Category: Mad scientist


Mochi Waffles

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Well, this is a shocker – I haven’t posted anything for about a year. In my defense (excuses, excuses), I’ve been fairly busy lately. I mostly spent the past summer & autumn working on my buddy’s food truck, and some other friends opened a ramen shop in December, and I’ve been occupied with working there. On a related note, if you’re in my town, you can pop by the shop and see The Mighty Sumo in action, AND get a tasty bowl of noodles. Win win.

Anyhow, one of my fondest memories of my childhood is sitting at my grandmother’s kitchen table and stuffing my pudgy little face with mochi. Obaa-san’s version was pretty simple; pieces of mochi soaked in a mixture of shoyu and sugar, but damn – it was good.

As I got older, I discovered that mochi had other applications, such as various confectionary treats, and even ice cream. I still prefer the way my grandmother did it, though. Nostalgia is my middle name. Well, actually my middle name is James, which is far easier to spell.

A while back, my friend Carmen threw a photo up on Instagram of something she called a “mochi waffle”; needless to say, I was intrigued. At first, I figured I would cobble together a waffle using sweet rice flour, which can also be used to make mochi. It was a pretty good waffle, and it tasted a little like mochi, but after a confab with Carmen, she mentioned that her original intent was to create a product with a soft, gooey interior like mochi, but with a crispy exterior like one would find on a waffle.

After hearing that, I flexed the muscles of my Google-Fu, and learned of something called a “moffle”, which is simply blocks of cooked mochi placed into a waffle iron.

If you’re not familiar with mochi, there is a fairly involved process in making it; basically you need a team of men with big-ass mallets to pound the crap out of cooked mochi rice (the mochi in that video is green because something was added to it for color; it will be used to make the confectionary treats mentioned above).

Due to process involved, mochi was something that I regarded as a treat, but that may also have something to do with the fact that we only visited the grandparents once a year for the most part. Also, since those visits occurred at New Year’s, and since mochi is one of the osechi-ryori, or traditional New Year’s dishes, it was always present in great quantities during my visits.

Or maybe it was just because Obaa-san knew that I was going to eat a metric crapload of the stuff.

While I quite often enjoy hitting things with large, blunt objects, the traditional method of producing mochi was never really an option for me. I remember Obaa-san and all the other little old ladies talking about mochi making machines when I was a kid, but they were (and still are!) fairly expensive. I also have issues with single purpose kitchen appliances, which puts me at odds with a great number of Japanese devices, lemme tell ya.

About 10 years ago, however, I stumbled across a method for cooking mochi in a microwave, and everything changed. I was able to indulge my mochi craving whenever I wanted to, and believe me, I wanted to. A lot. It’s a pretty simple process – wash 2 cups of mochi rice (also known as Japanese sweet rice) as you would any other type of rice, then soak it for an hour, drain the water, and throw it in a blender with another cup of water (if you own a Vita-Mix, so much the better). Once blended, pour it into a microwave safe dish, nuke it for 10 minutes or so, and BOOM!!! You have mochi. With that in mind, instead of using the microwave, cooking the mochi, and doing a “moffle”, I figured I would just pour the mixture into my waffle iron.

Yeah, sometimes I’m a bloody genius. I ended up with the crispy exterior and gooey interior that Carmen was looking for. I also added a little bit of raw sugar, because waffle. In retrospect, I’ll probably eliminate that addition in the future, as I prefer a savory mochi over a sweetened one.

Since I had the waffle, I decided to pair it with my karaage for a Japanese version of chicken & waffles. And, due to all the hanging out I’ve been doing with Michelin star chefs lately, I whipped up an umeboshi (pickled plum) syrup to drizzle over the whole thing.

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When I woke up this morning, it was bloody friggin’ cold, which I suppose is to be expected at the end of August here in Canada. After nearly two months of temperatures in the mid to high 20’s, waking up to a 6 degree morning was less than pleasant.

(For any non-metric folks out there, think 77 F to 42 F.)

Colder weather always seems to put me in the mood for some form of comfort food, and few things are as comforting to me as macaroni & cheese. I’m not talking about that crap that comes in the box with the powdered “cheese”, but actual, honest-to-goodness mac & cheese, made from scratch.

