Japanese Chicken Curry (From the Box)

Main Dishes, Recipes

Back in college, I used to spend a lot of my time (and money) perusing the local Japanese supermarket in the Sawtelle / Little Osaka area. Some grocery shopping trips would yield a cornucopia of fresh ingredients like enoki mushrooms and sashimi grade salmon, and others would be geared toward restocking my pantry with staples like furikake and yakisoba. Among the latter would always be a box of Japanese curry mix. Heavily seasoned blocks of curry roux, these were essential to making a hearty meal in the dead of winter when I was too busy studying to truly make something from scratch. Nowadays, I still keep a box or two around for weeknight meals that appear impressive with minimal effort.

Japanese Chicken Curry over Spaghetti

Japanese Chicken Curry over Spaghetti

Japanese curry roux generally comes in three levels — mild, medium hot, and hot/spicy. There is also a variety of brands available depending on your area and grocery store. Even if you are not located near an Asian supermarket, you could probably find S&B Golden Curry at your local grocery chain in the “Asian food” aisle. I prefer buying the mild kind and spicing it up with La Yu chili oil to my preference. This enables you to taste the flavors of the curry mix without the spice level dominating your palate. Also, the first step (marinating the protein in mirin) is optional, but I think this sweet rice wine is ideal for bringing out that great umami flavor that sets this curry apart from your neighbor’s.

Ingredients:

Ingredients:

1/2 medium onion, diced

1 lb boneless chicken, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 lb potatoes (I used mini yukon golds and quartered them)

2 carrots, sliced

2 tablespoons mirin

salt & pepper

2-3 cups water

1 100g (3.5 oz) package of Japanese curry mix

few drops of La Yu chili oil (optional)

Side/grain: rice, noodles, spaghetti, or crusty bread

Marinate the Chicken

Marinate the Chicken

Cut up the chicken and place in a large bowl. Season with salt (or garlic salt as pictured) and black pepper and drizzle with mirin. Toss to combine and set aside.

Prepare your mise en place

Prepare your mise en place

Chop the onions, potatoes, and carrots. Set aside. If using mini/young potatoes, you do not have to peel them.

Saute the Onions

Saute the Onions

In a large pot (I used my 4.5 quart dutch oven), saute the onions in a light drizzle of oil, about 1 teaspoon, on medium heat. You want them softened and translucent but not too browned.

Add the Chicken

Add the Chicken

Add the chicken, mirin and all, and try to caramelize each side for added flavor. Saute for a few minutes.

Add the Veg and Water

Add the Veg and Water

Toss in the vegetables and pour in enough water to cover. The box instructions will likely say 500 mL (about 2 cups). I added extra, but not more than 3 cups total.

Testing the Potato

Testing the Potato

Bring the pot to a boil and then turn the heat down. Leave it at a steady simmer until the potatoes and carrots are fork-tender, about 15 minutes.

Adding the Curry Mix

Adding the Curry Mix

While still in the package, break up the curry roux into chunks. Tear open the package and add the chunks to the pot. Stir well to evenly distribute and let simmer for another 5 minutes for the sauce to thicken, stirring constantly.

Ready to Nom!

Ready to Nom!

Serve immediately over steamed rice or noodles or even pasta. If serving over rice, might I offer a suggestion…

Rice Well

Rice Well, Ready to Pile High

Using the paddle that you used to scoop the rice out of the rice cooker, press a small well into the center of the mound. This will hold in the “good stuff” while letting the sauce run over the sides to flavor all of the rice.

Voila! Japanese chicken curry over rice.

Voila! Japanese chicken curry over rice.

Personally, I prefer noodles over rice, so I will often cook up some boxed spaghetti or utilize leftover pasta as my starchy base for Japanese curry. I also like my curries spicy, so if you look really closely, you can see the glistening crimson drops of chili oil on my portion…

Japanese chicken curry over spaghetti

Japanese chicken curry over spaghetti

Itadakimasu~!

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PS: I know our posting schedule has fluctuated over the years. While I would love to continue with twice a week posts, I’ve made a (good) major life change lately that will no longer allow for me to feasibly keep up with that schedule. We appreciate your patience as we revert to our once-weekly schedule (ideally Mondays, but sometimes Tuesday or Wednesday). :) We love you, Nom Nom Cat readers!

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Moules Marinieres

Appetizers and Starters, Main Dishes, Recipes

Martin and I love replicating our favorite restaurant dishes in our own kitchen. Last week, we finally attempted a dish that is one of my all-time favorite to eat yet we had never realized just how easy it would be to make at home — moules frites. Inspired by our brunch at Meet in Paris, we wanted our first batch to keep it simple with garlic, shallots, butter, thyme, and white wine. We managed to find Prince Edward Island (PEI) mussels at our local supermarket chain, though the size of the flesh was nowhere near as gigantic as the ones we had at Meet. This classic mussel preparation is known as mariniere, French for “mariner’s style” but defined in the culinary world as a dish that is prepared by cooking in white wine.

