October 2017 Homecooking Snapshots: Cauli-Niku-Jaga, Mushroom Rice and Oden

Cauli-Niku-Jaga (my take on Niku-Jaga)

 

Follow me for more recent updates; remember always adjust the seasoning and ingredients according to your own and loved ones’ dietary needs, and the most important ingredients, COOK with LOTS of LOVE and PATIENCE (OO).

One pot suppers season is back in full swing!!

If you have been following my Instagram account you probably notice my claypot has been making a few appearances in my feed since late September…

This month is all about Japanese comfort foods: Matsutake-Chanterelle mushroom rice, Japanese Oden stew and my take on the popular homestyle dish Niku-jaga, which literally means “Meat and potatoes” – I named my dish Cauli-Niku-Jaga (see picture above).

The cooking method for the “jaga” is exactly the same as the making of a regular Niku-jaga with a couple minor tweaks: barley fed pork belly slices were used instead of beef, the addition of two vegetable component : edamame beans and cauliflower florets were added (1-1 cauliflower-potato ratio and about 1 cup of beans);  I have also changed things up a little with the meat stewing process.  To soften meat I usually use orange juice, the usage of sugar to soften the texture of the meat is a more suitable and great tip from Chef Masa from Masa’s ABC Cooking.

Ingredients and Preparation (2-4 people): (Part of Recipe adapted from Masa’s ABC Cooking)

200 grams of thinly sliced pork belly (Sliced in half, marinade in 1 teaspoon of coconut palm sugar(*my preference only) and 1 Tablespoon of sake for 15 to 20 minutes, set aside)

Prepare all the vegetables: 1 onion (medium size, sliced), 4 potatoes (I’ve used medium size creamer potatoes (usually russets are used) – quartered, edges slightly”peeled”*to prevent breaking up while cooking, in Japanese the method is called “mentori”, then soaked in water for 10-15 minutes, drained), cauliflower (florets – about 1 1/2 cups (to your liking, chopped about same size as carrot), 2 medium carrot (peeled and chopped in rolling wedges, size slightly smaller than potatoes because it takes longer to cook),  1 package of shirataki noodles (blanched, rinsed and drained), 1 cup of edamame beans (frozen and shelled – blanched then shocked in cold water, drained and set aside)

Prepare the dashi stock (recipe in my archives or you can use water) – 700 to 800 ml  (I usually make extra just in case I need more, it not available, just use water).

Measure the seasoning: 3-4 Tablespoons Tamari or organic low sodium soy sauce (*can be substituted with regular soy), 3-4 Tablespoons sake, 2 Tablespoons of Mirin, 1 Tablespoon coconut brown sugar (**can be substituted; this is my preference)

Cooking Process all in one:

Over medium high heat, use a large pan (a braiser would be excellent, I used a Japanese donabe) and add 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil (something neutral of your choice –  canola or grape seed oil), saute the pork slices until slightly browned, removed from pan and set aside.

Add slice onions and carrots, saute until they slightly browned.

Add potatoes to the pan, gently mix well with onion and carrots, then add the drained shirataki noodles, continue to saute, make sure the shirataki noodles do not lump together and do not mash the potatoes.

Add dashi stock to pan; make sure you have enough stock to cover all ingredients

Once it comes to a boil, turn the heat down to medium and skim off the scum.  Add seasoning to pan, stir and mix well.  Cover the lid and let ingredients cook for approximately 6 minutes.

Remove the lid then add pork slices, make sure the slices are evenly distributed, then sprinkle the cooked edamame beans. When meat is cooked, taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.   Remove from heat and let it stand for while before serving, the ingredients will absorb the flavours!

***Note: This is the step which I have tweaked to keep the meat tender.  You can watch his original video for his method and wonderful cooking tips (Masa ABC cooking on YouTube )

If you want a thicker sauce, you can turn up the heat and the sauce will reduce if you cook it a little longer.

For this dish the most difficult part would be balancing the sweetness and saltiness; just keep tweaking and you will find the balance to your liking, remember it also depends on what kind of sweetener you are using.  Do not make it overly sweet!

