a few new recipes on pmk!

are your coworkers complaining about your grumbling stomach?  then do yourself a solid and check out some of the new recipes in the pmk recipe archive!

ketchup rice

simple, tasty, and one of the cornerstone recipes of japanese elementary school home economics classes.  now you can finally use that leftover rice.

kitsune udon

a dashi based soup, nice thick flour noodles, and a plethora of excellent garnishes make this recipe the be all end all of cold remedies.  next time you are feeling a little under the weather, whip up and batch and feel the illness melt away.

konnyaku steak

it’s wiggly, it’s cheap, and it tastes like a well marinated steak.  what is not to like about that?  konnyaku makes for an awesome appetizer or snack food, and it can be a great alternative to meat for those of us that are less carnivorous.

frittata (poor man’s style)

those veggies looking a little wilty?  if you have eggs, it is just about frittata time.  saute your veggies with some bacon, smother them with a few eggs scrambled, and finish the whole ordeal off in the oven.  you won’t regret it.

beloit bagel+

a breakfast sandwich fit for a king.  remember, the trick is the egg square.

chilled miso soup w/ seared skipjack sashimi

hot miso is great.  but sometimes, you just need a good, cool, refreshing soup that is chock-full of umami.  this recipe, with its copious garlic, thinly sliced skipjack tuna garnish, and toasted sesame, is the solution to your problem.

tofu and avocado soup

mild, creamy, and easy as all heck to make.  serve it hot, serve it cold, serve it plain, serve it garnished.  it is all up to you.  with nothing but a good drizzle of sauce, this soup can take on whatever flavor profile you need when entertaining guests.

new recipes on pmk!

is that tummy grumbling?  don’t forget to check out some of the new recipes in the pmk recipe archive!

glass noodle salad

clear glass noodles seasoned ever so lightly, then tossed with julienned veggies of all sorts.  cucumber, daikon sprouts, onions, and a smattering of pork make this dish a magical summer lunch.

poor man’s cobb salad

because a poor man knows the real goal of any good salad is to put so much stuff on top you can’t even see the greens anymore.

roast veggie italian club

roasted eggplant and zucchini, pan-fried chicken, tomato-mayo, and lightly toasted french bread make for a big daddy of a sandwich.  your grape tomatos will never be lonely again.

the red club

it’s got home-cured bacon.  it’s got red cabbage.  it’s got red onions.  it’s got red bell pepper relish.  starting to see a trend?

red bell pepper, garlic, and bechamel crostini

fried garlic?  cream sauce?  red bell peppers?  pork crisped to perfection?  if any of that sounds good, get ready for a beast of an appetizer.

smoked chicken, shiso pesto, and shiitake crostini

smoky.  herby.  fresh.  your toast will thank you when it is all over.

smoked salmon, avocado, and onion crostini

delicious doesn’t mean complex.  if you find the right flavors, just a few ingredients can make a great appetizer.  salmon, avocado, and onion just happen to be three such ingredients.

if you have any grumbles, praise, or comments, feel free to leave your two cents at the bottom of the recipe page.  happy cooking!

sausage party: far more wholesome than it sounds, trust me.

among my close friends here in izu, i think i am probably the most omnivorous of the group.  one guy in our group eats nothing but pan-fried chicken breasts and cheese.  my canadian buddies basically live off of various cuts of pork and eggs.  my buddy up in susono survives off of kimchi, beer, and meat.  you get the picture.

but don’t misunderstand me.  i am far from criticizing these wonderful human beings.  i love meat.  i love cooking it and eating it.  which means when we hang out, the only natural course of action is forego all of those frilly, unnecessary parts of a meal (see: vegetables, starches, fruits) and go straight for the protein.

we built a smoker from scratch just so we could make home-cured bacon and smoked salmon and all kinds of delicious treats.  but lately we’ve decided to kick it up a few notches.  we decided to make sausage from scratch.  a friend gave us a meat grinder, our canadian sausage matron got together the necessary accoutrements (e.g. sausage casings, pork lard, spices), and we all met in susono for a sausage pulling party.  dirty jokes ensued.

despite our abundant innuendos, we ended up making nine kilograms of sausage in the end.

we dedicated three kilograms of meat to each type of sausage that we made.  my sausage was carnitas-inspired, ana’s was cajun seasoned, and brian’s was a sweet italian sausage.  i’m not exactly sure what spices went into the other two, but the recipe for my sausage is as follows.

