Sunday, November 29, 2015

Shallot and Sun Dried Tomato Miso Soup

     A Nice Miso Soup Flavor!  
     Miso Soup is healthy and nutritious.  Miso Soup is also a fun medium for creativity.  Many people think of Miso Soup as being a strict regimented traditional recipe, but in reality there are as many ways to make this soup as there are cooks worldwide.  Many cooks in Japan substitute a variety of seafood and seaweed products for the traditional Kombu and Katsuobushi when making the Dashi.  Some add odd exotic ingredients and even western world food items when garnishing a basic Miso Soup.
     Tradition is as important as creativity when making Miso Soup, because the overall goal is to make a highly nutritious broth that tastes great and to add garnishes that peak a dinner guest's interest.  If a guest wants tradition, then show the guest what Miso Soup Tradition is all about.  If the guest wants to try something new, then create a Miso Soup that will pleasing within the bounds of the perceived personal taste of the guest.  
     Here is a quick overview of 3 common edible seaweed species that are used to make different styles of dashi broth.  Kombu Seaweed has a naturally high MSG content and a sweet gentle umami flavor.  Kombu is the most popular choice.  Wakame Seaweed has a moderate level of natural MSG, yet the vitamin and mineral content is very high.  Wakame has a very agreeable savory flavor.  Roasted Nori Seaweed is more often used for sushi presentations, but it can also be used to make a dashi broth.   Roasted Nori Seaweed has a very high protein content and the MSG content is nearly nonexistent.  Roasted Nori tastes very rich when prepared as a dashi broth.  

     Roasted nori and dried pickled bonito flakes were used to make the dashi broth for today's soup.   Dried Pickled Bonito Flakes (Katsuobushi) and sheets of Roasted Nori can be found in Asian food markets and at some common grocery stores. 
     Why Katsuobushi and Roasted Nori?  I figured this rich tasting combination would taste good with the shallot and sun dried tomato garnish.  All it takes is a little bit of educated guesswork like this to come up with a nice new Miso Soup flavor!
     *This entire recipe yields 1 portion of Miso Soup.  (2 1/4 cups)
     Roasted Nori Bonito Dashi: 
     Step 1:  Place 2 3/4 cups of water in a sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Bring the water to a boil.
     Step 2:  Add 3 tablespoons of shaved dried bonito flakes.
     Add 1 sheet of roasted nori seaweed.  (An 8"x8" sheet is plenty.)
     Stir the broth as the nori seaweed crumbles apart.
     Step 3:  Boil the broth for 5 minutes.
     Step 4:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Pour the dashi broth through a fine mesh strain into a second sauce pot.
     Discard the spent seaweed and fish.  
     Shallot and Sun Dried Tomato Miso Soup:  
     Step 1: Place the sauce pot of dashi over very low heat.
     Step 2:  Add 3 sun dried tomato halves that are cut into thin strips.  (About 3/16" wide)
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of thin soy sauce.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of minced ginger.
     Add 3 drops of pure sesame oil.
     Step 3:  Gently simmer the soup for a few minutes till the sun dried tomato strips are tender.
     Step 4:  Raise the temperature to medium low heat.
     Add 1 very thin sliced shallot.
     Simmer the soup for 2 minutes.
     Step 5:  Add 2 tablespoons of pale color miso paste while stirring with a whisk.
     Stir, till the miso paste combines with the broth.
     Step 6:  Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
     Add 1 pinch of ground Szechuan Pepper.
     Step 7:  Ladle the miso soup into a soup bowl.
     Float 4 thin slices of jalapeño pepper in the surface of the soup.
     Sprinkle a little bit of very thin bias sliced green onion on the soup.
     One benefit of miso soup is the seaweed contains a high amount of Iodine.  With all the radioactive dust that is in the environment these days, seaweed is a wise choice to add to a diet.  The exception is pregnant women, because high amounts of Iodine can pre-natal health risks.  

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Kkaetnip Jeon

     Korean Beef Stuffed Perilla Leaves!
     What is Korean Banchan?  This question often is asked by people that have never experienced Korean restaurant cuisine.  Banchan translates to little plates of side dishes.  Banchan is usually served with a meal, but the side dishes can be served like hors d'oeuvres at a party or social event.
     A wide variety of tasty treats can be served as Banchan!  Mung bean sprouts, salads, tiny bowls of soup, noodles, fried marinated tofu and crispy fried sun dried anchovies are some of the most popular Banchan.  Petite dumplings, candied potato, fried egg green bean cake and any kind of kimchi makes the list too.  Even potato salad is served as Banchan at some Korean restaurants.  The list of Korean side dishes is endless!  
     Kkaetnip Jeon is considered to be a Korean side dish or a party platter type of food.  For a side dish with a Korean meal, only 1 or 2 Kkaetnip Jeon are served on a little side dish plate per customer,  For a shared hand passed party platter, the Kkaetnip Jeon are served like the ones in the pictures above.  