My sources in Vancouver for ingredients: Nikuya Meats (for the pork slices, in Richmond BC),  Sakura-ya (517 East Broadway, Vancouver, BC) and Whole Foods (various locations – for Delta’s Fraserland Farms Creamer potatoes).

 

You know Fall is here when matsutake mushroom (Japanese pine mushroom) becomes available; this year I changed things up a bit and added chanterelle mushrooms, and voila it really works.  Remember back in August 2016 I recommended Food Video Channel (in Mandarin Chinese) on YouTube (also on Wechat, Weibo) ?  Well the chanterelle mushroom mix idea is also from one the videos I watched on that channel, apparently somewhere in Yunnan province chanterelle mushrooms are also available and they usually saute them together with Chinese ham.

It is very difficult to purchase high quality cured ham here in Vancouver; last Fall I experimented with Italian cured pork jowl “guanciale” and lay them underneath the rice, then topped with sliced (torn actually) matsutake (doused with little sake earlier) and the kombu (kelp from the dashi making).  When rice is almost cooked (with approximately 10 minutes remaining), I used organic unsalted  butter to saute the remaining mushrooms then add to the rice cooker and let everything finish cooking together.   It worked beautifully and my family totally loved it.

This year I added the chanterelle mushrooms (thanks to a trip to Vancouver Farmer’s Market I got the fresh chanterelle) to cook with everything else initially in the rice cooker, repeat the same organic butter saute finishing process.  The chanterelle mushrooms were quite difficult to clean, however it added another depth of flavor to the rice and the results were beyond my own expectations.

Because the mushrooms are quite expensive, I use them sparingly.  For 3 cups of rice (I used Haiga rice), I use approximately 1/2 to 1 lb of mushrooms (depends on budget, grade and availability).

I used the rice cooker for convenience because my Zojirushi has the “Mixed Rice” setting; the rice is also cooked in homemade dashi, with the standard soy sauce, mirin and sake seasoning (3-2-1 ratio which works very well – always adjust according to your own taste).

My “hybrid” version (that’s what my friend “mydoctorgreen” called it) tries to retain the nuance of the original concept, keeping things simple without over-seasoning, just adding another layer of flavor to enhance and showcase the star ingredient, the matsutake.  The chanterelle also did not overpower and they co-existed together harmoniously.

Important notes: Remember the guanciale is a little salty so factor that in when tasting.   The rice should be cleaned and soaked prior to cooking; because you are adding mushroom, reduce the water (my experience at least 1/4 less liquid) and the guanciale should be removed before serving.  This mushroom rice simple recipe should work well with shimeji and maitake mushrooms also, be adventurous and experiment.

It tastes as good as it looks (OO).

My source for Matsutake mushroom in Vancouver: Fujiya Japanese Food Store on Clark Drive (East Vancouver).

 

Japanese Oden with Umeboshi flavoring – Recipe adapted from Masa’s ABC Cooking

My Japanese friends taught me how to make oden a long time ago without any specific recipe; just like any regular home cook/hobby chef, sometimes we just make something “on the fly” based on our existing knowledge.  When I try to make a new dish, I like to research a few recipes, apply my own skills and tweak things to our tastes, hence the creation of “hybrid” food (like my cauli-niku-jaga).

I don’t get to make oden very often at home because my husband somehow must have experienced a childhood episode which may have scarred him for life, he finds the idea of having oden repulsive.    Well that being said, I would cook it for myself when he happens to be away on business trips (Ha ><). The most recent creation happened a couple weekends ago when my friends came over for a gathering.

Recently I have been watching Chef Masa’s channel quite a lot; been busy comparing and tweaking my own recipes, learning new tips and applying new techniques.  Changes are also made according to our preference and dietary needs!  The more I study about cooking, the more I love it.

This is what I truly love to do during my down time at home.

I highly recommend you to watch his original video for wonderful cooking tips and methods.