Moules Marinieres

Moules Marinieres

Storing the Mussels: Odds are, the guy behind your grocery store’s seafood counter will toss the mussels into a plastic bag, tie it up, and wrap the whole thing in butcher paper. As soon as you get home, be sure to properly store the mussels. Most importantly, either take them out of the plastic bag or poke holes in it so that they do not suffocate. We transferred ours onto a metal tray, covered them with a damp paper towel, and kept them in the refrigerator until dinnertime. Here’s where it got a little tricky (to me anyway): BEFORE COOKING — the mussels should be tightly closed. Any open ones should close if you tap or otherwise gently disturb it. If the shells are agape and it does nothing, then it is dead and should be discarded. AFTER COOKING — all of the mussels should pop wide open. Any that remain shut are dead and should be discarded. Dead mussels are no bueno.

Ingredients:

Ingredients:

2 lbs mussels (PEI ones are great)

1 shallot, finely diced

4-6 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Pinch of salt

A few sprigs of fresh thyme (or a small handful chopped fresh parsley), optional

2 cups dry white wine (any drinkable but well-priced white wine will do; we found a 2012 Beringer Chardonnay for $3/bottle — do NOT use “cooking wine”)

Crusty bread or baguette, warm or toasted if desired

Cleaned Mussels

Cleaned Mussels

First, clean the mussels under cold running tap water. Our mussels were pretty clean, but if needed, you’ll need to remove the beards from between the shells. Set aside.

Sauteing the Garlic and Shallots

Sauteing the Garlic and Shallots

In a large skillet, melt the butter. Saute the shallot and garlic until softened and translucent, about 1-2 minutes. Season with a sprinkling of salt.

Adding the Wine and Mussels

Adding the Wine and Mussels

Add the herbs, if using, and pour in the wine. Turn the heat up to high and add the mussels, arranging them in a single layer if possible.

Cover and Let Simmer

Cover and Let Simmer

Cover and let simmer for about 5 minutes. You’ll notice that they will gradually pop open. Start toasting off crostini-style slices of bread, if desired.

Almost Ready

Almost Ready

Stir the mussels and continue to boil, covered, for another minute or two. Remove the cover and serve immediately.

Beautiful Mussels!

Beautiful Mussels!

Yields 2 servings (the typical serving is about 1 pound of mussels per person).

Serving Suggestion: alongside wine and crusty bread

Serving Suggestion: alongside wine and crusty bread

Serving suggestion: in a large bowl alongside crusty bread and French fries (to complete this dish as moules frites). Provide a spoon, if desired, but I think the best “spoon” is the discarded shell of one of your eaten mussels. Savor the flavorful broth.

Pair with a glass of the same white wine used for cooking or a better Chardonnay if preferred. Bon appetit!

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our-growing-edge-badgeThis post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things. I love to eat moules marinieres, but this was our very first time making it at home and boy, is it easy! I never would have imagined that we could recreate a gourmet dish like steamed mussels; light some candles and whip up a batch of these for your next date night at home for a boost of fanciness and romance.

This month is hosted by Leah at Sharing the Food We Love.

Cheers!

Sweet Marsala Tiramisu

Desserts and Sweets, Recipes

My dad only recently developed his sweet tooth, so back when I was experimenting with recipes in college, I knew he would rarely accept an offer of dessert. I definitely remember one such lucky occasion, however, when I dug up a recipe for tiramisu. It’s one of his favorite desserts and arguably my favorite, at least from Italian cuisine, over cannoli, spumoni, even gelato! Though it took a bit of coercing for him to take that first bite, I can still vividly recall his eyes lighting up as he polished off his serving wordlessly. This recipe has been in my repertoire ever since.

Tiramisu

Tiramisu

Three things. First, you’ll want to make sure you have some strong arm muscles for beating those egg whites to a stiff peak (thanks to the souffle, I’ve had plenty of practice). It’s the aerated whites that really makes this cream filling fluffy and light and not-too-sweet. Possibly among the best tiramisu, or so I’ve been told ;) Second, at six tablespoons of Marsala, this particular recipe is a bit more boozy than others. Have fun with it. (If you do need to cut back, play around with the coffee-Marsala ratio.) Lastly, this tiramisu is topped with grated chocolate just before serving, which truly makes a difference — it tastes way better than the bitter cocoa powder that some restaurants use instead.

Ingredients:

Ingredients:

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup strong black coffee, freshly brewed

6 tablespoons sweet Marsala wine

1 package of ladyfingers (16-24 pieces)

3 eggs, separated

8 ounce package of mascarpone

Dash of nutmeg

Dark or semisweet chocolate for garnish (about 1-2 ounces, grated)

I got this recipe many years ago from a cookbook that I just cannot seem to track down (it doesn’t help that I’ve made some adjustments from the original proportions). If anyone recognizes the source, please let me know and I will gladly credit it.

