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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Holiday Ham Korroke

I love korroke, but they can be pretty time consuming to make. So I find that the best time to make korokke is when you already have potatoes boiled, especially easy with leftover mashed potatoes. After all, the most time consuming and tedious part of the whole process is peeling and boiling the potatoes, mashing them, and letting them cool. Now leftover mashed potatoes often have butter or cream in them, but I found that just adds an extra creaminess to these quick croquettes.

Since some of you will be soon making a holiday dinner for Easter that often includes ham, I want you to consider setting some leftover ham aside to make these!

This recipe is adapted from Julia's Korroke, with her secret ingredient of Lipton's onion soup mix!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Pink Peppercorn Lemonade Macarons

My maternal grandfather passed away a year and a half ago.

He was the one person in my family that had never criticized or questioned where I was going in life, besides my paternal grandfather. 

Through every drama-queen fit of histrionics, normal teenage angst--oh hell, even when I shat my pants when I was around four and started bawling, he would figuratively kick my ass and then pick me back up.

When I got diagnosed with severe clinical depression at only twelve years old, he was there for me. When I dropped out of college, he was there for me.

Even though he provided the money for my college education and my withdrawal wasted a great deal of his hard-earned money, he said nothing besides reassuring me he knew I was going to go on to do great things, no matter what, and he'd always be in my corner.

His quiet, unassuming confidence in me is something I find unbearable when I'm depressed. How could I ever live up to his expectations of me? I can't even put the right words to paper (or in this less romantic digital age--fingers to keyboard) to properly describe this man, let alone accomplish anything worthwhile or lasting.

My paternal grandfather passed away a couple of months ago.

Friday, February 10, 2017

So Cal-Style Taco Rice

Taco rice, also know as takoraisu (タコライス), is a bit of a strange dish. You can trace it back to the 1980s, where outside the American military base in Okinawa, restaurants created their own twist on Tex-Mex. Rather than using a tortilla, rice forms the base of this dish. The easiest way for me to describe it: taco rice is like a taco salad without the giant tortilla bowl. I can imagine cutting out the tortillas made it easier and cheap for the restaurants to make something filling for servicemen.

This dish is so popular in Okinawa, you can even find it at chains like KFC and Yoshinoya periodically as a special item! This is probably the most famous Okinawan food outside of Japan.

I love it because it makes a great dish for bentos and one-dish donburi. It also tickles me how many cultures this food passed through on its journey to invention. Tacos predate the Spanish, a truly indigenous dish of Mexico. The delicious and humble taco then jumped the border to America, who adapted it to the American palate and mass produced it with a hard shell, ground meat, and iceberg lettuce. Then it was brought to Okinawa, where the hard shell was discarded in favor of short grained rice. Mexican-American-Okinawan fusion? Nah, it's just good food, no labels needed.

How do I put my spin on it? By introducing some Southern California style! I couldn't resist adding some fresh guacamole, something you wouldn't see in an Okinawan diner due to the cost of avocados, but here in Orange County, avocados are practically on every dish.

Next, some heat! Taco rice typically is very mild, with no hot sauce at all. I couldn't help tweaking it to fit my palate, and I wanted something that made this dish quintessentially Orange County besides avocados. I grabbed a bottle of Gringo Bandito original hot sauce for the honor. It's made here in Orange County, and was created by the lead singer of the Offspring, Dexter Holland, an Orange County native.

It doesn't get more So Cal-stylish than that! But more than hailing from my home stomping grounds, the Gringo Bandito also brought the dish a nice heat and flavor I needed, without being too salty or vinegary. It's quickly become my go-to sauce for taco night!

My challenge to you: how will you make this dish your own?

Friday, December 23, 2016

Peppermint Sugar Cookies

What's your favorite holiday song?

I think I must belong to an elite super group of people who have listened to obscene amounts of holiday music until they have unwittingly become armchair experts. 

