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Posts Tagged ‘green onions’

The other night Yuki and I met up with a bunch of her ex-coworkers who have moved back to Tokyo. They got a table at a modern, hip Yakitori joint in the Hibiya neighborhood. If you want to buy a brand new Hermes bag, Hibiya is the place for you. It’s a very swanky area filled with great food. The place they met us at is called Yakitori Akira. It’s in the basement of a large office/shopping building along with a handful of other slightly upscale food joints.

When you walk in you take your shoes off and walk past the open counter where the chefs prepare the chow. The tables are sunken. I was a little nervous at first because the tables were floor level and my knees are terrible. But, the floor was recessed making them regular table height, something that is becoming more common in newer restaurants, sort of fusion if you will.

The first dish, after a cold draft beer of course,  was a salad of raw Nappa cabbage swimming in a mayonnaise-based dressing and topped with sliced kombu.

After that came some natto topped with sliced green onions and nori seaweed. Natto is a love-hate food. You either love it or you hate it. It’s a type of fermented soy bean and has a really pungent odor, like ripe armpits. It also has a very sticky texture. It’s commonly eaten with Chinese-style mustard to mask some of the smell. Yuki loves it, I don’t prefer it. Very few Westerners can tolerate it and, these days, not so many of the younger Japanese do either. But, I had to try it since they put it in my face. Needless to say, I took one bite and the quickly proceeded to chug some beer!

Then we had some chicken karage, Japanese-style chicken nuggets. Unlike your McDonald’s variety of processed crap, this is big juicy chunks of thigh meat. I have no idea what kind of sauce this one came with, but it sure was tasty!

This here is the dish I was most looking forward to…rare chicken meat! The meat from the neck was quickly seared, almost completely raw (the pink you see in the picture is indeed raw chicken), on a hot skillet and served with some yuzu kosho. Rare chicken is extremely controversial, for obvious reasons, but given the upscale atmosphere I was certain they were using fresh, high quality birds. Since I have yet to get diarrhea or vomit profusely, I’m pretty sure the meat was clean. Flavor-wise it tasted like chicken, oddly enough. The texture was a little chewy, chicken al dente. Honestly, it’s nothing really special, it’s just chicken meat.

Avocado sautéed in some sort of shoyu sauce came next. Coming from Chicago I’m used to Mexican preparations of avocado. This was a nice change to what my taste buds are used to. The sauce carmelized a little while the avocado stayed nice and soft.

After the Avocado we spiced things up a bit with some kimchi. It was served with some chopped green onion, julienned daikon, and a shiso leaf.

Next came what is probably my favorite snack of the night, deep-fried chicken skin. Japan’s answer to chicharones. Crispy, buttery, all-around chickeny goodness! I may have to make this a staple of my future diet.

What tour around the bird would complete without some chicken wings? These were deep-fried with either basil or shiso in the batter, I couldn’t really tell. With a squirt of lemon they were delicious.

The main course of the night was the table-top charcoal grill. Instead of eating yakitori style (chicken on skewers) we ate yakiniku style (grill yourself). The first pieces we grilled were breast meat wrapped in shiso leaf.

The other pieces of chicken we got were neck meat, 2 parts of the heart (heart skin and heart meat), meat that was dangling off a piece of cartilage (I think the breastplate), and skin. We also had a few pieces of okra to grill.

Once the meat was grilled we dipped the pieces into an onsen egg. Basically it’s just an egg that’s been barely soft-boiled to the point where the whites were just set and the yolk is still runny. To me, this is natures most perfect sauce.

After all of that chicken we decided to get a few cuts of pork for shits and giggles. We got shoulder, cheek, and side meat and grilled them all the same as the chicken.

As Yuki and I were leaving due to having Otis back at grandma and grandpa’s, everyone else ordered up some soup. I really have no idea what was in the soup, but I imagine it was miso. From the pic I took here as I left I can definitely tell you it was topped with nori and had a shtickle of wasabi.

All in all, I thought Akira was a great izakaya. They call themselves Yakitori Akira because the chef’s specialty is chicken, but to me it’s not a yakitori restaurant at all, even though they do serve yakitori. The menu is much too diverse to be called yakitori. Since they serve up numerous small plates and whatnot with a nice beer and sake list, its pure izakaya to me. That said, what’s in a name? An izakaya by any other name’s chicken would taste is sweet.

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Yuki had requested beef for dinner last night. Who am I to argue with that kind of insightful reasoning? It was a nice night to grill before the brief storm hit, so I picked up my favorite piece of beef to grill…skirt steak. I made an Asian flavored dinner out of it with miso soup, white rice, and quick pickles.