Coffee-Marsala Mixture

Coffee-Marsala Mixture

Step 1: Dissolve one-half of the sugar (1/8 cup) into the coffee. Stir in the Marsala; you should end up with about 1 cup of liquid total.

Layer #1

Layer #1

Step 2: Arrange a single layer of ladyfingers in the bottom of an 8-inch round trifle dish (or a 1.75 quart Pyrex round). Drizzle about one third of the coffee mixture. Set aside.

Beating the Yolks and Mascarpone

Beating the Yolks and Mascarpone

Step 3: In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the yolks and the remaining sugar. Fold in the mascarpone.

Adding the Nutmeg

Adding the Nutmeg

Step 4: When the yolk-mascarpone mixture is creamy and fully integrated, sprinkle in the nutmeg. Stir.

Beat the Egg Whites

Beat the Egg Whites

Step 5: In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.

Folding

Folding

Step 6: Fold the mascarpone mixture into the egg whites — first, lighten the mascarpone mixture by stirring in a bit of the fluffy whites, then cut down and scoop over with a rubber spatula, turning the bowl as you go, “folding” the mixture onto itself so as to minimize deflating the whites.

The Setup

The Setup

Step 7: Spoon about one-third of the mixture over the soaked ladyfingers and spread smooth.

Next Layer

Next Layer

Step 8: Continue with a layer of ladyfingers, drizzling with one-third of the coffee mixture and topping with one-third of the fluffy mascarpone cream. Repeat with the remaining ingredients, finishing with mascarpone on the very top layer.

Ready to Chill

Ready to Chill

Step 9: Let chill in the refrigerator, preferably overnight. This will help set the cream.

Shaving the Chocolate

Shaving the Chocolate

Step 10: Just before serving, shave or grate the chocolate over the top of the tiramisu using a microplane. Buon appetito!

Yields: 6-8 servings

Sweet Potato Mash and Warm Asparagus Salad [Thanksgiving 2013]

Recipes, Side Dishes

Thanksgiving is not a Vietnamese tradition by any means, but our families have come to welcome the opportunity to have dinner together on a nationally-designated Thursday each year. Martin and I were assigned side dishes and dessert, and his parents made soup and hosted the party. Our soy sauce glazed chicken with sticky rice stuffing is a crowd-pleaser, so my parents handled that this year.

Soy Sauce Glazed Chicken with Sticky Rice Stuffing

Soy Sauce Glazed Chicken with Sticky Rice Stuffing

The side dishes we selected are colorful, easy to prepare in advance, use seasonal ingredients, and reheat well at our final destination. They are also both – *fanfare* – vegetarian / vegan! (I did use C&H light brown sugar, so depending on how that was processed, it arguably is or is not vegan.) In lieu of traditional mashed potatoes, we wanted to use sweet potato for its brighter flavor, not that we don’t love a good, butter-laden mash a la Thomas Keller. We were also assigned to bring a salad but, with the cooler weather, decided to go with a warm roasted asparagus salad instead. Both turned out to be great hits, so save these recipes for next year, serve them up at Christmas dinner, or make them “just because.”

Ready to Party

Ready to Party

**Note: I doubled the proportions for our dinner party, so while each recipe yields 4 servings, the photos will depict twice as much of each ingredient.

Sweet Potato Mash Ingredients:

Sweet Potato Mash Ingredients:

2 lbs sweet potatoes

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch of nutmeg

Step 1: Scrub the sweet potatoes under cold running water to remove any dirt and pick off the roots. Stab all over with a fork (like piercing a frozen dinner for the microwave).

Baked Sweet Potatoes

Baked Sweet Potatoes

Step 2: Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the skins pull away from the tubers and the sugars are dark but not burnt. Set aside and let cool.

Peeled Sweet Potatoes

Peeled Sweet Potatoes

Step 3: When cool enough to handle, peel the skins off the sweet potatoes. Add to a medium sized mixing bowl.

Sweet Potato Mash - the final product

Sweet Potato Mash – the final product

Step 4: Mashing with a fork, sprinkle in the salt, sugar, and spices. Taste and adjust to your liking.

Warm Asparagus Salad Ingredients:

Warm Asparagus Salad Ingredients:

12 ounces fresh asparagus (preferably the younger, thinner variety)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper

1 teaspoon dried thyme

Lemon Vinaigrette Ingredients:

Lemon Vinaigrette Ingredients:

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon honey or agave *

1/4 cup olive oil, slowly drizzled to emulsify *

Salt & pepper, to taste

* adjust the sweetener and oil depending on how much juice you get out of your lemon

Vinaigrette proportions based on this Food Network recipe

Ready for the Oven

Ready for the Oven

Step 1: Break the woody ends off the asparagus (the stem will easily snap in just the right place; if you’re fighting with it, you’re not doing it right). Rinse in cool water and drain well. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme. Arrange on a baking sheet in a single layer.