This dish is really great for cold weather and the recipe is good for 2 people, be sure to try it out this winter!

Ingredients and Preparation for Soup base: 500 ml homemade dashi, 2 Tablespoons Sake, 1-2 Tablespoon Mirin (I used 2), 1/2 to 1 Tablespoon tamari (*my preference, use regular soy and don’t add too much because it will darken the soup), 1 teaspoon sugar (**I used coconut palm sugar) and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt.  

Add all the above ingredients in this particular order to the claypot (Japanese donabe), taste and adjust accordingly.

Oden Ingredients and Preparation:

Japanese daikon radish (peeled skin, sliced approximately 4 cm thickness, then use small knife and smooth the edge of the daikon (Mentori method as mentioned and used for the potatoes in previous recipe) – mark an “X” cut in the middle (do not cut through completely), using medium heat, at radish slices to cold water, bring to boil and cook until soften.   While daikon is cooking, prepare the other ingredients.  Check on the daikon periodically, when cooked through and softened, remove from pot gently and set aside.

Enoki Mushroom: 1 small package, ends cut, set aside.

Napa Cabbage : a small one would do, washed, sliced to bite size, blanched, drained.  Lightly squeeze excess water when napa is cool enough to handle.

Japanese firm tofu (approximately half a box, 200 g – slice into squares.  Using medium heat, brush the pan lightly with vegetable oil, sear and brown all sides of the tofu lightly.  It is easier to handle by using a small pair of tongs.

Japanese konjac (konnyaku): 1 small package, cut into square pieces (approximately 2 cm thick),  lightly scored both sides (think Cuttlefish Chinese way, the konjac will absorb the flavor).  Then sliced into triangular pieces.  Parboil konjac in hot water to get rid of the “fishy” taste, set aside.

Kombu (kelp):  The cooked kelp from the dashi making can be added to the oden.  Rinse and lightly scrub off the “sliminess”  without breaking the kelp,  cut into trips and tie into a bow shape.

Chikuwa (tube like fish cake purchased at Japanese food store) stuffed with asparagus: 2 pieces of chikuwa and 2 -4 stalks of asparagus  (ends trimmed, blanched, shocked in ice (to keep color) and stuff inside chikuwa. If the asparagus stalks are really thin, you may need two for each chikuwa).  Slice each chikuwa into 3 pieces, place 3 pieces of chikuwa on each skewer.

Eggs (2 large eggs) – boiled and peeled, set aside.

Lay all ingredients nicely  and get ready to cook in the donabe which you have used to prepare the soup base earlier.

Using medium low heat, keep the soup base in a simmer and add 2 umeboshi (store bought pickled plums – removed the seed);  put the napa cabbage, daikon, cooked egg, konjac, tofu and kombu in this order.  Turn up to medium high heat, cover with lid and cook the ingredients for approximately 4-5 minutes.

Remove the lid (be careful as it will be very hot!), check the ingredients and if necessary, cover again and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove the lid (again be careful) and gently add the chikuwa skewers and enoki mushrooms. cover again and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.

The Delicious oden should be ready…once you open the lid,  steam will come through and you will see a nice bubbling action;  hear a “bub bub bub bub bub” bubbling sound…and smell a whiff of the pickled plums flavor….

**My Verdict: Chef Masa‘s idea of adding umeboshi to the soup base adds freshness and slight “tartness” which my friends and I enjoyed immensely.  This is such a wonderful idea which I am trying to work into other recipes.    Thank you Chef Masa for all your cooking tips!

Notes:

In the video he made Japanese napa cabbage rolls; I didn’t want any meat in this dish so I did not replicate the recipe.  The cooking time will definitely be slightly longer if you include the cabbage rolls.  Other fish cakes (can be purchased at Japanese deli) and Mochi bags (kinchaku – mochi stuffed in fried tofu skin) are great oden ingredients.  I avoid eating processed foods so I may skip the chikuwa next time.

I have a bigger size donabe so I was able to cook more ingredients at the same time, and I prepared more dashi.

