Monday, May 31, 2010

Donabe smoked whole chicken breast with Dijon mustard

I did donabe smoking dinner the other night again.

My donabe smoker, "Ibushi Gin", is not only gorgeous looking, but also makes the fantastic smoked dishes with the extremely easy preparation.

First, I smoked some baby potatoes. I set the sakura (Japanese cherry blossoms tree) smoke chipes in the bottom of the donabe and smoked the potatoes for about 30 minutes over high heat. This was my first time to smoke the potatoes and I loved it so much! The potato skin gained the elegant smoky aroma.

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For the main dish, I got the whole chicken breast (ribs attached), cut it into half, and seasoned the meat simply with salt and pepper. I set these cuts in the bottom and the middle racks of the donabe smoker. In about 35 minutes (over high heat, 7 minutes without the lid, 10 minutes with the lid on, 18-20 minutes resting after turning off the heat), the deep-colored smoked chicken breast was ready. It was so juicy, smokey, and super fantastic.

Because the flavor of the smoked chicken was so perfectly complete, you don't really need any sauce for this. So, I just served with very simple condiments of lemon wedges and honey Dijon mustard. They complemented the donabe smoked chicken so well.

I love donabe smoking. Happy donabe life.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Super-deep "Akadashi" Udon

I made a very miso-ey miso udon for's inspired by Nagoya's specialty, "Miso-nikomi Udon", for which the firm fresh udon is cooked in the broth based with their local "Hatcho Miso" (very dark color, made only from soybeans, koji, and salt).

For my quick lunch version, I cooked the udon noodles and the broth separately. Here's my recipe. "Akadashi" refers to the dark broth made with "Hatcho Miso".

Quick Akadashi Udon

Ingredients (for 1 serving)
1 cup dashi broth
1 tablespoon sake
1 tablespoon mirin
1.5 tablespoons "Hatcho miso"
soy sauce to taste (optional)
1 serving of udon
some fresh or rehydrated wakame, cut into bite-size pieces
some slices of tofu
soft boiled egg
some sliced scallion
about 1 tbsp of grated ginger
shichimi pepper

1. In a small sauce pan, heat the dashi stock. Add the sake and mirin.
2. Dissolve the miso in the broth. Adjust the flavor by adding a little amount of soy sauce, if necessary. Keep the broth hot.
3. Cook the udon noodle according to the package's instructions.
4. Transfer the drained udon to a noodle bowl. Pour the broth over the noodles.
5. Decorate the surface with the wakame, tofu, egg, scallion, and ginger.
6. Serve with shichimi pepper as a condiment.

Because the broth is based with the dark "Hatcho Miso", the flavor is so deep and it's very satisfying. I loved it very much.

Jean-Marc Morey's Chassagne-Montrachet with Poached Egg

A couple of friends from Paris were in town on business, so we got together for dinner last night. We met at EVA Restaurant. (Their corkage fee is $20/ bottle.) We enjoyed the French/ Japanese inspired California cuisine in the very homey setting.

I brought 2006 Domaine Jean-Marc Morey, Chassagne-Montrachet. He is one of the most reliable traditional producers in Chassagne. The grapes come from the central area of Chassagne. Wild yeast is used for fermentation and about 15% new oak is used for aging. The aroma was already quite complex with the citrus, earth, bread, and subtle spice. The palate was lush with distinctive acidity, minerality, with some spice and lime. Very traditional style. It's a village AOC, but this wine would age for many more years. Jean-Marc's brother is Bernard, and their father is Albert (retired). Jean-Marc's daughter is married to Pierre-Yves, who is a rising star wine maker (Domaine Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey) of Chassagne-Montrachet and the son of Marc Colin. Pierre-Yves's wine style is known for rich and powerful with 100% new French oak aging, which stands almost the opposite end to Jean-Marc's. Eventually, once Jean-Marc retires in the future, his vineyards will be taken over by Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey. So, would it mean we can only enjoy Jean-Marc's traditional style Chassagne for the next several intages...?

I totally enjoyed the mariage of this wine with my appetizer, which was the poached organic egg (garnished with yuzu kosho) with fried chicken and spinach in dashi-based broth (picture on the top). What a lovely dish and lovely combination with the wine.

We also had 2004 Domaine Denis Bachelet, Charmes-Chambertin. The wine was slightly shy in the beginning, but it slowly started to open up. Herbal aroma, wiht spice and earth. Dark berry, some tannins, and smooth palate. Long finish. Very elegant wine. The roasted duck breast paired well with this wonderful Grand Cru.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sunday Wine Supper at Friend's House

Last Sunday, we were invited to our friend's house in Venice for "Sunday wine supper".

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She made the awesome Coq Au Vin and Gratin Dauphinois for the night. They were so delicious and amazing!