     Perilla leaf has a very nice exotic herb flavor.  Just like basil, perilla is in the mint family of plants.  The flavor of perilla varies greatly.  Some perilla varietals have a very complex flavor profile.  The perilla leaves that I used for today's recipe tasted almost like Thai Holy Basil.
     Vietnamese Perilla has green and purple color leaves.  Green Perilla leaves at food markets are usually a little bit bigger than Vietnamese Perilla leaves, so they are easier to stuff.  

     Kkaetnip Jeon:
     This recipe yields about 10 to 12 stuffed large perilla leaves, depending on the size of the leaves.   
     Step 1:  Place 5 ounces of lean ground beef in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of minced firm tofu.  
     Step 2:  Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced onion.
     Add tablespoon of a minced green onion.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of sugar.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of sherry or rice wine.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of soy sauce.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of ground toasted sesame seed.
     Add 1 pinch of Chinese red chile powder.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and white pepper.
     Step 3:  Mix the ingredients together.
     Chill the beef mixture for 1 hour, so the flavors meld and the mixture becomes firm.
     Step 4:  Trim the stems off of 10 to 12 perilla leaves.  
     *Perilla leaves vary in size.  Larger leaves are easier to work with.  Trim as many leaves as it takes to use up all of the stuffing. 
     Step 5:  Arrange the perilla leaves side by side in rows on a counter top.
     Use a spoon to place small portions of the stuffing on one half of each perilla leaf.
     Spread the stuffing over half of each perilla leaf, so the stuffing is less than 1/4" thick.  (The stuffing layer must be thin, so the Kkaetnip Jeon will cook quickly!)
     Fold the bare half of each leaf over the stuffing and press it together like a little sandwich.
     Step 6:  Whisk 2 large eggs in a mixing bowl.
     Set the egg wash aside.
     Step 7:  Heat a sauté pan or cast iron skillet over medium heat.
     Add enough vegetable oil, so the oil is about 3/16" deep.
     Adjust the temperature, so the oil is about 350ºF.
     Step 8:  Dredge each stuffed perilla leaf in flour.
     Dip each stuffed perilla leaf in egg wash.
     Place a few egg washed perilla leaves in the hot oil at a time.
     Pan fry the stuffed leaves till they are golden brown on both sides and the meat is fully cooked.  (If necessary, flip the stuffed leaves twice so they cook evenly.)
     Step 9:  Set the finished Kkaetnip Jeon on a wire screen roasting rack on a drip pan to drain off any excess grease.
     Step 10:  Place the Kkaetnip Jeon on a serving plate.  (Arrange them so they look nice!)
     Serve with a ramekin of Sriracha or soy sauce.  
     No garnish is necessary!

     Kkaetnip Jeon is an interesting side dish that will certainly please guests!  

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Five Spice Pork Steak with Teriyaki Sauce, Wasabi Mayonnaise and Pickled Ginger

     A Simple Fusion Style Hearty Pork Steak!
     Pork Shoulder Blade Steaks are one of the cheapest cuts of meat that there is.  The big Pork Blade Steak in the photos cost about $1.75 at a grocery store.  Pork Blade Steaks are great for budget minded people and they can easily be fancied up.
     It pays to be selective when choosing a Pork Blade Steak at a grocery store.  It is best to try to find a Pork Blade Steak that does not have too much fat or bone.  A Lean Pork Blade Steak will still have plenty of fat to keep the meat tender and juicy. 
     Many grocery store butchers use a little bit of deceptive marketing practice when packaging meats.  This is especially true for packaged Pork Blade Steaks.  For example, a Blade Steak is placed on a styrofoam tray and it is wrapped with clear plastic wrap.  A shopper can only see one side of the Pork Blade Steak.  If one side of the Blade Steak is extra fatty, the butcher will package the steak so the customer only sees the lean side of the steak.  A customer that purchases the steak will surely be disappointed when the package is opened at home.
     My advice is to purchase Pork Blade Steaks that are laid out in the glass display case in the grocery store butcher shop.  This way the entire Blade Steak can be inspected before purchasing.
     If all of Pork Blade Steak are packaged and wrapped, a shopper can rely on intuitive powers to judge whether the other side of the Blade Steak looks acceptable, but this is guesswork.
     The better solution is to simply ask a meat department worker to open the package up, so the Blade Steak can be inspected before making a purchase.  If the Blade Steak is acceptable, the worker will seal the package back up.  If the Blade Steak is unacceptable, ask the meat department worker to keep on opening packages till one is found that looks good.  Being a "pain in the neck" customer is a good way to put an end to deceptive marketing practices in a grocery store meat department!
     As a shopper, it is important to remember that money is power.  If a shopper has the money, the shopper has the power.  Never feel shy about making quality control demands before making a purchase at a meat department in a grocery store!  