I’ve made plenty of mac & cheese in my life, a fact in and of itself that demanded that I try something different. Originally, I intended to create a variation based on a classic cheese fondue, with Gruyere, Emmentaler , and Appenzeller, but to my dismay, I learned that my cheese shop closed its doors permanently. Sumo being Sumo, I employed my superior improvisational skills and came up with a new plan.

It goes without saying that the new plan was entirely dependent on the types of cheeses I was able to find in the grocery store, but I was able to find some that I like, so it all worked out.

8 oz dried pasta (I used shells)
4 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
2 tbsp flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp dry mustard
Couple pinches of freshly ground pepper
Couple dashes of sweet paprika
2 cups whole milk

grated cheddar cheese, about 2/3 cup
grated mozzarella, about 2/3 cup
grated Emmentaler, about 2/3 cup
½ cup seasoned bread crumbs

Cook the pasta according to package directions and drain. Place cooked pasta in a large bowl.
Preheat the oven to 400° C.
Melt 2 tbsp butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and salt and whisk until mixture is bubbly. Stir in the dry mustard, ground pepper, and paprika. Add milk gradually, whisking constantly.
Cook over low heat, whisking constantly until thickened.
Reserve ¼ cup of each of the cheeses. Add the rest to the saucepan with the milk and stir until melted. Add the cheese sauce to the cooked pasta and mix until it’s evenly coated. Transfer the pasta to a 9×7 inch baking dish. Sprinkle with the reserved cheese.
Melt the remaining butter and combine with the bread crumbs and mix well. Sprinkle over the cheese topping. Bake until hot & bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes.

Miso

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Umami. The fifth taste. These are the experiments of the kitchen of Sumo; his continuing mission to explore flavors, to seek out new dishes, to boldly cook what no man has cooked before!

Ok, that last bit isn’t true; I just threw it in for dramatic effect. And yes, I was watching “Star Trek” before I started writing this.

The word “umami” is, not surprisingly, a Japanese term that is yawningly described as “the scientific term to describe the taste of glutamates and nucleotides”.

Yeah, I have no clue what that means, either. The only science stuff I’m any good at relates to the psychological and physiological effects of combat and high stress situations on the human body.

Fortunately, the Japanese have saved us from dreary scientific terminology. The more poetic translation of umami is “pleasant savory taste”, which is a little more interesting to my way of thinking. Then again, I’m not exactly objective in these matters.

Umami can be found in a variety of foods, such as anchovies, parmesan cheese, and soy sauce. Basically, any type of fermented food contains umami. One of my favorite examples of this is miso.

Miso is a Japanese seasoning made from fermented soy beans. It’s rich, thick, and salty, and imparts boatloads of umami into anything it’s combined with. Traditionally, and arguably the most popular use for miso is in (drumroll) miso soup. Don’t misunderstand me; I love miso soup, but when it comes to subjects for me to write about, it doesn’t quite have the flair, the panache, or the style.

A while back, I came across a recipe for miso paste, which was described as a marinade for meat or as a dipping sauce. While both of those sound like good ideas, I like to try to be a little more adventurous with my experimentations, and decided to try it on a variation of yakitori.

I wanted to explore versatility of miso a little more, so a quick Google search led me to this brilliant concoction. Going to be honest here – the chicken was pretty good, but those potatoes, GOOD SWEET ZOMBIE JESUS, THOSE POTATOES!!!!!! I would cheerfully kill a man for a plate of those potatoes.

Miso Yakitori

Miso paste
13 oz awase misoAwase is essentially a blend of aka (red) and shiro (white) miso. If you can’t find awase, just use equal amounts of aka and shiro.
1/2 cup sake
1 cup mirin
1/3 cup superfine sugar

Mix the ingredients together in a saucepan over medium heat. When it comes to a boil, turn the heat down low. Continue cooking for about 20 minutes, stirring as the liquid reduces so that it doesn’t burn, then remove from the heat. When cool, place in a container and keep in the refrigerator.

1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
bamboo skewers, soaked in water for at least 1 hour
salt
1/2 cup miso paste

Cut the chicken into 1/2 inch wide strips, then fold in half and thread onto the skewers. Leave about 1/2 inch at each end of the skewer. Press down lightly on the chicken with the palm of your hand, then sprinkle lightly with salt.

Place the sauce in a small bowl with a pastry or barbecue brush.

Detailed instructions on how to set up a grill for yakitori can be found here.

