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Easy Japanese Dishes Pt. 2 – Japanese Mixed Rice (Takikomi Gohan)

This Japanese mixed rice dish was inspired by a recipe posted on TabiEats. I had to make several changes since I didn’t have either the burdock root or any of the mushrooms they used. I transcribed the instructions from the video and rewrote them to make reproducing the recipe as simple as possible.

Japanese Mixed Rice (Takikomi Gohan) – serves 2

1 cup uncooked Japanese rice, washed and soaked in water for 30 minutes
1 cup cold water

Rice Seasonings

2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tbsp sake
1 tsp instant dashi powder

Rice add-ins/Toppings

1 1/2 inch piece carrot, cut into thin planks and halved
2 large white mushrooms, cleaned, cut in half and sliced thinly
1 large broccoli florette, cut into smaller pieces
nametake, to taste (I used about 2 tbsp, see recipe below)
40-80 gm firm tofu, drained and cubed

Other options for toppings

40 gm boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces
40 gm beef, thinly sliced
canned tuna, drained
konnyaku/konjac, sliced and cubed
bamboo shoots, sliced and julienned
water chestnuts, sliced and jullienned
peas, edamame or french beans
sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

In a medium sized sauce pan, add the washed, drained rice and the soy sauce, sake and instant dashi powder. Stir well.

Top the rice with vegetables and other toppings. Do not stir.

Bring the water to a boil, cover turn the heat down to medium and cook for 2 min. Turn the heat down to low and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Turn the heat off, remove the pan from the heat and let the rice and veggies steam for another 5-10 minutes. With a sushi rice paddle or large spoon fold to mix the toppings into the rice.

Serve with a piece of grilled fish, a bowl of soup and some pickled vegetables. Make onigiri with leftover mixed rice.

Nametake is a condiment of cooked, seasoned enoki mushrooms. It may be added to soups, rice or noodles as a topping. There are more elaborate recipes or preparations for making your own, but the one below is fast and tasty.

Nametake – makes about 1 cup

7 oz/200 gm enoki mushroom, cleaned
3 tbsp mirin
3 tbsp soy sauce

Preparation of the enoki mushrooms

Trim off the brown ‘root’ end of the package of enoki mushrooms. There’s about an inch/an inch and a quarter of edible mushroom between the trimmed off portion and the white stalk portion of the enoki mushrooms that may be cut off and reserved, as it’s still edible. I’ll show you what you can do with it in the next post on this theme.

Cut the enoki mushrooms in two lengthwise, about 2 inches long (note: I forgot to do this but didn’t find it was an issue) and break up into smaller pieces. Rinse if needed and drain well.

Add the mushrooms to a saucepan along with the soy sauce and mirin. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 5-7 minutes until the mushrooms have picked up some of the colour of the soy sauce.

Transfer to a small jar and refrigerate. Use within a week or two.

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Easy Japanese Dishes Pt. 1 – Easy Cheeseburger Ramen

For anyone wishing to try Japanese dishes, yet not fond of sushi, the recipe below is simple and requires few specialized ingredients. It is the first of two or three posts I will be making on this theme.

Dried ramen noodle soup packages may be used for more than just cheap university food. I found the recipe for this Cheeseburger ramen on the TabiEats YouTube channel. I made a couple of changes to their recipe, such as cutting the lettuce (romaine) into three-quarter inch strips, to make eating the lettuce easier. I also reduced the amount of the dried seasoning package used to 1/8-1/4 tsp. Using the full package is just excessive as no one needs that much salt and/or MSG in their diets.

Easy Cheeseburger Ramen – serves 1

3 lettuce leaves, iceberg or romaine, cut into 3/4 inch strips
2 slices cheddar cheese, sliced about 1/2 inch wide
150 gm ground meat (beef and pork mixture)
1 tsp vegetable oil, for frying the burger patty
1 pkg ramen noodles
small pickle, thinly sliced for garnish (optional)
ketchup and mustard, garnish

Add the sliced lettuce strips to a serving plate and reserve.

Shape the ground meat into a 3-4 inch diameter patty. Add the vegetable oil to the frying pan and cook the patty over medium heat for 2-3 min on the first side. Turn the patty over and cook on the second side until no longer pink inside. Break the patty into six to eight pieces or wedges after a minute or so. It helps to cook the meat more quickly and you’ll be able to tell when the meat is done.

Bring 4 cup of water to the boil in a medium sized cooking pot. Cook the the ramen noodles as per package instructions. Set aside the seasoning package. Reduce the cooking time as you’ll be cooking the noodles further with the meat.

