Misoyaki Wild Salmon

Me so hungry for miso salmon.

Me so hungry for miso salmon.

This is a version of that ubiquitous sushi joint staple, misoyaki black cod, popularized with a vengeance at Matsuhisa restaurant here in LA (and at over thirty other affiliated restaurants internationally) by famed Japanese chef Nobu Matsuhisa. It’s Nobu’s signature dish, and the impact of his influence is felt in nearly every sushi bar in American, where some version of miso-marinated broiled fish is on virtually every menu. And for good reason as it’s damn good — sweet, salty, tender, and rich. It can feel fancy or it can be served very simply, almost rustically. It makes a great lunchtime or dinnertime main course, or it can go alongside other Asian dishes for a larger spread.

I love to make it with black cod, of course, or butterfish or ling cod or Chilean seabass or pretty much any other fish that is either delicate or has a decent fat content. I was initially going to make this with black cod, but I found some beautiful and very fresh wild salmon and decided to go with that instead.

I deviate from Nobu’s original recipe by adding a bit more flavoring to the marinade; if you know me you know that I can’t resist tinkering with classics in the hopes of finding greater complexity and depth of flavor — hence the addition of ginger and garlic and salt and pepper. I recommend marinating the fish for at least six hours, so make the marinade in the morning and drop the fish in. By dinnertime you’ll be good to go. If you really want to plan ahead you could marinate the salmon overnight, although I wouldn’t go for two days as the sodium in the marinade could dry out the fish and make the miso flavor too assertive.

Serve this with steamed white rice and maybe some stir-fried bok choy or other Asian greens. I also recommend having on the side a little soy sauce and something spicy like sambal oelek or sriracha.

What you need:

  • 1 pound wild salmon filet, skinned with pin-bones removed
  • 3 tablespoons mirin
  • 3 tablespoons sake
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup shiro miso paste (very pale yellow “white” miso)
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 2/3 cups of chopped scallions (as a garnish)

What you gotta do:

First cut the salmon filets into four evenly-sized pieces. Place the filets in a flat plastic container with a lid or a glass pan that you can cover with plastic wrap; use anything except a metal container that could be potentially reactive (i.e. aluminum). Also, choose your container wisely; you want the fish to be snug in whatever container you choose so that the fish is nestled in and covered fully by the marinade. Refrigerate fish while you make the marinade.

In a small pot mix the mirin, sake, and water. Heat over medium-high heat until boiling and add the sugar, whisking until it dissolves. Turn off the heat and whisk in the miso, ginger, garlic, salt, and white pepper. Transfer the marinade to a bowl and allow it come to room temperature. Pour marinade over the fish and turn pieces to fully coat with the miso. Cover and refrigerate.

Now wait patiently a few hours. To cook turn on your broiler and set the oven rack about six inches away from the heating element, be it flame or electric coil. Remove the fish from the marinade and place on a sheet pain that been very slightly oiled. Any excess marinade you can pour into a small pot and bring quickly to a boil. Turn off heat. Now you can use the marinade to baste the fish.

Put pan with salmon into the oven and broil for about three minutes. Remove fish from oven and, using a pastry brush, baste fish with more marinade. Return the fish to the oven and broil for another two or three minutes, approximately. You want the edges slightly charred, so when that occurs remove the salmon and prod it to check for doneness. I like it cooked through but very tender and a bit rare. Touch it with your finger — the flesh should have some softness to it. If you suspect it’s not cooked enough to your taste, turn the oven off and return the fish to oven. Allow it to cook with the oven’s residual heat until it’s firmer and more to your liking.

Transfer fish to a platter and serve dinner!

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Super-succulent salmon served for supper. Say that five times fast!

Stir-fried Pork and Asparagus with Garlic Black Bean Sauce

Cheap and

A quick and tasty stir-fry!

What with my wife Regina being of Chinese descent and me being half Vietnamese it’s hardly surprising that we cook a lot of Asian (and Asian-inspired) food at home. I whipped up this little stir-fry a few days ago. It was very quick, very easy to make, and absolutely delicious over a bowl of steamed rice with a dose of spicy sambal oeleck, that awesome chili paste of Indonesian origin popularized by Huy Fong Foods here in the U.S. With a little planning you can have this dish made in about 20 minutes (of actual work).