**Potatoes and Daikon have sharp edges which need to be removed before cooking, otherwise when the pieces cook together in the pot, they will start rubbing and it will cause breakage.  The method is called “mentori”.

My sources in Vancouver: Fujiya (Japanese food store on Clark Drive in East Vancouver), Sakura-ya (East Broadway and Fraser in East Vancouver).

 

 

 

 

November 2016: Comfort at Home

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Stanley Park – Late October….I Love Vancouver

As the holiday season is quickly approaching, we all tend to shift our already busy schedules into complete overdrive.

I yearn for slower pace to rest, and crave comfort foods and quiet times to reflect.

This November I stay put at home in Vancouver, taking my time to try new recipes, going around my favourite city to see what it has to offer.

Follow me on Instagram (@mygoldenapron) for updates (OO) ;  tune in on November 30th 1030am sharp on Fairchild 1470 Ms. Deborah Moore’s program, we will be chatting about food and much more…

Official store opening: Ai and Om: Thank you very much!

At the end of October I was invited to the official grand opening of “Ai and Om”, the amazing artisan knife store located in Vancouver Chinatown, a big thank you to Chef and owner Douglas Chan and Ms. Katharine Manson for the invite!  After I talked about my “beloved” nakiri knife on the radio show, I have received emails inquiring about their products and sharpening services/classes,  please contact them directly at info@aiandomknives.com or better yet, pay them a visit (129 East Pender Street, Vancouver, BC).

ai-and-om

http://www.aiandomknives.ca

Shop Local:

I’ve always been a big supporter of local businesses in Vancouver BC; here’s the link to what I’ve talked about this morning on the radio show:

http://bcbuylocal.com/

 

Old School Ramen: Larmen!  @ Shibuyatei 

Chef Sato’s humble restaurant has been operating in Richmond for 5 years, hidden at the corner of Sexmith Road and Bridgeport (very close to Costco).  It is a very small operation (limited seating and the two times I went he’s the only one working) so the wait could be long but worthwhile to try this delicate, clean and flavorful broth, which is very different from all other choices available in Vancouver.  I had the spicy clam ramen (he calls it “larmen”) which came in the right hot temperature, perfect for a cold winter day. There is also a limited supply: 20 bowls for lunch and dinner every day.   Save room for the gyoza; my hubby had the katsu curry (fried pork chop with Japanese curry) and it was very tasty also.   Chef Sato is very serious about his craft, he talked about it so passionately and it clearly shows in his food.  Bravo for his dedication, as a home cook, I am inspired to work harder to hone my skills.

Shibuyatei: 2971 Sexsmith Road, Richmond, BC (corner of Sexsmith and Bridgeport Road, parking on the street).

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Spicy Clam Ramen (Larmen – Chef Sato calls it on menu) – Clean tasting shoyu based broth, no msg…perfect “hot” temperature…perfect for a cold winter day

Japanese inspired Vegetarian cafe: Workshop Vegetarian

Pictures of this quaint cafe are popping up on Instagram constantly, I had to drive out to North Vancouver (296 Pemberton Avenue (at Marine Drive) to see what it is all about !  Their motto is serving healthy vegetarian dishes, with vegan options available.  We shared three things from their menu: the smashed avocado toast on their house baked organic natural yeast bread, organic “nama” shoyu ramen and the Kyoto style udon:  My favourite is the toast, the noodle soups are very clean tasting and flavorful,  I didn’t have room to try their baked goods so we will go back for another visit sometime!

http://theworkshopvegetariancafe.com/

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Smashed Avocado on organic natural yeast bread: the texture of the bread reminded me of foccacia, the smash has a hint of tartness which I enjoyed a lot!
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Nama Ramen: Mushroom broth with hint of truffle shallot oil
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Kyoto style udon with tofu, mushroom and egg – light and clean tasting broth