Drain the ramen noodles and add to the frying pan. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Toss the noodles with the meat to coat with the meat juices. Scatter the sliced cheese over the top and toss gently. Sprinkle about 1/8 tsp of the ramen seasoning packet contents over the noodles and meat. Mix well and taste. Add an additional 1/8 tsp if needed.

Turn the noodles and meat out over the lettuce lined plate.

Add the pickle slices over the top, if used. Garnish with ketchup and mustard and serve.

Note: You can make your own version of this dish using the pasta of your choice. Season with salt and pepper or Maggi seasoning sauce or bouillon/dry soup mix.

Okinawan Taco Rice (Tako Raisu)

Sadly, I’ve never been to Japan, so my only exposure to Japanese cuisine has been through television programs, cookbooks and, more recently, YouTube videos.

I first ran across this Tex-Mex/Japanese fusion dish originating in Okinawa on the channel TabiEats and copied the recipe from there.

It’s a simple idea … a basic taco meat recipe, with the addition of some soy sauce to give it that Japanese touch. Instead of being served in a soft or crunchy taco shell, the meat is served over a cup of steamed rice. You can use short grain sushi rice or long grain, like the basmati rice that I accidentally pulled out of the fridge.

Okinawan Taco Rice (Tako Raisu)

Mise en place: Lean ground beef, onion, garlic, cumin, chili powder, soy sauce, tomato paste, cooked rice, salsa and salt (not pictured). Avocado and firm tofu are for the variations.

Rice and taco meat ready to be garnished

Variations

1. Taconari – Inari sushi tofu pockets filled with a combination of sushi rice and the taco meat (or the tofu option below)

 

2. Tofu taco rice – Crumbled firm tofu replaces the ground meat (beef, beef and pork, chicken or turkey) in the taco meat recipe and is combined with the sushi rice … may be eaten stuffed in inari pouches or in endive cups.

 

3. Avocado Taco – Avocado half, center scooped out and filled with the taco meat before being garnished with your favourite taco toppings

   

 

Bierocks/Runzas … First Attempt

I finally got a chance to make a batch of these sweet dough bread pockets using the recipe posted on The Frugal Hausfraus blog. Besides using leftover shredded sauerbraten instead of ground beef and adding about half a cup of grated old cheddar cheese to the filling once it was cooled, I also tried an alternative shaping method. It didn’t make the assembly much faster although the seams didn’t open up as often.

Square runzas – half the dough rolled out about 1/4 inch thick, 10 inches by 15 inches in size, squared off and cut into six 5 inch by 5 inch squares
Round runzas – 85 gms of dough patted out to a circle that was about 4 inches in diameter


Review: The recipe estimated being able to make a dozen runzas but I ended up with fourteen, and still had filling left over, so I’d cut back on the amount of cabbage used from about four cups to 2 1/2-3 cups in the future. Making the filling the day before, so that it has a chance to cool, is also advised. On the whole though, the dough was simple to make and the results were quite tasty. My shaping, especially on the square runzas, needs work.

ETA (01/02/2019): If you don’t want to use ground beef, try ground chicken or turkey. Or even pork.

Sushi at Home – Purple Sushi Rice

Even if the only sushi fillings you have in your fridge are cream cheese (home made Boursin) and smoked salmon, you can turn your boring old Philadelphia roll into a dramatic visual by colouring your sushi rice and then using it to make an inside out roll.

The ingredient responsible for that change … red cabbage. Grate a fist sized wedge finely on your microplane zester, drain off the liquid, add a bit of lemon juice to the liquid to make the colour ‘pop’ and stir it into your cooked sushi rice. Easy peasy. (NOTE: My method involved adding 2 tbsp of seasoned rice vinegar to a generous handful of finely shredded red cabbage, pureeing it and then straining the resulting liquid into a cup or two of hot, freshly cooked sushi rice.)

Inside out Purple Philadelphia Roll

Onigirazu (sushi rice sandwich) with cream cheese, smoked salmon and red cabbage. Sliced avocado may also be added.

Colouring the Sushi Rice

Making the Inside Out Roll

Making the Onigirazu

German Themed Christmas Menu – Sauerbraten and Gravy, Rotkohl and Gingerbread Cookies

I had planned on a traditional Christmas meal featuring a roast turkey and its accompaniments, but, less than a week before the event, I changed my mind, and decided on a German themed menu. Perhaps because I made gingerbread cookies. Or perhaps because I ran across an eye of round roast while rooting around in the freezer, which had been labelled ‘for sauebraten’. In any case, this is what I ended up with.

