Long Lost Blog and Banker’s Bacon

Well it’s been a long, long time since we have had a new blog post. I know that Mr. Duess and I have been busy with work and renovations and children and and and and… What you likely do not know, though, is that we have been back at it. Back and bacon makin’. Oh sweet pig…oh yummy fatty fatty pork belly. Yes. Bacon.

This year, Mr. Duess was kind enough to make arrangements and host a number of good people in his kitchen for bacon makin’ a few weeks ago. A good time was had by all and I walked away with two full bellies (about 20lbs) of pork belly sitting in cure. I did some trad italian bacon, some chilli garlic, and some apple cinnamon bacon.

After a week of sitting in the cure, I cleaned and soaked my bacons for a day in water to pull some of the salt out. I hot smoked a batch, roasted some in the oven and held on to a bunch in the freezer for future cold smoking.

What to do. The backyard is in pieces (an in progress reno), Mr. Duess’s cold smoker is all the way across town, and I’m trying to stick close to home to hang out with the family on a saturday afternoon. Then it donned on me, last year I had some success with smoking salmon in a cardboard box. This year I thought I would do the same but turn up the awesome a little. I wanted something simple to use, easy to reuse, and something inexpensive that I could put together in 15 minutes or less. A tall order indeed.

As I am in the middle of trying to organize the studio, I have a plethora of bankers boxes lying about. That’s it! Banker’s boxes easy to put together, stack-able and inexpensive. So here is what I did. Eat your heart out MacGyver. Actually, have some tasty cold smoked bacon MacGyver. Of course I need to say a heartfelt cheers to Mr. Duess for getting me back on the bacon wagon.

Fruit, fat and sugar

Here’s a recipe just smelling of long, hot summer days, ideally eaten by a cabin on a lake.

And the best thing: you don’t even need an oven for this, making it ideal for cottage cooking.

You’ll need

  • 1 pint of fresh berries, your choice. This being Canada, blueberries rock, but fresh Ontario strawberries (chopped) or raspberries also work really, really well.
  • 1 pint of, well, fat. This can take the shape of crème fraîche, 14% sour creme or even Greek Yoghurt. It really depends on how healthy you want this to be. The first time I tried this I used 14% sour creme and it was so good we ate it all in one sitting.
  • 1 cup of dark brown sugar
  • The peel of one lemon, micro-planed. Seriously, if you don’t yet own a microplane run, don’t walk to the store and get one. It’s one of the most useful tools you can have in your kitchen, ever.
  • Brown sugar, one cup.

Fold together fruit and creme/yoghurt. Put into a shallow, heat proof  dish.

Sprinkle over the lemon peel.

Sprinkle over the sugar.

That’s it. All done with the prep. Now put the dish over indirect heat into a really, really hot BBQ – and we’re talking charcoal here, I can’t see this work on a gas BBQ – and let caramelize for three minutes. Keep an eye on this, as the sugar has a tendency to burn if you’re not careful.

Alternatively, preheat your broiler and broil for about two minutes. Again, keep an eye on things. The first time I made this the sugar blackened almost instantly. I took it out, removed the burnt sugar and back it went, with some fresh sugar, but one shelf lower until the sugar started bubbling.

Home made ginger ale

Ginger Ale, like many sodas, started life in the drugstores of early 20th century America. And unlike the artificially flavoured concoctions often sold as ginger ale today the original didn’t just pack a flavour punch, it also contained all the medicinal properties that ginger is justly famous for.

Thankfully, making your own ginger ale is really, really easy and the end result is one of the most refreshing sodas you’ll ever encounter. For three one liter bottles of ginger syrup – you’ll dilute it about 1:5 – you need:

3 one litre glass bottles with a cap. Clean, then sterilize in an oven set to 200ºF for 30 minutes.
1 kg of ginger, peeled
500 gr of dark brown sugar. We use Redpath Demerara.
The juice of six to eight large lemons.
The peel of one lemon, yellow bit only.
3 litres of water.

Grate or chop your ginger. If you have a food processor, process until chopped but not mushy.
Combine water, sugar, lemon juice and peel and ginger in a large pan. Bring to a rolling boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.
Skim off any foam that forms and let simmer gently for 30 minutes.

Line a colander with cheesecloth and decant into a large bowl. Fill into your bottles while still piping hot and close. Let cool down. We keep our bottles in the basement. They should theoretically last for at least a couple of months, but especially during summer the ale is so popular we’re making a new batch every two weeks, sometimes more often.

To serve, dilute to taste with sparkling or still water over ice.

