following the same route through Tohoku. When we arrived in Yamagata on that trip, I caught a cold so I couldn’t complete the Gas-san to Yudono-san hike (I was deterred by the flying snow-rain at the cable car base) so I’ve been wanting to complete my unfinished trip since then. Plus, I remembered the area, particularly Yamadera, was so beautiful. We certainly weren’t disappointed this time around.

To get there we took the shinkansen to Sendai and then the local line to Yamadera. On my previous trip we were in Yamadera on the 4th of July too, and I remembered that the streets had seemed to be lined with cherry vendors. I was really looking forward to bunches and bunches of delicious Yamagata cherries. Unfortunately, this year’s weather led to a bad stone fruit crop, including cherries, so there were just a few sellers this time.


This carving is at the temple at the base of Yamadera. You can rub the statue where you’re having trouble to feel better. As you can see years and years of rubbing have made him so smooth and shiny. We saw lots of older ladies come and rub his feet before starting up the 1000 stone steps to the mountaintop temple of Ryushakuji.


A stone statue


The big main gate is about halfway up.



You can tie your omikuji here.

Looking up, you can see where water has worn rounded caves into the stone.


A small building on the cliff


The view of the town below (also called Yamadera) from the viewing platform.


Intricately carved dragons


At the top there is not just one temple, but many buildings, including this one, which appears to be the priest’s house, and a vegetable garden.


A string of omikuji.


A huge lantern.

me, Alex, and Alex

After spending the day in Yamadera we had a quick soba lunch before catching the train to Yamagata city. We met up with my friend Alex from Boulder, who is working as an ALT in Yamagata.


First we went to a nearby yatai center where we enjoyed some beers and local specialties. Just find a stall with open seats, pull up a chair, and order away. One interesting dish we tried was dashi tofu. Yamagata dashi isn’t dashi as in the kombu and bonito broth that’s used in Japanese cooking, it’s a finely chopped mix of okra, eggplant, shiso, and other vegetables and seasonings that you can plop onto your tofu. It’s neba-neba (sticky-slimy), but was surprisingly good; definitely better than that other neba-neba food, natto, in my opinion.


After that we headed to a tachinomiya (standing bar) called Maneki Buta. You might guess from the name that their specialty is pork. Alex recommended the grilled pork with daikon, raw on the inside and seared on the outside pork liver, and the gyu-suji nikomi. It was all tasty.


My culinary revelation with organ meats continues. Not only is chicken liver good, this raw on the inside and seared on the outside pork liver is pretty good too. It’s tender and creamy textured and cooked just enough.

See more from our trip at Alex’s photoblog.


Mt. Myogi Hike November 8, 2009

Filed under: Four seasons in Japan,Japan,Travel — laurel @ 10:29 pm
Tags: , , ,

miyogi friends015


In June we went an a sort of “farewell hike” with some of our friends who were leaving Gunma. We went to Mt. Myogi, which is one of the three important mountains of Gunma (along with Mt. Haruna and Mt. Akagi). As you can see, the trail is quite challenging, but the views are great. We had a great hike, and managed to avoid any rain. After the hike we enjoyed some strawberry soft cream and went to a nearby onsen for a relaxing post-hike soak. To see more pictures from our hike, check out Alex’s photoblog.