For the vegetable side dish, I went outside my comfort zone and chose to try ‘rotkohl’ or braised German red cabbage. I started with the Better Homes and Gardens recipe but added some more vinegar (cider), because the flavour seemed flat after tasting. I also added a heaping tablespoon of home made cranberry sauce. I cooked the cabbage for about thirty minutes until it was limp but still had some chew to it. If you want it more tender, cook it longer.

Braised Red Cabbage (Rotkohl) – serves 4

1 tbsp vegetable oil*
1/2 onion, finely diced*
2 tbsp packed brown sugar
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp caraway seed
1/4 tsp salt, add more to taste
dash of freshly ground black pepper
2 cups shredded red cabbage
3/4 cup coarsely chopped peeled apple
1-2 tbsp cranberry sauce, to taste

* Substitute with 2 tbsp sauted onion.

In a large skillet, saute the onion in vegetable oil over medium/medium-low heat until soft and just beginning to get golden brown.

Add the brown sugar, vinegar, caraway seed, water, salt and pepper. Cook 2 to 3 minutes until everything is hot, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the shredded cabbage and diced apple. Cook, covered, over medium/medium-low heat 20 to 30 minutes or until crisp-tender, stirring occasionally.

After 20 minutes or so, taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper as needed. If you want a tangier cabbage, stir in some more vinegar. For a sweeter cabbage, add a bit more sugar. For a seasonal touch, stir in some cranberry sauce (home made or bought) and let it melt into the cabbage.

Sauerbraten Dinner  – Yes, I forgot to plate the braised red cabbage until after I took the pictures. I may post the sauerbraten recipe I used in the New Year just for my own records. Until then, enjoy the pictures.

For the starch, I stuck with mashed potatoes, but topped them with ‘sauerbraten gravy’ … crushed gingersnaps/gingerbread cookies stirred into the strained braising liquid from the sauerbraten. To be honest, I couldn’t picture this actually turning into a gravy, so I prepared a ‘beurre manie’, a paste consisting of equal parts of soft butter and flour which can be whisked into a hot liquid until it thickens to the degree desired. It turned out that the crushed cookies were more efficient at thickening the liquid than I expected and, in future I would use half the amount that I used because I had to thin my gravy down a LOT to get it to be pouring consistency.

Cooking the meal was a true learning experience, and, on the whole, a successful one. I don’t know that I’d repeat the menu in the future but, for this Christmas, it was a delicious meal.

Homemade Savoury Boursin … Spread and Pasta Sauce

I recently found a recipe for boursin, a soft and creamy cheese, posted on “The Frugal Hausfrau” website and knew that I had to give it a try. It makes an amazing spread but it also works as part of a creamy pasta sauce. I made a change to the original recipe … I substituted purchased crispy fried onions for the dried chives since I didn’t have any.

Roasted chicken and creamy boursin and mushroom fettuccine

Creamy Boursin and Mushroom Pasta – serves 2 or 3

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter or margarine
1 1/2 – 2 cups (~227 gm) mushrooms, halved and sliced (white and cremini)
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup boursin cheese spread (purchased or home made*)
salt and pepper, to taste
200-210 dry pasta, cooked according to package directions, reserve about half a cup of the pasta cooking water to add to the sauce in case it tightens up before serving.
2-3 tbsp coarsely chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

* See recipe below

In a large saute pan over high heat, add the oil and butter. When hot, add the mushrooms and saute until lightly browned. Turn the heat down to medium/medium-high and add the whipping cream and cream cheese. Stir gently until the cream cheese melts into the sauce and the cream starts to bubble a bit. Add the cooked pasta and stir through. Serve with some chopped parsley on top, for garnish.

Savoury Boursin Cheese

Savoury Boursin Cheese – makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese, softened to room temperature
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 tbsp crispy fried onion

In a medium sized bowl, cream together the cream cheese, butter, salt, white pepper and garlic powder with a hand mixer. Stir in the parsley and fried onions by hand.

Transfer to a small bowl or ramekin, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate so that the flavours will marry. Remove from the fridge 1 or 2 hrs before serving so that the boursin will be soft enough to spread.

Winner, Winner Chicken … Dinner to Start

A sale on whole, fresh chicken is almost as good as one on whole fresh turkeys. And it happens a lot more often. On this occasion, I came home with two whole chickens, about four pounds each for about sixteen dollars. I knew that I wanted to spatch-cock and roast one, but the other … that was decided by fate.