Bacon Dashi with Potatoes and Clams

I was in “The Good Egg” at the market the other day picking out a Japanese Cookbook for a birthday gift for Mr. Duess. Of course, the lovely young lady at the cash knew him and knew of our bacon exploits (Mr. Duess works in the neighbourhood and his tales of our bacon making have spread like wildfire). Word gets around in this city quite quickly it would seem.

I spoke with her at some length about how I’ve been digging into the Japanese cooking and how much I was excited by the simple but fabulous Dashi – a quick broth made from kombu seaweed and usually bonito flakes. There is a satisfying meatiness, a delicate smokyness, a lovely sea taste to the whole thing. It can be used to make soups, braises, sauces – in fact its usefulness is similar to chicken stock but it tastes nothing like chicken stock. Its something entirely different and takes your dishes to a totally new place.

With great excitement, the woman behind the counter pointed me toward the momofuku cookbook, and in particular a recipe for BACON DASHI. %#$&-ing %#$& !! A broth made from bacon. You will be mine bacon dashi!

While I have yet to purchase the book, I did make the dashi and a great little dish with it.

The bacon dashi is a piece of cake: half pound of good quality bacon – I used our S&D special home made bacon of course, 8ish inches of Kombu seaweed, 2 liters of water and 20-30 minutes of simmering on the stove. Its a revelation. It has the smokiness of the bonito and that glutamatey sea taste from the kombu. The fish flavour of the bonito, however, is replaced with a fabulous porkiness. This would be a appropriate moment to say…um wicked… this is really something else.

On to the dish – clams and potatoes in bacon dashi. I read this recipe from a blog posting on Momofuku for two in which Steph cooks her way through the Momofuku cookbook. Her account of customizing the recipe to avoid what she saw as an obscene coupling of the open clams with fingerling potatoes is super entertaining and her photos of the dish are really fab.

Once the bacon dashi is made, you simply cook your clams in the broth, add your cooked potatoes, sprinkle with some chopped, fried bacon and there you have it. Neither I, nor Mrs. Stephenson could stop thinking about it for days after. I would put this on the highly recommended list.

Charcoal tempura

We love tempura, but the smell of deep frying in the house is always a serious disincentive to making it. We don’t believe in single use appliances, and also don’t eat fried food all that often, so we don’t own a dedicated deep fryer.

Enter the little Chinese charcoal brazier I picked up at Tap Phong a couple of weeks ago. I figured if it pushed out enough heat to make a huge pot of chicken curry it should get oil hot enough for frying.

After the charcoal was lit I topped it with a cast iron round bottom pan and added a generous amount of canola oil. A candy thermometer gave an indication of temperature and sure enough within five minutes the oil had reached 350ºF, the ideal temperature for frying.

Prep was really simple: A couple of sweet potatoes went through the slicer, some lovely organic broccoli got separated into little florets. The batter consisted of one egg, one cup of iced water and one cup of flour. Mix quickly but don’t overmix. The batter needs to stay lumpy for best results. Dredge the vegetables in flour, in batter and fry. Serve with a dipping sauce made from soy sauce and mirin.

It was simple and delicious. Sorry about the crappy images, my camera is in repair and all I had handy was my iPhone.

Oh look, a mise en place complete with blowtorch. What could be better?


The temperature dropped about 10º every time I added a fresh batch of vegetables but came up back to 350 in no time at all.

Corso Italia and Pici

Well spring has sprung and I, for one, am excited about the summer cooking season. Mrs. Stephenson and I are moving to a new part of the city – Corso Italia, or Old Little Italy in our fair city of Toronto. One of the main reasons we love the neighborhood is the food. The restaurants are unassuming, friendly and quite amazing. Not fancy, just good. The bakeries and the grocers are also very down to earth and you’ve never seen better Italian groceries that you see there..places like Dianna’s and Tre Marie bakery were reasons to make the trip up there and now just around the corner to what will be our new place.

Also, on the new place list, is our excitement about having a shop space and nice big back yard. This means a few things: salami curing chamber, cold smoker, and all round fabrication shenanigans.

In honor of our new, Little Italy destination, I’m posting a nice dish that we made – Pici with a roasted tomato sauce. I was insporied by one of the best meals of our Italian trip a couple years back. In Cortona I ordered the same thing in a tiny hole in the wall place and it was the best meal I had the entire trip – simple, extraordinarily flavourful, and clean. You could not ask for more.

I started the meal with an arugala sald with cornmeal cursted king oyster mushrooms. Again very simple – cut mushrooms tossed in olive oil and cornmeal with a touch of salt, roasted in the oven.

Making the sauce for the Pici is super simple:

• cut and toss some tomatoes and garlic (a few cloves – how much do you like it?)  in olive oil  and a touch of salt

• roast the oven for 45-1h at 400-450, until the skins start to brown

• blend (I use a hand blender…super simple, you could also use a food mill if you’re looking for rustic texture)

• reduce on the stove on low for an hour or so

• season – salt, pepper, herbs (I did mine with a hand full of fresh basil…awesome!)