Pizzette Lunch at Famoso Neopolitan Pizzeria on Commercial Drive

Once in a while I do love to have pizza our favourite is Zachary’s at Oak and 16th); we have walked by Famoso (1380 Commercial Drive (at Kitchener))many times and it is always very busy! Finally last Saturday we got in for lunch.  I had absolutely no idea this is actually a chain across Canada (I always root for the independents) and I was pleasantly surprised!  My hubby and I both ordered our own pizzette (7 inch small pizza) lunch which comes with either soup or salad, and I added a tomato bisque, cold rainy day calls for soup!  I love thin crusted pizzas which is not too heavily loaded, theirs is just perfect to my liking; and the tomato soup, served with a spoonful of ricotta cheese was rustic and hearty.  Service was upbeat and friendly, we now know another good place in one of our favourite neighbourhoods.

http://www.famoso.ca

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Mushroom pizzette!
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Tomato bisque – Hearty and Satisfying!

Comfort Foods at Home: Old recipes and new experiment (recipes coming soon: vegetarian friendly)

Cooking and Resting Lots at home…

My sources in Vancouver: Seafood City (Granville Island), Artisan Sake Maker at Granville Island (Osake), Vancouver Farmers Market (now Winter Market at Nat bailey is on), Fujiya Japanese food store (Clark Drive),  Vancouver Island Salt Company (sea salt available at various locations), Bread Affair (bakery at Granville Island, also available at grocery stores).

Japanese Corn Potage: this no dairy recipe is still one of my favourites (recipe published March 2014 – check the archives) to make once in a while.

japanese-corn-potage

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Roasted Butternut squash red miso shimeji napa cabbage udon – a keeper for winter!

 

 

 

New experiment: Roasted Butternut squash miso soup with shimeji mushroom and napa cabbage udon (new recipe coming) – it takes a little time but worthwhile!  I used the turkey carcass to make the base stock (bonito flake/kombu dashi or just kombu dashi (for vegetarians) work just as well), roasted the butternut squash, sauteed the onions, added to stock and pureed to make the soup. Add little olive oil and the red miso paste to soup pot, add and sauteed shimeji mushrooms and cabbage, then add soup to pot.   Udon cooked separately and put in bowls, ladle soup to serve, garnish with green onions.

When Japanese meets Italian: Roasted asparagus soup with homemade anchovy croutons and there is no dairy?  A couple spoonful of Japanese rice (other than potato) will do the trick and give the creaminess which we all love. Inspiration came from recipe by Joy Manning on Food and Wine and Basho Cafe (another of my favourite in Vancouver); I made this vegetarian (kombu based dashi) except the croutons which I used anchovies as flavouring (sourdough bread seasoned with seasalt, olive oil), this pureed soup is creamy in texture yet light, perfect for light supper or lunch.

asparagus-soup

Last but not least…..Snapper Hot Pot Rice: snapper bones used to make stock (roasted bones, daikon, green onion, sake kasu, bonito flake/kombu dashi, small pork shank – at least 1 1/2 hours) then strained set aside, fish filet (by the fishmonger, my favourite Seafood City) and pin bones removed (I did myself at home),  Japanese Haiga rice used for this dish, cleaned and soaked for 30 minutes prior to cooking. Seasoning (shiro shoyu/mirin/sake 3/2/1 ratio) added to rice in nabe and stir evenly, I added enoki mushroom (one thin layer) then the kombu (from stock making), slices of lemon), medium heat to cook rice stove top.  Around the 9 minute mark, check the liquid (make sure it’s not all dried out) and add the fish filet on top, and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes until it’s done, the fish will remain very moist and tender.  Remove from heat, remove kombu, lemon slices, flake the fish and serve with mitsuba (Japanese parsley), grated lemon zest and a touch of sansho (Japanese ground pepper), and a drizzle of homemade ponzu (dashi/soy/sake/mirin and lemon juice).

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Voila! Snapper Nabe Rice
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Fish flaked and served with chopped Japanese parsley, grated lemon zest and sansho ground pepper

 

 

 

RECIPE: Wafu Kabocha Soup (Japanese Pumpkin Soup with Toasted Seaweed)

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RRRRRR…It’s only mid-November yet it feels like we are already “deep” into the winter season; it might be chilly but I am not complaining as we have enjoyed some fine sunny days, which is quite unusual here in Vancouver…

So out come the Dutch oven and my Blender as Hearty Soup season is in full swing!