Place the skewers onto the grill (or bricks, if using), and turn every 1 minute or so as they brown. Once the meat is lightly browned and you can see it sizzling, brush the miso paste on top. Grill for about 2 minutes more, turning about every 30 seconds and brushing more paste on each time. Transfer the chicken to a platter and drip more paste on top, and serve immediately.

If you missed it the first time, the recipe for the potatoes can be found here. Since it’s not my recipe, I’m not comfortable with posting it here, lest it appear that I’m trying to take credit for it.

In keeping with my renewed interest in nihonryouri, I decided to play around a bit with sushi.

I’m not exactly a sushi fanatic; put it in front of me and I’ll eat it, but I generally don’t bother making it myself. There are a couple of reasons for that – first, when it comes to family get-togethers, my father takes on the role of the sushi itamae (chef). For whatever reason, the old guy likes spending hours cooking rice, slicing fish, and rolling nori.

Secondly, I don’t particularly like nori. Don’t get me wrong, I am not repulsed by it or anything like that, but it’s not going to be the first thing I think of whenever I’m hungry.

But, as I’ve been told once or twice, the world does not revolve around me. Folks want to learn how to make sushi, so I need to brush up on my sushi making skills, end of story.

Well, not really. If it were the end of the story, then this would be a really short blog post.

In any case, I decided that I needed to put my own spin on things, since any schmuck (no offence, Dad!) can make sushi with tuna, or salmon, or…..well, you get the idea.

So, I decided to go with supaishii kani, or spicy crab. Now, spicy crab isn’t exactly unheard of in the sushi world, but every version I’m familiar with uses sriracha as the heat element. I’m a Japanese man, I was making a Japanese dish, and by Inari, I was going to use Japanese ingredients!

(Inari-no-Kami is the Japanese god of food. Bit of a geek moment, sue me)

To that end, I came up with the brilliant idea of making a tobanjan aioli to mix in with the crab meat. Tobanjan is a paste made from fermented soybeans, rice, and chilis. A sort of spicy miso, for all intents and purposes. It’s also known as doubanjiang in Sichuan cuisine. It’s hot. Like, really hot.

The aioli idea was a direct result of a burger that I had eaten the week before. No, seriously. I went to a restaurant that offers a “build your own burger” option, and one of the toppings was a chipotle aioli, so my twisted little mind figured that I could substitute one spicy element for another. It was a good idea in theory, but…..I hit a snag.

I discovered that aioli, in any flavor, is damned bloody hard to make. I found a nice egg, beat the hell out of it, then added about three drops of oil and continued to beat the mixture together, until it looked like it was ready. I then started to add the rest of the oil with one hand while I worked the whisk with the other, waiting for my aioli to emulsify.

Didn’t happen. Didn’t happen the second time I tried, either. Nor the third. Eventually, I decided to quit before I ran out of eggs, and tried to figure out what I was going to do. Then it hit me – Japanese mayonnaise.

No, I was not attacked by Japanese mayonnaise, I just remembered that I had some in the refrigerator. If you’re not familiar with it, Japanese mayonnaise is made with either apple cider vinegar or rice vinegar, as opposed to the distlled vinegar found in “western” mayonnaise, which gives it a very different flavor. The Japanese version also tends to be thinner in texture.

Anyhow…..I had Japanese mayo, I had tobanjan, and in short order, I had a spicy, aioli-like substance to add to the crabmeat that I had procured from the grocery store. REAL crabmeat, not that imitation crap. I mixed it all together, then started assembling the maki.

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I didn’t really measure anything, since I was merely trying it out, but to the best of my recollection, it went something like this:

6 oz crabmeat
4 tbsp Japanese mayonnaise
2 tbsp tobanjan

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Once that is done, pop the mixture into the refrigerator while you get your sushi rice together:

2 cups cooked Japanese short grain white rice (1 cup uncooked rice makes 2 cups cooked)
Sumo’s sushi seasoning syrup

Oh, you never heard of Sumo’s sushi seasoning syrup? Well, it’s not a secret. You can actually buy something similar:
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If you want to make it at home, add 1 cup of rice vinegar, 1 cup of sugar, and 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt in a small saucepan and cook until the sugar and salt dissolve. Let it cool to room temperature before using.