mexican-style cinnamon sausage

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you’ll need:

  • two kilograms of lean pork
  • about one kilograms of pork lard
  • one white onion
  • six cloves of garlic
  • paprika
  • cumin
  • coriander
  • cinnamon
  • black pepper
  • salt
  • habanero powder
  1. get your meat grinder out of the freezer.  assemble the weapon.  remember, the colder the meat grinder and the colder the meat, the easier the sausage will be to work with.
  2. get out your casings and soak them in water until they thaw.  leave them in the water bath for a little while.
  3. feed the pork and lard through the meat grinder together.  we found that if one person uses a small glass cup to press down on the meat while another person works the grinder crank, this process goes a lot quicker.  once the meat is ground, put it in a big bowl for mixing.
  4. mince the garlic and the onion as fine as possible.  remember, big chunks will cause the skins to break when you are filling them.  try to get the veggies as close to a paste as you possibly can.  once minced, throw them into the meat.
  5. add enough paprika to visibly change the color of the meat.  add a generous amount of coriander.  fresh cilantro also works super well, but if you use it make sure to use only the leaves and chop them into oblivion.  the stalks of fresh cilantro will puncture your casings and it will all be over before you started.
  6. next, add cinnamon and cumin.  be careful with both.  the cumin will offer a lot of flavor to your sausage, but make sure not to overdo it.  the cinnamon is crucial because it provides the delicious aroma, but it can also make your sausage a little too woody tasting if you get excited and add too much.  remember, if you aren’t certain about your spices, you can always take a tiny portion, make a patty, and toss it in a frying pan to get a taste test.
  7. once you finish with the cumin, cinnamon, coriander, garlic, and onion, add salt and pepper to taste.  last, give just a smattering of habanero powder.
  8. get in their with your mitts.  use your hands to work the meat and make sure it is completely mixed.  i like to grab handfuls of meat and make a fist over and over again.  this tends to break up any bubbles of unmixed spices or large chunks of unbroken meat.  it also assures your lard and meat are sufficiently integrated.
  9. change the nozzle on your meat grinder.  we had both a grinding nozzle (which looks like a pasta extruder), and a plastic funnel-like attachment that terminates in a tube.  the funnel-tube attachment is the one you want.  pop it on there.
  10. add a little bit of your spiced meat into the top of the grinder and give it a good two or three cranks.  you don’t have a casing on yet, so it’ll just come out of the tube.  while this might seem pointless, it is getting any air that might be in the grinder out before you put on a casing.  air bubbles in your sausage can cause problems.
  11. it’s time.  get a casing and run your fingers from end to end to get as much water off it as you can.  slide one end onto the nozzle and bunch it up (as if you were putting on tights or long socks).  finally, tie a knot (or a double knot) in the end.  when you are ready, tell your buddy to start a-cranking.
  12. as the meat fills the casing, you are going to want to put your hand under the tube and slowly guide it off the nozzle.  you might need to stop and adjust the casing or use your fingers to massage it if it looks like a bubble coming on.  sometimes, you might need to apply a little water to the outside of the casing if it looks like it is having trouble coming off the end of the nozzle.  any number of things can go wrong.  just keep your eye on it and be gentle.
  13. make the long tube of sausage into a coil on a plate or in a bowl.  as you reach the end of the casing, leave yourself one or an inch or so to tie off the end with another knot.
  14. once your coil is ready, start twisting off some links.  remember, be gentle.
  15. when you have finished twisting the links, hang them somewhere to dry out a little bit.  the fridge is okay, too.
  16. freeze them, pop them in the fridge, or fry them right away.  these particular sausages are amazing at breakfast time.  they lend themselves particularly well to huevos rancheros, but they have all kinds of non-traditional applications as well.

the club sandwich: and i’m not even a member.

the term “club sandwich” is misleading for a lot of people.  some people think it is a particular sandwich composed of cold cuts, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayo.  some people attach the word club to a frilly toothpick.  still others qualify any sandwich that has three pieces of bread as a club sandwich

because it doesn’t seem like this issue will be settled any time soon, i decided that i too should contribute to the quagmire of opinions.  if you ask me, a club sandwich, rather than being defined by its contents, seems to be defined by its shape and the sides with which it is served.

some club sandwiches contain roast beef, some contain mustard, some are served with pickles and still others are not.  but i challenge you to find a restaurant version of the club sandwich that isn’t cut into triangles and served with a side of some form of potatoes (whether chips or fries or potato salad).  although it might seem strange, it makes sense to me that the defining feature of a club sandwich is its sides and the manner in which it is plated (namely, cut twice instead of in half).

my personal club sandwich contains bacon, tomato, and three pieces of toasted bread, but that is where the similarities to your run-of-the-mill restaurant club end.  homemade chips, homemade condiments, and crispy home-cured bacon make my club a homey force to be reckoned with.

