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Japanese Rice Paella in a Frying Pan


(serves 4)
Paella is a culinary gift from the Valencia region of Spain to the rest of the world. In this version we have a combination of meats from land, sea and air, simmered to perfection with saffron-infused rice in the pan.  Not that many people cook Paella because they believe it requires a special variety of rice from Spain and a special cast iron Paella pan. It does not, everybody can cook a reasonably authentic Spanish Paella even if they are not from Spain. My recipe uses Japanese Rice, the ideal substitute rice for Paella.       
 

IngredientsPaella

  1. Prawns (4 large)
  2. Chicken Leg with Thigh (1)
  3. Black Mussels (8)
  4. Smoked Pancetta (80g)
  5. Spicy Chorizo Sausage (80g)
  6. Onion (1)
  7. Tomatoes (1)
  8. Raw Japanese Rice (1 cup)
  9. Lemon (2 wedges)
  10. Saffron Threads
  11. Garlic
  12. Parsley
  13. Paprika
  14. Oregano

Cooking paella is a bit more tricky than other rice dishes and the proportions need to be just right. For this recipe you’ll need a large frying pan that is 11 inches in diameter (top) and 2 inches deep. It can be a slightly bigger but definitely no smaller.

Preparation

  1. Debone the chicken leg and cut the meat into bite sized chunks. Cut the heads off your prawns just behind the carapace and snip off all whiskers. Shell and devein the prawn bodies and slice lengthwise down the middle to bisect each prawn.
  2. Boil 2 cups of water in a pot. Add the chicken bones and prawn heads into the boiling stock pot and keep the stock simmering on a low flame.
  3. In the meanwhile marinate the chicken and prawn meat in a mixture of 2T oil, 1t oregano, 1t chopped parsley, 1t paprika and flat 0.5t of salt.
  4. Julienne the onion into small bits, press enough garlic to get roughly  1T of minced garlic and dice 1 tomato. Furthermore cut the Chorizo into thin slices and the pancetta into small pieces.
  5. Soak and agitate the mussels in some cold water. Strain, then clean and de-beard the mussels.
  6. Drizzle some oil onto your frying pan. Stir fry the chorizo and pancetta on low heat until the fat has been rendered from the meat. Set aside 4 slices of Chorizo and put the remaining slices of Chorizo into the simmering stock pot.
  7. Add the onion to the pan. Continue stir frying on low heat until they begin to brown. Next add one cup of Japanese rice and continue to stir fry for a minute more to coat the rice grains. Stop at this stage until you are almost ready to serve the Paella.
  8. Pour the stock through a strainer into the pan. Add the garlic, tomatoes and the mussels together with 1t paprika, 1t oregano, 1t of saffron threads, 0.5t sugar and the juice from 2 lemon wedges . Top off with enough hot water to bring the water level halfway to the top and bring to a low simmer. Simmer uncovered for about 35 min for the rice to be done.
  9. Arrange the prawns, chicken and the 4 reserved slices of Chorizo in a casserole (or baking tray) and place in a preheated oven. Grill till the prawns twirl up. Remove from the oven and spoon the drippings onto the cooking rice evenly. Mix gently. Return the casserole dish to the oven (now turned off) to keep your meat warm.
  10. When the pan begins to dry, check the rice for texture and decide if you need to add additional hot water – drizzle only a little each time. Too much water will result in mushy paella. Once you are satisfied that the rice is properly fluffed up and at its maximum size, turn up the heat a bit, arrange the meat on the rice.
  11. When there is no more liquid visible and the ‘socarrat’ or crust has formed at the bottom of the pan, turn off the fire and allow the paella to rest for a few minutes on the stove and then serve your paella in the pan itself.

