Grilled as you like it

Onsen Tamago June 3, 2010

Filed under: Cooking,Japan,recipes — laurel @ 10:50 pm
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onsen tamago

onsen tamago being plucked from the water at Kusatsu

In our recent care package from home, I asked for David Chang’s Momofuku Cookbook. Once I got it, I took a look inside and I couldn’t wait to try some of the recipes. Of course, my freezer was still full of frozen crab, so I didn’t want to order the bacon for bacon dashi with potatoes and clams or ramen broth just yet. But that didn’t mean that I couldn’t start with some of the simpler recipes. One of the first recipes that caught my eye was the slow-poached eggs. These are basically homemade onsen tamago, hot spring-cooked eggs. For a perfect onsen tamago (in my mind) the eggs should be in that stage just between raw and cooked, with the whites still a little soft but the yolk starting to firm a bit.

I didn’t have all the necessary equipment, so I bought digital kitchen thermometer on amazon.com. (I had bought a thermometer in Kappabashi about a week earlier, but to my disappointment, it was a baking thermometer. Who knew that some thermometers only go to 50°C. ) To keep the eggs off of the bottom of the pot, I flipped my steamer upside-down in the pot (with the steamer right-side-up the pot would be full the the brim), which kept the eggs just a few millimeters off the bottom, but I think it was good enough. The hole in the steamer also made a good spot to rest the tip of the thermometer. After trying the first one, I found that the whites were a little bit looser than I like, so I popped them back in the water and raised the heat by a few more degrees. If you do this, be careful. You can always cook them more, but once you go too far, you can’t cook them less.

onsen tamago
Onsen tamago made using Momofuku’s slow-poached egg technique

For the sauce, I used a recipe from about.com: 1/4 cup dashi and 1 teaspoon soy sauce. Instead of regular soy sauce, I substituted banno-joyu, seasoned soy sauce. I love to have banno-joyu on hand for making a quick sauce for somen noodles, dressing vegetables, making ohitashi, or drizzling over tofu. Plus, it keeps for just about forever in the refrigerator, so I mix up a small batch whenever I run out (It’s also a great way to use up some of the extra shiitake mushroom stems that I have around).

Slow-Poached Eggs
from Momofuku by David Chang and Peter Meehan

large eggs

1. Fill your biggest, deepest pot with water and put it on the stove over the lowest possible heat.

2. Use something to keep the eggs from sitting on the bottom of the pot, where the temperature will be the highest. If you’ve got a cake rack or a steamer rack, use it. If not, improvise; a doughnut of aluminum foil or a few chopsticks scattered helter skelter across the bottom of the pan will usually do the trick, but you know what you’ve got lying around. Be resourceful.

3. Use an instant-read thermometer to monitor the temperature in the pot–if it’s too hot, add cold water or an ice cube. Once the water is between 140°F and 145°F (60-63°C, though I actually let the temperature rise to about 67°C), add the eggs to the pot. Let them bathe for 40 to 45 minutes, checking the temperature regularly with the thermometer or by sticking you finger in the water (It should be the temperature of a very hot bath) and moderating it as needed.

4. You can use the eggs immediately or store them in the refrigerator for up to 24. (If you’re planning on storing them, chill them until cold in an ice-water bath.) If you refrigerate the eggs, warm them under piping-hot tap water for 1 minute before using,

5. To serve the eggs, crack them one at a time into a small saucer. The thin white will not and should not be firm or solid; tip the dish to pour off and discard the loosest part of the white, then slide the egg onto the dish it’s destined for.

To make a sauce, mix 1/4 cup dashi with 1 teaspoon banno-joyu (below). Use 1 to 2 tablespoons of this sauce for each egg.

Banno Joyu: Seasoned Soy Concentrate
from Washoku by Elizabeth Andoh

5 or 6 large iriko, trimmed (heads and guts removed)
8 to 10 square inches Rausu, Rishiri, or ma kombu
1 dried shiitake mushroom or stems from 3 or 4 mushrooms
1/4 cup atsu kezuri or 1/2 cup tightly packed katsuo-bushi
2/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup sake
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons mirin

Place the iriko, kombu, mushroom, atsu kezuri, soy sauce, and sake in a small, deep saucepan and leave to infuse for at least 1 hour or up to 12 hours. (If you are using ordinary katsuo-bushi, add the flakes later as directed.)

