Takoyaki

January 4, 2014 § 13 Comments

Update: I added more pictures at the end of the post of the second batch I made the next day. Much easier since I seasoned the pan one more time. As you can see, the takoyaki formed much prettier. I also added some info on what I did differently as well.

Happy New Year! Thought I’d start the first post of 2014 with one of the first dishes the Mister and and I had on New Year’s Day. We decided to get some noodles at Raki Raki since I really enjoyed my lunch with CC earlier in the week (check out CC’s post here for some great shots of ramen). I’ll post on the Mister’s and my lunch at Raki Raki at a later date.

Anyway, we enjoyed Raki squared takoyaki so much that I wanted to try making it at home. For those who aren’t familar, takoyaki are octopus balls (snicker, balls…). And you know this opens up to a whole slew of “that’s what he/she said” jokes, right???

Funny thing is that I’ve had a takoyaki cast iron pan in my Amazon save cart for over a year but just never got around to buying it. Guess I just needed somethingmotivation (like a kick in the ass). I debated between the cast iron pan, which is stove top, or get one of those fancy electric ones. In the end, I went with my first choice.

Being a noob at this, I decided to start with the simplest method and ingredients as possible, which meant not making the batter from scratch. First picture from top left: takoyaki sauce, Kewpie mayonnaise, bonito flakes, takoyaki mix. We liked the taste of the mix and quite frankly, unless I’m making takoyaki every week, I’d probably just stay with the mix. Well, unless I’m out and too lazy to go to the store.

Next we have some aonori, which will get sprinkled on top of the finished product.

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A few more items: tenkasu (tempura flakes), thinly sliced green onions, and another shot of the bonito flakes. You can buy tenkasu at a Japanese market but I had a hard time finding them on the shelves so I made my own using my little Fry Daddy. I probably could have done without the tenkasu but there were some zucchinis that were crying to be tempura’ed. So two birds.

Next: the batter, tako (cooked octopus) cut into bite size pieces, and um, more tenkasu (yeah, I made quite a bit).

  

If you look to the left of the Fry Daddy, you can see part of the takoyaki pan. It makes up to 16 balls at a time.

I didn’t get a chance to take photos while making the (ahem) balls since I was too busy manning the pan. They were sticking to pan a bit first time out of the gate. I also had to use a bit more oil to get the balls unstuck. Definitely need to season the pan in the oven at least one more time before the next batch.

I was able to get 1 perfectly shaped ball and a handful of pretty good ones. The rest were, well, sort of resembled a sphere but they were very tasty nonetheless. Once I get the technique down, I’ll take some “in process” pictures and will do an update post. But for now, a quick summary of what I did.

First, heat the pan on medium heat (my stove). You might need medium-high heat but my gas stove cranks out some pretty good heat. I oiled the pan liberally (and more so while cooking) and when it just starts to smoke, poured in the batter, filling each hole almost full. Then add a piece or two of tako (depending on the size…that’s what she said), some tenkasu and green onions. Then pour a bit more of batter on top of each to almost overflowing. It’s okay if it overflows a bit since it’ll just get tucked in.

After a few minutes, the balls are (suppose to be) ready to be turned 90 degrees. My balls needed a bit of coaxing (that’s what he said). It took about 10-12 minutes for most of them but a few of the less cooperative ones needed a few more minutes and extra oil. (Wow, I could have gone to town on jokes with that one but I’ll refrain.) Anyway, once all the balls can be rotated fairly easily, they’re ready to be served (bwahahahaha!). Put them on a plate, add some takoyaki sauce, some mayonnaise, sprinkle some aonori and benito flakes on top and boom, takoyaki for the snacking.

I have to be honest that I was a bit disappointed when I first tried to turn them since they stuck so much. But with some finessing and some patience, all turned out well in this first rodeo! I should have taken a picture of the lone perfect ball but that got eatening first. So pictures will have to wait for the next batch.

Hope everyone had a good New Year celebration and may 2014 be everything that you wish for!

P.S. I forgot to mention that the brand of takoyaki mix was Otafuku and the package was only in Japanese. Good thing Otafuku has the instruction on their website in English! I knew most of the instructions and recognized some kanji characters but there were a couple of things that I wasn’t completely sure of. So good thing I found the English version. The takoyaki sauce was also Otafuku and it had a takoyaki recipe on the package, which I noticed after I was done cooking (of course).

P.S.S. I seasoned the pan one more time in the oven the next day and made a second batch. What a difference it made to the sticking problem. Not only was I able to turn the balls easier, it also took me half the time to make the same amount. You can see in the left picture below some balls in various cooking stages. I found I like to move some of the balls to the middle since those are hotter than the outside wells. Gets really nice and crispy. The second picture is the final product. Some of them were starting to deflate a bit as they cooled but for the most part, they retained their spherical shapes nicely.