If you want to try this dish at home you’ll need (approximately):

  • 3/4 pound of pork shoulder
  • 2 tablespoons minced ginger, divided
  • 2 tablespoons xao xing (Chinese cooking wine, although sherry is a fair substitute), divided
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper, plus more later
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more later
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 5 medium-thick asparagus spears
  • 6 fresh shiitake mushrooms (or dried mushrooms reconstituted in warm water)
  • 3 tablespoons peanut oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons garlic black bean sauce (Lee Kum Kee brand, if possible)
  • 2 tablespoons chicken broth
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped scallions

Now do this:

Cut the pork into rough cubes about 3/4 of inch on a side (don’t take this measurement too seriously). Put the pork into a non-reactive bowl and add 1 tablespoon of ginger, 1 tablespoon xao xing, minced garlic, corn starch, vegetable oil, white pepper, kosher salt, and soy sauce. Mix all the ingredients until the pork is very well coated in the marinade. Marinate the pork a minimum of 30 minutes; I get better results if I marinate it a couple of hours.

While the pork is marinating, prep your veggies. Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus and discard. Cut the asparagus at an angle into pieces oh, let’s say an inch-and-a-half in length. Stem the mushrooms and cut into quarters.

When you’re ready to cook, heat a wok (or a very large skillet) over high heat. When the wok just starts smoking swirl 2 tablespoons of the peanut oil into the bottom and add the pork. Stir-fry pork about three minutes until lightly browned all over. Remove cooked pork to a bowl and pour off (and discard) any excess oil. Wipe wok clean with paper towels and place over high heat again. When the wok starts smoking again add the remaining peanut oil. Add the asparagus and stir-fry about one minute. Add the mushrooms and stir-fry another 30 seconds. Add remaining ginger and stir it into the veggies. Add the cooked pork back into your wok. Get the wok super-hot again and add the remaining cooking wine. Stir-fry another 10 seconds and then add the black bean sauce and the chicken broth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the chopped scallions and turn off the heat.

Remove the stir-fry from the wok and place into a serving bowl. Serve with steamed rice and maybe some slices of fresh cucumber. Top with hot sauce of your choice (sambal oeleck is my preference for this dish) and soy sauce.

Enjoy!

Chef Baby Chow

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Chef babies eat very well! For an early lunch Vivian had a lovely soup I knocked together from a variety of tasty leftovers.

Leftover pho broth, steamed broken jasmine rice, Savoy cabbage, gailan (Chinese broccoli), baby arugula, cilantro, scallions, and Japanese flowering fern. She loved it!

For dessert the Viv had fresh strawberries and some very sweet red grapes.

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Grilled Short Ribs + Bacon Grit-Cake + Chinese Broccoli + 5-Spice BBQ Sauce + Creamed Corn Sauce

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I was feeling the fusion when I thought up this dish!

I made this dish a few weeks ago and now I’ve finally gotten around to posting a picture of it. You’ll have to excuse me; what with work and the new(ish) baby and holidays and travel I’ve been hard-pressed to find time to post about anything! But I’m trying to rectify all that and hopefully I’ll be able to pump out a few decent posts in the next week or two.

Anyway, this dish represents a rare fusion-y dish for me. I was striving for an Asian-slash-Southern-US dish, with some Chinese broccoli subbing in for collards and a barbecue sauce spiked with sriracha and Chinese five-spice powder.

I won’t take the time to go into all the minute details, but I’ll give you the broad strokes. If you really need more detail send me a comment and I’ll give you what you need.

• First I braised some short ribs (on the bone) in homemade beef broth and xao xing (Chinese cooking wine) with some shallots and garlic and ginger in a heavy-bottomed pot with a tight-fitting lid. They took about three hours to cook at 300°F. I let the short ribs cool and then I removed them from the liquid and refrigerated them until they were cold.

• I then sliced nice slabs from the cold short ribs, removing any bone, connective tissue, and excess fat. I allowed the meat to come to room temperature before finishing the dish.

• While the short ribs were braising I made a basic red barbecue sauce (ketchup, mustard, vinegar, molasses, sugar, spices, etc.) and added a nice dose of sriracha for heat and a big tablespoon of Chinese five-spice powder.

• I then threw together a simple grit-cake by cooking white grits according to the package directions and when cooked, mixing in chopped cooked bacon, grated cheddar cheese, butter, chives, and some salt n pepper. I poured the cooked grits onto a small sheet pan lined with oiled parchment paper. I cooled the grits in the fridge until firm and then cut it into rectangular slabs.

• And then I made a sauce from some leftover creamed corn. I thinned out the creamed corn, cooked it until hot in a small saucepan, and then pureed it hot in a blender at high speed. While the creamed corn was blending I added a tablespoon of cold butter and a pinch of sugar. I poured the creamed corn through a coarse strainer and then set the sauce aside.

• Finally I blanched in salted boiling water a big handful of chopped gai lan Chinese broccoli. I cooled the par-cooked greens in an ice bath and then drained them.

To finish the dish I did the following.

• First I crisped the grit cake in a hot skillet until brown on one side. I flipped it and browned the other side.