Name your favorite holiday song and I can either name at least two of the artists who have recorded it without referencing the internet, sing the chorus, or both. I tested this by asking my Facebook friends for their favorite holiday song, and I am currently 8/8 nailing it in both categories.

That's pretty impressive for someone who has never willingly played a holiday song. This has all been absorbed passively from my exposure to my mother's insane holiday song collection. She estimates she has at least 200 versions of  just the song "Silent Night" to give you some perspective on how much holiday music she has.

My favorite is "The Wassail Song." I have no clue why really, I just love the refrain. Maybe it's because I can really belt it out* and the quality of singing is less important than the enthusiasm at which it is sung.  I also really love "Auld Lang Syne" but no one in their right mind would be comfortable with me singing that one.

Holiday songs are imperative to making these cookies. When I go over to my mother's house to bake cookies, they never stop playing.

*I can also belt out Frosty the Snowman both in English and Spanish. This is the only thing I know to say in Spanish, which goes to show you they teach you nearly nothing useful in mandatory language classes like "Help! I think I need a doctor!" but hey, I know a Christmas carol!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Mulled Wine Stuffing with Sausage and Chestnuts

Here's another special holiday family recipe from my mother that I had to make sure I learned how to make. This stuffing is possibly my favorite culinary aspect of the holiday season!

I love how the wine gives this stuffing acidity and a little bit of bitterness to cut through the richness of butter, sausage and bread. Most stuffings can be be a little stodgy and bland, and the use of the mulled wine brightens it up.

I've written about this stuffing on my slow cooker mulled wine recipe, as that is the ingredient that really makes this stuffing.You can add in dried fruit or nuts, or remove the meat entirely. It will still be acceptable to me. However, if you omit the mulled wine, it just won't taste right in my book. This is the only stuffing for me!

Now, the big trend for food photography for stuffing is giant pieces of bread that toast up nicely in the oven and make for a glorious picture, however I don't think that tastes as nice because everything doesn't have a chance to incorporate. If you prefer a drier stuffing, reduce the liquid to 1 cup each of broth and mulled wine. I like mine nice and mushy and don't really care if that's not as attractive to photograph. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Curried Persimmon Ham

My mom is a mad scientist when it comes to cooking. She is constantly opening up her cupboards and fridge, giving them all a good look, pulling out a motley crew of items, and slapping together something that may never be replicated. Her Turkey and Hominy Soup that I've written about is a great example, because it is really never the same batch twice. She throws in so many different things and in different quantities, it's hard to keep up, let alone write the recipe down.

She also has a gift for making mass quantities of food. If the recipe serves more than 1-2, it's a fair bet it was originally my mother's recipe. I don't have much occasion to cook for a small army, but around the holidays is the best time to cook for a crowd because you never know what sort of get-together you'll host or be invited to! My mother brings this ham to potlucks, and even gives it away as holiday gifts, that's how popular it is!

I don't think even she could come up for a thought process for this recipe, besides noting she had a lot of persimmons, and a stray block of Japanese curry roux rattling around her pantry. She moves on instinct, a trait that I did not inherit. I spend a lot of my time thinking, not just about food.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Kamaboko Dip

It's officially the holidays! Parties, potlucks, girlfriend get-togethers: I've got all that and more planned for the coming weeks, so you'll see a bit of a shift in the recipes I feature here.

There's a distinct lack of baking projects, recipes for parties, or appetizers for a crowd. I like small dishes, and this blog started as a way to feature what I cook on weeknights for myself and Mr. Mochi, and I don't deviate too often unless it is to make sure I write down one of my mother's recipe.

But with the holidays upon us, please look forward to some party dishes! First up: Kamaboko Dip!

I've made several dishes on this blog that feature kamaboko, but all of them have been pretty traditional Japanese recipes. So I wanted to showcase how we utilize it differently it as hapas and Japanese Americans here in the states. Of course I am sure you can think of plenty examples of where imitation crab (kanikama) is substituted for real crab. But here's an entirely new presentation for kamaboko.