There were 6 of us, and we opened 10 fantastic wines!

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2007 Benjamin Leroux, Auxey-Duresses...I feel lucky that I got to taste this superb wine again since last week.
2008 Shibumi Knoll, Chardonnay, Buena Tierra Vineyard, Russian Valley...This was the only "non-Burgundian" wine tonight and was a serious Chardonnay. I was very impressed.
2004 Francois Mikulski, Meursault...Since it's establishment in 1991, Mikulski has become one of the top domaines of Meursault. Very balanced citrus fruit and earthiness.
2007 Domaine Ramonet, Puligny-Montrachet...Although Ramonet is best known for its Chassagne, they make the really outstanding Puligny also. It's still at its youth (obviously), but I was quite blown away by the complete beauty of this "village" Puligny. Ramonet never lets you down.
2000 Domaine Jean-Marc Boillot, Volnay...Great balance of berry fruits, spice, and acidity. Earthy tobacco. It actually did make the very nice mariage with the fresh strawberries.
2006 Domaine Robert Chevillon, Nuits-Saint-Georges...Chevillon is always true to N-S-G. Rich palate, earthy, perfume. Nice balance. Average 40-year-0ld vines, from the parcels right below 1er cru vineyards such as Les Pruliers and Les Proces.
2005 Domaine Chevalier, Ladoix 1er Cru, "Les Corvees"...Since our visit to the domaine, I enjoy Ladoix with higher appreciation. Beautifully smooth and balanced. Cherry, brown butter, spice, wet soil. Very soft and elegant. Very terroir-oriented.
1996 Domaine Denis Mortet, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru, "Laboux St-Jacques"...His wines always have the great aging potential. The wine has developed the nice bouquet and balance after 14 years of aging. Dark cherry, leather, earth, smooth tannins.
2004 Louis Jadot, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru, "Clos Saint-Jacques"...Right next to Laboux St-Jacques 1er Cru. I've been having good luck with 2004 vintages this year (especially from Cote de Nuits) , but this was a bit sleepy tonight. So, I decanted it "Kami no Shizuku" style, but it was still sleepy, although the wine had all the nice elements in it.
1996 Frederic Esmonin, Chambertin-Clos de Beze Grand Cru...Esmonin is one of the top domaines of Gevrey-Chambertin, although they started domaine-bottling only since 1988 (until then, they were selling the grapes to Leroy, Jadot, Drouhin, etc.) Average 40-year-old vine. Fruit is still fresh on the palate. Beautiful balance of cherry, spice, acid, and earthiness.

Wow, we drank so well!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Smokey Bukkake Udon

I made the fantastic decadent-style cold bukkake udon (udon noodles with the sauce poured over it) tonight. Instead of dipping the noodles in the sauce served separately, in this dish, the sauce is poured over the noodles.

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For the main toppings, I made the simple smoked jumbo scallops and eggs in the donabe smoker, "Ibushi Gin". The scallops were sashimi quality, and they looked so gorgeous. I used the sakura (cherry blossoms) tree smoke chips together with some houjicha (roasted green tea). Over high heat on the gas stove, 6 minutes without the lid, 6 minutes with the lid on, and 15 minutes resting off the heat (with the lid on). In such a short time, the amazing smokey scallops and eggs were ready!

Mmm...I love smoking!

The sauce was made in the afternoon (dashi stock, sake, mirin, and soy sauce) and it was chilled in the fridge. Once the udon was boiled, I rinsed the udon in the cold water. In a bowl, I assembled the noodles and sauce, then topped with the fresh wakame seaweed, scallions, grated ginger, smoked jumbo scallops and egg. Wow...really amazing!!

For this dish, I opened 2007 Domaine Marius Delarche, Pernand-Vergelesses. I was quite impressed by this wine. It tasted like a real upscale was like baby Corton. The aroma had the fresh lemon, smokey mineral, earth, and the palate was rich in fruit and minerals. it had the very lush texture and so nicely balanced. The mariage of this wine and my bukkake udon (especially with the smoked scallop) was so outstanding!

Simple dinner is so great.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

This year's Ume-shu (plum liqueur)

It's this time of the year again. I made our homemade "Ume-shu" (so called plum wine...but, it's actually plum liqueur) last week.

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The green plums ("ao-ume") were rinsed, dried under the sun, and the piths were carefully removed. About 2.5 pounds of the plums, 2.5-liter of shochu, and 1.5 pound of rock sugar ("kori-zato") were combined in the 5-liter jar. I made the layers of plum-sugar-plum-sugar-plum-sugar, then carefully poured the shochu over the layers.

Making ume-shu is very easy. You just need the patience until it's ready! Once the mixture is made, you need to keep it in the cool dark storage. You can start tasting it after 6 months, but the flavor is much nicer after 1-3 years.

