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Chawanmushi – Japanese Steamed Egg


(serves 5)
Chawanmushi is a steamed egg custard commonly served in Japanese Cuisine. Unlike its Western counterparts, it is a savoury custard. A variety of bite sized food items are burried within the custard, given it a subtle meaty flavour that lingers in the mouth. Chawanmushi contains no milk or cream, giving it a light and delicate texture that is as smooth as tofu. It can be served as an appetizer in any meal, formal or casual, making it a very versatile dish.
 
Main Ingredients ChawanMushi
  1. Eggs (3)
  2. Mirin
  3. Sake
  4. Hon Dashi
  5. Soya Sauce

Other (Optional) Ingredients

  1. Chicken
  2. Shrimp
  3. Kamaboko (fish cake)
  4. Shiitake (mushroom)
  5. Carrot
  6. Ginko Nuts

Preparation DobinmushiCM Ingredients

  1. First we start by making the dobin mushi, which is a stock with bits of meat and vegetables in it. You can basically use any kind of ingredients but I’ll assume you are using the ingredients listed in the photo.
  2. Marinate 5 finger tip sized pieces of chicken and 5 small shrimp in 2T mirin and 1t soya sauce.
  3. Slice a large fresh (i.e. not dried) shiitake mushroom into 5 segments. Cut 5 thin slices of carrot and 5 slices of fish cake.
  4. Bring to a strong boil 1.75 cups of water with 1 heaped T of hon dashi pellets.
  5. Add all the cut and marinated ingredients into the pot, including the marinade. Give it a quick stir and immediately turn off the fire. Leave covered for five minutes.

You may do everything in part I ahead of time

Preparation Chawanmushi

  1. Beat 3 eggs in a pitcher with 2T sake.
  2. When the dashi stock has cooled, fish out all the boiled ingredients and distribute them equally into the tea cups.
  3. Pour the dashi into the pitcher, mixing it well with the egg.
  4. From the pitcher, pour the custard mixture through a strainer into the cups. Don’t fill the cups beyond 85% of their capacity.
  5. Add a cup of water into a large pot with a steaming rack. In any case, ensure that the water does not reach up the rack.
  6. Arrange the cups onto the rack with their covers on. Bring the water to a boil with the (pot) cover off. This serves to warm up the custard a bit.
  7. When the water is boiling, cover the pot and leave on a low simmer for 10 minutes. Leave the pot covered with heat off for a further 5 minutes for custard to firm up.
  8. Serve hot in the original cups, covers still on and with a tea spoon. It is normal for a small amount of dashi(soup) to remain after the chawanmushi is cooked.

Notes

  • ‘Chawan’ means tea cup while ‘Mushi’ means steamed, so chawanmushi translates as ‘steamed cup (of egg)’. Similarly, ‘Dobin’ means teapot and dobinmushi transalates as ‘steamed teapot (of soup)’. It is not an intermediate ingredient but a distinct soup in itself; note the version here is not the way to make a proper dobinmushi. 
  • If you don’t have tea cups with covers, you can just use a double sheet of foil which you crumple snugly over the top of each cup seperately. The cups should however be the oriental type made of thick porcelain. 
  • Do not leave the cups uncovered; condensate will mar the custard surface while the chawanmushi will get cooked unevenly.
  • It is very important to strain the custard mixture. Do not skip this step or there will be bubbles in the chawanmushi. There will also be sediment from the stock and also bits of egg white which do not steam well.
  • If you like, you can put various decorative or fragrant items on the chawanmushi surface immediately after it is steamed, like a perilla leaf or a slice of kamaboko. 
  • If you can’t get some of the other ingredients listed at the beginning that’s ok; you can substitute anything you like as long as you follow these guidelines:
    • it is small (like a ginko nut) 
    • it doesn’t bleed colour (portobello for example stains the custard)
    • it doesn’t have too strong a taste (fisk ok, lamb not so much)
 
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Posted by on January 8, 2014 in Appetizers, Japanese, Poultry, Recipe, Seafood

 

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Claypot Chicken Rice – Rice Cooker version


(serves 3)
Claypot Chicken Rice is Cantonese comfort food classic where rice is flavoured with chicken and sweet soya sauce. Traditionally, Claypot Chicken Rice is cooked in a claypot as the name implies but in modern times it is very often cooked in a rice cooker at home so it is done perfectly every time. The recipe is somewhat special in that the rice and chicken are cooked separately, and then again together. Additional items used to flavour the rice are fragrant Chinese sausages and Shiitake mushrooms. The chicken is tenderized with bicarbonate of soda, making it super tender and juicy. 
 
