Tuesday, July 10, 2007


yakisoba is amazing camping food for many reasons. the ingredients are simple and cheap. it can be made in huge batches. it's almost impossible to mess up. it's delicious! at the leavers weekend, i made yakisoba for 70 people. well, me and a small army; it's not really a task you want to tackle alone.

4.5 kg pork, sliced thin
8 cabbages
18 carrots
12 yellow onions
10 eggplants
6 packs bean sprouts
20 3-packs yakisoba noodles
6 bottles yakisoba sauce
1 bottle vegetable yakisoba sauce
1 liter canola oil

everything on this list is from jusco in the aeon in takaoka. if you order a few days ahead of the time, they will have it all boxed up and ready to go the day you need it.

let's go!

1. you will need to bring along a guy who hits the gym a lot to help you carry this stuff, like your fellow social rep.

2. when you arrive at the campground, recruit a small group to cut the vegetables. remind them to keep the pieces small and to keep the eggplant separate, but other than that, leave them alone. you have to start some fires.

3. you will need to get four fires going. get adam to stack the coal in just the right way. let him squirt the firestarting gel, because that is the fun part.

4. bunni will also really get into starting the fires, so grab her, too. don't let her hurt josh when he suggests that she should twist the paper, and not crumple it. she hasn't seen "the great outdoors", and thinks he is just being an asshole.

5. the coals are hot, and the veggies are cut.
let's get going. put a griddle over each stack of coals and let it get hot.

6. you will need to make the no meat batch first. otherwise, the griddles will get porkified, and the vegetarians will riot. hand the bag of eggplant and the vegetable sauce to the herbivores, and let them make their own stuff. they might start doing yoga and other weird hippie stuff, but just ignore it. you have work to do.

7. you should make sure there's a person at each griddle. you need to pour about 30 mL of oil on the griddle and spread it around. your griddle person might say, "wow! that's a lot of oil." it is a lot of oil, but it's a big griddle. hopefully they will eventually appreciate the ease with which they move the food around.

8. throw about 500 g of pork on the griddle. then add big handfuls of onion, carrot, cabbage, and bean sprouts. let that cook awhile. people may make comments about your apron, but that's ok. you will get the last laugh when you make it through 12 batches of yakisoba with nary a stain (ahem, niko).
9. make sure your people know to fan the coals if things start to get cool. the cardboard from a six-pack is a great tool for this job.

10. when the vegetables start getting soft, squeeze out a big bunch of yakisoba sauce. then add three-five packs of noodles. don't forget, plastic wrappers in the blue garbage bags!

11. when all that is warm and mixed together, remove from the griddle onto a serving pan. it is true what they say--canadians are very nice people. one will probably volunteer to do this job without being asked.

12. put serving trays on benches. you may have to call for people to eat a few times, but they will come--all at once.

13. people will serve themselves directly off the griddle. this is fine--they can keep an eye on the yakisoba--maybe.

14. if you are asked by a japanese person if you are making japanese yakisoba, gently remind them that yakisoba is japanese, so yes. if they persist in nagging you about "the japanese way," put them to work, and tell them to make sure it's done right.

15. make sure you bring enough plates. if you run out, people go crazy and will try to eat off of any smooth surface.

16. enjoy!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

shitake & bell pepper gyoza with chevre cream sauce

goat cheese is so amazingly delicious, but at 800 yen for 110 grams, it's not something i often indulge in these days. i was in e-town the other day and spotted some goat cheese with half-off stickers. score! the limited selection and high price of cheese does suck, but i can't complain about the mushroom situation. the produce section always has a nice selection of mushrooms that are relatively cheap. i went with good old shitake this day. anyway, on with the cooking.

ingredients for gyoza
1 pack (20) big round gyoza wrappers
1 pack (6 or 7) shitake (1)
1/2 red bell pepper
2 tbsp scallions, chopped (2)
50 mL balsamic vinegar
50 mL olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp salt

ingredients for cream sauce
110 g goat cheese
200 mL milk (or cream)
200 mL white wine
2 tsp butter
2 tbsp scallion, chopped fine
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt


the balsamic vinegar is from marushin in takaoka. the white wine and olive oil are from jusco in takaoka. the red pepper is from from daiso in kosugi. everything else is from e-town in kosugi. just ignore the egg in that picture. i did.

let's go!
1. mix olive oil, salt, garlic, and red pepper. when i first came to kosugi, i bought a big bag of dried red pepper rings at the 100 yen store. these pack some serious fire (to sprinkle on ramen, maybe?), so i've barely made a dent. i crushed them with a mortar & pestle, but you could just chop them very finely. using the mortar & pestle makes me feel like a mad scientist, so i try to use it whenever i can. anyway...

2. rub the oil all over the shitake and red pepper. let it marinate for a bit.

3. while that's marinating, you can chop all your scallions. go ahead and put the scallions and balsamic together in a bowl.

4. put the shitake and bell pepper in your fish cooker on low heat. if you don't have a fish cooker, you can wrap them in foil and put them in a toaster oven on low, or cut them into pieces and saute. cook until tender and juicy.

5. cut the shitake and pepper into little pieces and mix together with the balsamic and scallions.

6. take one gyoza wrapper and rub the edge with a wet finger. spoon a bit of mixture in the middle. fold in half and press down on the edges to seal. you should make about 15 gyoza.

