Friday, April 11, 2014

Okonomiyaki with crispy pork

One time in 2007, my sister and I decided to make okonomiyaki. We had never actually seen okonomiyaki in person. We'd just watched way too much Ranma 1/2 when we were kids. The recipe we used was from before the rise of food blogs. They turned out terribly. My friends Yoshi and Ryan gamely (or just boyishly) ate one each, but my sister and I barely managed a couple bites.

The urge to try again has been brewing for a while (since I made onigiri a few years ago), especially now that I've actually seen (and eaten!) okonomiyaki in real life. And I'm going to a Japanese street festival in a few days, but I can't wait that long, obviously. The recipes I looked at were from here, here, and here.

1 cup Okonomiyaki flour (or wheat or white flour--add a little bit of salt if you're using regular flour)
1 cup water
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups finely chopped cabbage
1 cup grated carrot
3 finely chopped green onions
1/3 cup panko or tenkatsu (tempura bits)
pork belly or thick-cut bacon
vegetable or canola oil
toppings of your choice (I used sriracha mayo, more green onions, and bonito flakes)

Make sriracha mayo by combining 1/2 cup mayonnaise (the "Kewpie" kind from Japan is traditional but it doesn't really matter), 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 2 tablespoons sriracha. Or adjust to your taste. Stick it in the fridge.

Once all the vegetables are chopped, whisk the flour into the water in a large bowl. It will form a smooth batter. Add the beaten egg, panko, and chopped vegetables and mix through (don't overmix).

Heat a small amount of oil on a griddle at 400°F or in a large frying pan on medium heat (or whatever you'd normally use to make pancakes--my stove is kind of weird). While it's heating, cut the pork belly/bacon into small pieces (or keep it in strips--I think it's easier to cook in little bits).

Scoop out about 1/4 of the batter and drop it onto the pan. Use a spatula to flatten it until it's about 1/2" thick. Cook for about 3 minutes, while you put the pork on top of the okonomiyaki. Press it into the batter a little bit so it sticks.

Flip the cake over and cook for about 3 more minutes, or until the pan-side surface of the pork has crisped but the batter side is still soft (if you're using thinner bacon, just let it crisp all the way through).

Flip it again and cook the bottom for another 2-3 minutes, until it's crisped and the insides have cooked.

Move it to a plate, sprinkle with toppings, and enjoy. I think traditional okonomiyaki are bigger than mine, but they're so dense and delicious that I doubt I could actually eat more than one.

Obviously this can easily be made vegetarian, or with different toppings, or other vegetables mixed in. I'm going to try a seafood one next. If you come up with something brilliant, let me know.

Ukyo, the Okonomiyaki chef/spatula-wielding martial artist who started all this nonsense.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Sós Stangli (Hungarian Cheese Sticks)

In my family, these cheese sticks were as omnipresent as... well, whatever normal kids eat all the time. Apples? Cheerios? My grandmother made endless batches of them, usually presenting us with new ones before we'd finished the old ones. Clients at the salon would rush to book appointments on Thursdays, when she'd bring a batch of these (or occasionally of pastries) in for the table in the waiting area. When my siblings and I left for college, bags of cheese sticks were still delivered regularly, via mail or our mother. Our friends learned to love them as much as we did, and we, accustomed to the bounty, handed out whole bags, confident there would be more to come. But eventually, of course, the flow of cheese sticks stopped. My grandmother simply wasn't up to it any more. But she did give me the recipe. Which I promptly lost for about two years. But that's all fixed now.

Sós Stangli (Hungarian Cheese Sticks)

2 sticks margarine
3 cups flour
2 cups fine grated cheddar cheese, divided
1/4 tsp baking powder
pinch each garlic powder and white pepper
8 oz sour cream
caraway seeds
baking spray
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 340ºF. Work the margarine, flour, and first cup of cheese together with the baking powder, garlic, and pepper.* Add the sour cream and mix through, kneading the dough until it is smooth and shiny.** Make two balls, roll each out to 1/4 inch thick on a floured board, and slice into sticks (a pizza cutter works pretty well). Brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the second cup of cheese and the caraway seeds (very much to taste--my sister hates them, my brother and I would practically trade the cheese for them).

Spray two baking sheets with cooking spray and wipe with a paper towel to spread evenly. Move the cheese sticks to the sprayed sheets. They don't expand, so you can put them fairly close together. Bake for 35-50 minutes, reducing the heat to 325ºF after ten minutes. (If you're baking one sheet at a time, just let the other one sit on the counter until you have oven space. They won't spoil.)

One batch makes about five dozen sticks, depending on how you slice the dough. The slow baking makes them pretty dry, so they'll last for ages in a ziploc bag (our record is at least six months). You can freeze them and then re-toast them, too.

* I did this with my hands, but some sort of stand mixer attachment would probably serve just as well. The point is to mix the dry ingredients into the fats, so it doesn't have to be perfect. Just enough that when you grab a handful, it stays together.

** Again, started with a spatula, ended up using my hands. Because mucking about in dough is fun.


Friday, January 17, 2014

Sriracha Lentil (Vegetable) Soup

This recipe is mostly this one, which is one of my favorite things I've ever found on the internet and definitely the soup I've made most often in the last couple of years. It's basically a perfect recipe (except for where it says to simmer for an hour--you really only need like twenty minutes). I'm mostly posting because I added extra veggies this time and don't want to forget.

3 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped (any color is fine. I used red this time.)
10 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp turmeric
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups tomato sauce
2 1/4 cups red lentils (sorted and picked through, rinsed)
2 quarts water or vegetable stock (I used half and half)
1 cup carrots, julienned or just chopped into little pieces
1 cup chopped broccoli
sharp cheddar cheese (optional)

Heat the olive oil on medium heat in a big pot, and cook the onion until it's browned (5-7 minutes). Add the garlic and spices and cook for 1 more minute. Pour in the tomato sauce, stir through, and simmer for 10 minutes. Sort through the lentils while it's simmering.

Add the lentils to the tomato mixture and stir. Add the broth/water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, add the carrots and broccoli, and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Use an immersion blender to make the soup semi-smooth. Stir in as much sriracha as you'd like (lots, obviously). Serve with sharp cheddar stirred into each bowl until it melts (Without the cheese, the soup is vegan. With it, it's even more hearty and comforting than before. You can also use cream or coconut milk for this purpose.)