I marinated a 1lb steak for about 1.5 hours at room temperature. The marinade made by mixing together 3 cloves garlic grated, 1 tablespoon ginger grated, 6 green onions thinly sliced, 1 tablespoon cracked black pepper, 1.5 tablespoons of sugar, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, and 1/2 cup of soy sauce. After mixing together the marinade, I let it sit for a few minutes to allow the flavors to meld before covering the steak in it. I covered everything in plastic wrap and then let it sit while I prepared the rest of dinner.

One of the pickles I made was a Korean-style daikon sangchae. Instead of using Korean chili I used Japanese shichimi togarashi instead though. I used about 8oz daikon cut into thin match-sticks, 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar, 1.5 teaspoons lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon shichimi togarashi, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 tablespoon sesame seeds, and 1/2 teaspoon sugar.

I mixed all of the ingredients together in a glass bowl and then stirred the daikon in. I covered the bowl with wrap and left it in the fridge until dinner time.

The other pickle I made was a Korean cucumber namul. I used 1 teaspoon sesame oil, 3 mini cucumbers thinly sliced on my mandolin, 1 green onion thinly sliced, 1 garlic clove minced, 1/2 tablespoon sesame seeds, 1 tablespoon canola oil.

I laid the cucumber slices in a colander, sprinkled them with salt, and let them sit for about 10 minutes. Then I gave them a good rinse and squeezed out the excess liquid.

In a hot skillet I poured in the canola oil and then quickly stir-fried the garlic, green onion, and cucumbers, only for about 45 seconds to a minute. I removed the skillet from the heat and then added the sesame oil and sesame seeds. I tossed to blend really well and then set the cucumber aside on a plate.

Then I made miso soup using about 3 cups of water, 5 shiitake sliced, 1/2 onion thinly sliced, a bunch of salted wakame rinsed and soaked in water for about 15 minutes or so, 3 fingerling potatoes chopped, and about 1.5 tablespoons of miso.

I boiled everything together except for the wakame and miso for about 15 minutes. Then I mixed in the miso. I laid the wakame in the bowls and ladled the soup right on top.

All that was left for me to do was to grill up that skirt steak. My grill does skirt steak really well on high heat with the steak on the top rack for about 7-8 minutes per side. That gives the steak nice carmelization and grill marks while keeping the meat nice and juicy. I let it rest for about 7 minutes before slicing it up. Time to chow down!

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This past Friday night I made a rice noodle soup with some really nice shrimp I picked up. Being a Friday night dinner, this is a 2 person recipe as opposed to my normal 4 person.

First I had to make a broth. To do that I used the shells from my shrimp (I had 10 shrimp that I shelled and butterflied), 1 stick of lemongrass cut in half both in length and width then bashed up with the back of my knife to release the oils, 1 inch of ginger sliced, 1/2 tablespoon whole black peppercorns, 3 cloves of star anise, and 1/2 tablespoon of whole coriander seeds.

I heated my pan up and added the shrimp shells dry. I let them cook, tossing them around, for about 6 minutes or so until they turned pink. As they do so they release some of their oils. While the pan was still dry I added the pepper corns and coriander and let them toast for a minute.

Then I poured in 2.5 cups of hot water while scraping up the little pieces of shell that stuck to the bottom of the pan. Once the water came up to a slight boil I added the lemongrass, ginger, and cloves. I covered the pan, turned the heat to med-low, and let it simmer for about 30 minutes. I strained the broth into a clean pan and set it aside while I prepped my veggies.

Along with my shrimp, the veggies included 1/2 a red bell pepper sliced, 3 shiitake sliced, 6 asparagus chopped, 1 tomato cut into 6 wedges, about 2 ounces of bean sprouts, and a bunch of green onions sliced.

I brought the broth back up to a slow boil and added everything except for the shrimp, tomato, and bean sprouts. I covered it back up and let it simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Then I added the shrimp and tomato and let it go for another 4 minutes, just until the shrimp were cooked and turned pink. Finally, I added the bean sprouts and then turned off the heat about minute after that.

While this was going on I boiled some water in a large stock pot and cooked my rice noodles according to package instructions.

To put it together I simply placed the noodles in the bottom of a bowl and ladled the soup along with shrimp and vegetables on top. I garnished with a squeeze of sriracha, 1/2 an avocado diced, some lime juice, and chopped cilantro.

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Braised yakitori, kind of a misnomer. Yakitori translates to “grilled chicken”. I didn’t grill anything for this dish. Braised typically means cooking something in liquid over low heat for a long period of time. I didn’t do that either. What I did was make a standard yakitori marinade and cook some chicken thighs along with green onions in it. Why did I call this “Braised Yakitori”? Honestly, I just don’t know what else to call it.

