September 25, 2016

Oyakodon: Japanese Chicken & Egg Rice Bowl

Oyakodon, or "parent-child rice bowl" (in reference to the use of both chicken and egg in the same dish) is a beloved Japanese comfort food. It is simple food, quickly and easily prepared, packed with protein and satisfaction. It is also cooked without any additional fat, which means it doesn't taste or feel heavy.

It can be a wetter or drier dish, but in all the different oyakodon I've eaten over the years, the biggest point of variation that I've encountered is the amount of onions used. But, like many recipes that are based on loose formulae, you can really make your own decision about the relative levels of pretty much all of the ingredients, so once you know the basic formula and general ingredients, you can make it however you like. I like a moderate amount of onions and I add fresh ginger to mine, which isn't exactly canon, but goes beautifully.

This dish can also be halved for a simple supper for one.


2 servings

2 cups hot, cooked Japanese rice

1 uncooked chicken breast or 2 chicken thighs
1 small-to-medium yellow onion
3 coins of fresh ginger
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1-2 tablespoons less-sodium Japanese soy sauce
1 tablespoon mirin
2 tablespoons sake
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 cup vegetable stock (you can also use dashi, kombu stock)
1 green onion
Togarashi pepper blend, to taste

Peel and halve the yellow onion, and slice thinly lengthwise. Stack the ginger coins, and slice them into thin slivers. Clean the green onion, and slice it thinly on a steep angle. Slice the chicken breast horizontally into two filets, and slice those crosswise into strips.

In a shallow skillet over moderate heat, heat the stock with the sugar, mirin, saki, and soy sauce. Add the sliced yellow onion and the ginger slices, and push them down into the broth. Once the onions are translucent and a little of the broth has cooked down, add the chicken strips, and push them down into the broth. Cook the chicken for about five to seven minutes or until just cooked through.

Add the beaten eggs in a thin stream, pouring them evenly around the chicken in the skillet, pop the lid on for about 30 seconds until the eggs are just set, during which time you can divide the rice between two bowls. Using a large serving spoon, slide the chicken, onions, and eggs out of the skillet overtop the rice. Pour a little or a lot of the broth around the edges of the bowl to bring extra flavour to the rice.

Top each bowl with green onion and a sprinkle of Togarashi, and serve (I also added some toasted sesame seeds).

Traditionally, the egg is added at the very last minute (into the individual bowls, even), and cooked solely by the heat of the broth, chicken and rice, but I prefer to let the eggs set a bit more. If you're not sure how safe your eggs are to consume raw, definitely cook them through.

September 17, 2016

Biscuit Brats

Germany doesn't seem to have much in the way of sausage rolls, despite their willingness to incorporate sausages into almost every other part of the cuisine. There are various bread-y Stangen ("rods" or "poles") which might contain a more wiener-style sausage as a sort of topping, and the less common Geflügel Rolle ("Poultry Roll"), which actually comes closest, I guess, while also managing to be completely different.

Normally when I make sausage rolls, I use puff pastry. While that is definitely an option here - either housemade rough-puff or purchased from the refrigerator section of the supermarket, I wanted something that I could knock together at a moment's notice without a trip to the store. Since I frequently have some bratwurst on hand, and almost always have the necessary components for making biscuits, I found it logical to combine them. These are the results of my first foray.

I note that I started with wide, uncooked bratwurst, but I would either switch to narrower sausages or pre-cook them next time to avoid oven-time past the point of the biscuit being cooked, to avoid any toughening of the exterior.

Biscuit Brats

500 grams fresh bratwurst
2 cups all purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (eg. Kosher or sea salt)
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup butter
3/4 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 220 C/ 450 F.

Take a sharp knife and run it down the length of each sausage, slicing just through the casing. Carefully peel the cases away and discard. The sausages should retain their shape and integrity. If you're going to precook the sausages (probably a good idea if you're using thick ones), you can do it now, by sautéing them gently over medium heat until barely cooked through. Put them aside to cool while you make the biscuit dough.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients - to be fair, I don't really sift, I aerate them with a whisk, but do whichever pleases you most. Using a pastry-blender or a fork (and a lot of patience), cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly and the little lumps of fat are about corn-kernel sized.

Create a well in the middle of the mixture and pour the milk in all at once. Hold the bowl steady and, using a fork, stir rapidly and briefly until the dough comes together in a ragged mass. Quickly dump it out onto a clean counter, and knead very lightly and briefly until all the flour is incorporated. You may need to add a little extra flour, but probably not. Go cautiously - too much flour makes tough biscuits.