Ingredients Claypot-style Chicken Rice
  1. Chicken Thigh & Leg (1)
  2. Red Chinese Sausage (2)
  3. Brown Chinese Sausage (2)
  4. Dried Shiitake Mushrooms (4)
  5. Raw Jasmine Rice (1.5 cups)
  6. Minced Ginger (2t)
  7. Dark Soya Sauce
  8. Chinese Wine
  9. Vinegar
  10. Sesame Oil
  11. Coriander Seed Powder
  12. Corn Starch
  13. Bicarbonate of Soda

Preparation Part I

  1. Debone the chicken leg and cut it into bite sized chunks, You can leave the skin on. Marinate in 3T of water, 2T soya sauce, 1T sesame oil, 1T Chinese wine, 2t corn starch, 1t sugar, and 0.5t bicarbonate.
  2. Soak 4 shiitake mushrooms in 1 cup of cool water plus 2T soya sauce and 1T sugar. Midway through the soaking, snip off the stems and discard them.
  3. Cut off the tip of the sausages with the string attached and slice them into 1/3 inch pieces.
  4. Rinse the raw rice a few times it in the detachable rice cooker pot. Add 90% of the amount of water you would normally use. Mix in the sausage pieces and set to cook as per normal. Use Jasmine Rice or any other type of long grained rice.
  5. After an hour has passed since step 1, and the rice cooker has gone to ‘keep warm’ mode, add 1T of vinegar to the chicken and mix well.
  6. Cut the mushrooms in the quarters and coarsely mince 2t of ginger while the vinegar neutralizes the sodium bicarbonate.
  7. Fry the ginger in 3T of vegetable oil in a pan. After the oil has been splattering for 30 seconds turn up the heat and add the chicken plus marinade. Stir fry the chicken, the idea is to get the chicken pieces glazed.
  8. Next, add the mushrooms, including the soaking liquid. Simmer on medium until the liquid is reduced by half. Sprinkle in 1t white pepper and 1t coriander seed powder.
  9. Arrange the contents of the pan on top of the rice inside the rice cooker (see picture below). Sprinkle all the remaining liquid from the pan over the chicken in the rice cooker evenly.
  10. Set the rice cooker to cook a second time. When it returns to ‘keep warm’ mode again, your chicken rice will be done. You can make your claypot chicken rice well ahead of time and reheat with the ‘keep warm’ function of your rice cooker.

Notes CP Chicken Cook

  • Chinese sausages should be easy to find in any Chinatown. If you really hate liver, use 4 red sausages instead. If you can’t find any, use Chorizo as a substitute for the red sausages and use braunschweiger (i.e. liverwurst) for the brown ones. They will be different in size to the Chinese sausages, so adjust the quantity accordingly. For reference, a Chinese sausage is 6 inches long and 3/4 inch in diameter.
  • If you have one of those rice cookers with fuzzy logic and all kinds of settings, just use the simplest one- usually labelled as ‘quick cook’ or something similar.
  • If you don’t have a rice cooker, it will be very difficult to cook this in a metal pot so I suggest you don’t try. The rice gets burnt very easily.
  • If you like this recipe, have a look at my Oyakodon recipe, which is the Japanese version of chicken rice. 
 
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Posted by on July 23, 2013 in Main Courses, Oriental, Poultry, Recipe

 

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The Dried Mushrooms Page


Dried Mushrooms are considered to be delicacies around the world. They are one of the few classes of food that actually taste better after preservation. It’s very easy to bring dried mushrooms back to life, you simply have to soak them in water. Originally mushrooms were only dried as a means of preserving them but today dried mushrooms have become a culinary class in their own right. They are indispensable in certain recipes where fresh mushrooms simply can’t do the job. In this post I will cover the gourmet dried mushroom varieties, namely: Morel, Porcini and Shiitake.

There are three reasons why dried mushrooms are prized in the kitchen. Firstly, the dessication process somehow transforms the slightly bitter taste of mushrooms into a nice umami flavour, that fifth taste which tricks the brain into thinking there is meat present. The taste and aroma of the mushrooms is also intensified. This makes dried mushrooms great for vegetarian dishes. Secondly, a by-product of using dried mushrooms is the tasty soaking liquid which can be used to flavour soup, rice, batter, pasta or anything else that requires water. Thirdly, specific taste can also be infused directly into dried mushrooms by adding herbs, sugar, soya sauce, mirin or whatever else you fancy to the water the mushrooms are soaked in.

Once the packaging is opened, extend the life of your dried mushrooms almost indefinitely by keeping them in the fridge. While they won’t spoil in the fridge, it is still important to store them in air-tight containers as otherwise they will lose their aroma over time.