Notes

  • The ideal rice for Paella is a short-grained Spanish variety like Bomba, but those are not easy to buy outside of Europe. Many tend to use Italian Arborio as a substitute because it also happens to be short grained but that is entirely the wrong type of rice to use. Rice meant for risotto cannot absorb too much water without becoming mushy because of its high amylopectin content which is why risotto is eaten wet and al dente. Paella must be cooked until it is dry outside but fully hydrated inside which is what makes Japanese rice ideal in this case.
  • A personal secret ingredient when I cook my paella is cod liver oil. I usually add some diced smoked cod liver and use some of the oil that comes in the tin instead of olive oil. This adds tons of rich seafood flavour.
  • You can also use mussels that were pre-cooked in brine and frozen but pour away the brine. It is very easy for Paella to get overly salty. Sometimes I use clams instead of mussels.
  • Try not to disturb the rice too much. These rice grains are delicate and you don’t want to break them; you can move the rice around a bit as the pan begins to dry to keep the part over the fire from sticking but you definitely do not want to keep stirring continuously like you are cooking a risotto.
  • You will notice I boiled some of the Chorizo in the stock. In my opinion this is the best way to extract its flavour to the rice. Do not add the boiled Chorizo back to the rice, only the Chorizo that was grilled with the chicken can be used as a topping.
 
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Posted by on August 2, 2016 in Japanese, Main Courses, Poultry, Recipe, Seafood

 

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Oven Cooked Creole Jambalaya


(serves 12)
Jambalaya is an all-in-one rice dish specific to the American South-east. If I’m not mistaken Jambalaya means Ham-Rice.  While some consider Jambalaya a spicy version of its cousin the Spanish Paella, I tend to think of it as a heavier meatier version, as is the way with all things American, and that’s the way I make mine, with lots of smoked or cured meat. I use a special extra ingredient, minced pork sausage filling, this flavours the rice really nicely. I also grill the chicken and seafood separately first, this flavours the fresh meats really nicely.      
 

Ingredients Jambalaya

  1. Clams in Shell (600g)
  2. Prawns (16 large)
  3. Scallops (6 Jumbo)
  4. Chicken Legs with Thigh (3)
  5. Smoked Pork Belly (400g)
  6. Breakfast Pork Sausages (400g)
  7. Chorizo Sausages (250g)
  8. Onion (2)
  9. Capsicum (2)
  10. Celery (2 cups, chopped)
  11. Chopped Tomatoes (1 can, 400g)
  12. Raw Jasmine Rice (4 cups)
  13. Chicken Stock Cube (1)
  14. Whisky
  15. Cayenne Pepper
  16. Paprika
  17. Cumin
  18. Oregano
  19. Thyme

Preparation

  1. Boil 7 cups of water in a pot with one chicken stock cube. Cut the heads of your prawns just behind the carapace and snip off all whiskers. Thrown the heads into the boiling stock pot and keep the stock simmering on a low flame.
  2. Shell and then devein the prawn bodies and cut into finger tip size pieces. Cut the scallops into similar sized pieces. Marinate together in a bowl using 0.5T paprika, 0.5T cumin, a pinch of salt and a dash of oil.
  3. In a second larger bowl rub 3 chicken legs with 1T paprika and 1T cumin and 1t of salt.
  4. Grill the chicken for 10 minutes and then the prawn and scallop for 5 minutes. Since the seafood cooks faster, you should not grill them together. Dissolve any left over marinade in hot stock and then pour the liquid back into the stock pot.
  5. Dice 2 cups of celery, 2 onions and 2 capsicum (i.e. bell pepper).
  6. Soak and agitate the clams in a bucket of cold water. Strain and then throw the clams into the stock pot with 1/4 cup of whisky. Boil for a minute on high heat with the cover on before turning the fire off.
  7. Debone the cooled grilled chicken and cut it into bite-sized chunks. You can mix it with the seafood bits at this stage. The bones can go into the stock pot.4 Bowls of Pork
  8. Dice the smoked pork belly. Cut the lard portions into smaller pieces (10 o’clock) and the meat portions into larger cubes (8 o’clock). Slice the Chorizo into slices (4 o’clock). Remove the skin of the pork sausages (2 o’clock) and mix the filling with 1/2 cup of water to loosen it.
  9. Spoon 4T of vegetable oil into a large frying pan. Add the pork belly and Chorizo and fry on medium heat till the lard renders. Next, add the sausage filling as well and stir fry until the minced pork browns.
  10. Remove the meat. Reserve 4T of the flavoured oil leaving the rest in the pan. Stir fry the celery and onion in the same pan until they are limp. Then add 4 cups of jasmine rice (or another type of long grain) and stir fry for a further minute.
  11. Pour the contents of the pan into a large iron pot (i.e. Dutch oven) or large casserole dish. Add the prawn heads and clams (discard those that did not open). Add all the cooked meat and diced capsicum. Mix well.
  12. Preheat your oven to 150oC (300oF).
  13. Reheat the stock and add 5 cups of boiling stock to the pot. Follow this with the can of diced tomatoes, 1T cayenne pepper, 1T oregano, 1T thyme, 1t salt, 1t sugar. Reheat the pot on the stove until is just begins to boil.
  14. Place the pot in the oven with cover on. After 45 minutes, check if the rice is cooked. If the jambalaya is already dry but the rice is still hard, sprinkle on 0.5 cups of boiling water and bake for a further 5-10 minutes. Check the rice deep under the surface. When the rice is perfect, allow it to rest inside the oven with the cover off.
  15. In the meanwhile, mix the reserved pork oil with the remaining stock in the same pan and boil down till it begins to thicken. Spoon this over your jambalaya and serve.