Pat out the dough into a rectangle, and then roll with a rolling pin or bottle to get a dough that is about a centimetre thick. Lay one of the sausages along the edge to mark the length, and slice the dough accordingly. Roll the sausage along the dough to see where to cut it to make an exact cylinder of biscuit dough to surround the sausage. Cut the dough, and either use it as a template for the other sausages, or repeat with each sausage. If you have any leftover dough, you can simply cut it into rough biscuit shapes, and cook them alongside.

Lay the sausages in the middle of the squares of biscuit dough. If you want to get fancy and add some additional seasonings - a bit of curry powder, or cayenne, perhaps? - sprinkle it over the sausages now. Wrap the dough carefully around each sausage, pressing the seam gently to make sure it doesn't separate while cooking.

(You can see which one has cayenne, here)

Place the rolls on an ungreased cookie-sheet and bake for 15 minutes (may need 10 min longer if starting with large, raw sausages), or until they have gotten tall and golden. Serve with a bit of mustard, or ketchup (regular or curry) if that's your thing.

These are very filling, and make an excellent lunchbox item.

September 03, 2016

Curried Spaghetti with Prawns

This dish is essentially a hybrid other recipes, which came together as I was fondly recollecting the kind of curried pasta that was always on the menu of a certain kind of casual Canadian-Italian restaurant in the late 1980s. That said, this one owes most of its technique to Nigella Lawson's Lone Linguine with White Truffle Oil, although my proposed serving size is smaller than hers by half. So by all means, go ahead and add a couple of slices of your favourite garlic toast.

You could also use fresh spinach in place of the arugula, of course, but I like the peppery bite of the arugula against the richness of the sauce. A glass of Pinot Grigio goes remarkably well with this, too, if you're so inclined.

It's really fast to make. Basically, in just the amount of time it takes to boil the water, cook the pasta, and toss it all together, dinner is ready. Perfect weeknight fare.

You can use whatever kind of curry powder you like, or blend your own. I’ve used a hot Indian curry powder, but Madras would be nice, or even a Caribbean curry blend.

Curried Spaghetti with Prawns

Serves 2

112 grams spaghetti
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons whipping cream
3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp curry powder
1 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided
225 grams raw prawns or large shrimp, deshelled
1 1/2 cups arugula

Set a pot of water (for pasta) to boil over medium-high heat.

For the prawns, rinse them well under cool water and let defrost in a bowl of cool water until they regain their flexibility. Drain thoroughly, and pat dry with a paper towel (they should not go into the skillet wet).

Salt the now-boiling water and add the pasta. Cook al dente or to taste. That's about 10 minutes for the spaghetti I have at hand, but check your packaging. If you're serving garlic bread, make sure it's already underway by this point.

While the pasta cooks, whisk together the egg, cream, Parmesan, and curry powder in a small mixing bowl. If your curry powder is salt-free, you may wish to add a pinch of sea salt.

Wash the arugula and shake off excess water; no need to spin it dry.

Just before the pasta is ready, heat a large skillet over high heat, and add a tablespoon of the butter, swirling until it foams out and the pan is thoroughly hot. Note: Don’t put all the prawns in the skillet at once, or they will steam, not sauté. Add half the prawns to start, scattered around the pan, then wait a few seconds before adding the rest. Sauté the drained and dried prawns briefly over high heat until just opaque, and then lay the arugula overtop to wilt. Turn off the heat under the skillet.

When the pasta is ready, remove 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water and reserve (you won’t need all of it, though). I use a glass measuring cup to do this, but a clean mug will do. Drain the rest of the water.

Add the drained pasta to the skillet, on top of the arugula, and then add the remaining half-tablespoon of butter. Toss well with a pasta fork and a spatula, or a couple of forks.

Add about a tablespoon of the reserved, hot pasta-water to the egg mixture, and whisk it well. Then add the egg mixture to the skillet all at once, and stir and toss until that the pasta becomes lightly coated with the sauce, and the sauce becomes smooth (because the Parmesan will have melted, and the egg thickened). This takes only a couple of minutes, max. Taste to see if it needs any salt and adjust as needed. It is important to do this off the heat, or you will end up with scrambled eggs instead of a silky sauce. Still tasty, but *shrugs* not quite as good texturally.

Transfer to plates or bowls and serve immediately.