Thats it. Really good, really simple. Perfect for spring, though It’ll be even better when we get the field tomatoes going!

The hand of meat

Knowing that I love all things meat, Mrs. Stephenson graciously passed this link on to me. Not technically about heritage cooking techniques unless one considers cannibalism as a heritage food tradition. Gruesome, yes,  but likely very tasty.

Check out the aptly named “not martha” post and very thorough documentation.

A really good curry, cooked on an open fire

We have an abiding interest in simplicity, especially simplicity when it comes to cooking. Sure, it’s nice to own a proper range, but what is cooking if not the application of heat to food? And surely our ancestors didn’t own 24,000 BTU stoves with electronic ignition. They cooked stuff in a pot, over a fire.

So when I found this clay and metal charcoal burner at Tap Phong, my favourite Chinatown kitchen store, I had to have it. Some years ago my parents had given me a Le Creuset cast iron wok as a present. As a wok it was useless – it takes way too long to react to heat – but I could see it work with the burner. $24.00 later I was on my way home, excited like a kid the day before Christmas.

I decided to make a curry, a curry I’ve made so many times that I am very familiar with it. This would allow me to learn what is essentially a whole new way to cook without having to worry about a recipe. Here’s an approximate list of ingredients:

  • Chicken thighs, skinned, bone in
  • Potatoes, new, cut into quarters
  • 1 can of tomatoes
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 3 gloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 piece of ginger, about thumb sized, minced
  • 1 tsp of ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp of ground cumin
  • 1 tsp of ground coriander
  • 1 red chilli, or to taste
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 1 bunch of fresh coriander, chopped
  • a handful of curry leaves

Start by frying off the onion in a light olive oil, or ghee if you want to be authentic. I tend to choose olive oil for health reasons and I don’t find it changes the flavour much. The first lesson I learned was that charcoal gets hot – way too hot. I had to let everything burn down until the heat was low enough not to instantly burn the diced onions.

Once that had happend I sweated the onions for ten minutes until translucent, then added the garlic and ginger. Add some charcoal to get the heat up again – almost instantly – then add the spices and fry for another minute or so. Add the tomatoes, crush with a fork and cook until the oil separates. Stir in half the fresh coriander

Add the chicken and the potatoes and add enough water or stock to barely cover. Cook until the chicken starts falling off the bone and the potatoes are done. Take off the heat, remove the bones and shred the meat. Stir in the remaining coriander and serve with rice.

Lessons learned:

  1. The one thing I was worried about the most – will I get enough heat – was never a problem. If anything, I had too much heat at my disposal. The clay of the burner acted like a heatsink, once it was hot it stayed that way for at least an hour.
  2. There’s no precise control. In the end I just went with it, adding some water to cool things down when there was too much bubbling and then just let it reduce again.
  3. It will take time to master the burner, but I am already hooked. It is a very direct, basic way of cooking and the fact that I got a tasty curry out of it without any major mishaps on my first attempt tells me that there’s much goodness to be had this way.

Keeping clean by making your own laundry detergent

This post is a bit of a departure from our usual subject matter, but I believe that it still fits the spirit of this site.

Mr. Stephenson and Mr. Duess don’t think of themselves as hippies. Still, they both share a desire to go back to basics and to understand the origin of the things that surround us all. Things that have become so complex that we often accept them at face value, without questioning or understanding the process that brought them into being. Bacon is one of these things, cleaning materials are another. We all use laundry detergent, but most of us have no idea what’s in these bottles. Is it good for us? Is it good for the environment? Is it fairly priced, or are we just being sold the equivalent of fancy tomato sauce, where a cute label hides cheap ingredients?

It is a sad fact that the indoor air in the average Canadian house is about ten times more polluted than the air outside. Hard to believe on a summer’s day in downtown Toronto, but depressingly true nonetheless. Much of that air pollution originates from cleaning products, including laundry detergents.

Let’s take a look at the list of ingredients found in your average supermarket laundry detergent. Many chemicals in household washing powders and liquids can cause allergies, asthma, skin and eye irritation and increase the risk for certain cancers. Additionally, these chemical compounds are not environmentally friendly and damage the ecosystem and atmosphere.

The ingredient nonyl phenol (NPE) is a general group of synthetic surfactants. This chemical biodegrades slowly and leaves trace amounts in the soil and water. Researchers have found that NPE in water can cause feminization of male fish. It is also thought to increase the risk of breast cancer as it mimics female hormone activity in mammals.

