Friday, January 16, 2009

Duck Dumpling Nabe

Our friend Harris Salat is working on nabe cookbook with Tadashi Ono of Matsuri. We volunteered to be recipe testers. What could be better work? Test the recipe and then eat what we've made!

We had already tested the recipes for Chicken Nabe and Lamb Nabe. Our assignment this time was to make Duck Dumpling Nabe. The recipe called for duck legs for making duck dumplings. When we went to our local butcher, who informed us that they don't sell that particular part of duck by itself. We had to buy a whole duck. Since we didn't want to buy an entire duck, we decided to make the dumplings using duck breast. We bought a piece of duck breast for the dumplings and a duck breast for slicing to cook in the nabe.

Hiroko put the chopped duck breast and seasonings in the blender to chop the meat. She then added buckwheat flour and eggs to the meat and then pulsed the meat into a gooey mixture.

When slicing meat thinly, we've found that freezing the meat beforehand is a great trick and we use it often. After freezing a duck breast she cut it in half, removed the fat, and left the fat on the other half. She then thinly sliced the both.

Next, she boiled the water, konbu, shoyu, and mirin in the nabe pot, scooped up handfuls of the blended seasoned duck mixture and dropped into the boiling liquid. Once these "duck dumplings" floated to surface, she added tofu, negi, hakusai, shirataki, and enoki mushrooms. It was then time to cover the pot with its lid and wait while everything cooked.

The last step was to add Shungiku on the top and the nabe was done.

Once we were at the table, we cooked the thinly sliced duck in the hot nabe and "chowed down." It was delicious! We tried two dramatically different sake with the dish: Denshu Tokubetsu Junmai and Narutotai Ginjo Nama Genshu. With the vegetables and duck dumplings, the Denshu was great match. With thin sliced duck with fat, Narutotai Ginjo Nama Genshu was the perfect match. While we were fortunate to be able to have both to enjoy with each portion of the meal, it isn't necessary to have two sake with this dish!

For shime (the carb of our choice in the end of nabe), we threw in soba and slurped it after it had cooked in the delicious duck-flavored broth. You couldn't find a better dish to have on a chilly winter evening! We can't wait to see this book on the market so that more people can experience the pleasure of eating nabe in their own homes.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Our Happy New Year Tradition

When we awoke on New Year's Day, the weather was sunny, clear, and brisk. We decided that it was perfect for our traditional annual walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.

Although we knew it was cold outside, we didn't know HOW cold it was until we saw the thermometer on the Watchtower billboard adjacent to the bridge which informed us that it was 22 F degrees/ -6 C degrees. Crazy to be walking across the BB in those frigid temperatures you say? If so,we were by no means alone in our insanity! In fact, the bridge was crowded mostly it seemed with tourists eager not to miss this quintessential NYC attraction. Our cheeks were frozen and it became difficult to smile but we managed to muster our best grins for a snapshot taken by one of those friendly tourists.

It wasn't our original plan to continue on to Chinatown, but Hiroko insisted on going to our favorite 5 for $1 Fried Dumpling on Mosco Street. When we got there, the place wasn't crowded and the usual Chinese ladies were efficiently cranking out the dumplings. We purchased two steaming portions, found two stools and joyfully savored our first taste of the New Year.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Toshikoshi Soba (Year End Soba)

Japanese people have custom eating soba (buckwheat noodles) in the end of year. It called Toshikoshi Soba, and eating long noodles will bring a long life. It is a bad luck to not to finish the soba before the New Year. In NY, some Japanese restaurants serve special Toshikoshi Soba and the restaurants are busy accommodating Japanese customers who want to finish eating soba before midnight.

In previous years, we bought dried soba noodle from the Japanese grocery store and cooked it 30 minutes before midnight, slurping the noodles while keeping one eye on the TV as we waited for the ball to drop in Times Square. This year, Hiroko decided to make the soba noodles herself. She studied a soba-making website to learn the ratio of soba flour to water, and how to kneed the dough into the proper consistency for noodles.

Around 11pm, she measured the soba flour and white wheat flour, mixed them together and then sifted the combination. After adding the water to the flour mixture, she quickly formed it into a ball, and began to knead. She wasn't sure how much kneading was needed, but as she looked at the clock, the time was reaching 11:45pm so she started to roll out the dough and cut it into noodle-width slices.

In the end, we found that the noodles were not cut thin enough in that when the noodle was cooked, it looked like a dark brown fettuccine. Nonetheless, we grated some fresh wasabi, and enjoyed theToshikoshi Soba just before the midnight deadline.