We don’t have kabocha very often in our household as it is not Andy’s favorite, I cooked it only once in a while for my own enjoyment, prepared either in Japanese (simmered in dashi and soy) or Chinese way (stewed with pork and soy).

I was so inspired by my friend Haruko’s creation; she made the most delicious and elegant version by keeping things simple, using fresh in-season ingredients (kabocha, onion, homemade chicken stock, milk)  and let them shine; I feel this is always the best way to cook.

I decided to incorporate my favourite “Wafu” style (yes again) into this recipe; the idea of the toasted nori came from Canadian food blogger “The First Mess”; she adapted the kabocha + chestnut soup recipe from Amy Chaplin’s cookbook ” At Home In the Whole Food Kitchen”, this cookbook is on my Christmas wishlist…any takers?? (OO)

Ingredients: (serves 2 – 4)

1 medium size kabocha, seeded, peeled, chopped into small cubes, 1 large yellow onion (thinly sliced), 2 garlic cloves (thinly sliced), 1 Tablespoon sake kasu (optional), 2 Tablespoon olive oil, 3 1/2 cups Japanese dashi broth*, 1 to 1 1/2 cups regular almond milk, 2 teaspoons Japanese mirin, 1-2 Tablespoons organic soy sauce, sea salt and freshly ground pepper for seasoning to taste, nori seaweed (**optional, toasted for garnish). 

Preparation:

– Prepare the kabocha squash: sliced it open into two halves. Remove the seeds, then cut into thin wedges; remove the skin then cut them into small even pieces

– Prepare the onion: peel and slice thinly

– In a 4 quart pot reheat the dashi broth, bring to a boil, lower heat and keep it simmering (if you are using pre-packaged dashi powder, prepare the stock according to instructions on package)

– Using a different heavy pot, heat the olive oil using medium high heat.  Add the onions and saute until they become soft and golden (6-8 minutes), add the sliced garlic and saute until it becomes fragrant.

– Add the kabocha to the same pot, add 1 teaspoon mirin and gently mix all ingredients; add reheated dashi broth, 1 Tablespoon of sake kasu and bring mixture to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat (medium low) and simmer until kabocha is tender (you can use a fork to test the texture), approximately 20 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, skim off any scums.

– While soup is simmering, prepare the nori – remove from package, lightly brush them with olive oil/mirin (1:1 ratio) mixture. Using medium low heat, place seaweed on small fry pan and toast them lightly using dry heat. The seaweed should be toasted on both sides, be very careful not to overheat and burn them.  Set aside.

– Using an upright blender, working in small batches, process and puree the soup until smooth (be mindful to fill blender jar less than half way). To prevent the liquid from splattering, remember to allow heat to escape by removing the blender’s lid centre insert (cap), hold a kitchen towel over the top when blending.

– Return puree soup to stock pot, over low heat, stir in the almond milk slowly till mixture is combined, do not let the soup boil.

– Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.

–  To serve: ladle soup in bowls and garnish with toasted nori.

*Notes:

Dashi is a fundamental ingredient to many Japanese dishes; it is used in miso soups, noodle soup, stews (oden) and sauces.

For your convenience, you can purchase the instant bonito stock packages which are readily available at Japanese food stores, and follow the instructions.

I choose to make my own awase dashi (basic stock) on a regular basis as I used it quite often as a substitute in many recipes. It is a combination of kombu (kelp) and katsuobushi (bonito flakes) and I have been using the recipe from Practical Japanese Cooking (by Shizuo Tsuji and Koichiro Hata) ; you can also find recipes available online.

You can substitute dashi broth with either vegetable stock or kombu stock (without the bonito flakes) to make the soup a completely vegetarian dish, or use chicken stock.