Synthetic surfactants called alkyl benzene sulfonates (ABS) or linear alkyl benzene sulfonates (LAS) are slow to biodegrade and can cause skin irritations and allergic reactions in susceptible individuals.

Another family of synthetic surfactants is called diethanolamines. These compounds are also slow to biodegrade in the environment and react with natural nitrogen oxides and other chemicals in the atmosphere to form nitrosamines which are known carcinogens.

Ethylene diamino tetra acetate or EDTA is a synthetic compound used to reduce calcium and other mineral hardness in water and promote foaming. However, foaming has nothing to do with how well the detergent cleans. EDTA remains in the environment and can dissolve heavy metals in waterways, allowing them to circulate into the food chain.

Phosphates are added to some laundry detergents to soften hard water and help to clean clothes. However, phosphate is a natural nutrient for ecosystems and when drainage water runs into waterways, it can cause excess growth of marine plants. This results in a loss of equilibrium in the ecosystem, killing other plant and animal species.

And while this all sounds incredibly depressing, there is one very easy action we can take: Make our own laundry detergent.

Making your own laundry detergent is surprisingly simple. The ingredients are widely available from supermarkets and health food stores and the results we’ve achieved in the Duess household are on par with commercial products, with none of the drawbacks. White fabrics come out fresh and white, dark clothes stay dark and wool stays soft. Here’s what you need:

Home made laundry detergent for dark fabrics:

  • 2 parts of natural soap flakes
  • 1 part of Borax
  • 1 part of washing soda

Home made laundry detergent for light fabrics:

  • 2 parts of natural soap flakes
  • 1 part of Borax
  • 1 part of washing soda
  • 1 part of safe bleach

That’s it. The ingredients are safe for the environment, and septic systems, and bio-degrade rapidly. They are free for foamers, making them ideal for high efficiency washers and front loaders. In addition, the ingredients needed are typically considerably cheaper than the commercial equivalent, making for welcome savings.

We buy our soap powder from the Toronto Soap Works, which has Borax already mixed in.

Pre Spring Pancetta

We’ve been a touch neglectful in our reports this winter. Meh, winter. The time changed today and that signals that spring is around the corner. What better way to celebrate than to get a little pancetta action going on. Here’s a lovely Berkshire belly that Mr. Duess sourced from his new neighbourhood butcher in Kensington market. Its all tied up and clothed to hang in my drafty drafty kitchen cupboard. Take that Mr. Duess!

Well, now its ready for the drafty cupboard. Cheesecloth keeps it contained but still open to the air.

Cured and tied. Ready for the drafty cupboard.

The great bacon making of 2009

belly

Today I picked up 10 pork bellies at the Springfield Farm Store. The pork is from local, naturally raised pigs, no hormones, no antibiotics. Tomorrow we’ll be starting the cure. Our butcher, shown in the picture above, has agreed to let us use her cold room, so we don’t run out of fridge space at home.

Chris and Hiroko’s Yakiniku Extraveganza

Chris and Hiroko’s wedding was lovely and a lot of fun. We had the pleasure of spending a bunch of time with them and a group of their close friends. It was a quick but excellent trip. We arrived in Vancouver on Thursday and spent Friday and Saturday afternoon prepping for the reception meal.

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Ton Toro! It makes excellent rocket fuel when cooked over an open flame.

We planned the BBQ around three different meats: flanken or korean cut ribs (1/4 inch thick), pork belly, and chicken thigh. Hiroko brought some amazing ingredients from Japan, Windsor meats (at Main and King Edward in Vancouver) did not disappoint with the quality of their meat, and we did manage to find a hibachi which we used along with a gas grill for some of the meats.

We put a lot of effort into the sauces. Japanese BBQ is all about the quality of the meat and dipping sauces. I took the opportunity to dig into a bit of history and bunch of different flavours. The array of Japanese sauces, up to this point, had been a bit of a mystery to me. I always love a good ponzu or sweet miso sauce but, other than a number of early experiments, I’ve not sat down to really work through the flavors in any systematic way to be able to taste my way through them from scratch.

To the internet! “yakiniku+sauce” Mr. Google-san. I found a lot of stuff: some history, some more history that contradicts the other history (yah!), some good pictures, and some recipes that looked pretty good along with some that looked awful (I will leave these to the imagination). Looking at the research, it really does turn out that the tasty and ubiquitous Teriyaki is just one flavour among many that one can pair up with the grilled meats.