NotesJambalaya in pot

  • This is a recipe for a very large amount of food. You can halve the portions if you don’t have that many people. There shouldn’t be any scaling issues.
  • Between two pots of the same volume, use the one that is flatter. The Jambalaya will cook more evenly.
  • Why didn’t I just cook the jambalaya on the stove?
    Because there is a tendency for the bottom of the pot to burn. You can try that after you have perfected the oven method.
  • Why do we have to grill the chicken and seafood first?
    This is a great way to sear some flavour into them so they don’t taste like boiled meat. The high heat will also remove freezer taste and ensure the prawn does not get mushy, which tends to happen if it is cooked too slowly.
  • Why do we need to make the sauce at the end?
    The varieties of rice which can absorb the taste of the stock will go mushy if they are cooked with too much water. Adding the sauce after the rice is cooked is the best way to ensure the rice is fluffy and yet moist. 
  • Many recipes I have come across use equal parts of water and rice. Not sure what kind of rice they are using (instant?) but I find more water is required than rice.
  • Add more cayenne pepper if you like your jambalaya spicy.
  • I have made some substitutions. I used Chorizo as Andouille it is not easily found in many parts of the world. I also swapped scallops in for calamari as squid gets very hard when it is over cooked. If you can’t find smoked pork belly, use a brined ham hock or cubed pancetta (but not sliced bacon). 
  • I usually use capsicums of 2 different colours for a better visual impact.
 
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Posted by on August 25, 2014 in Main Courses, Poultry, Recipe, Seafood

 

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What is Hon Dashi?


Do you ever get the feeling that chefs leave out their secret ingredients when they publish their recipes? Or perhaps you bought the cookbook at the restaurant but even when you follow the recipes exactly, they come out short of what you tasted at the restaurant? I would hazard to say that it is not so much that the ingredient is secret. Rather, its probably just hard to come by. Hon Dashi is one of those inconvenient ingredients, since its not widely available outside of Asia. In my own recipes, I will usually just insert something generic like chicken stock cube even when I would actually be using Hon Dashi pellets.

Well enough of that. I guess I’d better explain what ‘Dashi’ is first. Dashi is a primary stock usually made from dried kelp (Konbu) and dried skipjack tuna (Bonito). It is used everywhere in Japanese cooking, and you can think of Dashi as the equivalent of bouillon in classical Western cooking.  How the stock is prepared is not crucial for our purposes, as all you need to know is you can make Dashi yourself by simply adding Hon-Dashi pellets to hot water. Please note that the ‘standard’ Hon Dashi does not contain the kelp component which makes it more flexible. You can use it on its own, boil it with Konbu, or use any other kind of vegetable to give it its second layer of flavour.

this scallop version is harder to find but works better as a generic seafood stock

‘Hon’ by the way means ‘the real thing’, which I believe is a well deserved prefix. In addition to having a salty taste as one would expect from stock, Hon Dashi boasts a unique sweet and mildly smoky undertone. You can practically use it in any recipe which calls for chicken or vegetable stock since it isn’t fishy. In fact it doesn’t even taste of  fish. There is also a newer variety of Hon Dashi made from dried scallops (conpoy) instead of bonito and it merits mention here. This scallop version has an intense shellfish flavour which is perfect for enhancing seafood dishes like Bouillabaisse and Seafood Risotto.