Hydrating the dried mushrooms properly is important. Give your mushrooms a quick rinse under the tap before soaking. Always soak your dried mushrooms in cool water to make the rehydration process as gentle as possible. Hot water may work faster, but it makes the mushroom flesh tougher than it needs to be. It goes without saying; never just throw dried mushrooms into a boiling pot. Twenty minutes of soaking time should do for most varieties. Don’t use too much water or the soaking liquid will get too diluted; if your mushrooms go up to the 1/2 cup mark, add water to the 3/4 cup level.  After the mushrooms have become thoroughly soaked and supple, you can use most of the soaking liquid for cooking but discard the last bit at the bottom of the bowl that contains the sediments. 

Dried Morel Dried Morel Mushrooms
Morel mushrooms are the undisputed King of Dried Mushrooms. This fact is reflected in their price; they tend to cost anywhere from 4 to 6 times more than other types of premium dried mushrooms. There is no such thing as cheap morel. Because they are expensive, you should beware of fakes. Some growers appear to offer cheaper produce but only because they purposely leave on too much of the stem to increase the gross weight. The bottom of the stem is leafy and must be trimmed off. Charlatans will even sometimes try to substitute morels with similar shaped mushrooms. The real McCoy has a honeycomb type lattice laced all over a yellowish brown cone shaped cap. The fakes are easily recognized once you see their skin is wrinkled and not honeycombed.

I would describe the taste of rehydrated Morel mushrooms as nutty, meaty and slightly sweet. Darker morels are more valuable as they have a stronger taste and fragrance. Morel mushrooms are a kind of sponge mushrooms and after they are soaked, it is important to squeeze them dry. This spongy quality also allows them to absorb a generous amount of whatever sauce they are cooked in, which is later released with every bite.

Morels go extremely well with butter and one of the best ways to cook them is to sauté them in butter with a pinch of salt. You would normally serve them with roasted or pan-fried chicken, pork or veal dishes, pretty much anything that goes with white wine. Stronger meats may overwhelm its delicate taste. I will sometimes add sautéed morel to my mushroom soup in lieu of truffle. As morels have a crispier meatier texture than most mushrooms, they also go well with certain pureed foods like Cauliflower Puree. Morels are most often used in French cooking and morel sauce is one of the key sauces in any French kitchen. The sauce is made by blending butter sautéed mushrooms with their soaking liquid, white wine and cream followed by simmering.

Dried Porcini Dried Porcini Mushrooms
If there is a King of Dried Mushrooms, then there should be a Queen and this would be the Porcini mushroom. Unlike Morels, Porcini are always dried in slices but you can get a pretty good idea of what a whole mushroom is like by looking at the nice cross section of the Porcini on the left side of the photo. One distinct feature of Porcini mushrooms is they have no gills. They also have a long fleshy stem which is as edible as the large brown cap.

I would describe the taste of rehydrated Porcini as slightly salty, smoky and meaty. They exude an intense heavenly aroma like no other mushroom. After your first whiff, you’ll easily recognize its signature smell. One nice thing about Porcini is it remains nice and soft after rehydration.

Porcini is common in Italian cuisine and it is the key ingredient in some Porcini-based risottos. Generally the soaking liquid is used in place of wine when simmering the risotto and its concentration by boiling off most of the water results in a very distinct porcini taste. They are also used to flavour polenta for the same reason. Because of their concentrated flavour, you’d normally serve Porcini with beef, lamb and wild game, anything that goes with red wine. They are often used in ragout, sauces and gravies. Slices of porcini also go well with salads, especially if you add some soaking liquid to the dressing. 

Dried Shiitake Dried Shiitake Mushrooms
The Shiitake (pronounced She-E-Tah-Kay) is the predominant gourmet dried mushroom in the Far East. It is the most popular mushroom in Japan where its Western name is derived. In China it is called the winter mushroom, a reference to the past when fresh mushrooms were not available in winter. It is always dried whole and if you see any sliced shiitake at the store, these are of an inferior grade.

As Shiitake are bulkier, they will take a longer time (I’d say 45 min) to get thoroughly soaked. You would normally quarter, slice or even dice Shiitake after they have been soaked. The stem of the Shiitake is quite woody and is always removed. As they are very hard, you cannot remove the stem before soaking. But you don’t want to wait til after soaking because then the part of the cap attached to the stem will still be hard. Snip them off completely with scissors when the mushrooms are partially soaked. If don’t like to waste, use the stems when boiling stock.