I started with two apparently traditional Yakuniku sauce recipes that I found. I certainly make no pretense of doing a traditional Yakiniku, but I did want to try to start with something that would be at least recognizable as a Yakiniku flavour. I’m not sure if it was because I was using a dark soy sauce and too much salt, but I found that the sauces were very very salty so made some adjustments to taste by adding more mirin, fruit and white wine. We used pear in the soy sauce based sauce for the rib marinade and a salt, onion, lemon, sesame marinade for the pork belly. Now I know that this is by no means a traditional Yakiniku marinade, but I though that a sweet apple/miso sauce would be nice for the chicken. Again I thought that it was way too salty so in the end I winged it. Check out the Yakiniku marinade recipes posting for an approximation of the sauces that I made. Sheree, as always, upped the game with clear feedback, a sense of direction and talked me off the edge of the cliff more than a few times.

Two afternoon's worth of dipping sauces

A couple afternoon's worth of sauce making.

The plan was to use these sauces for marinade and dipping but I also wanted to make a few more sauces for variation. I ended up settling on ponzu, mustard/wasabi soy, chili vinegar/soy, and ginger soy sauces. This would give guests a range of flavors to experiment with for the various meats and vegetables we were going to be grilling up. The marinade, by the way, was used for a short amount of time, about 45 minutes, as I did not want to overpower the meat.

One of the best Japanese food websites I came across was justhungry.com . In it, Makiko, has put together a very clear survey of Japanese ingredients and cooking techniques from the perspective of personal favorite dishes and family recipes.  She provides a brief and charming overview of the essential flavours used in soy based Japanese dipping sauces and where they are used. As Makiko encourages, these are the basics and one can modulate the proportions of the ingredients to personal taste. This is what I’m always looking for when learning something new – the cornerstone elements, structures and permission to mess about. For your reference, I’ve posted a little summary. If you’re interested in Japanese cooking, I would encourage you to check out Makiko’s site.

Dashi turned out to be a crucial ingredient for thinning some of these sauces out a touch. Rather than using wine, mirin or vinegar to cut the salt of the soysauce, I used dashi which is a broth made from various flavour packed ingredients. I made what is called Kombu (a seaweed) and Katsuobushi (bonito flake) dashi. This is a light but very robust broth that is packed with umami. You can, infact, see natural glutamate crystals on the surface of the kombu, and the bonito has a fabulously meaty aroma.

Chris and Hiroko after the wedding near Kts beach

Chris and Hirko near Kits Beach after the wedding.

With all this talk of Yakiniku, we can’t forget about the reason that we were there in Vancouver – Chris and Hiroko’s wedding! It was quite simply gorgeous. The weather did not really co-operate – we had a bit of a Vancouver fall day (um…rainy and chilly) so instead the planned beach wedding, we all met at the wedding commissioner’s home in Kitsilano. It turned out to be a lovely character home a stone’s throw from Kits beach. Chris and Hiroko looked dashing and the ceremony was to the point and elegant – growing together and taking care of each other was the message. It was touching seeing the two of them tie the knot.

After the wedding Sheree and I went to Chris’s best friend, Colin’s, place to prepare for the reception. It was three hours of mad sauce making, meat, and veg prep. We ended up enlisting the help of a few guests to finish up some of the skewering for the vegetables and the most excellent Ton Toro (pork belly).

Chris’s friend Rachel brought a tremendous set of appetizers including steamed wheat/spelt chinese style buns filled with veg, tofu and some chilies, an amazing artichoke dip with baguette and a lovely vegetable platter. We had a few moments to sample her good work and to pause and mill about as everyone arrived…and then it was go-time.

The cooking arrangement for the evening was an extraordinarily large gas grill – you could easily fit a lamb on this thing – and a little hibachi. I wanted to get some decent coals going on the hibachi for a good wood-cooked flavour, so I loaded it up with natural charcoal and added a half dozen 3″ chunks of oak wood for flavour. I figured that this would be a great place to do the ribs. I thought I would use the gas grill for the veg and the pork belly – being bit concerned that the pork belly would light on fire over the coals.

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Just before the pork-belly-rocket experiment.

It was dark outside and there was no patio light so Colin was good enough to lend me his headlamp. It was a perfect BBQ nerd moment: fabulous meat, coals, gas grill, lots of guests, a giant beer, leather jacket, headlamp. Check and check.

I started with a quick run of ribs and chicken and they received good feedback from the party floor which was encouraging to say the least. I started up some of the pork belly on the gas grill, closed the lid and then tended to the ribs on the hibachi. Within a couple of minutes, flames were shooting out of the BBQ like a rocket – kind of a rookie mistake I realize. It was just a touch entertaining as I quietly moved the BBQ away from the outside wall and quietly asked for the fire extinguisher -  just in case. Pork belly would make an excellent rocket fuel. After about 10 minutes they had burnt themselves out. When I opened up the bbq, there was one tiny, sad little black pork nugget the size of a quarter and hard as a rock. Next round, I resolved to leave the cover open and to move the slices of pork belly around a bunch to avoid another bacon-jet experience. These ones, with the revised cooking method, turned out great and were exceptional with the mustard soysauce and the ponzu.