Add the sugar, water, and mirin to the pan and place over low heat. When the liquid begins to simmer, adjust the heat to keep it from boiling too vigorously. As the sauce simmers, it becomes quite foamy, rising in the saucpan. Watch to make sure it does not overflow. Continue to simmer until the volume has been reduced by about one=fourth and the sauce has become a bit syrupy.

Remove from the heat. (If you are using ordinary katsuo-bushi, scatter the flakes across the surface of the liquid. Let stand for 2 to 3 minutes, until the flakes have settled to the bottom.) Pour through a coffee-filter-lined strainer or a sarashi cloth into a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. If not using immediately, let cool, cover, and chill before using. Refrigerate for up to 1 month.


Spring spinach quiche June 25, 2009

Filed under: Cooking,Four seasons in Japan,recipes — laurel @ 9:08 pm
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In my last post I showed off some of the great local vegetables that I can get at Shoku-no-Eki, our local fresh-from-the-farm market. I decided to make a quiche with the spinach, gyouja ninniku (as I said before, I think these are ramps or a relative of them), shallots, onions, and garlic, along with some fresh farm eggs. For quiche and carbonara, I especially like the “futago tamago” or double-yolked “twin eggs.”

First I started with a half batch of Martha Stewart’s pate brisee. For some reason, whenever I’ve made pastry dough here in Japan, the flour becomes completely saturated with butter before I add any of the water. I got some advice from my mom when I made my last tart that the water helps keep the crust from shrinking as it bakes, so I reduced the butter in the recipe and made sure to add at least a bit of water to finish the dough. It wasn’t much, and as you can see, the crust still shrunk a little bit from the edges. It’s definitely a recipe that I was happy with, though, so I’ll continue to work on it. Instead of rolling out the crust, I took the lazy approach and just plopped it into the pan and used my fingertips to press it evenly around the pan. Next, it went into the oven to blind bake.

While the crust was baking, I made the filling. First I browned a few tablespoons of finely chopped bacon. Then I sauteed half an onion, a clove of garlic, and a few shallots. After that, I added the chopped gyouja ninniku and spinach to wilt. After that I mixed up some cream and eggs, stirred in the vegetable filling, poured it into the crust and sprinkled some pecorino romano on top before popping it back in the oven to bake. With a salad on the side, what a delicious dinner it was!


Chawan Mushi June 4, 2008

Filed under: Cooking,Japan,recipes — laurel @ 10:43 pm
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I’ve been meaning to make chawan mushi for a while, ever since Alex got me a cute little set of 5 lidded teacups to use for making it. So, Friday night, I finally made them.

Chawan mushi means “steamed in a teacup.” It’s like a cross between custard and soup. You combine whatever small pieces of filling with a savory dashi and egg custard, and you can serve it hot or cold. I especially like them hot, but once the summer heat arrives, I’m sure I’ll begin to prefer the chilled ones too. Since the main flavor of the chawan mushi comes from the stock, make sure to use real homemade dashi, don’t take shortcuts with the powdered dashi for these.

You can use almost anything you want as the filling ingredients. Part of the fun of eating your chawan mushi is finding these yummy secret treasures hidden inside. Some commonly used ingredients are mitsuba, mushrooms, ginko nuts, and a sliver of yuzu rind, but feel free to add whatever tidbits you like. I got my inspiration from 100 Recipes from Japanese Cooking and The Japan Times’ Way of Washoku.

I had some leftover snow peas, sansho berries, and shiitake mushrooms so I used those for my filling along with some chicken thigh and scallops. The sansho berries added a spicy kick, but I didn’t thing that the flavor went well with the rest of the ingredients that I chose, so I left them out of the recipe below. I don’t have a flat steamer, so I baked them in a water bath instead. I accidentally cooked them for a bit too long, so the custard was a bit overdone (the soup would weep out as soon as it was cut with a spoon) and the peas became a little brown. Next time I will make sure to take them out of the oven after 25 minutes. Next time, I think I’ll add a sliver of yuzu or citrus rind to the chawan mushi as well.