Moving right along, place the cooked rice in a large, non-metallic bowl and drizzle a couple of tablespoons of the syrup over the rice as you gently spoon the rice from the bottom of the bowl up to the top, continuing until all of the syrup is incorporated into the rice.

If you don’t know how to roll makizushi, I found a random instructional video to help you out, since I’m too lazy to type it out myself.

I can tell you just by looking at the rice, that girl was NOT using Sumo’s sushi seasoning syrup. Or even the bottled stuff. When you use the syrup, your rice takes on a beautiful, glossy sheen that is quite visually appealing. The rice sticks together better, too.

Anyhow, in addition to the crab mixture, I decided to throw in some avocado to balance out the heat a bit:
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And, after some nifty knife skills,
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While I still don’t particularly care for maki, I’ve already begun to think up new applications for the crab mixture, so I suppose this little experiment was not in vain.

I make-a da meatballs

For whatever reason, I’ve been cooking a lot of Italian cuisine lately. Might have something to do with the pasta machine I received for Christmas, or it might be because I’m a little infatuated with Giada De Laurentis. In any case, I’ve been churning out lasagna, ravioli, and fettuccine dishes like you wouldn’t believe.

Since I am, at heart, a meatatarian, I try to incorporate as much meat into every dish as I possibly can. To that end, I’ve recently discovered an amazing local butcher shop, Acme Meat Market, located at 9531-76 ave here in Edmonton, AB, as well as a local farmer who raises Berkshire pigs, Irvings Farm. For the last few weeks, Acme has been my go to spot for beef, and Irvings Farm for pork.

With amazing suppliers with these, I figured the best way to make use of all this wonderful meaty goodness would be to make meatballs. Since I couldn’t find a recipe that I liked, I did a little mixing and matching, and came up with a pretty decent concoction of my own:

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Since I was just messing around, the “recipe” is kind of fluid. Also, I was in the mood to freestyle the amounts:

1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork
3 cloves garlic, minced
finely diced red bell pepper, maybe 3 or 4 tbsp
about 1 tbsp olive oil
1 egg
about 1/4 cup bread crumbs, maybe more, maybe less. Used panko, since that was all I had on hand
about 1 1/2 tbsp Italian seasoning
salt & pepper to taste
Marinara sauce, about 3 cups.

Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Mix everything in a large bowl. Roll into balls, however large or small you like. Mine were about the size of golf balls. Place the meatballs on a broiler pan.
Brown the meatballs in the oven. Add to marinara sauce and simmer until cooked through, about 45 minutes.

Marinara sauce:

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp sea salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves

In a large casserole pot, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.
Add the celery, carrots, and 1/2 teaspoon of each salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour.
I dislike “chunky” marinara sauce, so I ran the vegetables through my food processor instead of chopping them. YMMV.
Remove and discard the bay leaf. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper, to taste. (The sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, then cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat before using.)

So there I was last week, sitting at the table, trying to figure out what to do with the leftover bacon from my bacon waffle experiment (I promise, I’ll come back to that one). I tossed about the idea of bacon wrapped shrimp (yum!), bacon wrapped scallops (double yum!!), then I had an epiphany – I’ve never tried wrapping bacon around PORK before! In my head, it sounded somewhat similar to filet mignon, which, let’s be honest, is friggin’ amazing. With that in mind, it was off to the grocery store to obtain some nice pork tenderloin.

But, just wrapping a strip of bacon around a piece of tenderloin sounded kind of bland. It needed some elan, some pizazz – it needed some Sumo-rizing!!!! In the spirit of Sumo-rizing, I decided to give it a bit of a teriyaki twist. Because you just can’t go wrong with teriyaki.

As delightful as this was starting to sound, I figured that I needed to serve something with it. All that thinking about filet mignon lead my convoluted little mind around to my favorite chain steakhouse, The Keg, and their awesome twice baked potatoes. Now, I do not do a lot with potatoes. Sure, put some in front of me and I’ll eat them, but cooking them isn’t really my thing. Why cook a potato when you could cook rice? In addition to the fact that it’s rice, you also get the option of having fried rice the next day.

But, I digress. A quick burst of Google-fu revealed a fairly simple (and tasty) looking recipe for a twice baked potato, so I figured “what the hell”.

It turned out fairly well, but I think the recipe will get a few tweaks the next time I make it. Just needs a little diversity in the flavor profile.

