Misoyaki Wild Salmon

Me so hungry for miso salmon.

Me so hungry for miso salmon.

This is a version of that ubiquitous sushi joint staple, misoyaki black cod, popularized with a vengeance at Matsuhisa restaurant here in LA (and at over thirty other affiliated restaurants internationally) by famed Japanese chef Nobu Matsuhisa. It’s Nobu’s signature dish, and the impact of his influence is felt in nearly every sushi bar in American, where some version of miso-marinated broiled fish is on virtually every menu. And for good reason as it’s damn good — sweet, salty, tender, and rich. It can feel fancy or it can be served very simply, almost rustically. It makes a great lunchtime or dinnertime main course, or it can go alongside other Asian dishes for a larger spread.

I love to make it with black cod, of course, or butterfish or ling cod or Chilean seabass or pretty much any other fish that is either delicate or has a decent fat content. I was initially going to make this with black cod, but I found some beautiful and very fresh wild salmon and decided to go with that instead.

I deviate from Nobu’s original recipe by adding a bit more flavoring to the marinade; if you know me you know that I can’t resist tinkering with classics in the hopes of finding greater complexity and depth of flavor — hence the addition of ginger and garlic and salt and pepper. I recommend marinating the fish for at least six hours, so make the marinade in the morning and drop the fish in. By dinnertime you’ll be good to go. If you really want to plan ahead you could marinate the salmon overnight, although I wouldn’t go for two days as the sodium in the marinade could dry out the fish and make the miso flavor too assertive.

Serve this with steamed white rice and maybe some stir-fried bok choy or other Asian greens. I also recommend having on the side a little soy sauce and something spicy like sambal oelek or sriracha.

What you need:

  • 1 pound wild salmon filet, skinned with pin-bones removed
  • 3 tablespoons mirin
  • 3 tablespoons sake
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup shiro miso paste (very pale yellow “white” miso)
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 2/3 cups of chopped scallions (as a garnish)

What you gotta do:

First cut the salmon filets into four evenly-sized pieces. Place the filets in a flat plastic container with a lid or a glass pan that you can cover with plastic wrap; use anything except a metal container that could be potentially reactive (i.e. aluminum). Also, choose your container wisely; you want the fish to be snug in whatever container you choose so that the fish is nestled in and covered fully by the marinade. Refrigerate fish while you make the marinade.

In a small pot mix the mirin, sake, and water. Heat over medium-high heat until boiling and add the sugar, whisking until it dissolves. Turn off the heat and whisk in the miso, ginger, garlic, salt, and white pepper. Transfer the marinade to a bowl and allow it come to room temperature. Pour marinade over the fish and turn pieces to fully coat with the miso. Cover and refrigerate.

Now wait patiently a few hours. To cook turn on your broiler and set the oven rack about six inches away from the heating element, be it flame or electric coil. Remove the fish from the marinade and place on a sheet pain that been very slightly oiled. Any excess marinade you can pour into a small pot and bring quickly to a boil. Turn off heat. Now you can use the marinade to baste the fish.

Put pan with salmon into the oven and broil for about three minutes. Remove fish from oven and, using a pastry brush, baste fish with more marinade. Return the fish to the oven and broil for another two or three minutes, approximately. You want the edges slightly charred, so when that occurs remove the salmon and prod it to check for doneness. I like it cooked through but very tender and a bit rare. Touch it with your finger — the flesh should have some softness to it. If you suspect it’s not cooked enough to your taste, turn the oven off and return the fish to oven. Allow it to cook with the oven’s residual heat until it’s firmer and more to your liking.

Transfer fish to a platter and serve dinner!

IMG_1705

Super-succulent salmon served for supper. Say that five times fast!

Australian Black Truffle & Fresh Corn Tempura Fritter

Fresh sweet white corn kernels & black truffles make a killer fritter.

I cribbed this dish from a chef by the name of Masa Takayama, owner of Masa in NYC and Bar Masa in NYC and Vegas. I’ve had the pleasure of observing this sushi master at work at close range on a couple of occasions, and the man is impressive in his rigorous craft and his artistic approach to omakase. Masa (the restaurant) is known to be perhaps the most expensive sushi restaurant in the US, and to justify a per-head ticket price of $500 (before tax, tip, and drink) Masa (the chef) creates a fabulous array of gorgeous bits from some of the most luxurious items currently available. To that end he flies in the majority of his fish from Japan, gets the best Wagyu beef (from Australia at the moment), has the best toro, which he tops off with the best caviar. At his first restaurant, Ginza Sushi-Ko in Beverly Hills, I had an unforgettable meal about ten years ago that included three courses of fugu, the potentially lethally poisonous blowfish (the sheer white blowfish liver was particularly memorable). In addition to sourcing exotic and pricey ingredients Masa designs his own rustic ceramic plateware and carves his own chopsticks from fresh bamboo. He has beautiful custom gingko cutting boards made to his specs in Japan and shipped to him in the US. This is a man obsessed with the details; and the efforts show.