*update: here’s a link to a new post with another recipe for chawan mushi (made with the steamer, it’s much easier)

Chawan Mushi

4 large eggs
600 ml dashi
1 tablespoon usukuchi shoyu (light soy sauce)
1 tablespoon mirin
1/2 teaspoon salt (only if serving chilled)
splash of shoyu (soy sauce)
5 bite-sized pieces of chicken thigh
5 whole scallops
10 snow peas
2 shiitake mushrooms, sliced into 5 slices each
5 sprigs mitsuba leaves (more…)


Spaghetti alla Carbonara May 19, 2008

Filed under: Cooking,Japan,recipes — laurel @ 5:46 pm
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spaghetti alla carbonara with asparagus and mitsuba

I took a semester of Italian in college. While I was studying the language, I thought I would supplement my studies by improving my knowledge of Italian food and culture. I watched Mario Batali’s Molto Mario on the Food Network every weekday. I learned the names and techniques behind a lot of Italian dishes, picked up some of Mario Batali’s culinary philosophy, and occasionally I even cooked a few of the dishes I saw on the show.

One dish that I was really impressed with was his Spaghetti alla Carbonara, or “spaghetti as the coalman’s wife makes it.” The dish is presented with the still-raw egg yolk cradled in a bowl of hot noodles, so you can break the yolk and stir it into your pasta just before you eat. The presentation is striking, especially when you use a deep orangey-yellow farm egg. The eggs in Japan have the same deep color as farm eggs in America, the ingredients are easy to get at the regular grocery store, and it is quick to prepare, so it’s a perfect weeknight meal when we’re not in the mood for Japanese food.

I often make carbonara according to the recipe: using just eggs, bacon, some olive oil, cheese, and black pepper. Sometimes I like to toss in some vegetables too, for extra color and flavor. This time, I tossed some chopped spring asparagus into the pan with the bacon and sprinkled mitsuba leaves on top (the flavor is similar to parsley). Some notes: of course, guanciale is difficult (perhaps impossible) to come by in Japan, as is smoked bacon, but I try to use the best bacon that I can find for carbonara. Usually I get the slab instead of the pre-sliced bacon so that I can cut it into nice thick chunks. Also, this dish doesn’t keep well for leftovers, so I usually only make a half batch unless we’ve got company.

Spaghetti as the Coalman’s Wife Makes It: Spaghetti alla Carbonara
adapted from Mario Batali, Molto Mario

8 ounces bacon, cut into approximately 1-centimeter cubes
1 pound dry spaghetti
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
4 eggs, separated
Freshly ground black pepper
about 8-12 spears fresh asparagus, cut into 1/2″ lengths
fresh mitsuba leaves, chopped

In a 12 to 14-inch saute pan, render and brown bacon until crispy and golden. Add asparagus and continue cooking for about 1 minute. Do not drain fat from pan; set aside.

Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons salt. Cook spaghetti according to the package directions, until tender yet al dente, reserving the pasta cooking water.

Reheat the guanciale in the pan with the fat and add approximately 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water to the pan. Toss in the cooked pasta and heat, shaking the pan, for 1 minute. Add the grated cheese, egg whites, and black pepper and toss until fully incorporated. Divide the pasta among 4 warmed serving bowls. Make a nest in the center for the egg yolk. Gently drop an egg yolk into each serving, season with more freshly ground black pepper and grate additional cheese over the top. Sprinkle with chopped mitsuba leaves. Serve immediately.


Kusatsu Onsen April 6, 2008

Filed under: Eating,Japan,Travel — laurel @ 9:45 pm
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Onsen tamago: soft cooked eggs cooked in the hot spring’s water.

On the first day of our spring break trip, we went to Kusatsu Onsen. This was our second time to Kusatsu Onsen. On this trip, we went to the Sai no Kawara Rotenburo Onsen (outdoor hot-spring). In front of the baths is Sai no Kawara park, where there are many small pools where people can dip their feet and legs in the hot spring.

Last fall we went to Otaki no Yu onsen in Kusatsu. We have pictures from that trip on our photoblog.

Charcoal grilled river fish | lanterns | onsen manju

We tried some onsen manju, wheat buns filled with sweetened bean, chestnut, or green pea paste and steamed with the onsen water. My favorite is the green bun: green tea on the outside and green peas on the inside.

Yubatake | Sai no Kawara Park | an onsen ryokan