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An array of tasty treats. Veg, Chicken and Ton Toro in the foreground. Flanken cut ribs on the hibachi in the background.

Vegetable-wise, we did up a bunch of grilled peppers, shitake mushrooms, some roasted garlic, and a corn/shitake mushroom mix in a foil pouch. All of these we splashed on a simple combo of soy sauce, rice vinegar, vegetable oil, and a touch of sesame oil – super simple but a really magic combo of flavours that supported the veg well.

It took about an hour and a half to get everything grilled up. Sheree kept things moving into the party and also brought back some nibbles to share. The feedback from the guests was really great – they were experimenting with different meat/sauce combos and sending back reports of their favorites. This is what I was hoping for. The Japanese contingent were especially digging the apple miso sauce. One of Hirko’s friends said it reminded her of that sauce at a restaurant at home. She asked for the recipe which was the best compliment I could have received.

The evening continued: a few speeches, a stellar slideshow by Colin telling the history of Chris and Hirko’s relationship, some emailed words from our mom who could not attend, and a hilarious party game conducted by Akiko in which we all drew out the answer to a series of questions about Chris and Hiroko’s favorite body parts. The evening then moved on to dancing (Colin actually did the worm), drinking beer poured directly from from a minikeg on high, and – finally- a traditional cocktail fueled shoulder punching match between Chris and I which got a little out of hand and ended up with Colin receiving an accidental jab to the mouth (sorry Colin).

It was a great night and the Yakiniku was the perfect meal. It was casual, easy to eat, tasty and a just the right amount of special. I hope that it helped make the evening a memorable one for Chris, Hiroko and all the guests. It was certainly a real pleasure to prepare and, based on this evening, I think that I will definitely make it again.

Soy Based Dipping Sauces Overview

This is a summary of japanese soy based dipping sauces. I’m summarizing from Makkiko’s most excellent justhungry.com japanese food blog. Go there…its phenomenal and much more indepth.

Qasabi Jo-yu: Wasabi and soy sauce – raw fish, sushi

Sho-ga Jo-yu: Ginger and soy sauce – used for oily raw fish like mackerel, and bonito.

Ninniku Jo-yu: Garlic + soy sauce  – used sometimes for meat.

Karashi Jo-yu: Reconstituted mustard powder and soy sauce  – this was revelation for me – Makiko reports that this is a very popular combination that is used for things ranging from steamed pork buns to meats. As suggested we used an English mustard powder, Keens,  and a touch of wasabi and it was THE BOMB!

Not sure what its called but: Chili and soy sauce – gyoza dumplings and we put it on the meat..mmmm.

Su-jo-yu: Vinegar and soy sauce – used for many things, cuts the greasiness of fatty dishes. We did not make this but I know it from eating Japanese.

Ponzu: Citrus juice – yuzu, lime, lemon – and soy sauce – used for many things. We used some dashi in this to cut the saltiness a bit.

Tsuyu: Dashi stock, mirin and/or sake, sugar, and soy sauce  – Noodles, tempura, etc.

Yakiniku Sauce Recipes

These are the Yakiniku sauce recipes I used for Chris and Hiroko’s Yakiniku extravaganza. The apple miso sauce is not at all a trad Yakiniku sauce but we used it on chicken and as a dipping sauce. It was very good. You really want to vary the ingredients to taste so use these just as a guide.

Soy sauce based Yakiniku Marinade/Sauce:

Ingredients:
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
1 large asian pear peeled and cored
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup mirin
400ml soy sauce
4 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup maple syrop
juice of 2 lemons
3 tbsp yuzu crush
2 tbsp roast sesame seed lightly ground
1 tbsp sesame oil

Directions:
1. Grate with a fine grater or pulverize in food processor: onion, garlic and pear.
2. In a pan, put wine and heat to boil. Add soy sauce, sugar, maple and the mixture from step 1. Simmer for 20 minutes with low heat stirring occasionally.
3. Add lemon juice, sesame oil and sesame seed then cool down.
(You can store this sauce 3 weeks in a fridge.)


Salt based Yakiniku marinade/sauce

Ingredients:

1 onion
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 tbsp sea salt
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup mirin
2 tbsp sesame oil
juice of 2 lemons
2 tbsp roast sesame seed (lightly ground)
5 spring onions very finely chopped

Directions:
1. Grate with a fine grater or pulverize in food processor: onion, garlic.
2. In a pan, put wine and the mixture from step 1. Cook for about 3 minutes. Add sea salt, sugar, mirin, sesame oil and lemon juice. Cook for another minute or so.
3. Cool down and add sesame seed, sesame oil and finely chopped spring onion.