In my humble opinion, stock made from Hon Dashi is superior to any other type of instant stock that I have come across. Why does Hon Dashi have such a wonderful taste? I think it’s because of the double desiccation used in its manufacture. This is how I imagine it must be made: The key ingredients (i.e. the tuna or scallops) are first salt dried once over a long period, then rehydrated in boiling water to form a bullion. The solids are finally removed and the liquid is then re-dehydrated into pellets. This process extracts and removes the fishiness that sets in quickly when seafood is harvested, leaving a natural sweetness that is otherwise hard to isolate.

If you have the opportunity, do try using Hon Dashi stock in your cooking. Its perfect for making soups (check out my Consommé page). You can actually use it even if no stock is called for, as they come in small pellets instead of cubes. Try sprinkling on a pinch in place of salt. Either way, you will be adding that special hint of a flavour that will keep your dinner guests guessing as to what your secret ingredient is.

Notes

This variety contains kelp, which is what many consider to be the complete dashi.

This variety contains kelp, which is what many consider to be the complete dashi.

  • No, I do not own any Ajinomoto shares (manufacturer of Hon Dashi) or have any other ulterior motive for recommending this stock – pun unintended.
  • If you can’t find Hon Dashi, I have been told it is available at Amazon.com, in the grocery section.
  • Keep your openned hon dashi sachets in the fridge, I just fold and clip the sachets with a paper clip. They can last for years this way.
  • Sometimes the box is labelled Katsuo, which is just Japanese for dried bonito flakes.
 
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Posted by on May 26, 2010 in Ingredients, Japanese, Seafood, Soups

 

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Red Seafood Risotto


(serves 4)
Its actually looks more orange than red, but this recipe uses crustacean heads, so that makes it a red risotto. Risotto is a dish that is conceptually simple, but difficult to master in practice. This particular risotto, which uses prawns, scallops and portobello as its core ingredients is one of my favouites.

Rather than describe how one type of risotto is made, I’ve decided to write this recipe in such a way that is becomes a generic guide to making risotto as well. So it looks like its very long, but actually it just contains many of the finer details which I usually gloss over.

IngredientsRed Risotto

  1. Tiger Prawns (6)
  2. Large Scallops (6)
  3. Arborio Rice (1 cup)
  4. Smoked Clams in oil (1 tin)
  5. Lobster Bisque (1/2 can)
  6. Onion (1)
  7. Portobello Mushrooms (2)
  8. Butter (50g)
  9. Chardonnay (½ cup)
  10. Pecorino Romano (1/4 cup)
  11. Cognac
  12. Coriander Powder

Preparation – Stock

  1. On medium heat, brown 1T of pressed garlic in 2T butter. Don’t use a non-stick pan as you’ll be scratching it later.
  2. Cut the heads of your prawns off while waiting for the garlic to brown, then stir fry the prawn heads in the garlic oil. When the heads have become completely red for a minute, pour in 1 cup of water.
  3. As the water boils, cut each head into three pieces using a large pair of kitchen scissors and then crush the heads with a wooden spatula, the type with a flat edge. Next decant the liquid through a strainer into a pot.
  4. Repeat another two times such that you end up with 3 cups of clear stock in the pot. Now add 1/2 a can of lobster bisque to complete the stock.
  • NEVER add salt to the stock as you will lose control of how salty the risotto is after the water has evaporated.
  • Commercially pre-made stock is pre-salted, making them unsuitable for risotto.

Preparation – Soffritto

  1. For the soffritto, you’ll need to use a non-stick pan i.e. a different one from the one used earlier. This will ensure that you won’t get a burnt taste from bits sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  2. Julienne the onion into pieces that are the size of rice grains and fry them in 4T of olive oil using low heat until they are limp. You should do this without caramelizing the onion. Adding a pinch of salt at the start will help keep the onion from browning.
  3. 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.
  • The onions will practically dissolve into the risotto. Many Italian recipes utilize this method, using aromatic vegetables and sometimes bacon bits, to arrive at a more complex and satisfying flavor.