First thing I did was make the marinade. In a small saucepan I poured in 5 tablespoons of soy sauce, 4 tablespoons of sake, 1 tablespoon of mirin, and 1 tablespoon of sugar. I brought it up to a low boil and let it gently simmer for about 5 minutes or so. I just wanted the sugar to dissolve and the marinade to thicken up slightly. After that I turned the heat off and let it cool down for about an hour, until it reached room temperature.

I minced up 2 garlic cloves and chopped up 6 green onions and 6 skinless and boneless chicken thighs. I mixed them all together in a glass dish and poured to marinade over. Covered with plastic wrap I put it in the fridge while I got the veggies and miso soup ready.

For the miso soup I only made 2 portions. We had some tomato soup leftover from Kasia’s that became lunch today, so I didn’t need to make too much. I used 1-1.5 tablespoons of miso, one yukon gold potato skinned and chopped, 3 shiitake sliced, 2 tablespoons of dashi flavored soy sauce, and some salted wakame. For the wakame, you have to rinse the salt off and then let it soak in cold water for about 10-15 minutes. I honestly cannot tell you how much I used, I just eye-balled it. You have to be careful though because it does get considerable larger as it absorbs the water.

In a small soup pan I poured in about 1.25 cups of water and added the dashi soy, potato, and shiitake. I let it simmer over a very low boil for about 20 minutes. That was just long enough for the potato to cook but not so long that it started to disintegrate.

Just before serving I put the miso in our little tea colander and swished it around for a few minutes until it all mixed into the soup. Using the colander keeps the miso from being chunky. But, this was right before serving (at which time I also added the wakame). Before I did this I made the veggies and cooked the chicken.

I kept the veggies very simple. I cut up 1 head of broccoli, sliced up 1 carrot, and rinsed about 2-3 ounces of bean sprouts. I got my steamer going and steamed the broccoli and carrot for about 5 minutes. After that I added the bean sprouts and let it go for another minute or so. A little sprinkle of salt and the veggies were ready.

To cook the chicken I heated up my pan and added about 2 tablespoons of sesame oil. When the oil was shimmering I just dumped everything in. It took about 9 or 10 minutes for the chicken to cook through and the sauce the thicken up a little. I seasoned with a little black pepper and that was all.

Of course, white rice accompanied the night’s chow.

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Stanley’s had these cute little Boston Lettuce heads for sale. The leaves looked perfect to make a wrap with. Then I remembered talking to Yuki about how we haven’t had ginger pork in a while, actually her craving for it. Sometimes I get it. Not often, but this time I did. What better way to put some ginger and pork together than in the buttery leaves of some fresh Boston Lettuce?

Laap is simply a Laotian ground meat dish. I can either be raw or cooked. This one is more of a Southeast Asian flavor instead of a typical laap. I used a handful of parsley chopped (cilantro would have been prefered, but I had to use up my parsley), 7 shiitake caps diced, 1 yellow bell pepper diced, 2 stalks of lemongrass tender innards thinly sliced, juice of 1 lemon (prefer lime but thought lemon would match parsley better), 1/2 inch ginger minced, 3 garlic cloves minced, 6 green onions sliced, 1 head of Boston Lettuce large outer leaves used for wraps while the small inner leaves were chopped up, 1 tablespoon fish sauce, 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, 1 tablespoon of sriracha, and 1.25 pounds of ground pork. I also used 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, but that wasn’t in the picture.

I heated up some vegetable oil and added the lemongrass, ginger, and garlic. I let them sizzle for about a minute and then added the pork. I broke the pork up as it cooked through, that took about 5 minutes. Then I added the shiitake, pepper, and green onion. I let those cooked down for about 3 minutes and then added the fish sauce, soy sauce, and sriracha. After the sauces cooked down for a few minutes I turned off the heat and stirred in the parsley, lemon juice, and sesame oil.  

For side vegetables planned on sauteing some baby eggplant and broccoli with garlic, but for some reason I ended up quartering the eggplant and roasting it at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes in sesame oil while steaming the broccoli with ground sesame seeds. I didn’t use the garlic.

The rice I made was Japanese style. Not really the best match, but not bad. In the rice cooker, once I rinsed 2 cups of rice and filled the bowl with the right amount of water I added 1 diced carrot and a few pinches of dried hijiki seaweed. I let it sit for about a half hour before turning the machine on. I made sure to mix the carrots and hijiki in well before serving.