Shiitake have a less distinctive taste and fragrance than its Western counterparts above. I’d describe its taste and aroma simply as a very interesting earthy mushroom flavour. It is a common practice to put soya sauce, sugar or other similar seasoning items into the soaking liquid, so the shiitake gets additional layers of taste. The rehydrated Shiitake mushrooms have a firmer, I would even describe it as plump consistency compared to their limply fresh cousins and they are prized as much for their texture as their taste. They stay that way even if you cook them for a long time.

While Morel and Porcini are wild mushrooms, Shiitake are cultivated. This means they are readily available in both fresh and dried forms, which introduces the complication of when the fresh ones should be used and when the dried ones are more appropriate. For example, dried Shiitake would be used in rice-meat combination dishes (Chinese Claypot Rice and Japanese Oyakodon) while fresh Shiitake would be battered and deep fried (like Western stuffed mushrooms). It’s too complicated to get into the details here, just apply common sense. In Western style dishes, you can use them when braising meat, in terrines etc.

Dried Chanterelle Dried Chanterelle Mushrooms
Including Chanterelle in this post was an afterthought. I’m not really a big fan of this type of dried mushroom but I just happened to have some in the fridge.

Chanterelle is one of those dried mushrooms which I find have a milder flavour. It is light coloured and is sometimes called Golden or Yellow Chanterelle. You can recognize them by their small size and trumpet shape. Its aroma has been described as fruity and its taste as peppery but I don’t really discern too much beyond the ordinary mushroom taste and smell. I’m one of those that believe dried mushrooms have to be dark coloured to give an interesting flavour; if not it might be better to leave them fresh.

The main reason I don’t use dried Chanterelle much is they have a tendency to be fibrous and chewy so I use them mostly in situations where I cook them to death, like in stews and pie fillings. There is a school of thought that you should cook them lightly instead (like steak) but if that works, I haven’t experienced it. Maybe those guys were referring to fresh Chanterelle? One day I’m going to try soaking my dired Chanterelle in chicken stock to see if they end up tasting like shredded chicken breast.

Notes Porcini Stock Cubes

  • If you really want something convenient, you can try the Porcini stock cubes by Knorr. They contain little flakes of Porcini and are great as the stock cube for cream of mushroom soup or risotto.
  • Porcini is also sold in powder form, which is simply dried Porcini ground into powder. Use Porcini powder if you want to enhance flavour (its not a bad substitute for MSG) without imparting a Porcini-specific taste.
 
 

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Oyakodon – Japanese Chicken and Egg Rice


(serves 3)
Oyakodon a.k.a. Oyako Donburi a.ka.a Oyako Rice Bowl is a scrumptious mixture of tender simmered chicken pieces with scrambled eggs served on piping hot rice. The chicken is marinated in a semi-sweet sauce which when combined with the flavour from shiitake mushrooms and dashi broth results in the perfect sauce to go with rice. It’s no wonder Oyakodon is one of the most popular rice dishes in Japan. As it is an all-in-one complete meal, Oyakodon is quite a convenient dish to serve, it can be made in under an hour.  
 
Ingredients Oyakodon
  1. Chicken Thigh & Leg (2, boneless)
  2. Onion (1)
  3. Eggs (4)
  4. Dried Shiitake Mushrooms (4)
  5. Cooked Japanese White Rice (3 bowls)
  6. Scallion (3 shoots)
  7. Ginger (1t)
  8. Dark Soya Sauce
  9. Mirin
  10. Hon Dashi
  11. Sesame Oil
  12. Dried Seaweed (optional)

Preparation Part I

  1. Julienne the scallion into small 1/8 inch slices, keeping the white bits seperate from the green bits.
  2. If you didn’t buy your chicken legs deboned, you’ll need to debone them yourself. Seperate the skin from the meat as well. Trim off any large bits of fat from the meat and then cut the meat into bite sized chunks.
  3. In a bowl mix 4T soya sauce, 2T mirin, 1T sesame oil, 1t sugar, 1t pureed ginger and the white part of the scallion. Marinate the chicken pieces in this.
  4. Fry the skin in 1T of vegetable oil in a pan on low heat until the skin gets crispy. There is no need to move the skin save to flip it once.
  5. In the meanwhile dissolve 1t hon dashi pellets and 1t sugar into 1 cup of room temperature water. Soak your shiitake mushrooms in this.
  6. Peel and slice the onion into half rings.
  7. Rinse your rice and set it to cook in a rice cooker.
  8. At this stage the mushrooms would have softened a bit. Snip the stems and discard them. Slice the mushrooms into 1/4 inch strips and continue to soak them in the same liquid.
  9. Remove the skin from the pan, leaving the oil in the pan.
  10. Let the chicken marinate while the rice gets cooked, for about thirty minutes.