Anyway, this is what my dinner looked like last Tuesday:

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Yes, yes, I know……the presentation needs work.

Bacon wrapped pork tenderloin:

1 pork tenderloin, roughly 1 pound
Bacon
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp sake

Cut the tenderloin into chunks approx. the same width as the bacon. Combine soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic and sake in a bowl or baking dish. Place the tenderloin in the bowl and toss to coat well. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or overnight. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Wrap a piece of bacon around each medallion, affixing each strip with a toothpick and trimming off the excess and saving for some other bacony goodness. Place the medallions on a foil lined baking sheet, and roast for 15 – 20 minutes, or until the bacon is brown and crispy and the pork is fully cooked.

Twice baked potatoes:

2 medium to large baking potatoes
cooking spray (optional)
sea salt (optional)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 stick butter, softened to room temperature
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
1 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
1/2 tsp salt
dash of black pepper
3 to 4 slices of crisp fried bacon, crumbled
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
paprika to taste

Spray the potatoes with cooking oil, and then grind some sea salt on them. Place them in an oven-proof dish and bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour.
While the potatoes are baking, combine 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup sour cream, 1/2 stick butter, 1/4 cup chopped green onions, 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a dash of black pepper. Cover this mixture with plastic wrap, and refrigerate it while your potatoes cook.
When your potatoes are done, split each of them into two equal halves with a knife. Since they will be hot, hold them with a potholder while you scoop out the potato meat. Place the potato meat in a dish, and reserve the potato shells.
Mix the potato meat with the mixture that you have previously made. Now blend in the crisp, crumbled bacon. Spoon this mixture evenly into the four empty potato shells. Sprinkle the top of each potato half with Cheddar cheese, to taste. Finally, sprinkle the potatoes with paprika, to taste. You may freeze the potato halves at this point, but be sure to thaw them before you bake them.
When ready to bake, if the potatoes are refrigerated or cool, let them come to room temperature. Then bake them in an oven-proof dish for 20 minutes in an oven that has been preheated to 400 degrees. If they are cool when you put them in the oven, it will take a little longer.

Christmas cheesecake

I love cheesecake. I love the flavor, I love the texture, I love the fact that you can put pretty much anything you want into it and it will taste fantastic.

A while back, I got it into my head that I should make mini cheesecakes. Just seemed like an easier way to share my experiments with more people. I probably could have made due with muffin pans, but I saw these nifty little mini-cheesecake pans online, and decided that I needed them.

I mean, come on – they have removable bottom plates to help get the cakes out. Who WOULDN’T want to have them?

In any case, I was having some difficulty finding the bloody things. Checked all the big name stores, and found squat. At this point, where my OCD was about to set off my anger control issues, a friend suggested that I check out a local specialty kitchen store before I broke something (or someone).

Found the pans (which were damned bloody expensive!) and churned out some cheesecake. The guinea pigs loved it, I loved it, and all the effort I put into finding the pans was worth it.

http://www.norpro.com/store/products/nonstick-mini-cheesecake-pan

Flash forward to now: since the holidays are upon us, I decided to make some “Christmasy” cheesecakes to distribute to my fans. The most Christmasy ingredient I could think of was candy canes, and things just sort of snowballed from there. Enjoy!

2 8 oz blocks of cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 blocks Baker’s white chocolate, melted
6 candy canes, crushed into pieces
2 1/2 cups grahm cracker or Oreo crumbs
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees C.
In a medium bowl, combine the butter and crumbs. Lightly grease the pans, and press 2 tbsp of the mixture into each cup.
Add cream cheese, sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Beat together until light and fluffy.
Melt chocolate in a double boiler and fold into cream cheese mixture.
Fold in candy canes.
Spoon a couple of tbsp of filling into each cup, almost to the top. Bake for 20 minutes. Allow the cakes to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 1 hour before removing the cakes from the pans.

Makes 24 mini cheesecakes (if you have those pans)

You could also use muffin/cupcake tins (with paper liners), but I don’t know how many this recipe would make. You could also make a normal sized (9 inch spring form pan) cheesecake, but I would add another block of cream cheese, another egg, increase the candy canes to 1/2 cup, decrease the crumbs and butter by half, and probably throw in another block or two of the white chocolate. But hey, that’s just me.