Roasted Spatch-Cocked Chicken – Yes, there ARE four wings in that picture.

Dinner – roasted chicken leg, mashed potatoes with drippings gravy and carrot coins

I cut up and poached the thighs and two half breasts from the second chicken along with half an onion, a carrot, a stick of celery and some aromatics and made chicken stock for the soup below.

Chicken Chile Verde Soup

(Take 2) Chicken Chile Verde Soup – serves 6

1 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced (substitute with 1/8 tsp garlic powder)
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup water
1/4 -1/2 cup masa harina
1 1/2 cup green enchilada sauce
1 can (540 ml/2 cups) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can frozen or fresh corn kernels
1/2 jalapeno pepper, diced or 1 4 oz can diced green chiles (omitted)
1 tsp chile powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 – 1 tsp salt
1/8 – 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken (2 thighs and 2 half breasts)
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack or old Cheddar cheese
4 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature (optional)

Garnish: Additional grated cheese and crushed tortilla chips for topping, if desired

Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the chile powder and ground cumin and saute for a couple of minutes.

Add in the chicken broth.

Combine the water with the masa harina, whisking until smooth. Pour into the pot along with the  enchilada sauce, black beans, corn and jalapeno or green chiles. Season with the salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 30-40 minutes, until thickened.

Stir in the grated cheese and cream cheese. Cook until the cheese has melted, whisking if needed, 5-10 minutes. Stir in the chicken and cook until heated through.

Note: This soup will get thicker upon standing. If you like a thinner soup, use the lesser amount of masa harina. I omitted the cream cheese because I needed it for something else but it gives the soup a very creamy, rich flavour.

There’s still a container of stock left so I made a batch of matzoh balls with the fat skimmed from the stock, after refrigerating it. I poached the matzoh balls in salted water and froze them away when they had cooled, making it easy to throw together the soup when I’m short of time … and hungry.

Tutti a Tavola…

“Tutti a tavola a mangiare” or ‘everyone to the table to eat’ is Lidia Bastianich‘s closing on her Italian cooking show.

I thought it was an appropriate title for this Italian themed menu.

Strozzapreti (priest-strangler) pasta made with flour, a pinch of salt and hot water. Kneaded for five or six minutes until smooth and supple, this simple pasta is rolled out about 1/8th of an inch thick with a rolling pin and then cut into one inch strips with a pizza cutter.

The strips of pasta are then stretched a bit before being rolled between the palms of your hands to form little ‘snakes’ of pasta. Tear the pasta into 3-3 1/2 inch pieces and let dry for half an hour before cooking. Depending on how thick your pasta is, it will take five or six minutes to cook to al dente.

Toss the cooked pasta with the sauce of your choice.

Individual beef and mushroom braciole

Beef and Mushroom Braciole – serves 4

1 pound/454 gm eye of round, cut into four 1/2 inch slices**
1/2 cup finely diced mushrooms
1/4 cup finely diced onion
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 slices bacon, finely diced
1/8 tsp dried parsley flakes
3-4 tbsp vegetable oil
bundle of fresh basil leaves (6-8)
2 1/2-3 cups spaghetti sauce
1 tsp salt, divided
1 tsp ground black pepper, divided

Hot cooked pasta or polenta

** Eye of round cut into 1/2 inch thick slices, pounded to 1/4 inch thick with a meat tenderizer. Set aside.

Add the mushrooms, onion, cheese, bacon, parsley flakes, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp ground black pepper to a food processor. Pulse a few times until you have a homogenous mixture which still has some texture to it. Remove the mixture to a small bowl and divide by eye into four even portions.

Season the beef cutlets on both sides with some of the remaining salt and pepper. Spoon the mushroom mixture onto each cutlet, spread out leaving about 1/2 inch free on all sides. Starting on the longer side, roll up the beef cutlet to enclose the mushroom mixture. Tie up each roll with butcher’s twine. (Or use toothpicks to seal.)

Preheat the oven to 325 deg F.

Place a dutch oven on the stove over medium-high heat. Add the oil and when hot, sear off each beef roll until browned on all sides. Transfer the rolls to a plate.

Drain off any remaining oil from the dutch oven and add the spaghetti sauce and the basil leaves. Add the seared beef rolls and any juices that have drained off. The sauce level should be almost to the top of the rolls. If needed, add some water to the sauce. Bring the spaghetti sauce to a simmer. Put the lid on and transfer into the preheated oven.

Bake for 1 1/2-2 hrs, turning over about half way through the cooking time, until the beef is tender.