     Wasabi can be purchased as a dry powder and mixed with mayonnaise to make Wasabi Mayonnaise.  Pre-prepared Wasabi Mayonnaise Sauce packaged in a squeeze bottle can be found in Asian markets and at most common grocery stores.  I decided to give this product a try.  Squeeze bottles Wasabi Mayonnaise Sauce are a nice convenience and they make painting a plate for a fancy food presentation easy to do.
     Sliced sushi grade pickled ginger is also available at Asian markets and most grocery stores.  Pickled ginger is zesty and it lightens the flavor of savory food or rich sauces on a plate.  Ginger also is a natural blood thinner, so medicinally speaking, pickled ginger is a good accompaniment choice for Pork Blade Steak, which has a higher than average cholesterol content.

     *This entire recipe yields 1 large pork steak.  This is enough for 1 guest that has a big appetite or 2 guests that prefer petite portions. 
     Five Spice Marinated Pork Steak:
     Step 1:  Select a 10 to 12 ounce pork shoulder blade steak.
     Place the blade steak in a container.
     Step 2:  Add 2 tablespoons of thin soy sauce.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of rice vinegar.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Chinese five spice powder.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced ginger.
     Add 2 chopped garlic cloves.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and white pepper.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Step 3:  Add enough water to barely cover the pork steak.
     Marinate the pork steak in a refrigerator for 2 to 4 hours.
     Japanese Teriyaki Sauce: 
     Step 1:  Place 3 tablespoons of soy sauce in a small sauce pot.
     Add 3 tablespoons of sugar.
     Add 1/2 cup of water.
     Step 2:  Place the sauce pot over low heat.
     Simmer and reduce till the sauce is a thin syrup consistency that can glaze a spoon.
     Step 3:  Place the teriyaki sauce in a ceramic cup or small plastic squeeze bottle.
     Keep the sauce warm on a stove top.
     Five Spice Pork Steak:
     Step 1:  Remove the pork blade steak from the marinade.
     Brush off any ginger or garlic that clings to the pork steak.
     Discard the marinade.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium high heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
     Place the pork steak in the pan.
     Pan sear the pork steak till it is lightly browned on both sides.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of thin soy sauce.
     Add 1 cup of water.
     Add 1 pinch of five spice powder.
     Add 1/3 cup of rice wine.
     Add 3 drops of pure sesame oil.
     Step 4:  Simmer the pork steak in the braising liquid.  Flip the steak a few times so it braises evenly.
     Simmer and reduce till the braising sauce clings to the pork steak.
     Remove the pan from the heat.
     Five Spice Pork Steak with Teriyaki Sauce, Wasabi Mayonnaise and Pickled Ginger:
     For an Asian style presentation, it is customary to slice the steak before it is served, so the pieces can be eaten with chopsticks.
     Place the five spice pork steak on a large plate.
     Use the squirt bottle to paint Wasabi Mayonnaise Sauce streaks on the plate.
     Place several small dabs of chopped thin sliced pickled ginger on the plate.
     Use a spoon or small plastic squirt bottle to drizzle some teriyaki sauce on the pork steak and plate.
     Serve with vegetables and steamed rice on the side.
      This is a very nice summertime entree that does not cost a fortune to make!  Painting the sauce streaks in one direction creates an interesting visual effect.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Tapioca Thread Noodles with Lemongrass Broth, Beef Short Rib and Lap Cheong