  

I was able to use less oil than the first time. I suspect this will decrease a little more as I use the pan more. I was also faster in turning the balls since I have some experience now in making these suckers.

One other big thing I changed this go around was using dashi stock instead of plain water. I used dashi granules the first time and I thought there was a subtle difference in the taste for the better but not enough to where I would go out of my way. Now if I was making the batter from scratch, then certainly would opt for the dashi granules.

The third batch that I made, I used dashi stock I made from a dashi packet in boiling water. Now there I really tasted a difference. Much more flavorful, nice and dashi! This I definitely recommend.

Funny thing as I was making the second batch, I thought to myself, “Self, this is actually pretty fun to make.” Of course I had to make some ball jokes to the Mister as I was making these. But hey, who doesn’t like a good balls joke? The third time I made these, it went even faster. What I realized that go-around was that I work best by filling 6 of the holes (cavities?) first, get those prepped, then fill in another 6 more. By the time the second set was prepped, the first 6 were ready to rotate. And so on and on.

Braised Black Cod with Sauteed Spinach and Mushrooms

January 27, 2013 § 4 Comments

Some time last October, Trader Joe’s had black cod on sale. I never bought frozen seafood from TJ before but it was the perfect opportunity to final try Morimoto’s braised cod recipe from his book Morimoto: The New Art of Japanese Cooking. You can actually find a copy of his recipe here if you don’t have a copy of the cookbook.

I love braised fish dishes. And since I’ve had one of the braised fish dishes at one of Morimoto’s restaurant before, I was pretty sure this was going to be delicious. Yup, it was wonderfully delicious, one of those where we could just kept eating until our bellies popped. I only had 1.5 pounds of black cod so I decided to half the remaining ingredients in the recipe. There was plenty of yummy sauce with lots to spare (drizzle that over some steamy white rice, yum!). Made me wish I bought an extra piece or two of black cod.

As a side, I just used what I had in the fridge. Some sauteed mushrooms and spinach with garlic. Very quick to throw together.

You’ll need:

  • Rinsed spinach (about a bunch), make sure all the grit and dirt is gone
  • sliced button mushrooms (about 8-10, more if you like, Creminis are nice too)
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Tamari
  • 1 Tablespoon low sodium chicken broth (optional)

In a skillet on medium heat, butter and EVOO. Add mushrooms and salt, saute until mushroom is brown. Add garlic and cook for about a minute. Add spinach, Tamari,  and chicken broth (optional) and cook until spinach is wilted. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve immediately.

My mouth is watering now just thinking about this. Oh yeah, one other thing, I julienned some green onions (soaked in ice water for a few minutes to make them curl) and fresh ginger to garnish the top of the black cod. Purely optional. As a matter of fact, I remembered about these just as we were about to scarf enjoy our dinner. It didn’t add a whole lot to the dish IMO but it did make it look prettier.

 

Grilled Shrimp with Chile, Cilantro, and Lime

July 7, 2012 § 8 Comments

Hope everyone had a great 4th of July holiday. Did anyone do any grilling? When I was at Vallarta Supermarket in Escondido looking for cheek meat for tacos, I saw some nice looking shrimp with heads on. I immediately thought of a recipe in the most recent Bon Appetit magazine for a Malaysian style grilled shrimp that I wanted to try. You can find the recipe here.

I changed a few things in the dipping sauce since I forgot to pick up Anaheim chiles. I used several Serrano chiles and went half-half on the palm sugar and brown sugar. The only palm sugar I had on hand were little hard pucks that were hard to break apart. Man those things are hard. Since the puck wasn’t small enough to use whole, I used what I could break off and subbed brown sugar for the remaining amount. In hind sight, I should have just grated the pucks. I think the sauce would have been even better if I had used all palm sugar but it was still pretty darn tasty.

The shrimp grilled up very fast, a couple of minutes on each side. I decided to skewer the shrimp but I think these were big enough where I really didn’t need to. Served it over steamed rice, yum! According to the recipe, the marinade can be used for all sorts of seafood. I’d like to try this with some squid or even baby octopus. Something worth mentioning, since there’s turmeric in the marinade so if you use your hand to toss, your fingers might turn a little yellow. I used a big spoon.

Definitely adding this to our summer grilling list. Will have to buy a couple of Anaheim pepper plants too so I can grow my own.

Gobernador Tacos – First Attempt

January 30, 2012 § 6 Comments

Ever since having my first gobernador, I’ve been craving them. I even made a point to get one on a recent drive to Chula Vista. So I’ve been scouring the Internet for recipes. Not too many out there. I did find a few that looked okay but none of them sounded exactly like the ones from Mariscos El Pascador. So I kind of took bits and pieces from each of the three recipes and tried to recreate MEP’s version. I tried to do it from memory but I knew that probably wouldn’t get me too close to the real thing. But gotta start somewhere.