Apple Miso Sauce/Marinade

Ingredients:

1 cup good quality miso paste (I used a red miso)
1/2 cup apple juice
1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup sugar
1 onion (grated)
1 apple (grated)
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp grated garlic
1 tbsp ground sesame

Combine ingredients and adjust applejuice/mirin to taste.

Soy Based Dipping Sauce Recipes

These are the dipping sauce recipes used for Chris and Hiroko’s Yakiniku extravaganza. You really want to vary the ingredients to taste so use this just as a guide.

Ponzu Sauce

1/3 Cup Soy Sauce
3 tbsp Yuzu Crush (or use lemon juice)
3 tbsp Lemon Juice
1/3 cup Dashi
2 tbsp mirin

Chili vinegar soy sauce

4 tbsp chili paste (i used a chinese garlic chili paste)
3 tbsp soysauce
4 tbsp rice vinegar

Mustard/Wasabi Soy sauce

3 tbsp dry mustard (we used Keens)
1 tbsp wasabi powder
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons dashi to reconstitute the mustard powders
1 tablespoon sesame seed, lightly toasted
1/2 cup soy sauce

I read that people put all manner of dairy – cream, milk, sour cream – and also mayonnaise in this sauce. We did not do this. We kept it as a soy sauce based sauce and I can attest to the genuine yumminess of this with the grilled meats. I would go so far as to say that this sauce was nothing sort of a revelation!

Ginger Soy Sauce

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sake
4 tbsp mirin
one good sized knob of ginger, grated

You need to boil this one for a bit to get rid of the alcohol flavour in the Sake. I would say that, all in all, this sauce was the least interesting. I think I would like to try this with a bit more of a vinegar/mirin vibe. I have to say that I did not really like the sake flavour in this so much.

Kombu and Katsuo Dashi Recipe

This is the Dashi recipe used for Chris and Hiroko’s Yakiniku extravaganza.

Kombu and Katsuo Dashi

8 inch kombu (dried kelp)
2/3 oz. (I just used a small handful) katsuobushi (dried bonito) flakes
4 and cups water

Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain and use as a soup base or sauce ingredient.

Yakiniku

Mr. Duess will love this one, its all about cooking things quickly…again as a way of emphasizing the freshness and quality of the ingredient.

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Um...yum.

I have been invited to cook the dinner for my brother, Chris’s, wedding. It’s a casual affair with 30 or so people attending. He requested that the meal be relaxed and easy to eat whilst milling about. I, of course, want to do something special. He is getting married to a charming Japanese woman, Hirko, and I thought that there had to be a BBQ tradition of some sort in Japan. I did some research and, low and behold, I found Yakiniku!

Yakiniku is Korean BBQ modified for Japanese tastes, it was brought to Japan by Koreans after the war. I have read that the meat is cut into smaller pieces and the marinades are a bit lighter and less sweet, or the meat is not marinated at all. Consulting with the good folks at Sanko revealed some fabulous accompaniments along with some advice for traditional Japanese wedding gifts – cash.  Yakiniku is described as being more about the softness and texture of the meat than about strong flavours. From what I’ve seen, people use a lot of apple and pear in the marinates.

 Torrance Torihei's photo of Ton Toro

Torrance Torihei's photo of Ton Toro - Yum

Mr Duess will also love this, one of the favorite dishes is Ton Toro, which is marinated grilled pork belly! I ran a little test last night with some fresh pork belly.  I have to say that the combo of soya sauce, mirin, garlic and a touch of rice vinegar with grilled bork belly is a real pleasure. It turns out that this is also Hiroko’s favorite so I know I’m on the right track here.

In any event, it is a perfect way to do something casual but a touch fancy for Chris and Hirko’s wedding. Its also very quick to prepare so I will be able to enjoy the party as well as chefing up the meal.

Its going to be an interesting adventure. As a heritage cooking technique, it really involves tracing the lineage of the techniques (I’ve certainly done my fair share of…um…inquiry into Korean BBQ) to arrive at the right set of flavours and compliments to the meal. There is also the further element of our Canadian tastes in this exercise. Yakiniku was developed to make eating the internal organs of the cow more palatable – offal prepared in such a way will still not entice the uninitiated Canadian palette so we are choosing to stick to beef rib – both rib eye and shortrib, pork belly, chicken thigh and shrimp. I certainly know that I won’t be making authentic Yakiniku but I’ll be doing my best to make a tasty and fun interpretation of it.

