Winter Moon Noodles
oyako udon in hot brothMoon viewing noodles are customarily eaten in Japan during Tsukimi, the festival honoring the first full moon of Autumn. This first month of 2014 had a special full moon: a “mini-moon,” which is the smallest full moon we will see this year. Astronomically, it is a full moon which is the furthest distance from Earth (apogee). The Moon was 16% smaller and 30 times dimmer than the super-moon which will occur in August.In honor of this occasion, we ate udon in hot broth topped with an egg. Tsukimi (moon-viewing) noodles include a whole raw egg in the center of the dish like a full moon surrounded by “clouds” of noodles. There are so many cautions against eating raw eggs in the U.S. (and I wanted to make this a complete meal) that we had soft boiled eggs, and chicken, with our noodles, thus making the dish “mother and child” noodles: oyako udon.

Miso Grilling Sauce: Dengaku
grilled eggplantThe Farmers’ Market had lovely eggplants to remind me of this tasty grilling sauce called dengaku, made with miso, saké, mmirin, and sugar, and in this recipe, thickened with eggs. It’s a traditional Japanese grilling sauce for tofu, but one can use this grilling sauce with other vegetables, seafood, and fish. This style of grilling is very popular with home cooks. It’s easy to make, and with soup, rice, and pickles makes a filling meal.
The various vegetables that are grilled with dengaku sauce include sliced eggplant, large mushrooms, green pepper strips, and sliced sweet potatoes. More modern variations include scallops or small fish such as sardines, smelt, ayu, or trout. Some recipes include deep-frying the food before grilling and caramelizing the sauce. Simpler recipes use charcoal broiling, oven broiling, or pan-frying.

Poaching Eggs with Art and Technology

poaching an egg
Onsen tomango, Japanese hot spring eggs achieve a perfect balance between cooked and raw: the white with a texture like delicate custard, the yolk firm but bright yellow with a creamy texture. I cannot duplicate the slow cooking in a natural hot spring. Soft cooked eggs are the closest, and very delicious topping toast, noodles, or salads. But they are very tricky to cook to exactly the balance of cooked but runny. Until Mr. Tess brought home a gift of these wonderful silicone “poach pods” I thought poached eggs were beyond my kitchen skills. They work like magic! And are easy to clean, and don’t take up much kitchen drawer space.

Crabby Eggs and Ham

The first time I made this Japanese crab meat omelette, Mr. Tess said it tasted just like egg foo young! Wikipedia notes that creative Chinese cooks in the U.S. invented egg foo young in the 1930′s. (see this note.) Eggs are beaten together with minced ham, crab, or chicken, then fried and served with a chicken stock-soy sauce gravy thickened with cornstarch. Since the 1950′s kanitama-don is a popular dish in Chinese restaurants in Japan. It’s a fine example of a well-traveled yoshoku (multi-cultural!) recipe: a recipe sort-of-from China, to the U.S. and then to Japan.

Beef Donburi

Donburi meals are Japanese comfort food, served in fast food restaurants, available in ready to heat-and-serve packets, or cooked at home for family. Donburi (kanji: 丼; hiragana: どんぶり) are also the over-sized rice bowls themselves. Rice, usually white rice, is topped with meat, seafood, tofu, and/or vegetables. I wanted something a bit more hearty. I used a delicious nutty 6-Grain Rice mixture from Kagayaki.

Lemon Chicken with Golden Sauce

Lemon paired with chicken is popular around the world. This Japanese lemon chicken is sure to find a regular place on your menus because it is familiar but unique. Because it is steamed with lemon slices and vegetables, it is quick to prepare, and low-fat, and the simple (almost fool-proof, well see my notes) sauce is a beautiful garnish. This recipe is party-perfect with pink, green, and gold.

Comfort Food: Rice Porridge

Early dark evenings make me crave warm comfort food. In Japan, this meal conjures your mother’s consoling touch, a gentle dish to eat when you didn’t feel well, food to soothe an upset stomach, a cozy homey dinner to simply enjoy.
This is the first time I’ve made this recipe for Mr. Tess, and I know he likes brown rice. It takes a little longer to cook, but it has a nice nutty flavor and no doubt more vitamins than the traditional white.

Stay Cool with Summer Ramen
Every summer, I look forward to preparing this recipe of chilly noodles in a sweet-sour-salty sauce, topped with colorful seasonal vegetables and meats (or tofu). Summer brings such a variety of colors, textures, and flavors that one could eat this everyday without repeating the combination. It’s all a pretty party in your bowl! It’s easy-on-the-cook party-food, too: guests can choose their favorite fresh vegetables.

Korean Braised Beef: Chang Jorim 장조림
Beef braised in soy sauce is a popular appetizer in Korea. Like oxtail soup, it is made with a relatively inexpensive cut of meat which is unfamiliar to me. Like oxtail, beef shank is rich in fat and collagen thus making both good candidates for long slow gentle cooking which produce delicious broths.
To be honest, I had not planned to make this dish! There is a lot on my mind these days so sometimes I don’t pay close attention to what I’m doing. Twice I accidentally bought the wrong soup: wanted chicken and wild rice—got 1. spinach and wild mushrooms, 2. jalapeño chile! So at least oxtails and beef shank look almost similar in that they are both round, with a bone in the center…

Japanese Chicken Loaf: “Wind-in-the-Pines”

https://1tess.wordpress.comI laughed this morning.
J. brought me coffee. I usually sleep face down with feet hooked over the end of the mattress; he nudges against them to wake me. Today I was on my back with toes pointing toward the opposite wall. He put the cup on the table and kissed my forehead, which is usually hidden. Instead of tiptoeing away, he put his hands under the sheet and rubbed the bottoms of my feet. I laughed. He asked what was funny, but all I could say was it’s just nice.
We’d eaten a delicious dinner—he even asked if it was hard to make! (It’s not much more difficult than making hamburgers.) We spent a quiet evening together and had a lovely night.
It’s rare to hear someone laugh for simple happiness.

Almost Wafu Chawan Mushi Spaghetti

Chawan mushi is a savory Japanese custard, smooth and as comforting as chicken noodle soup. As a noodle/pasta addict (yes I do have withdrawal symptoms when on vacation, and unable to find good pasta—but also note that medical standards do not yet accept this as a real addition), I was inspired by Shizuo Tsuji’s comment in his book Japanese Cooking: a simple art. He describes how chawan mushi can be made with ingredients beyond the most famous ginkgo nut, chicken or scallops, and shrimp version.