7. you will need to have some steamer setup. as you can see below, my setup is a bit ghettto, but it works. you will need a wide pan with a lid to boil water in. you will also need some sort of metal rack that is on legs or has some way to hold the food over the water. those crazy steamer pans that have the folding spiral layers are not good for steaming gyoza, but it is possible. be creative. anyway, get some water boiling in your steamer.

8. now, if you have timing issues when you're cooking, may i suggest that while waiting for your water to boil, you go ahead and knock out the sauce? just skip to the sauce recipe, and come back to the gyoza when you're finished, or if you have the skills (and 2 burners), you can do both at the same time. this will give you maximum warmness and freshness for both parts of your dish.

9. when your water is boiling, place the gyoza in a single layer (not touching) on the wire rack. put the lid on and let them steam for 5 minutes. you might have to do two batches. when you pull the gyoza off the rack, they will be really sticky. if you pull the rack out of the pan and let them cool a minute, it will be much easier.

10. ok, i didn't actually do this step because i like my gyoza just steamed and not browned. but here's how you do it. melt some butter in a skillet on medium heat and place the gyoza in a single layer in the pan. they should take about five minutes to brown on one side; keep an eye on them.

1. i have electric burners, which suck for making sauces and eggs. i now have a portable gas burner, the kind used for nabe. it rocks. i used a gas burner to make this sauce.

2. melt the butter in a skillet. throw in the scallions and cook until limp.

3. add the wine and reduce until it's kind of thick--it won't get thick like maple syrup, but it will definitely be thicker than wine.

4. add the milk (you really should use cream here, but milk is just easier to find). now here's the deal--the butter/wine mixture can get very hot. make sure that you use low heat, that you add the milk slowly, and that you mix the milk in quickly. if you don't, your sauce will break. it will be edible, but ugly. so just be careful. cook on low heat for a couple of minutes.

5. add the cheese, salt, and pepper. stir until the cheese is mixed in well.

serve gyoza with sauce spooned on top. i sauteed some asparagus and the other half of the bell pepper that had been marinated in the the same oil as the shitake. it went really nicely with the gyoza.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

chicken and saffron dumplings

mmm...chicken & dumplings. i like to make things from scratch, but i don't mind telling you i've used bisquick every time--the mix makes perfect dumplings. unfortunately, bisquick is hard to come by these days, though i heard a rumor you can score it at the marushin in toyama shi. today we will make the dumplings from scratch. i threw in a little saffron just to make things fun.
ingredients for chicken stock
1 carrot
1 stalk celery
1 onion
2 bouillon cubes (1)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pack boneless chicken thighs
60 mL milk

ingredients for dumplings:
350 mL all purpose flour (2)
2 tsp baking powder (3)
1/2 tsp salt
1 packet saffron
3 tsp shortening (4)
175 mL milk

日本語: (1) チキンコンソメ, (2) フラワー, (3) ベーキングパダー, (4) ショートニング

i bought the saffron at yamaya in takaoka. everything else i bought at al plaza in kosugi.

let's go!
chicken stock
you might be tempted to buy chicken breasts, or cut off that big piece of fat, but you're gonna lose a lot of flavor that way, so please refrain.

1. cut the carrot, celery (don't throw away those leaves!), and onion into big chunks--you need not make it pretty. don't cut up your chicken just yet. throw all ingredients except for the milk into a big pot. add water until just covered.

2. bring it to a boil, and then lower to a simmer. let that bad boy cook for 60-75 minutes. smoke a cigarette and have a glass of wine.

3. mmm, smell that? nice, yeah? ok, now you want to pull the chicken pieces out and set aside.

4. carefully pour the contents of your stock pot into a colander placed inside a mixing bowl. pull the colander out. check out your mixing bowl--that's chicken stock! poor the stock back into the stock pan.

5. you have a couple of options with the mushy veggies left in your colander. first, you can do what i always do, and throw them out. second, you can do what i did this last time, and kind of smash them through the holes of your colander into the stock. i think this last idea turned out just fine, and is less wasteful. whatever you do, the point is the broth should be relatively smooth, without chunks of mushy vegetables.

6. pour the milk in, stir a bit, and put the stock back on a burner turned very low, just to keep things hot. dumpling time!

1. sift the dry ingredients together into a mixing bowl.
2. mix in the shortening--i find a fork to be a nice tool for this job. you'll know it's mixed well when there are no big chunks and it feels kind of mealy between your fingers.

3. now, mix in the milk. ooooooooh--magic! isn't that cool? i love saffron! don't get crazy with the mixing or your dumplings will have a weird texture. just enough that you don't have chunks of flour or pools of milk. now you're ready to get your hands messy!

the big show
1. bring your broth to just boiling--some kind of science happens when you drop the dumplings in, and it could get messy if you drop them into a rolling boil.

2. the dough is sticky (if it is too too sticky to work with, you can add a little more flour), so really the easiest way to do this is with your hands. pull a piece the size of one of those little mochi balls on a stick and flatten it to about 1 cm thickness in your hand. note: your dumpling may not be a perfect shape. don't worry about it.

3. gently drop the dumpling into the broth. it should rise to the top on its own and start getting bigger.

4. the dumplings will eventually take up the whole surface area, but just push them to the side with a spoon to make room for more. do not stir or otherwise play rough with the dumplings while they are cooking, or you might make gravy.

5. dumplings don't take long to cook, maybe 10 minutes. i always test by biting one--if it's good, they're done.

6. take the fat off the chicken and toss it. cut (or even better, shred) the chicken into tiny pieces. throw it in with your dumplings and mix it in a bit.

7. good work! spoon the dumplings into a bowl, and enjoy!