You may do everything in part I ahead of time

Preparation Part II

  1. Beat 4 eggs in a bowl with 1T mirin. Leave them in the open to warm up.
  2. Pan fry the onion pieces in the pan with the chicken oil until they begin to soften.
  3. Turn up the heat. When the pan is hot, drain any remaining chicken marinade into the bowl with the mushroom.
  4. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and stir fry the chicken, ensuring all surfaces are browned. Turn the heat down when the meat begins to shrink. Next, add the mushroom slices, including all the liquid. Sprinkle liberally with pepper and continue cooking until the liquid has been reduced by half in volume.
  5. Push the chicken pieces to the side of the pan and pour the egg mix into the middle (which will still contain sauce). Turn off the heat after 30 seconds or until just half of the egg mixture begins to solidify. Mix everything in the pan one last time without smashing up the soft egg too much.
  6. Scoop your cooked rice straight from the rice cooker into 3 large bowls, filling them 3/4 of the way up. Top off each bowl with the contents of the pan, including all the sauce. The egg should continue to cook til it is slightly runny.
  7. Sprinkle on the green bits of the scallion immediately while everything is still steaming hot. You may also add some thin strips of dried seaweed (Nori) if you like.

Notes

  • Oyako means Parent and Child, a reference to main ingredients being Chicken and Egg .  
  • If you are going out to buy mirin for the first time, check out my What is Mirin? page first. If you really cannot get your hands on some mirin, you can also find out how to make a substitute there.
  • What if I can’t find any shiitake mushrooms? The flavour from the shiitake (She-tar-kay) mushrooms is important too. If you really need to, try substituting with dried Porcini or Morel. Don’t use fresh mushrooms as they will impart an unwanted bitter gamey taste.
  • What if I don’t know how to cook rice? Refer to my White Rice Page. It goes without sayinh, it’s best to use Japanese rice for this dish.
  • If you like, you can cut the chicken skin that has been fried crispy into little pieces and sprinkle it on with the scallion at the end. You should not however leave the skin on the chicken. Together, there is no way to cook the skin properly and yet leave the chicken meat tender. 
  • Please note – the egg in the photo is a bit over cooked, it should be a bit runnier. My bad. If you want your egg to have a nicer colour and texture, use 4 yolks with 3 egg whites instead.
 
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Posted by on June 11, 2013 in Japanese, Main Courses, Poultry, Recipe

 

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Creamy Pesto and Mushroom Fettuccine


(serves 2 full portions)
This is an easy fast pasta, something that can be cooked from scratch in under 15 minutes, great for those times you suddenly find out you need to whip out something from the kitchen immediately, or if this is the first time you are making pasta. The key to its speed is pesto, a great alternative to cutting up and frying a proper mirepoix or sofritto. It contains herbs, so you also don’t need to worry about adding any yourself. The mushrooms do a good job of soaking up flavour to go with the pasta. To sum up: it may be fast but it still looks and tastes great. 
 

Ingredients

  1. Pesto Genevese (4t)
  2. White Mushrooms (140g)
  3. Garlic (6 cloves = 1/2 bulb)
  4. Parmigiano Reggiano (40g)
  5. Fettuccine (160g)
  6. Cream (100ml)
  7. Chicken stock cube (1/2)
  8. Cognac (1T)  

Preparation 

  1. Put a pot of water to boil for the pasta. 
  2. Grate the Parmigiano. For decorative purposes before grating you can, if you like, make some shavings of the cheese with a potato peeler.
  3. Manually break off and discard the stems of your mushrooms. Slice them top down into 1/8 inch thick pieces.
  4. Peel the garlic and put it through a garlic press. You should end up with 2 heaped t of garlic.
  5. Add a dash of olive oil and 1t of salt to the pot of boiling water, followed by the fettuccine.
  6. Put 3T of olive oil, 4t (heaping) of pesto and the minced garlic in a pan on medium heat. When the mixture is bubbling, add the mushrooms. Reduce to low heat and sautee.
  7. Mash half a chicken stock cube in 1/4 cup of hot water. 
  8. When the mushrooms begin to soften, add 100 ml cream, the chicken stock plus 1T of cognac. Stir fry till the liquid is boiling. Sprinkle on the grated cheese, turn the heat off and continue stirring as the cheese melts. 
  9. After the pasta has been boiling for about 7 minutes, drain it. It will still be a bit hard. Add the pasta to the pan with the sauce and toss fry on low heat till the pasta is al dente. This pasta dish is meant to be dryish (see photo) but if the pan begins to dry too much, sprinkle on a bit of water or cream.
  10. Season with a touch of black pepper before serving.