• Next I sauteed the gai lan in some butter and kept it warm off the side.

• I heated a grill-pan and then lightly oiled the short rib slabs. I seasoned the short ribs with plenty of salt and pepper and then grilled them until I had nice grill-marks on both sides. I basted them with a little of the bbq sauce.

• I warmed the creamed corn sauce in a very small pot on the stove while I assembled the dish.

• I placed the gai lan in the center of a warmed plate. I topped the greens with a cooked bacon grit-cake. I placed two slabs of short ribs on top of that and then drizzled the warm creamed corn sauce around the plate. I dabbed more bbq sauce over the meat and then drizzled a few decorative swirls of bbq sauce on the plate. I topped the meat with a little chopped scallions as a garnish and then I ate the WHOLE THING!!

Australian Black Truffle & Fresh Corn Tempura Fritter

Fresh sweet white corn kernels & black truffles make a killer fritter.

I cribbed this dish from a chef by the name of Masa Takayama, owner of Masa in NYC and Bar Masa in NYC and Vegas. I’ve had the pleasure of observing this sushi master at work at close range on a couple of occasions, and the man is impressive in his rigorous craft and his artistic approach to omakase. Masa (the restaurant) is known to be perhaps the most expensive sushi restaurant in the US, and to justify a per-head ticket price of $500 (before tax, tip, and drink) Masa (the chef) creates a fabulous array of gorgeous bits from some of the most luxurious items currently available. To that end he flies in the majority of his fish from Japan, gets the best Wagyu beef (from Australia at the moment), has the best toro, which he tops off with the best caviar. At his first restaurant, Ginza Sushi-Ko in Beverly Hills, I had an unforgettable meal about ten years ago that included three courses of fugu, the potentially lethally poisonous blowfish (the sheer white blowfish liver was particularly memorable). In addition to sourcing exotic and pricey ingredients Masa designs his own rustic ceramic plateware and carves his own chopsticks from fresh bamboo. He has beautiful custom gingko cutting boards made to his specs in Japan and shipped to him in the US. This is a man obsessed with the details; and the efforts show.

A couple of weeks ago I hung out with him and his crew as they prepared a seventeen-course meal for twenty people. I’ve eaten his food before and seen him in action, so I wasn’t surprised or particularly in awe of this behind-the-curtain look. And not every morsel achieved the same level of excellence. However, some of the food was extraordinary — sushi all exemplary, toro tartare topped with some pretty spectacular California white sturgeon caviar, truly amazing eel, stunning sea urchin. But my favorite dish was this simple bite of tempura — crisp, hot, earthy, sweet, pungent. Clumps of fresh white corn kernels and small cubes of Australian black truffle bound ever-so-delicately with a basic batter are dropped and fried in a sizzling pool of rice bran oil in a wide brass tempura pan until tongue-scalding and crunchy.

Black truffles!

During frying the corn’s sweetness gets a boost and the truffle bits get more intense, more exotic, earthier, and a bit meatier. A tiny dusting of black truffle salt completes an excellent snack.

I don’t have a recipe per se. I can only describe how to make it. Masa and his staff didn’t measure any of the ingredients, and when I made my own version a few days later with a couple of leftover Australian black truffles that Masa was kind enough to leave behind for me I didn’t bother either, trusting that by sight and by feel I could approximate his lovely dish. If you attempt this at home (and I hope you do!) be sure to read these instructions carefully before you buy ingredients and set up your fryer.

So, trim the kernels off of two ears of corn. Put the corn in a mixing bowl. Take two black truffles, weighing together about an ounce-and-a-half (this is a total stab in the dark, so don’t quote me) and gently cut off a thin layer from the kobbly skin with a sharp paring knife or a very sharp ceramic vegetable peeler, creating two small, smooth-ish black truffle globes. Cut the truffles into a small dice roughly equivalent to the size of corn kernels. Add the truffles to the corn and mix with your hands to combine.

Take a box of good quality store-bought tempura mix and add about a half-cup of the dry powder to the corn-truffle mix. Toss until the corn and truffle bits are lightly dusted all over with the tempura powder. Now according to package directions make liquid tempura batter. Pour enough batter, maybe a cup at most, into the corn and mix together. You want the batter to coat the corn mixture just enough to bind the kernels and truffle bits together very loosely. Now with a large spoon scoop up clumps of the corn mixture (about three tablespoons per clump) and place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, making sure that each raw fritter clump doesn’t touch its neighbors.