Sake kasu is optional, it adds lots of flavour to soups and stocks.  In Vancouver you can purchase at Fujiya Japanese Food Store or Artisan Sake Maker (Osake) in Granville Island.  

Always taste and change the ingredients according to your liking and dietary needs.

Here are links to other versions of kabocha soup:

http://www.thefirstmess.com/2014/10/29/vegan-kabocha-squash-chestnut-soup-kale-sesame-leaves-recipe/

http://www.justonecookbook.com/recipes/kabocha-squash-soup/

Wafu “French” Onion Soup

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Bon Appetite!

I love soups; I basically can have soup every day as a meal especially during the Fall and Winter season. This idea came from a wonderful Japanese soup cookbook, I’ve combined the recipe (and translated into English) with some elements from a classic French onion soup preparation; the base is made with Japanese soup stock (dashi) which is a great option for non-beef eaters; Japanese rice cake is used instead of classic baguette toasts. You will be pleasantly surprised…Enjoy (OO)!

Ingredients (serves 2 as a hearty meal, 4 as a starter)

Two medium size yellow onions (thinly sliced), 1 teaspoon unsalted organic butter, 2 teaspoon olive oil, 1 bay leaf, Japanese mochi (store-bought packaged rice cake – 2 to 4), Gruyère cheese (finely grated – 1 to 2 Tablespoons), 4 cups dashi (I made my own using kombu (kelp) and katsuobushi (bonito flakes), can use instant bonito stock packages), Japanese sake 2 Tablespoon, 2 Tablespoon organic soy sauce, pinch of sea salt and ground black pepper to taste

***see my June 16th ” Napa Shiitake Mushroom Tomato Soup” notes on Japanese soup stock (dashi)

Preparation:

– In a 6 quart pot over medium heat, melt butter and add olive oil.  Stir in the onions and season lightly with sea salt and few grinds of black pepper.

– Reduce to low heat, press a piece of foil onto the onions to cover them completely and cover the pot with the lid.  Stir occasionally (lift the foil) and cook until the onions are very soft but not falling apart, it takes approximately 30 to 40 minutes.  Remove the lid and foil, raise the heat to medium high and add Japanese sake (rice wine), gently stir often and cook onions until they are deeply browned (not burnt), approximately 10 minutes.

– Over medium high heat, add dashi broth, soy sauce and bay leaf to the caramelized onions and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes to blend the flavours. Discard the bay leaf, season to taste with sea salt and black pepper.

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Soup is Simmering and Flavours developing!

– While soup is simmering, prepare the Japanese mochi – remove rice cake from individual packages, using a paring knife, make a small “slit” (or X mark) in the middle of each rice cake.

Fill the saucepan (make sure it’s big enough for 2 to 4 mochi and there’s enough room they won’t stick together) with cold water, submerge the mochi and turn on the heat to medium high. Gently stir and move the rice cakes around to ensure they don’t stick to the pan.  Once the water comes to a boil, turn the heat to medium low and let it simmer for a couple minutes.  Take them out when they begin to melt.

– Place the rice cakes in shallow baking dish and be sure to allow sufficient space between them without touching (the rice cake will expand as it bakes in the oven). Sprinkle the grated Gruyère cheese over the rice cakes,  place baking dish in oven, position the rack from the broiler and heat broiler to high. At this point you have to be very careful not to burn them; keep very close watch and after a while they will start to puff, broil until they are browned and bubbly. Remove from oven.

– Ladle the hot soup in each bowl and gently place baked rice cake on top. Serve immediately.

Notes:

– The soup can be made up to 2 days ahead and store in refrigerator; reheat soup and bake Japanese rice cake when ready to serve.

– You can find the rice cakes at Japanese food stores; in Vancouver, my go to place is Fujiya (912 Clark Drive, Vancouver, BC ).

– As always taste the dish while you’re cooking and adjust the seasoning according to your own taste and dietary requirements. For cheese lovers, be generous with the Gruyère!  I bought my aged Gruyère from one of my favourite stores, Les Amis Du Fromage (843 East Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC).

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Packaged Rice Cake