Notes

  • To my friends who protest my recipes are too ‘complicated’, well here you go. The preparation describes everything done in parallel to save on time. If you like you can cook in stages. Cut the vegetables first, then make the sauce, and finally boil the pasta.
  • This recipe is very scalable. To make pasta for 4, just double the amounts, the cooking time remains unchanged.
  • I keep a bottle of store bought minced garlic in oil in the fridge for recipes where minced garlic is cooked. A great time saver. The same goes with pesto, no need to make it fresh if you are not eating it raw.
  • Pesto is slightly sour already, so don’t substitute the brandy with something sour like wine.
 

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Mushrooms Sauteed in Rillette


(serves 6)
This recipe is just what its name suggests, mushrooms sauteed in rillette. Some recipes use chicken stock and/or white wine to add flavour. Thats all well and good since plain sauteed mushrooms taste…. plain. The problem with stock and wine of course is they contain a lot of water which you always try to avoid when sauteeing mushrooms. This recipe sidesteps the additional water by using rillette and cognac.
 

Ingredients

  1. Mushrooms (200g)
  2. Duck Rillette (100g)
  3. Garlic (6 cloves = 1/2 bulb)
  4. Thyme
  5. Cognac

Preparation 

  1. It doesn’t really matter what kind of musrooms you use as long as they are not too small. I usually just use plain brown or white mushrooms.
  2. Cut the mushrooms into slices which are 1/3 inch thick.
  3. Put enough garlic through a garlic press to get 3t of crushed garlic.
  4. In a large pan, heat the rillette on high heat until the fat melts. You should mash any clumps of meat with a wooden spatula.
  5. When the pan is really hot, add the mushrooms. Stir the mushrooms every minute or so and turn the heat down to medium after 3 minutes and add the garlic, followed by a good stir. Do not cover as you want the water from the mushrooms to evapourate.
  6. At around the 7 minute mark, the mushrooms should have shrunk nicely. Sprinkle in 1t of chopped thyme and 1T of cognac. Turn the heat down further and continue sauteeing for a final minute.
  7. After the fire is off, sprinkle on 1t of black pepper. Add salt a pinch at a time til the taste is just right. You may even wish to avoid salt altogether depending on how salty your rillette is.

Notes

  • There are three main ways to use sauteed mushrooms. As a side vegetable, as a topping for steaks and burgers, or as a flavouring ingredient of a salad.
  • Having more than 200g of mushrooms per pan will leave insufficient room for contact to the pan, and insufficient room for water to evaporate. If you are cooking an amount that is larger than specified, do so in batches.
  • If your mushrooms are dirty, wipe them with a damp cloth. Since sauteeing is basically a drying process, washing in water will make the mushrooms too wet since water will be trapped in the gills under the caps.
  • Yes can try pork or goose rillette as alternatives. For more information on rillette, refer to this post.
 
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Posted by on November 13, 2011 in French, Poultry, Recipe, Salad

 

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Lasagna Carbonara


(serves 4-5)
How does one go about marrying lasagna with carbonara? I’ve used pretty much the same run-of-the-mill ingredients as you would find in any carbonara : bacon, pasta, parmigiano, egg yolk; but I had to get a little creative to make it work, introducing a juicy bacon terrine to house the ‘carbonara’ between the layers of lasagna pasta and mushrooms. The end result is another kobi-original.  

Ingredients

  1. Bacon (12 slices)
  2. Marscapone (250g)
  3. Parmigiano Reggiano (100g)
  4. Emmental (100g)
  5. Eggs (2)
  6. Brown Mushrooms (200g)
  7. Onion (1)
  8. Lasagna (8 slices)
  9. Bread (4 Slices)
  10. Milk (1 cup)
  11. White Wine (1/2 cup)
  12. Oregano
  13. Turmeric

Preparation 

  1. Dice the onion and cut the mushrooms into 1/4 inch slices.
  2. Cut the bread into cubes after trimming away the crust. Soak the bread in a mixture of 1 cup of milk and two egg yolks. Use a large bowl as you will be adding more things to it later.
  3. Finely grate the parmigiano reggiano. Slice the emmental into thin pieces.
  4. Stack your bacon on the cutting board such that the fat layers coincide and trim off some of the fat as shown in the photo. There is no where for the fat to go once it melts so this is an essential step. Discard the trimmings and then cut the meat into small pieces.
  5. Pan fry the onion in a bit of oil over low heat till they soften and start to brown. Pour in 1/2 cup of white wine and reduce it to 1/4 of its original volume. After you turn off the heat, add the marscapone and stir well.
  6. Add the contents of the pan to the big bowl. In addition, add 1T oregano,1t sugar, 1/2t turmeric and a generous sprinkle of black pepper. Finally add the bacon bits and 3/4 of the grated  parmigiano reggiano.
  7. Mix the contents of the bowl well with a large spoon. Use a food processor to blend everything until you get a lumpy bacon paste. There is no need for it to be totally smooth. This is your sauce.
  8. Preheat your oven to 160oC (320oF).
  9. Apply a thin layer of the sauce to the bottom of a pyrex dish (that can hold eight cups of water). The add layers on top of it in the following sequence: pasta, mushroom, sauce, pasta, emmental, sauce, mushroom,  pasta, sauce. You don’t have that much sauce, ration it appropriately so you don’t run out before the end. Top off with the remaining grated parmigiano reggiano. 
  10. Bake for about 30 minutes or until you see the parmigiano form a golden brown crust. The lasagna is best served with a sunny-side-up egg on top (not in the picture because I didn’t want to obscure the beautiful lasagna crust).