Heat rice bran oil (or sunflower oil or peanut oil) to a depth of about four inches in a pot (with a clip-on termometer) or a fryer to a temperature of 350ºF. Gently lift the raw fritter clumps from the paper with a spoon and slide them into the oil. Fry about six at a time (depending on the type and size of frying vessel you’ve chosen) and turn them frequently, cooking until they’re golden, about three minutes.

Remove fritters from the oil and drain on a sheet pan lined with a wire rack. Dust with truffle salt and serve immediately. I had a glass of rosé Champagnoise to wash this down. A perfect snack!

I used just enough batter to bind the fritter together. The resulting fritter was light and delightful.

Here in Los Angeles I can get truffle salt and milder European summer truffles right now from the Beverly Hills Cheese Shoppe. Undoubtedly there are other sources as well; perhaps Surfas in Culver City would have truffle salt as well. I think you can order Australian black truffles on line, but I haven’t investigated that possibility yet.

Green Tea Soba Noodle Salad

Light, refreshing noodle salad “japonaise”.

This is a little something I whipped up today for my own lunch. The squiggly green things are soba noodles infused with green tea, which accounts for that lovely verdant hue. I’m not really going to get into a deep, well-measured recipe, as I made this dish in an off-the-cuff fashion. But, in short, I’ll describe my method. Try to keep up.

I quickly cooked a handful of smallish peeled-and-deveined shrimp (U-31-35, if you can dig it) in approximately six cups of a quick poaching liquid made up of 70% water and 30% dry white wine with a piece of fennel, two celery stalks, a slice of white onion, a pinch of sugar, and a good amount of kosher salt (think 2 or three tablespoons). Brought it to a boil, added the shrimp, reduced heat and simmered for three minutes. Killed the heat and covered the pot for four or five minutes. I drained the shrimp and dropped them in ice water to cool completely.

While I did all that I also boiled the green tea soba noodles until al dente. I rinsed them in cool water and then drained them. I tossed the cooked noodles with a tiny bit of toasted sesame oil to keep them from sticking together and to impart some of that nutty loveliness into the noodle. I popped the noodles in the fridge for about 30 minutes to cool.

I cut the shrimp into two symmetrical halves lengthwise and chucked them in a big bowl with some of the noodles. I added a little sunflower oil, some daikon radish sprouts, some slivered fresh ginger, a bit of soy, a bit of ponzu, a couple splashes of dashi broth, a nice scattering of sesame seeds, a pinch of sugar, a little salt & pepp, some chopped green onions, a big dose of furikake, and some of these little tempura crunchies I find in the cooler at the Japanese market. I don’t know what they’re called, but I believe they are used as a sort of soup crouton. I like them in salads.

The noodle salad was fantastic! Very refreshing, super-light, and substantial. Perfect for a hot summer day.

Make this dish. If you don’t know some of the words I use above, Google ‘em and figure it out! Happy cooking, y’all!

Green Tea Soba Noodle Salad

Light, refreshing noodle salad “japonaise”.

This is a little something I whipped up today for my own lunch. The squiggly green things are soba noodles infused with green tea, which accounts for that lovely verdant hue. I’m not really going to get into a deep, well-measured recipe, as I made this dish in an off-the-cuff fashion. But, in short, I’ll describe my method. Try to keep up.

I quickly cooked a handful of smallish peeled-and-deveined shrimp (U-31-35, if you can dig it) in approximately six cups of a quick poaching liquid made up of 70% water and 30% dry white wine with a piece of fennel, two celery stalks, a slice of white onion, a pinch of sugar, and a good amount of kosher salt (think 2 or three tablespoons). Brought it to a boil, added the shrimp, reduced heat and simmered for three minutes. Killed the heat and covered the pot for four or five minutes. I drained the shrimp and dropped them in ice water to cool completely.

While I did all that I also boiled the green tea soba noodles until al dente. I rinsed them in cool water and then drained them. I tossed the cooked noodles with a tiny bit of toasted sesame oil to keep them from sticking together and to impart some of that nutty loveliness into the noodle. I popped the noodles in the fridge for about 30 minutes to cool.

I cut the shrimp into two symmetrical halves lengthwise and chucked them in a big bowl with some of the noodles. I added a little sunflower oil, some daikon radish sprouts, some slivered fresh ginger, a bit of soy, a bit of ponzu, a couple splashes of dashi broth, a nice scattering of sesame seeds, a pinch of sugar, a little salt & pepp, some chopped green onions, a big dose of furikake, and some of these little tempura crunchies I find in the cooler at the Japanese market. I don’t know what they’re called, but I believe they are used as a sort of soup crouton. I like them in salads.

The noodle salad was fantastic! Very refreshing, super-light, and substantial. Perfect for a hot summer day.

Make this dish. If you don’t know some of the words I use above, Google ‘em and figure it out! Happy cooking, y’all!