Preparation – Simmer

  1. Turn up the heat on the pan and add the rice into the soffritto, stirring well to coat the kernels with oil. Continue to stir-fry for 5 minutes or so.
  2. Add the wine, and stir until it almost evaporates completely before adding a ladle of stock. After adding the stock, adjust down the heat to produce a low simmer.
  3. Each time, add just a ladle of stock, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Add more stock each time the rice begins to dry out.
  4. In between stirring, de-shell and de-vein the prawn bodies and dice them, and dice the mushroom and scallops as well, into fingernail sized pieces. After simmering for 15 minutes, add the diced ingredients and smoked clams.
  5. Continue stirring and simmering the rice for about another 10 minutes until it is creamy and al dente, then turn off the fire.
  6. Total simmering time should have been about 30 minutes but rely on taste and appearance to decide if the risotto is done and not a timer.
  • NEVER add cold stock to risotto as repeated sudden cooling makes the rice powdery. So keep that stock on a simmer in a separate pot.
  • NEVER add all the stock at one go. You don’t know exactly how much stock you need and this takes away your contol of the cooking time.
  • Constant stirring rubs off bits of the grains’ surface, giving the starch that creates a risotto’s characteristic creaminess.
  • Arborio is the standard rice type for risottos although the more expensive carnaroli rice is sometimes used. Carnaroli cooks faster and absorbs more liquid, which means it will have a stronger stock flavour.

Preparation – Mantecatura

  1. Cut a ¼ slab of butter into 1 cm cubes and mix with finely grated pecorino romano (or any other kind of hard cheese). This forms the mantecatura, which is stirred in as the finishing touch. For an extra creamy texture, you can cheat by stirring in 1T of marscapone as well. This is optional.
  2. Next, sprinkle on some black pepper, 1T of Coriander Powder, 2T of brandy and a ½ t of sugar. After tasting, you may add salt or more cheese as a final adjustment if necessary.
  • NEVER add salt before this stage, as the concentration of the stock increases flavour over time, and besides hard cheese is salty.
  • I prefer using pecorino romano as it is a stronger grating cheese which goes well with rice but other hard cheeses can be substituted if desired. Check out my Cheese Page for more details.

Resting

  1. Cover the pot and let the risotto rest for 5 minutes so that it can absorb a bit more liquid and fluff up.
  2. Garnish with a bit of coarsely grated pecorino romano as you serve.
  • This is the ONLY time you should cover it.
  • You cannot pre-make or re-heat risotto. So time it such that you can serve it immediately.
 
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Posted by on September 27, 2009 in Italian, Main Courses, Recipe, Seafood

 

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Bouillabaisse Soup


(serves 8 )
The ‘authentic’ Bouillabaisse is meant to be a meal in itself. This however is just a recipe for a soup, hence it is called Bouillabaisse Soup. It may not be a true bouillabaisse but this recipe is much much faster than making the real thing, because it allows you to bypass hours of simmering. The important thing is – it tastes just as good.

Ingredients

  1. Lobster (2 halves)
  2. Tiger Prawns with heads (8)
  3. Salmon (300g)
  4. Mussles in-shell (8)
  5. Smoked Clams (2 tins)
  6. Cream of Tomato soup (2 cans).
  7. Leek (large, 1 stalk)
  8. Garlic (1 bulb = 12 cloves)
  9. Bicarbonate of Soda
  10. Orange Peel
  11. Chopped Basil
  12. Saffron Powder
  13. Coriander Powder
  14. Cognac

