Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Non-earthquake related post

Let's talk about cooking in Japan.


I love Japanese food as do most foreigners who visit/live here. Sure, I can't really get behind boiled conch, and sea urchin (urchin is an anagram of 'I churn' for a reason folks). However, there are a plethora of foods to explore that don't make it on the menu of most Japanese restaurants in America such as Okonomiyaki, Kinpira-Goba, Nikujyaga, and Renkon Manju. (note: I'm sure you won't be surprised to hear that Japanese restaurants in the land of the free tend to be a mish-mash of various styles that normally would have a large rice-paper wall between them in Japan. Tonkatsu is at tonkatsu restaurants, gyoza is at ramen shops, sushi is at sushi shops.) In addition we don't even touch the Japanese versions of western foods like fish roe cream sauce pasta or Korean-BBQ topped pizzas (both actually not bad). All this goes to say that as fantastic and occasionally quizzical as the food selection is here, there comes a time when every westerner has a pining for a pizza without mayonnaise and corn, for pasta with meatballs and Italian sausage, for a sandwich served on something other than crust-less white bread. And in such times you turn to your local supermarket and wonder where in the name of sweet baby Jesus can I find cheese in a variety other than "natural", "processed", "pizza", and "toast".

Well, for starters you can go to a gourmet supermarket chain such as Ikari or Daimaru Peacock and be prepared to part with a mind-numbing sum of yen for a block of cheddar that most Americans would have no problem putting un-cut on a single cracker as a 'light snack'

You can also find an $8 dollar jar of olives that doesn't need content labeling because you can easily count the number of olives on your one free hand, or rye bread sold in two slice packages for a mere $1.20 per slice! But such is the price we expats have to pay for a little taste of home (That or go to McDonald's where they are currently serving the 'Miami' burger - which for reasons I can not begin to fathom is nacho-chips and taco meat on top of a cheese burger).

So the other day it was decided that we should try and recreate Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon.
The shopping took about 3 hours in downtown Kobe, and I still am not entirely sure what chunk bacon is, needless to say we did not find it. As for the rest, we came out on top and the good news is that my wallet is much lighter, so that should be good for my back.

What follows is a photo series of our 3 hour Zhivago-esque march into the world of French cooking in tiny spaces with a steam oven.

Tiny Onions - 12 count, $7
2 packs of brown mushrooms, $7

1.5 lbs of beef - very reasonable since it was lean and in Japan, lean is crap (Kobe beef is expensive because it is marbleized, and admittedly it is melt-tastically good, but about $12/100g for the good stuff).

The recipe called for "lardons" of bacon - I don't know what that is, but I suspect it is what the French call Americans behind our back - a portmanteau of Lardass and Moron.

We just used thin-cut pork and I am still alive to tell the tale.

I know it says don't crowd the pan, but maybe we went a bit overboard here...

Meat is done...side note - while looking for recipes online we came across a video on YouTube of some guy describing how to make this dish. When he got to this point in the process he scanned the camera back and forth over the two plates and commented that this would also be a good place to stop - since you have meat and bacon so what more do you really need?
When you are that distracted by a pile of cooked meat, maybe French cooking is not really up your alley. Does this guy even get the milk into the cereal bowl or does the mere sight of Lucky Charms send him into an uncontrolled face-to-box Charmgasm?

Moving on...

Make sure you get that bacon fat on absolutely everything. And Julia probably wouldn't be opposed to adding some more butter here.

If you managed to refrain from scoffing all the meat down, here is where you add the flour, cook, mix and recook to get a nice crust on the meat...or to imagine what beef with cocaine might look like.

At some point we added the wine, but we were also drinking it so we forgot that picture. Although if you need a visual to help understand pouring wine into a pot, you deserve serious props for turning on a computer without help.

Simmer your $7 worth of onions for 50 minutes, or as I like to call it, 1.8 episodes of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

You can finish that second episode while the mushrooms sauté.

Turns out Mac isn't a serial killer...whew!

3 hours later (aka 1 viewing of Exit Through the Gift Shop, and the first half of Murderball) we have learned about street art, paralympic sports, and imperial to metric conversions. Unfortunately the eating will have to wait until the next day as the whole episode took roughly 7 hours and it was past 11PM by the time it was all done.

Bon Appetit!

1 comment:

  1. Dear Nascent Chefs,
    A lardon is a strip or cube of pork fat, usually from salt pork, or chunk bacon (bacon not sliced into strips) that is used to "lard" meat to make it tender. Into a tough cut of meat, you might thread the lardons in before cooking.
    Lardons also can be cooked in a pan to render the pork fat used to saute meat or veggies. You can also use bacon, but I recommend boiling the bacon pieces to lesson the salt content (so does Julia, so I'm not off my nut), drying them before cooking in the recipe.
    Bon Apetit! BTW, how was the result?
    Love mater, your source for all things culinary