Sunday, May 29, 2011

Dinner the Other Night...Chicken Udon

Chicken Udon 

I wanted to make a simple, semi-fast, & light dinner for us and our friends, so I decided on Chicken Udon.  As usual, it's not a traditional recipe :o)  It would have been super quick if I had the chicken stock already made, but we were at the family's vacation place, so I made it from scratch.  For the soup I used homemade chicken stock, soy sauce, Mirin (Sweet Cooking Rice Wine), salt & pepper.  Most udon is made with dashi (light fish/seaweed stock), but I like the flavor of chicken stock.

My Frozen Chicken Parts

These are the chicken backs, wings, bones etc. that I had in the freezer and the base for the stock.  I try to get whole chickens when I need chicken and then chop it up and save the bones.

Making Chicken Stock...

Usual way of making chicken stock with chicken parts, onion, celery, carrots, garlic, bay leaf, peppercorns etc.  I cooked this one for about 2 hours.  It's great when I have my pressure cooker because then it only takes about 35 mins!


Chicken legs & thighs from this great butcher near my house...Lindy & Grundy.  I wrote about getting their pork for my tonkatsu in my last post.  They are a traditional old-fashioned butcher that's owned by 2 fabulous women!  A couple nights before this, I baked the legs/thighs with just salt and pepper and it was the best tasting chicken ever :o)

Tonkatsu Post...


I boned the chicken then cut it up and used it for the udon.  The bones are saved for my next batch of stock:o)  I like to keep the skin on  to add more flavor to the dish.

Napa Cabbage & Daikon Radish

The udon had chicken, Napa, Daikon, Eryngi Mushrooms, & Tofu.  I love that you can put just about anything in udon!  

Blanched Napa & Daikon

I first blanched the Napa & Daikon in salted water, so that the broth wouldn't get cloudy then used that same  water to boil frozen edamame in it.  I also blanched the chicken pieces in a separate pot of water.

 Sanuki Udon

This is my favorite Udon.  You can get it at many Japanese & Asian Markets. Sanuki Udon is from the Kagawa area and is thick and stiff compared to some other types.  I used to get frozen udon, but they all seemed to fall apart on me when I cooked it and I'd end up with noodles about 2" long, so now I always use the dried kind.

Package Label...

I like this brand because it's not too thick or too thin, it's just right!

Perfect Comfort Food!

I topped it off with sliced green onions.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Dinner Last Night...Tonkatsu (Japanese Pork Cutlet)


This is another of my favorite Japanese dishes.  It's a very homey dish in Japan that you eat often at home   or  you can go out and get it because there are so many restaurants that serve it!  In Japan, many of the restaurants are specialized.  For instance, a place would mainly serve Tonkatsu or Sushi or Yakitori or Ramen  etc.   Traditionally, tonkatsu is served with raw, thinly sliced cabbage and rice. There are many restaurants that serve the Tonkatsu with all-you-can-eat rice & cabbage!

The sauce that is used for it is "Tonkatsu Sauce", it's similar to a Worchestershire Sauce that's sweeter and thicker. My favorite brand that I grew up from childhood is Bulldog.  Some restaurants make their own gourmet sauce.  It's also good with a little Japanese yellow mustard.

Pork Round

There's a new butcher in the area called Lindy & Grundy and I've been wanting to try it, but I heard that when they first opened it was very crowded, so I waited until now to go.  OMG, they are the best!  It is run by two sweet young ladies and they are actually the butchers that break down all their meats!  The night before I went, they said that they had just cut up 2 whole steers!!  I had a nice conversation with both of them and they both have the friendliest and best personalities!  One of them is half Japanese and grew up in Japan, so she is the one that advised me about what cut of pork to use for my tonkatsu.  Oh, and the store has free parking in the back...a rarity in LA!!

Seasoned w/Salt & Pepper...

I usually use pork loin and get it at the Japanese market, but I didn't have time to go there so I ended up at Lindy & Grundy.  The butcherette recommended the round and she even pounded it for me:o)  It turned out really good! Their pork tastes like old fashioned porky pork not the bland grocery store type pork!  I was thinking about it on the drive home and next time I would get the pork chops and that way I can use the loin as the tonkatsu, make stock out of the bone and then use the outer meat for the Tonjiru Soup!

Floured & Egged...

I seasoned the flour, egg wash & panko with salt and pepper.  The egg has a little bit of milk & water added to it.  Just like I did with the eggplant parm, I used dry, wet, dry method...flour, egg, panko...

Ready to be fried...

Deep Frying in the Wok...

Since these were so thin, I fried the tonkatsu in 350 degrees oil until they were nice and brown.


It kinda looks like a

Slicing the Cabbage...

I'm not that great at slicing the cabbage super thin, but the Benriner (Japanese mandoline cutter) usually makes it too thin for my liking ;o)  The bigger chunks of cabbage, I put in the Tonjiru.

Soaking in Ice Water...