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Oden is Japanese home cooking at it’s finest as well as being a favorite winter-time treat. While the ingredients can vary, the basis of oden is to have a slightly salty dashi broth filled with fish cakes, daikon, konnyaku, hard-boiled eggs, and potatoes. Slowly simmered and warm in the belly, this is true comfort food. In Japan, it’s served at home, in restaurants, at street vendors, and you can even get it warm from vending machines (you can get anything in a Japanese vending machine, and I do mean anything!).

To start I made a good dashi broth. I used about 1/3 cup of dried anchovies, 3 tablespoons of mirin, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, and 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. Most oden sets come with their own little packets of soy flavoring. They are usually pretty good, but it’s just as easy to do it yourself giving you more control over the flavor.

I let the anchovies simmer in 4 cups of boiling water for about an hour. I wanted every last bit of flavor out of the fish and into the broth.

I strained the broth and discarded the anchovies. Then I mixed in the mirin, soy, and salt.

You can buy oden sets at any Japanese market and some Asian markets. We got two two-person sets that were on sale from Mitsuwa, each containing a variety of fish cakes. Some with carrot in them, some with burdock root, some grilled, most deep fried. We also had a package of chikuwa fishcakes that we used. I skinned and chopped two russet potatoes, medium boiled 4 eggs (just enough to peel the shell off, since they were going to simmer in the dashi for a while I didn’t want to overcook the yolk too much), 1 daikon skinned and chopped, a bunch of green onions chopped, and a couple packaged of shirataki konnyaku.

Once the dashi was ready I added the eggs and daikon and simmered them, covered, over a low heat for an hour. This allows both to absorb a lot of the dashi flavor.

Then I added the potatoes and konnyaku. If you boil the potatoes too long they will fall apart and melt into the broth. I only let them simmer for about 20 minutes. That’s also enough time for the konnyaku to take on some flavor. If you’re using sliced blocks of konnyaku instead of the shirataki noodles you’ll need to add them about 20 minutes earlier.

Since most of the fishcakes are deep fried before packaging they can sometimes have a little bit of grease residue. Because of that I boil and drain them seperately for a few minutes before adding them to the dashi, that gets rid of any unwanted oil. They also are fully cooked so just need to be heated up. After about 5 minutes in the dashi, along with the green onions, the oden is ready to go.

To serve it up I divied one of each for both of our bowls and then laddles some dashi on top. Oden is great with a cold beer and some white rice, I covered our rice with ground sesame seeds. I tell you though, oden is even better the next day. It is a stew, so once all of the flavors fully penetrate the ingredients you really have a special dish here. The daikon and egg for lunch today were outstanding!

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Last night Yuki and I went to Millenium Park for another one of their Made In Chicago: World Class Jazz shows. Besides listening to some killer guitar by Alfonso Ponticelli we ate some killer skirt steak sandwiches that I made earlier in the day, along with some potato salad.

For the steak I took a big handful of cilantro, 1/4 cup of sesame oil, 1/4 cup of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of ginger, and two cloves of garlic. I processed it all into a nice marinade along with some black pepper. I picked up a 1.5 pound skirt steak and cut it into 4 equal pieces. I laid the steak in a glass baking dish and covered it in the marinade. I wrapped it in plastic and put it in the fridge for about 3 hours. I took it out and let it come to room temperature for about a half hour before grilling it.

I brought my grill up to high heat and grilled the steak for about 7 minutes on each side. That made it somewhere between medium-rare and medium. I let it sit for a few hours to cool down in its own juices while I went back to my computer to do some work.

For the potato salad I defrosted about 1/3 cup of frozen organic peas and chopped up a bunch of green onions, a carrot, 4 radishes, and 7 yukon gold potatoes that were skinned before getting chopped up. For the dressing I mixed together a branch of rosemary from my back porch that I gave the once over with my knife, 2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar, 1/4 cup of mayonnaise, 3 tablespoons of mustard (my favorite brand of Boetje’s of course), and a pinch of salt and pepper.

In a pot of boiling water I dumped the skinned diced potatoes and let them cook for about 10 minutes until they were soft but held their shape (may take a little longer depending upon how big the chunks are). After 10 minutes I added the green onions, radishes, and carrot for about 2 minutes. I didn’t want to cook the vegetables, I just wanted to take away the sharpness and rawness of them while keeping the texture. Then I strained everything into a colander.

In a large glass bowl I put the peas and then strained vegetables and potatoes. While still warm I poured the dressing on top and stirred it all around. I like dressing it while still warm so that the potatoes absorb some of the dressing.

To put together the sandwiches I toasted some ciabatta rolls. On the bottom I laid some baby spinach and tomato slices. I sliced up two of the steak portions and laid them on top. I covered the steak with cilantro. On the top bun I spread some mustard and mayonnaise. It was outstanding!

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