A couple of weeks ago I hung out with him and his crew as they prepared a seventeen-course meal for twenty people. I’ve eaten his food before and seen him in action, so I wasn’t surprised or particularly in awe of this behind-the-curtain look. And not every morsel achieved the same level of excellence. However, some of the food was extraordinary — sushi all exemplary, toro tartare topped with some pretty spectacular California white sturgeon caviar, truly amazing eel, stunning sea urchin. But my favorite dish was this simple bite of tempura — crisp, hot, earthy, sweet, pungent. Clumps of fresh white corn kernels and small cubes of Australian black truffle bound ever-so-delicately with a basic batter are dropped and fried in a sizzling pool of rice bran oil in a wide brass tempura pan until tongue-scalding and crunchy.

Black truffles!

During frying the corn’s sweetness gets a boost and the truffle bits get more intense, more exotic, earthier, and a bit meatier. A tiny dusting of black truffle salt completes an excellent snack.

I don’t have a recipe per se. I can only describe how to make it. Masa and his staff didn’t measure any of the ingredients, and when I made my own version a few days later with a couple of leftover Australian black truffles that Masa was kind enough to leave behind for me I didn’t bother either, trusting that by sight and by feel I could approximate his lovely dish. If you attempt this at home (and I hope you do!) be sure to read these instructions carefully before you buy ingredients and set up your fryer.

So, trim the kernels off of two ears of corn. Put the corn in a mixing bowl. Take two black truffles, weighing together about an ounce-and-a-half (this is a total stab in the dark, so don’t quote me) and gently cut off a thin layer from the kobbly skin with a sharp paring knife or a very sharp ceramic vegetable peeler, creating two small, smooth-ish black truffle globes. Cut the truffles into a small dice roughly equivalent to the size of corn kernels. Add the truffles to the corn and mix with your hands to combine.

Take a box of good quality store-bought tempura mix and add about a half-cup of the dry powder to the corn-truffle mix. Toss until the corn and truffle bits are lightly dusted all over with the tempura powder. Now according to package directions make liquid tempura batter. Pour enough batter, maybe a cup at most, into the corn and mix together. You want the batter to coat the corn mixture just enough to bind the kernels and truffle bits together very loosely. Now with a large spoon scoop up clumps of the corn mixture (about three tablespoons per clump) and place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, making sure that each raw fritter clump doesn’t touch its neighbors.

Heat rice bran oil (or sunflower oil or peanut oil) to a depth of about four inches in a pot (with a clip-on termometer) or a fryer to a temperature of 350ºF. Gently lift the raw fritter clumps from the paper with a spoon and slide them into the oil. Fry about six at a time (depending on the type and size of frying vessel you’ve chosen) and turn them frequently, cooking until they’re golden, about three minutes.

Remove fritters from the oil and drain on a sheet pan lined with a wire rack. Dust with truffle salt and serve immediately. I had a glass of rosé Champagnoise to wash this down. A perfect snack!

I used just enough batter to bind the fritter together. The resulting fritter was light and delightful.

Here in Los Angeles I can get truffle salt and milder European summer truffles right now from the Beverly Hills Cheese Shoppe. Undoubtedly there are other sources as well; perhaps Surfas in Culver City would have truffle salt as well. I think you can order Australian black truffles on line, but I haven’t investigated that possibility yet.

Green Tea Soba Noodle Salad

Light, refreshing noodle salad “japonaise”.

This is a little something I whipped up today for my own lunch. The squiggly green things are soba noodles infused with green tea, which accounts for that lovely verdant hue. I’m not really going to get into a deep, well-measured recipe, as I made this dish in an off-the-cuff fashion. But, in short, I’ll describe my method. Try to keep up.

I quickly cooked a handful of smallish peeled-and-deveined shrimp (U-31-35, if you can dig it) in approximately six cups of a quick poaching liquid made up of 70% water and 30% dry white wine with a piece of fennel, two celery stalks, a slice of white onion, a pinch of sugar, and a good amount of kosher salt (think 2 or three tablespoons). Brought it to a boil, added the shrimp, reduced heat and simmered for three minutes. Killed the heat and covered the pot for four or five minutes. I drained the shrimp and dropped them in ice water to cool completely.

While I did all that I also boiled the green tea soba noodles until al dente. I rinsed them in cool water and then drained them. I tossed the cooked noodles with a tiny bit of toasted sesame oil to keep them from sticking together and to impart some of that nutty loveliness into the noodle. I popped the noodles in the fridge for about 30 minutes to cool.

I cut the shrimp into two symmetrical halves lengthwise and chucked them in a big bowl with some of the noodles. I added a little sunflower oil, some daikon radish sprouts, some slivered fresh ginger, a bit of soy, a bit of ponzu, a couple splashes of dashi broth, a nice scattering of sesame seeds, a pinch of sugar, a little salt & pepp, some chopped green onions, a big dose of furikake, and some of these little tempura crunchies I find in the cooler at the Japanese market. I don’t know what they’re called, but I believe they are used as a sort of soup crouton. I like them in salads.