Preparation

  1. Into a large bowl, empty the 2 cans of tomato soup. Add 1t (flat) of bicarbonate of soda to the condensed soup and stir every few minutes for a quarter of an hour. Fine bubbles will foam up as you stir, this is normal. Allow to sit for a further 15 minutes. Eventually the tomato mixture will darken to a deep red, forming the rich base for your bouillabaisse.
  2. While you wait, prepare some fish stock by dissolving 2 fish stock cubes (or 4T of  Hon Dashi pellets) in a cup of hot water. Julienne the white of the leek into thin rings. Peel a garlic bulb. Leave half of the garlic as cloves and put the other half through a garlic press to mince it.
  3. Pan fry in some oil your leek rings and the garlic bulbs until the leek softens. Then add the salmon. When the salmon is cooked, check where you think there might be bones (usually near the belly cavity) and remove them. For this soup I like to have all my fish mashed into flakes, but that’s up to you. If you want some whole fish pieces, substitute part of the salmon with cod, and add it right at the end.
  4. Finally add the cup of fish stock to deglaze and pour everything into a big pot. Next add the tomato mixture to the pot, followed by a further 2 cups of water. Bring to a simmer and add the rest of the seafood.
  5. Also add 1t of orange zest (grated peel), 1t of saffron powder, 1t of powdered coriander seed, the minced garlic and simmer for half an hour and leave covered until its time to serve.
  6. Before serving, reboil and then add 2T of cognac, flavour with salt and pepper to taste. I will normally de-shelled the prawns and lobster after they have been boiled in the bouillabaisse, shred the meat then put it back into the soup, leaving the lobster claws and prawn heads as decorative pieces. You can leave them as they are if you are lazy. In each soup dish, arrange a few pieces of seafood in a manner pleasing to the eye and then at the table, dish on the soup in front of your guests and finish off with a generous garnishing of chopped basil (or mint).

Notes

  • A whole long story accompanies any bouillabaisse recipe, so here goes….Bouillabaisse is a seafood stew from the Mediterranean which the French, particularly those from Marseille, have laid claim to. In English, I’m told bouillabaisse means to boil and simmer, which is how the dish is made. End of story.
  • Purists will insist on using 10 kinds of fish, fennel seeds instead of coriander, Pernod instead of cognac, saffron threads instead of saffron powder etc. Just admit to them this is a fake bouillabaisse. In fact, to save yourself some trouble, never discuss the preparation of your bouillabaisse soup.
  • Traditionally when you are served bouillabaisse, it comes with bread. It is also ‘proper’ to serve the seafood separately to be eaten with ‘rouille’, which is just a fancy name for herbed mayonnaise. Don’t bother if you are not in France (oh heaven forbid if someday this gets translated into French). This is just a soup, and over-boiled seafood never tastes good anyway.
  • The key shortcut of this recipe is the use of canned tomato soup and bicarbonate of soda. It simulates hours of simmering. If you’re unfamiliar with bicarbonate of soda, look here.
  • You can substitute or add any kind of seafood, fresh, frozen or canned, no one will be able to tell the difference after such heavy boiling. I have tried using frozen oysters, and they fit well. Just make sure there is always a generous combination of fish, crustaceans, and shell fish.
 
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Posted by on September 25, 2009 in French, Recipe, Seafood, Soups

 

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What are Sakura Shrimp?


SakuraKnown also as Sakura Ebi, Cherry Shrimp or Cherry Blossom Shrimp, these are tiny shrimp caught from a certain bay in Japan, the name of which eludes me at the moment. As you might gather, they are named after cherry blossoms, because of their similar colour. There are may ways to eat Sakura but if you live outside of Japan, you will have to make do with the boiled and then sun-dried variety, which is the variety which I use, and refer to.

OK, enough about the background. So what is so special about Sakura? They have a light crispy texture, and more importantly they retain (for an eternity compared to other crispy food) their crispiness even when put into liquid. This is because other crispy food is made crispy artifically by removing water through heating. If they get re-hydrated, they become decidedly uncrispy. Sakura on the other hand are naturally crunchy because they are crustaceans. This makes them the ultimate sprinkle-on-top food.

Where can you find Sakura Shrimp? At any Japanese food specialty store or Japanese supermarket. Don’t confuse Sakura Ebi with the more common Chinese shell-less dried shrimp. Those can’t be eaten without lots of cooking, and in general are unsuitable for Western cuisine. If you would like a recipe which uses Sakura Shrimp, try my Angel Hair with Sakura .

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2009 in Ingredients, Japanese, Seafood

 

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