I will be using what is at hand at the party – a gas BBQ at Chris’s friend’s place. I think that I will supplement this with a small tray of briquettes and some kind of hardwood – alder or oak I think for some wood cooked flavour. Alternately I might build myself a little hibachi or pick up a weber smokey joe – the more I think about this the more I think it makes more sense to do this over coals. I’ve ordered my pork belly and ribs from Windsor Meats who I’ve been told is the best Butcher in Vancouver.

I will certainly be taking my camera with me to the meal and will post some updates of the prep and the meal proper.

The bacon fry

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Last night, after a delicious mushroom risotto, Mr. Stephenson and myself decided that it was time for some bacon. Our wives chose ice cream for desert instead, but we fired up a small cast iron pan and started frying. The bacon was from the first trial run of the cold smoker, and whilst slightly over-smoked it’s still miles better than anything you can hope to buy in a supermarket.

That’s of course partly to do with the pork we’re using, humanely raised, no hormones, no antibiotics, but also do to the time and effort we put into the curing and smoking. The sweet spot for a cold smoke seems to be about a day and a half, down from the three days I smoked the first batch for. That way you’ll end up with a bacon that’s wonderfully smoky, but without overpowering the spices from the cure.

We fried our bacon with sprigs of rosemary and ate it on walnut bread with some wild fermented pickles, with the bread soaking up the fat.

Whilst we’re on the subject of fat, if the picture makes you worried about your health, let me reassure you. Between the two of us we ate really very little meat. Because bacon is so full of flavour, a little does go a very long way. In addition, bacon fat, if you start with a healthy pig, is actually very good for you. Bacon fat is about 65% polyunsaturated, with only about 11% saturated fat contained in it. It is also rich in vitamin a and e, so while you should not eat a pound a day, the occasional slice of bacon, or three, should actually be beneficial to your health.

Cold smoked bacon

The cold smoked bacon is ready for consumption. This is what it looks like:
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It turned out absolutely delicious. The 36 hour cold smoke, and the subsequent hanging in the basement, means that the flavour is highly concentrated, so a little goes a long way.

Here’s how to do it

Wait for fall. You’ll need low ambient temperatures, ideally in the low sixties, for this to work. Any higher, and the meat might spoil. You don’t want frost either, a cool fall day is perfect.

Start with a generous amount of pork belly. Mr. Stephenson and myself tend to buy an entire belly, partly because the result will be delicious and freezes well, partly because, if you’re anything like us, you’ll end up giving much of the bacon away to grateful friends. A man carrying smoked pork products is a man who’s welcome in most people’s houses and a slab of home smoked bacon beats a bottle of wine as a host present.

Cure the bacon as you would for the hot smoked version. The making bacon video shows you how. I use Michael Ruhlman’s basic cure, salt, sugar and a small amount of pink salt both for flavour and to make sure that botulism isn’t an option. Dredge the belly in the cure until well covered, then put into large ziplock bags and add any further flavourings.

4006362752_b9cf1cc054_oI made three different spice cures, one with smoked paprika, one with fennel and one with a Syrian sausage spice mix I’ve bought some time back in a Turkish store in Scarborough. Cure the meat in the fridge for three days, turning it daily. The salt will start pulling liquid out of the meat almost instantly, by the end of day three there should be a fair amount of brine in the bag and the meat should feel quite a bit stiffer.

After  three or four days take the meat out of the brine and rinse with cold water. Poke a hole in it and tie a piece of string, so you can hang it. I hang my bellies into the unlit smoker, where I leave them to dry for 24 hours. Obviously this only works when the temperatures are low enough, if it’s too warm dry the meat in the fridge.

4005596541_389392e23d_oLight your smoker. I built a smoke house during the summer, I generate smoke with a smoke bullet from porkypas.com. Truth be told it took me a couple of tries to get the hang of it, but now I get consistent smoke times – without the bullet requiering attention – of four hours and up.

And that’s almost the end of it. Smoke the bacon for about 36 hours. I tend to smoke over a weekend. I start the smoker up at about 8:00 in the morning, then keep it going until close to midnight when I give it one last fill and go to bed. The next morning I clean the bullet out, refill it and let it run for another day.

Once smoked to your satisfaction, take the bacon out of the smoker. Sprinkle the meat side generously with cracked pepper, wrap in cheesecloth and hang in a dark, cool place – a basement is ideal – for about four to six weeks. The bacon will dry out and continue to cure. When the meat feels reasonably firm, the bacon is ready to eat.

Pickle update

I tried the wild fermented cucumbers today. There’s been minimal residue on top of the water, nothing that could not be removed with a quick wipe with a paper towel. What this means is that the lacto bacterial flora I am after is healthy and thriving, with the nasties beaten into submission.

The pickles will still need some time, but the sourness is definitely developing. There’s already a depth of flavour that’s promising great things to come.