The noodle salad was fantastic! Very refreshing, super-light, and substantial. Perfect for a hot summer day.

Make this dish. If you don’t know some of the words I use above, Google ’em and figure it out! Happy cooking, y’all!

Green Tea Soba Noodle Salad

Light, refreshing noodle salad “japonaise”.

This is a little something I whipped up today for my own lunch. The squiggly green things are soba noodles infused with green tea, which accounts for that lovely verdant hue. I’m not really going to get into a deep, well-measured recipe, as I made this dish in an off-the-cuff fashion. But, in short, I’ll describe my method. Try to keep up.

I quickly cooked a handful of smallish peeled-and-deveined shrimp (U-31-35, if you can dig it) in approximately six cups of a quick poaching liquid made up of 70% water and 30% dry white wine with a piece of fennel, two celery stalks, a slice of white onion, a pinch of sugar, and a good amount of kosher salt (think 2 or three tablespoons). Brought it to a boil, added the shrimp, reduced heat and simmered for three minutes. Killed the heat and covered the pot for four or five minutes. I drained the shrimp and dropped them in ice water to cool completely.

While I did all that I also boiled the green tea soba noodles until al dente. I rinsed them in cool water and then drained them. I tossed the cooked noodles with a tiny bit of toasted sesame oil to keep them from sticking together and to impart some of that nutty loveliness into the noodle. I popped the noodles in the fridge for about 30 minutes to cool.

I cut the shrimp into two symmetrical halves lengthwise and chucked them in a big bowl with some of the noodles. I added a little sunflower oil, some daikon radish sprouts, some slivered fresh ginger, a bit of soy, a bit of ponzu, a couple splashes of dashi broth, a nice scattering of sesame seeds, a pinch of sugar, a little salt & pepp, some chopped green onions, a big dose of furikake, and some of these little tempura crunchies I find in the cooler at the Japanese market. I don’t know what they’re called, but I believe they are used as a sort of soup crouton. I like them in salads.

The noodle salad was fantastic! Very refreshing, super-light, and substantial. Perfect for a hot summer day.

Make this dish. If you don’t know some of the words I use above, Google ’em and figure it out! Happy cooking, y’all!

Miso & Peanut Noodles

These impromptu noodles were crazzzy delicious

This dish is the result of spontaneity and invention in the moment. This is not to say it’s particularly groundbreaking or inventive. But it is another demonstration of the clever use of  leftovers and “on-hand” ingredients.

Basically I cooked about a half pound of these Japanese yaki-soba noodles (fresh ramen, chow mein noodles, or even spaghetti will work) that I had on hand. In a saucepan I melted a couple of tablespoons of butter and whisked in a tablespoon of shiro miso paste and a tablespoon of hot water. I whisked the miso butter until smooth and then added a half teaspoon of sesame oil, a full teaspoon of minced fresh ginger, a splash of soy sauce, a half teaspoon of sugar, and a pinch of white pepper.

I blanched the noodles about 45 seconds (they were fresh, precooked noodles), drained them well, and added them still hot to the miso butter. I tossed the pasta in the sauce to thoroughly coat and then a quarter cup of minced scallions and about two heaping tablespoons of crushed salted peanuts.

It was delicious!!

First Impressions: Tsujita LA Artisan Noodles

Delicious, al-dente noodles tsukemen style.

It was over a year ago when Regina and I first noticed that construction of a newish-modern retail building at the intersection of Sawtelle Blvd and Mississippi Ave, along the predominantly Japanese “Sawtelle corridor” of restaurants and little boutiques and izakayas, had been completed. The corner spot had been leased by a company out of Japan called Tsujita, and floor-to-celing posters had been pasted up in the windows. Brilliant color photos of giant bowls of luscious-looking ramen noodles proclaimed the dawning of an exciting new noodle revolution soon to occur on Sawtelle. Being the noodle-nuts that we are, Regina and I were stoked for this new upstart to open its doors. We have many favorite noodle joints in LA, and while we can appreciate the occasional attributes of Daikokuya, Orochon, Chin-Ma-Ya, Yamadaya, or Santouka, we probably love most-of-all Ramen-Ya on Olympic, not least because we live close-by but also because we are fans of the neighborhood in general, the colorful “Sawtelle corridor” being right around the corner. We wanted another killer noodle restaurant in West LA!

Regina used to live a couple of streets west of Sawtelle and our very first date was at Fu-Rai-Bo, the fun and funky izakaya (Japanese pub) just across the street from Tsujita, so we have a sentimental attachment to the neighborhood. Anyway, with the promise of a new and delicious noodle house opening right there, Regina and I waited with bated breath and growing hunger.

I had mixed feelings going in.

Continue reading

Red Kuri & Purple Yam Tempura!

Not the best picture, but you get the idea.

So I’ve made the first of (I think) three dishes to incorporate this beautiful red kuri squash that my friend Kathy gave me. I had some Japanese purple yam just laying around (don’t you?), so I thought the color combination of the two vibrant winter vegetables would make a gorgeous and tasty dish. And it did!

Continue reading