Remove the string from the braciole, slice into 3/4-1 inch slices and serve over the polenta with some of the spaghetti sauce spooned over the top. Alternatively, toss freshly cooked pasta with some of the spaghetti sauce and serve the sliced braciole on top.

Dessert was a quick and easy affogato or ice cream ‘drowned’ in a shot of espresso.

And, a couple of ham, bacon, mushroom and mozzarella cheese pizzas for work lunches.

Chicken and Dumplings … with Rolled Noodles (Trial #2)

Rarely have I made a dish that was as satisfying in the preparation as it was in tasting the finished product.

Chicken and dumplings is a hearty comfort dish … a glorious chicken stew with a creamy texture filled with tender shredded chicken and vegetables. The ‘dumplings’ may be either drop biscuits, which I’ve made before, or rolled noodles. In both cases, the starch is added to the stew in the last 10-15 minutes and cooked. Achieving the perfect balance of dumplings/noodles and stew may be a challenge. On my first attempt I didn’t account for the amount of stock that would be absorbed by the dumplings during steaming. The result was unsatisfyingly dry even if the dish itself was delicious.

This trial was perfection. (I had extra stock in reserve, just in case.)

I started with a whole fresh Prime chicken, bought on sale at my local Freshco, and meant for roasting. After cutting the chicken into pieces, I used the two breasts, wing tips and the back for making the stock. The two legs and the wings were set aside for roasting.

The recipe I used was one I found on YouTube for “Old Fashioned Chicken and Dumplings”. It was based on an Emeril Lagasse recipe according to the accreditation given there. After reading the comments, I halved the amount of roux (1/4 cup butter and 1/3 cup flour) I added to the stew, because I didn’t want it to be overly thick to start with. And, since I knew there were going to be leftovers, I didn’t want the inevitable thickening to adversely affect the dish.

I rewrote the recipe and am sharing it here in case anyone has difficulties accessing the version on YouTube.

Old Fashioned Chicken and Dumplings – serves 4-6
Adapted from an Emeril Lagasse recipe for chicken and dumplings.

For the chicken

2 split chicken breasts, on the bone with skin, about 3 lbs*
8 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 celery stalks, medium dice
3 carrots, medium dice
1 medium onion, medium dice**
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter***
2/3 cup AP flour***
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup frozen peas

* I used two split, bone in chicken breasts, the back and the tips of the two wings

** I didn’t have any onions so I used the white part of four green onions, sliced about 1/3 of an inch thick which gave me about 1/4 cup of onions.

*** I thought that the amount of roux used made the chicken and dumplings look too thick in the video so I reduced the butter to 1/4 cup and the flour to 1/3 cup.

Cooking the chicken

In a large pot or dutch oven, add in the chicken, water, salt and bay leaves. Bring to a medium boil, skimming off the scum as it rises to the surface, cover and cook over medium heat for 45 minutes. Don’t boil too hard, or too much water will evaporate. (NOTE: You can cover the pot and avoid the issue altogether.)

Prepare the vegetables and dumplings while this is happening.

For the dumplings

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup milk

Shredding the cooked chicken/adding the veggies

After the chicken has cooked for 45 minutes, remove it to a plate and let cool before shredding. Discard the skin and bones. Remove the bay leaves from the stock and discard.

Add in the chopped vegetables and cook for 10 minutes.

Making the dumplings

In a glass measuring cup, heat the milk and butter just until butter is melted. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add in the milk and butter mixture and stir with a fork just until combined. Dough should be soft. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead just a few times to make it come together. Don’t over knead or your noodles will be tough. Roll out the dough to 1/8″ thick and cut into 1″ strips and then into 3-4″ pieces. If you think you’ll be waiting for more than 5 minutes or so to add the noodles, cover them with a damp towel.

Making the roux

In a separate small saucepan, melt butter and whisk in flour. Cook over medium heat for a minute or so, stirring constantly to create a roux. Gradually add in about half a cup of stock at a time until you’ve thinned out the roux a bit.

Add roux mixture to the stock with the vegetables and whisk until no lumps remain. Add in the whipping cream and frozen peas.

Adding the dumplings

Bring the stew to a light boil and add in the dumplings, one by one. Stir gently, cover and cook for 10 minutes or until dumplings are tender and done.

Finishing up

Take the pot off the heat and add the shredded chicken back in. Stir to heat the chicken through, TASTE for seasoning and add additional salt and pepper, if needed, then serve.

As I placed the cherry red dutch oven on the kitchen table for serving, I wished that my small family was gathered around, empty bowls and spoons in hand, ready to dig in.