We are going to taste last year's ume-shu soon. It's just over 1 year.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Donabe smoked country pork ribs

I just love my donabe smoker so much.
With donabe smoker, "Ibushi Gin", I can make wonderful smoked dishes so quick and easy, with the most delicious result.

I got the simple pork country ribs. I seasoned them just with salt, pepper, and some Chinese five-spice. Once the smoke chips were set on the bottom, the pork cuts were laid on the bottom and the middle racks of the donabe smoker. The donabe was set over high heat (gas stove top) for 7 minutes without the lid, 8 minutes with the lid on, then 20 minutes resting off the heat (with the lid on).

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In just 35 minutes (with the minimum work), the juicy smokey pork country ribs were ready. So wonderful! It was so tender and I couldn't stop eating. I served the pork with my first Hiyashi Chuka (Chinese-style cold noodle) of this year with the black vinegar sauce. They were great together.

Happy donabe life.

2005 Meursault En la Barre

Among Burgundy villages, Meursault covers the widest appellation for white. There are about 130 ha. for 1er Cru, and 320 ha(!) for village AOC. So, especially when you choose village Meursault, you need to know which producer/ terroir makes better wine. Because there is a huge terroir variation, some producers make village Meursault under single lieu-dit, without blending grapes between multiple vineyards.

Domaine Froncois & Antoine Jobard makes among the top class lieu-dit Meursault village. I was home alone and thirsty a few nights ago, so I opened their 2005 Meursault "En La Barre". Yes, it's right next to Comte Lafon's "Clos de la Barre" in the north-eastern Meursault. Jobard makes very age-worthy Meursault. (I had their 2000 vintage a few weeks ago and it was fantastic.) 2005 was beautiful golden with the rich and powerful fruits, with the finesse. The character kept changing every 5 minutes, and I was so excited with every sip. It was a great pairing with my "shojin" steam-fry brussels sprouts!

Another famous lieu-dit of Meursault is "Les Narvaux", and it's shared by many prominent producers. This vineyard is situated right above 1er crus, "Genevrieres" and "Poruzots", and grapes from some of its plots are considered to make 1er cru level quality wines.

The following day, I opened 2004 Guy Bocard, Meursault "Les Narvaux". I brought it to our dinner at Canele in Atwater Village. 2004 was not an easy vintage, but the wine had the nicely balanced fruit and acidity. It made a nice pairing with my steamed clams appetizer. Then, after about 20 minutes, the wine started to loose its character and it became kind of tired.

Yet, I was still happy because my roasted leg of lamb (the top picture) was delicious, especially after eating mostly vegan food for the whole past week!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Donabe cooking class report..."Shojin" (Buddhist-style vegan) dishes

Last Saturday was our Donabe & Japanese cooking class. The theme was "Shojin Dishes", which refers to Buddhist-style vegan cuisine. In Japan, shojin-style dishes are part of our traditional cuisine, and many of them are enjoyed at home whether you are vegetarian or meat/ fish lovers. These dishes we make at home in Japan are simply naturally vegan that we don't normally even think about it. We like them because they taste good.

We made 4 dishes in the class...

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Shojin dashi stock. I made the cold infusion of dry shiitake and dashi konbu (dry kelp). After 24 hours, both the color and the aroma were nicely deep. Our first dish was the salad of colorful seaweed and vegetables with miso vinaigrette.

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The second dish was the steam-fry brussels sprouts and tofu skin ("yuba") with the miso sauce. The key was to caramelize the outside of the vegetable before adding the sauce. By this way, the brussels sprouts turned almost "meaty" when the dish was ready! Our tagine-style donabe, "Fukkura-san", did a great job of both caramelizing and steam-frying.

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Japanese "beans and rice"! The rice course was mixed mushrooms rice with the donabe rice cooker, "Kamado-san". We used three kinds of mushrooms (shiitake, enoki, and shimeji), and two kinds of rice (regular short grain and mochi rice). I was so happy that we got the nice crust on the bottom! The soybean stew was simmered in the soup & stew donabe, "Miso-shiru Nabe", in the oven for 40 minutes. With the donabe effect, the beans developed the nice deep flavor.

I was so happy that all of our guests enjoyed the healthy donabe shojin dishes. Some of them commented that they were surprised by the depth and variety of flavors coming from these dishes. I'm looking forward to hosting another shojin class soon!

Here's the menu of last Saturday...(the one thing we did "against" shojin philosophy was we drank sake with the meal;-)

Theme: Shojin (Buddhist-style Vegan) Dishes


Colorful seaweed and vegetables salad with miso vinaigrette


Steam-fried Brussels sprouts and tofu skin in miso sauce


Soybean and vegetable stew


Mixed mushroom rice

Sake Selection

Yamamoto Honke, Kaguyahime, Junmai (Kyoto, Japan)