I put the cabbage in ice water to crisp it and clean it...


After draining the cabbage, I wrap it in a dish towel and then put it in the refrigerator until it's ready to eat.

Pork for Tonjiru Soup

Tonjiru is a common soup served at tonkatsu places.  It's a miso soup with pork and veggies.  It's usually made with a simple dashi stock, but I like to make it with pork stock.  I wanted to use pork belly for this, but I forgot to get it at the butcher, so I used up one of the pork rounds.  

Pork sauteeing with Sake...

I seasoned the pork with salt, pepper & dashi powder then sauteed in Rice Bran Oil.  After it was cooked through, I added sake to it and let the alcohol evaporate.  I then took out the pork because I didn't want it to get overcooked then added the pork stock.  I had pork stock I'd made in the past in the freezer:o)  To the stock, I added potatoes and cooked until it was soft.  At the end, I put the pork back in and added some cabbage and the miso.


This is one of my favorite ways to have miso soup!  It's a little bit time consuming to make since you need to cook the pork first.  Every family has a different way of making this soup and as usual, mine isn't the most traditional;o)

Cabbage & Tomatoes

I like to put a little of the tonkatsu sauce and kewpie mayo on my cabbage.  My girlfriend gave me these beautiful tomatoes!  They are called Kumato Brown Tomatoes, they have a nice acidity to it.  She is so sweet, she also got me a beautiful Basil plant too:o)

Tonkatsu w/Japanese Mustard & Cabbage


Bulldog Tonkatsu Sauce & Kewpie Mayo

Kewpie is a little different than American mayo because it uses only egg yolks and has a little bit of vinegar in it and is also a little thinner.

Rice Bran Oil

This is my favorite oil to use for Japanese dressings and for deep frying.  I can find it at the Japanese store only sometimes.  It has a very clean flavor to it.

Kewpie, Mustard & Bulldog

I slather this combo on bread to make sandwiches...

Tonkatsu Sandwich

My favorite leftover with Tonkatsu are sandwiches :o)  It just has thinly sliced Tonkatsu, the raw Cabbage and the mayo combo on Japanese white bread.  There's something about the Japanese bread that I really like, it's different than just having Wonderbread!  It must be nostalgia from childhood again.  This is the thin sliced one, but they also have ones that are sliced about 3/4" thick!  I forgot who, but I remember when the Winter Olympics were in Japan, one of the skiers was saying how much he hated the thick bread and was making fun of 

This type of sandwich is commonly sold as Bento (Lunch Box) at Japanese train stations.  They usually have the crust cut off and don't have the cabbage in it.  The most popular is sold by a restaurant called Maisen in Tokyo and of course they have the best tonkatsu sets too!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Breakfast Yesterday....Ricottta & Blueberry Pancakes

Ricotta & Blueberry Pancakes

I'm not really a breakfast person or even a brunch person.  Maybe it's because I like to sleep in and by the time I wake up and get dressed, it's lunch time;o)  Every so often, we do go out for brunch and found a great restaurant near us called BLD (it stands for Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner).  They serve the best Ricotta & Blueberry Pancakes!  This was the first time I had ricotta in pancakes and loved it!  

I got some freshly made ricotta over the weekend, so I decided I wanted to try to make these pancakes.  The problem was that I am TERRIBLE at making pancakes!!  I thought I can go the easy route and buy Bisquick and somehow incorporate the ricotta into it.  Wrong!  I was actually able to find Neal Fraser's (owner of BLD) recipe on the internet and after reading it decided I needed to make it from scratch because I needed to put whipped egg whites in it.  I don't think chefs share their true recipes because these did not turn out like the restaurant's pancakes and even the picture that was posted with the recipe looked more like the ones I ended up making.  After reading the recipe, I decided the freshly made ricotta was too nice to mix in with the pancake batter.  I also was out of baking powder and needed to go to the grocery store again anyway, so I got some of the grocery brand ricotta too.

Neal Fraser's Recipe...

Dry & Wet Ingredients

Dry:  Flour, Baking Powder & Salt
Wet:  Yolks, Milk, Ricotta, Sugar & Vanilla
Egg White

Egg Whites

I've whipped egg whites with the immersion blender before and it worked fine, but for some reason it was taking forever for it to get stiff this time.  Duh, I was using the wrong attachment!  I needed to change it to the whisk  It worked after that :o)

Batter with Whipped Egg White & Extra Ricotta

In the recipe you mixed in the ricotta smoothly with the batter, but I wanted little pockets of ricotta. I used the grocery store ricotta for the main batter then I added a little bit of the fresh ricotta when I folded in the egg whites. 

Finished batter, nice & fluffy...

Almost ready...

Isn't it funny how they say that you always end up throwing out the first pancake.  They aren't kidding...I guess it's because the heat needs to adjust.  After the batter cooked for a few minutes I added the blueberrys.


It looks a little underdone, but it tasted great with a lot of maple syrup:o)  I also topped it with a little bit more of the good ricotta and blueberries.

