Thursday, March 29, 2007

Look, Ma, no oil!!

Last night mom and I looked at each other and did the usual "what's for dinner tonight," dance again. With just two people at the table, and both studying their butts off, the motivation to spend time grocery shopping and cooking is decidedly lacking. "Well, we have a frozen fillet of fish, and some fuzzy melon...." Iron Chef, eat your heart out with that ingredient challenge.
The fuzzy melon was easy - we just turned it into a soup with some chicken bones, a few spare ribs, a couple of pieces of dried scallop, and some snow fungus to add some crunch. Here's a picture of the final product, which we took from the soup to eat separately. With the fish, we usually either steam it with ginger and scallions or broil it in the toaster oven, but we were both getting a little tired of them. Last week I had borrowed a copy of Elizabeth Andoh's new book Washoku, and remembered salivating over this yummy-looking simmered snapper recipe. It seemed like cheapo frozen fillets would do here, too.
We had all the ingredients on hand except for sake, but you can always substitute white cooking wine in a pinch. The recipe was for a snapper to be poached in water and sake on top of some konbu (sea kelp - the stuff that grows 7 feet in a day), then to have a mix of sugar, sake, ginger and soy sauce poured over it and simmered till reduced to about 3 tablespoons. Simple enough! I just had to get mom on board to try out a newfangled Japanese recipe that had 1/4 cup of soy sauce in it. I pointed out that the recipe didn't have a single drop of oil in it, and it was given the go-ahead. The konbu keeps the fish from sticking to the pan, thus eliminating the need for oil.

For all that it was a straightforward recipe, we ran into a couple of minor hiccups. When Mom asked how much konbu to measure out, I told her two pieces the length of the fish. My bad, I forgot how deceptive dried konbu is. The stuff is all packed together, and as soon as it touches water it unfolds to quadruple its size. By the time I turned back to the kitchen, two WHOLE pieces of konbu, about 2.5 feet in length each, had been rehydrated and washed. Needless to say we will be having konbu for the next couple weeks. Recipes, anyone?

The other thing to remember when making Japanese food is that Japanese soy sauce is less salty, but more flavorful, than Chinese soy. Unfortunately I remembered this after I had poured 1/8 cup into the sauce, so I compensated by putting in two generous tbsp of Japanese soy into the mix and making up the rest with water. Here's our fish happily bathing in its soy mix. The black stuff around it is the konbu.
I have to say, despite the mishaps, it turned out really well, tasting much like we'd cooked the fish in teryaki sauce. Yes, the fish was a tad salty, but it was only on the outside; the inside was still mild and tender, and every morsel was perfectly balanced when eaten with rice. Simple, quick, healthy.

Posted By MooCow to Bumbling Bees - Food at 3/29/2007 09:46:00 PM


Lana said...

I'm sure Washoku has recipes for using up kombu. You can simmer it in a light dashi, soy and sugar broth and, when the sauce is thickened, sprinkle the kombu with sesame seeds. Or, you can add tied kombu to a stew or soup. Chop it up for some miso soup. I think Koreans have a deep-fried kombu dish.

Anonymous said...

Oh wow, that sounds delicious! know...scrolling down...ALL your posts sound delicious! This is my kind of blog!