     Noodle House Special #1!
     Translucent glass noodles are usually made from tapioca or mung bean starch.  Glass Noodles are popular in Vietnamese cuisine and many other Asian cuisines.  Glass Noodles have become a trendy item in America too.
     Noodle House Restaurants in Las Vegas offer menus that are written in several languages, with a corresponding photo and number for each menu item.  All a customer has to do is say the number or point at the picture.  Some Noodle House Restaurants have over 100 menu options.  Usually the house specialty is menu option #1.
     For the English language translation menu section, the name of the noodle is usually the first words of the menu item title.  Then either the traditional name of specific preparation follows or a list of featured ingredients follows.  For example, "Pho Duck and Mushroom."  
     The type of broth is not always described in the menu item title, because the broth is usually made with the scraps from the featured savory item.  Customers know that a "Pho Duck and Mushroom" entrée will have a savory duck broth. 
     If the broth in a noodle bowl entrée has nothing in common with the savory ingredients, then the type of broth should be described in the menu item title.  Today's recipe marries a light Lemongrass Vegetable Broth with beef and sausage, so the broth should be mentioned in the entrée name or customers might assume that the broth will be beef broth.  

     Many noodle houses use some pre-prepared items in recipes that can also be found in Asian food markets.  Prepared items are not only a time saver for professional chefs, these items are a convenience for home cooks.  Prepared items include things like pastes, sauces, roasted meats and frozen meatballs.
     Some noodle houses make every item in their own kitchen and use no pre-prepared items.  Just like the saying goes, there is nothing like good old fashioned scratch cooking!

     Lap Cheong translates to "Wax Sausage."  Wax Sausage refers to "Chinese Wind Dried Sausage."   In plain English, Wind Dried Sausage means the same thing as Dry Cure Sausage.  Meat combined with a preserving salt mixture is packed into a sausage casing, then the sausages are hung up till they are dried and cured.  This specialty sausage is available in Asian food markets.
     Lap Cheong is made with a variety of meats and the most popular choice is pork.  Duck Lap Cheong is popular too.  Lap Cheong has to be steamed or boiled, so the dry hard sausage reconstitutes.
     All Lap Cheong varieties have a slightly sweet savory flavor.  Lap Cheong is renowned as being one of the world's best, because the flavor is so unique.

     Roasted short ribs are an old traditional item in many Vietnamese pho soup recipes.  One or two meaty short ribs is usually a good portion for a large bowl of pho soup.  Like many Vietnamese pho soups, the noodles and vegetables make up the higher proportion of the ingredients in the soup.

     *This entire recipe yields one large noodle bowl!

     Roasted Short Rib:
     Step 1:  Place 1 meaty beef short rib (about 5 to 7 ounces) in a small bowl.
     Add 1 teaspoon of thin soy sauce.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of water.
     Roll the short rib in the marinade to coat all sides
     Marinate the short rib for 5 to 10 minutes.
     Step 2:  Place the short rib on a small roasting pan.
     Place the pan in a 275ºF oven.
     Slowly roast the short rib, till it is fully cooked and thoroughly browned.
     Set the short rib aside.
     Tapioca Thread Noodles with Lemongrass Broth, Beef Short Rib and Lap Cheong:
     Step 1:  Place 3 cups of light vegetable broth in a sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 1 shoot of lemongrass that is tied in a knot.
     Bring the broth to a boil.
     Step 2:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Simmer for 5 minutes.
     Remove the lemongrass knot.  (The lemongrass knot can be saved for a second recipe.)
     Step 3:  Add the oven roasted beef short rib.
     Add 2 ounces of thin bias sliced Lap Cheong.  (Chinese dry cure sweet pork sausage)
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of thin soy sauce.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced ginger.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 3 or 4 drops of pure sesame oil.
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.
     Step 4:  Simmer till the sausage starts to soften.
     Step 5:  In a separate pot, start cooking 1 portion of tapioca thread noodles in boiling water.  Boil till the noodles are tender.
     Use a strainer to drain the water off of the glass noodles.
     Set the noodles aside.
     Step 6:  Raise the temperature of the broth in the other pot to medium high heat.
     Add these ingredients to the broth:
     - 2 baby bok choy that are cut lengthwise into quarters.
     - 1 green onion that is cut into bite size pieces.
     - 5 trimmed snow peas.
     - 6 thin slices of daikon radish
     - 1/4 cup of thin julienne sliced bermuda onion.
     - 1 teaspoon of lime juice.
     Step 7:  Briefly boil till the vegetables are blanched al dente.
     Remove the pot from the heat.

     Place the broth, vegetables, sausage and short rib in a large noodle bowl.
     Mound the tapioca thread noodles on the center of the soup.
     Try to expose the short rib and some Lap Cheong on the surface of the broth, so they can be seen.
     Garnish with 2 large sprigs of Thai Basil.
     This is a delicious noodle bowl!