Notes

  • The inspiration for thsi recipe comes from a ‘white’ lasagna I ate when my dad took me on a vacation to Europe. I was only 11 years old, but the taste of that dish from Venice lingers in my mind til today. I didn’t come across a similar dish for over three decades so I finally decided the only way I was going to taste something similar was to cook it myself.
  • If you want to go the extra mile, use pancetta instead of regular bacon. You can also consider dressing the plate with some actual carbonara sauce (which is what I should have done for the photo but was too lazy).
  • I prefer to work with ‘instant’ lasagna as it is less messy. When using this type of pre-cooked lasagna, one must remember to soak each piece of the pasta in hot water for about 10 seconds to get rid of their coating of fine flour. If you choose to use uncooked pasta, boil them till it they are semi-soft -between steps 8 and 9.
 
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Posted by on September 10, 2011 in A Kobi Original, Italian, Main Courses, Pasta, Recipe

 

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Porcini and Chicken Risotto


(serves 5)
Porcini mushrooms and risotto are a match made in culinary heaven. Sometimes referred to as the king of mushrooms, porcini are often dried to enhance their flavour and when rehydrated, give a rich nutty ‘soup’ which can be added as stock to the risotto. This particular recipe also introduces some chicken and proscuitto to bring out a meaty undertone, but in a manner which doesn’t compete with the flavour of the porcini.

IngredientsPorcini and Chicken Risotto

  1. Dried Porcini Mushrooms (30g)
  2. Proscuitto, sliced (100g)
  3. Arborio Rice (1.25 cups)
  4. Chicken Leg and Thigh (1)
  5. Shallots (4)
  6. Butter (50g)
  7. Grated Grana Padano (1/4 cup)
  8. Chicken stock cube
  9. Cognac

Preparation

  1. Simmer your chicken leg in 3 cups of water and one chicken stock cube, for at least an hour. For best results, do this the night before.
  2. After the stock has matured and cooled, remove the skin and shred the soft chicken meat by hand into small bundles of fibres. If you don’t boil the chicken for long enough, you won’t be able to do this.
  3. You also need to soak your porcini in 1 cup of water for about an hour before you begin making the risotto.  Use cold water, as hot water will give the porcini a slight rubbery texture after it rehydrates.
  4. Roll up your proscuitto slices and cut each roll lengthwise into two. Then cut bits of the half rolls to arrive at small rectangular slivers. On medium heat in a non-stick pan, fry the proscuitto to a crisp with 2T of olive oil. Sprinkle in 1/2 t of sugar and then remove the meat using a strainer for later use. Return the dripped oil to the pan.
  5. Julienne the shallots into small pieces that are the size of rice grains and fry them in the retained oil plus an additional 2T of olive oil to form a sofritto. Its best you use the same pan without washing. Stir-fry under low heat until the shallots are limp, taking care not to caramelize them. 

Stop here if you are preparing ahead of time, for this marks the point of no return. Once you begin the next stage, you’ll need to serve the risotto soon after it is done.

  1. Turn up the heat on the pan and add the rice into the soffritto, stirring well to coat the kernels with oil. Add the shredded chicken and continue to stir-fry for 5 minutes or so. Seperately, reheat your chicken stock to a boil.
  2.  At this stage it is usual to add some sort of wine to the rice but in this case, we’ll be adding the procini and the flavoursome water used in their soaking instead. Reduce the heat to produce a low simmer.  Stir until the risotto begins to dry, then proceed to ladle in the hot chicken stock. Add just a ladle of stock each time, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Continue doing this for about 20 minutes and when the stock runs out, just use plain water instead.
  3. When your risotto becomes creamy and al dente and you can let it almost dry up, after which you turn off the heat.  Total simmering time varies a bit with the type of grain you are using, so rely on taste and appearance to decide if the risotto is done and not a timer.
  4. Cut a ¼ slab of butter into 1 cm cubes and mix it with finely grated grana padano, a milder hard cheese which doesn’t crowd out the porcini flavour. This forms the mantecatura, which is stirred in towards the end when risotto is made.  In addition, sprinkle on some black pepper and 2T of brandy. After tasting, you may add a bit of salt or more cheese as a final adjustment if you deem necessary.
  5. Cover the pot and let the risotto rest for 5 minutes so that it can absorb a bit more liquid and fluff up. Garnish with the crispy procuitto as the final touch.