Fresh Made Ricotta

I promised the cheese man that I would not throw out the leftovers;o)  He said it would be good on toast with a little honey or on crackers with a little bit of olive oil.  It's so good, I like to just eat it plain too!  I will be using it on pasta later...

Grocery Store Ricotta

See the difference, the fresh one has a nicer color and isn't so smooth.  This one looks like vanilla ice cream!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Dinner Last Night...Deconstructed Eggplant Parmesan

My version of Eggplant Parmesan

I really like Eggplant Parmesan, but I don't like the soggy messes that most restaurants serve, so I came up with my own version and I like to call it Deconstructed Eggplant Parmesan.  I bread and deep fry the eggplant like I do with Japanese foods like Tonkatsu (Pork Cutlet) and use Panko (Japanese bread crumbs). I then put the eggplant on top of spaghetti with some cheese and tomato sauce.

Scratch Made Spaghetti Sauce

Spaghetti sauce is so easy to make if you have a little time.  It tastes much better than buying bottled brands like Ragu or Prego or even Rao's. I make it the typical way by sauteeing onions & garlic then add the seasonings while I saute to let the flavors bloom.  I add a little bit of chile flakes to give it a kick.  I also add a little bit of tomato paste (the kind that comes in a tube) and fry that up with the onions.  A couple of other stuff  I add that may be a little unique is a small piece of anchovy, the type you'd put in a caesar salad and little bit of beef bouillon...I know, I use bouillon a little too much, but I like that it adds more flavor and a richness to everything I use it in :o)  For this I used canned chopped tomatoes and tomato sauce and cooked it for about an hour, so it wouldn't be watery.  I cover it, but leave just a little bit opened, so it can vent and then uncover it for the last 30 mins.  I also added sauteed mushrooms at the end.

Slicing Mushrooms

When I get button mushrooms from the grocery store I take off all of the stem.  Alot of times, the stem is a little mushy.  I then slice it thin. Sometimes I go to a mushroom farm in Ventura and then I use the whole stem.  It's amazing what the flavor difference is when you get it from the farm!  I love eating those raw!

Sauteeing Mushrooms

Since these were going into a flavored sauce, I just put a little bit of salt and pepper to flavor it and of course used olive oil to saute it.  I add these to the tomato sauce about the last 15 mins of cooking.

Dry, Wet, Dry...

The tomato sauce was a little on the salty side since I used a different salt than I usually do, so I only flavored the egg wash with a little bit of salt & pepper.  I left the panko and flours as is.  I first sliced and then salted the eggplant and let it sit for about 30 mins, I'm not really sure if I even need to do this, but some people say that it gets the bitterness out.  I'm used to using Japanese eggplant, not these huge globe ones, so I'm definitely not an expert on  I like to leave the skin on because I think it looks prettier;o)  I like to use the Japanese panko instead of the Italian breadcrumbs because the panko gives it a fluffier texture.  I first dredge the eggplant in the flour (dry), then in the egg wash which has egg, a little bit of water and a little bit of milk (wet), then put it in the panko (dry).  I then deep fried in oil at about 370 degrees until it browned.  I usually try to use a thermometer in the oil to monitor the temperature or when I'm lazy, I use the chopstick method...stick a wooden chopstick in the oil and it's ready when a lot of bubbles stick to it :o)

In the Toaster Oven

I topped the fried eggplant with fresh Buffalo Mozzarella and then used the toaster setting until the cheese melted and was a little brown on top.  It's best to do this asap after frying the eggplant, but it can sit out for about an hour because it will crisp up some in the oven.  Of course if you are making a lot, this can be done in the regular oven.  It's just convenient using the toaster oven when you are making small batches.  The toaster oven is my best friend;o)

Spaghetti and Tomato Sauce

Deconstructed Eggplant Parmesan

First layer is spaghetti, then tomato sauce, then the fried eggplant with the Mozzarella cheese, a little more tomato sauce, some grated parmesan cheese, chopped parsley and then basil for garnish.

Cocktail Hour on the Beach...

When we spend time at the family vacation house, my favorite time to be on the beach is watching the sunset. We usually have martinis then I make some sort of nibbleys.  This night it was a charcuterie plate w/grapes & crackers.  Simple, but good;o)


There's an amazing cheese store in Santa Barbara called C'est Cheese. They make the best grilled cheese sandwiches using 3 cheeses.  They also have the greatest selection of cheese and dry meats.  That's where I got the Buffalo Mozzarella for the Eggplant Parmesan and they even had fresh ricotta cheese which I'm going to make pancakes with for breakfast.  This has: Jamon Iberico, Soppressata, Mahon Cheese, Rocinante Cheese & Quince Paste.

Another beautiful time on the beach...

I love the set up we have on the beach.  We found some short small tables a few years back and they are perfect for our cocktail hour;o)  This was an easy snack, the only thing I "made" was boiling the fava beans, I put a little salt on and eat it like edamame!