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mexico in japan: carnitas seasoned tex-mex sliders

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japan excels at mimicking the cuisine of other nations.  in fact, it is often cited (by japanese people) that many foreigners come to japan to eat foods native to their own countries of origin.  chinese people often comment that chinese food in japan is better than the chinese food readily available in china.  similarly, restaurants which serve authentic italian and french cuisine are often top-notch (and super expensive).

but latin american cuisine, especially mexican food, is generally misunderstood.  because i have often considered mexican food to be one of the cheapest and most delicious foods to make, this fact confuses and enrages me.

despite this, to seem more international, school lunches often include menu items such as “mexican pork saute” or “taco rice,” which are terrifyingly dissimilar to any latin american flavor profile i have ever experienced.  which isn’t to say they taste bad.  they just taste exactly like a japanese cook used the ingredients he had on hand to make something that vaguely resembled mexican food he saw in a picture.

tragically, on such days, i get to hankering for real mexican food, which is an itch not easily scratched in japan.  hot peppers are practically nonexistent, fresh cilantro costs your first-born child, and tortillas are sighted about as often as big foot.  and so, in such moments of desperation, i turn to my old friend tex-mex.  no, it isn’t authentic mexican cuisine.  but it is delicious, contains ingredients i can actually find, and is a heck of a lot closer to the flavor profile of mexican cuisine than the japanese knock-offs are.

and thus, the carnitas seasoned tex-mex slider was born.

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pork and kimchi: beer’s best friends.

i’ll admit it.  there are times when i don’t really feel like spending an hour or two making a spread large enough to feed the russian army.  sometimes i just want to cook something quick and easy, and in this weather, the less i use the stove the better.

yesterday was one of those lazy days, and i found myself with an abundance of kimchi on my hands.  while normally i would default to kimchi hot pot (one of my favorite autumnal foods in japan), the “hot” part of hot pot didn’t sound that appealing in the 34ºc heat.  instead, i decided to go for something with which i could enjoy an ice-cold beer.

and as soon as i thought the words “ice cold beer,” buta-kimchi sprang to mind.

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raging lamb curry: not for the weak of heart (or stomach)

a lot of people like to generalize about japanese cuisine when it comes to heat.  most people assert that “japanese people can’t handle spicy foods,” and for the most part, i would agree with them.  but i am also of the firm opinion that we (those of us who hail from countries like the usa and canada) have a completely different concept of what “spicy” means.

we are friendly neighbors with central and south america, which means that for a lot of americans, our first introduction to spiciness is through foods like pickled jalapenos and hot sauce.  because both contain spicy chili oils, they leave a lasting capsaisin-based burning sensation in your mouth.  japan, on the other hand, regularly consumes foods like wasabi and ginger, which have a very fresh, short-lived, and intense heat akin to horseradish that builds up in the sinuses.  both chilis and wasabi are spicy, just in different ways.  sure, most japanese people would cry if they ate a raw jalapeno, but i think most americans would cry if they took a bite out a wasabi radish, too.  if you ask me, it depends on what you are used to.

still, capsaisin-based spicy foods can be a little hard to find in japan.  most options for true raging heat come from korea, japan’s neighbor across the sea.  gochujang and doubanjiang are great options to kick up the heat a little bit when cooking, and i regularly implement them when making salad dressings.  but because they are imported foods, they can tend to drive up the price of your dish a little more than you want sometimes.

my staple when i comes to spice is good old fashioned piri piri (a.k.a. capsicum frutescens, african bird’s eye peppers).  during the summer months, these little guys can occasionally be found fresh in huge plastic wrapped bouquets for a pittance in most japanese grocery stores.  in the non-summer months, they can also be purchased in small packages pre-dried and just as potent.

and it is these piri piris to which today’s lamb curry owes its rage.  if you have a pace-maker or chronic acid-reflux disease, you may want to navigate away from this page right now.  just reading the recipe could be dangerous to your health. Continue reading