NotesDried Porcini

  • My first risotto recipe contains many of the finer points on making risotto, which I have opted not to repeat here. You should refer to that post if you don’ make risotto often.  
  • 30g sounds like a really small amount to use, but as the mushrooms are dessicated, this works out to be almost a cup in volume.
  • I know I’ve said don’t use stock cubes for risotto, but this is a special case. The salt content is taken into account in the recipe.
 
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Posted by on March 29, 2010 in Italian, Main Courses, Poultry, Recipe

 

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Mushroom Soup, with Truffle Oil


(serves 8 )
Had that bowl of mushroom soup at some fancy reastaurant that looks or tastes nothing like canned mushroom soup? This is that soup. Using a generous amount of mushrooms blended in chicken stock brings your mushroom soup to a whole new level, but this recipe goes a bit further. It also uses a little white sauce as a base, to give the soup a nice solid creamy structure. 

I just love the intense aroma and taste of truffles. You don’t have to use truffle oil if you don’t want to, but really…if there is one thing that goes perfectly with truffle essence, it’s mushroom soup.  Truffle oil is not cheap, but a small bottle of it goes a long way. You won’t regret your investment.

Ingredients

  1. Chopped Mushooms (6 cups)
  2. Red Onion (1)
  3. Flour (3T)
  4. Milk (1.5 cups)
  5. Butter (80g)
  6. Tarragon
  7. Coriander Seed Powder
  8. Cognac
  9. Truffle Oil (optional)

Preparation

  1. Start by cutting your mushrooms (btw, 6 cups is roughly 500g)  into small bits (slices if you plan using them decoratively). What kind of mushrooms should you use? The key to a good mushroom soup does not lie too much in the kind of mushrooms you use, although I do advocate a mix of at least one dark and one white variety to impart a nice grainy colour to your final product. At the same time, julienne a red onion into small bits.
  2. In a soup pot, fry the onion in 2T of butter for about 8 minutes. While the onion is softening, break up a chicken stock cube in 3 cups of hot water and add it to the pot together with 1t sugar, 1t coriander seed powder and 1t tarragon.
  3. Boil the chopped mushrooms in the stock for 10 minutes and then lightly blend the mixture. I normally just use a hand held blender on the pot’s contents directly, but you could do the whole batch in a food processor if you like. Your objective is to end up with a grainy mushroom texture, not a puree, so go easy on the blending.
  4. In a sauce pan, melt 4T of butter and then fry 3T of flour in it until the flour begins to darken slightly. Stirring the entire time, add 1.5 cups of milk. To avoid lumping, you should pour in only ¼ cup of milk  at a time and hold off on adding the next batch of milk until the roux or sauce has absorbed all the liquid. You should have a nice thick sauce when you are done.
  5. Next, turn up the heat and stir in some of the blended mushroom mixture, again slowly. When the contents of the saucepan has become more fluid,  pour it back into the soup pot and reheat.
  6. Finally season your soup with 1T cognac, and black pepper and salt to taste. If you are planning to use truffle oil,  drizzle 1t of it on the individual soup dishes themselves just before serving.

Notes

  • The use of a white sauce base lets the soup absorb a small amount of oil like the truffle oil, but if you intend to add mascarpone, cream etc. as a finish, the soup’s surface will be covered with little spots of oil. I recommend against doing this.
  • For a nice visual effect you can try a number of things. Put aside some cooked mushroom slices before blending, and/or also some of the blended mushroom. You can add these back as decorative constructs after spooning the soup onto the dish (refer to the picture).
  • Since we are making a soup, shouldn’t we be using real chicken for the stock? By all means. Ironically, I often use a vegetable stock cube to flavour my ‘real’ chicken stock. 
  • High heat in oil is the only way of avoiding a floury taste, so never add flour directly to your soups.
  • You can’t add more than a drizzle of truffle oil. If you want a full blown truffle taste without using fresh truffle shavings, you can add as much truffle pate as you like, which is made from mushrooms anyway.
 
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Posted by on October 26, 2009 in Recipe, Soups

 

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