For the cooking part, I kind of used Marcela Valladolid’s recipe as a guide but I think the cooking time has to be reduced on the veggies since they turned out a bit overcooked for my taste. So I’ve adjusted the time in the recipe below. The other two recipes used serrano or poblano chiles instead of bell peppers. One used oregano, one used cumin. Marcela uses smoked paprika. One even uses bacon and chicken bouillon powder. Hmm, the powder sounds intriguing. I decided to keep it simple and close to MEP’s as much as I can mimic. I left out the paprika since I don’t think MEP had paprika in theirs. But I can’t be sure so I think I need to go back to verify. You know, to be sure.

Here’s the mixture after everything was cooked and ready to be served in the corn tortilla. Looks so yummy!

Here’s a three-fer shot. I actually did add more filling after I took the picture and then squeezed some fresh lime juice on them.

The flavor wasn’t quite the same as MEP’s but this was pretty tasty. The flavor was missing a bit of something that the MEP had. I was thinking “could it have something to do with the chicken bouillon powder?” Hmm. Might have to give that a bit more thought. But still, I’d have this version again as will the Mister. It’s good he does since I want to tweak the recipe a bit more.

 

Gobernador Tacos (#1)
Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil (I used bacon fat)
  • 1 lb. of medium shrimp, shelled & deveined
  • 1 rib of celery, sliced thin
  • 2 ripe red tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 serrano chiles, seeded and finely chopped (poblano or jalapeno chiles)
  • 1/2 each white and red onions, sliced thin (you can use only one type)
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp of oregano
  • Manchego cheese or oaxaca (or mozzarella), shredded
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Tortillas, as many as you need
  • Lime wedges (optional)
Instructions
  1. In a large heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, tomatoes, celery and bell pepper and cook for 3 minutes, the onions should just start to become translucent.
  2. Add the shrimp and cook for 2-3 minutes, depending on size.
  3. Add cumin and oregano, cook for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
  4. Warm up the tortillas, place the cheese and let it melt a bit. Add the shrimp mixture and let it fry (crisp) a little bit more and serve immediately with some lime wedges.

Hong Kong Fried Noodles – Revisited

January 9, 2012 § 10 Comments

For New Year’s Day, I decided to make Hong Kong style fried noodles with seafood. The original post with the recipe can be found here. I’ve updated the recipe since that first time and I think the sauce is much better now. As with most stir-fry recipes, you can add just about any kind of protein and vegetables to this dish. I typically like to have at least shrimp and squid in this. But it’s great with  pork, beef, chicken, fish, even tofu.

I did a couple of things different this time. I blanched the noodles a few hours ahead and them laid out two (very large) servings on a baking sheet to dry out the noodles. I thought this might help with the frying of the noodles and although the noodles didn’t fry any faster, it did make the noodles more crunchy throughout.  The previous method left some of the noodles in the middle softer. So depending on whether you like crunchy noodles like I do or a mixture of soft and crunchy, pick the method to your liking.. Here are the fried noodle cakes resting. BTW, the majority of the pictures in this post was taken by the Mister. I was kind of up to my ears in prep so I asked him to be my photographer and just take pictures as he saw fit.

I decided to use some shrimp and baby squid this time, about a pound of shrimp (shelled and deveined) and about half a pound of baby squid, already cleaned. I had both seafood marinading together but in hindsight I should have done these two separately since the shrimp was so large, it took longer for them to cook through. I removed the squid from the wok as it cooked but was kind of a pain in the ass. Would have been much easier if I had thought it through in the beginning.

I also bought a humungo lobster from 99 Ranch (that sucker was 4.5 lbs), which I steamed ahead of time, which took about 30 minutes to steam. That big boy was going to be 2 meals! Here’s the size of the lobster tail, about 1 lb of meat. I saved that for our meal the next night. The meat in the bowl was all claw meat.

For the fried noodles, I used only claw meat. Here’s an action shot of the chaos of removing lobster meat. Most of the lobster shell is in the freezer for when I need to make some lobster stock.

I doubled the sauce ingredients on this one since I was doing 2 noodle cakes. Since I was going through all the trouble of de-meating the lobster, I wanted to make sure I had leftovers. Other things I had in this version were bok choy and shiitake mushrooms. I had sliced sweet onions but completely forgot to add those but we didn’t miss them.  Here’s the only shot I took, my plate. Yum!

This would have easily fed 4 hungry people but the leftovers made 2 delicious lunches for me! Dang, now I want some more…

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