Roasted Asparagus

Roasted Asparagus

Step 2: Roast in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. The stems will be tender and sweet and the tops will be toasty but not dark.

Whisking the Lemon Vinaigrette

Whisking the Lemon Vinaigrette

Step 3: Meanwhile, prepare the vinaigrette. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, mustard, and sweetener. While simultaneously whisking, slowly drizzle in a consistent stream of olive oil. Taste and season as needed. The emulsification will mellow out the sharp acidity of the lemon juice (if it’s still too tart, keep whisking and adding oil). Set aside.

Warm Asparagus Salad

Warm Asparagus Salad

Step 4: Cut the asparagus into one-inch, bite-sized pieces and add to a bowl. Toss in the dressing or serve alongside, if desired. Serve warm or cold.

Didn’t I tell you these were easy? Especially if you have a good oven, since it will be doing most of the work. These dishes were great accompaniments to the rest of our Thanksgiving dinner which featured….

Sup Mang Cua (Vietnamese Crab & Asparagus Soup)

Sup Mang Cua (Vietnamese Crab & Asparagus Soup)

Martin’s parents made a soup commonly found at Vietnamese-Chinese restaurants, crab and white asparagus soup or súp măng cua. His mom adds a special twist that I don’t see very often (if ever!) – hard boiled quail eggs. With firm whites yielding to a smooshy yolky middle, it’s fun to find one of these surprises sitting at the bottom of your soup bowl. Garnished with fresh cilantro and a sprinkling of white pepper, this soup transports me back to fond memories of childhood.

Nuwave Oven

Nuwave Oven

When I was a kid, I used to stay up late at night watching infomercials on the little TV in my bedroom. I was always especially fascinated if it were food related (I’ve seen the flavor injector segment of the Showtime Rotisserie oven more times than anyone really should). Anyway, it turns out my parents were doing the same thing, so they got one of these — a NuWave induction oven. It actually did a pretty good job of cooking our humble 3-pound chicken in about 45 minutes.

Our dads carving the turkey... I mean, chicken.

Our dads carving the turkey… I mean, chicken.

So from our home to yours, we hope you enjoy these recipes for potluck-friendly side dishes that are sure to please the guests of your next holiday party. Wait – where’s the dessert, you ask? I guess you’ll just have to tune in again this Wednesday… ;)

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Homemade Chicken Stock

Appetizers and Starters, Food Life, Recipes, Side Dishes

Happy Day-After-Thanksgiving, Nom Nom Cat Readers! I hope you were able to partake in a gluttonous quantity of turkey (or chicken, or ham, or lamb) with all the fixin’s, and most importantly, spend quality time with loved ones. And for those who did carve into a whole poultry bird, I certainly hope that you kept the carcass… which brings me to today’s recipe — homemade chicken stock. Martin makes fun of me for it, but one of my favorite Sunday afternoon activities is bringing home a whole bird, butchering it into the assorted parts (breasts, thighs, drumsticks, wings), and making a stock out of the remnants. I just use the raw chicken scraps as-is, but roasted chicken bones would impart even more flavor to your broth or stock, so keep that carcass!

Beautiful Stock

Beautiful Stock

The process is surprisingly simple, and once I used homemade stock in a recipe, I never turned back. Soups, sauces, and especially risotto benefit from a quality base that the canned and carton variety just cannot replicate. Making stock is also a relatively forgiving process. Short on time? You’ll get a nice clear broth. Leave it too long? You’ll end up with a concentrated demiglace that can be diluted later in cooking. But simmer it for just the right amount of time and you’ll yield a rich, full flavored stock that embodies the essence of chicken.

Ingredients:

Ingredients:

Chicken: carcass, neck, 2 wings, excess fat

1 large onion

2 carrots

2-3 stalks celery

3 cloves of garlic

2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme

3-4 dried bay leaves

3 quarts cold water

Egg shell, optional*

* If having a very clear stock is important for your next recipe, toss in an egg shell and/or egg white. The albumen will attract and trap the “junk” and you can just skim off the floating “raft” at the end.

Carcass

Carcass

Butcher the raw or roasted chicken carcass.

Mirepoix

Mirepoix

Roughly chop the mirepoix vegetables. The garlic can be left whole – just smash it a bit to release the oils.

Browning the Chicken

Browning the Chicken

I like to start my stock by browning the chicken first. The one I bought had a large flap of fat that I had trimmed off, so I started that first to render fat and then tossed in the whole carcass. I also added the neck and two wings. The wings have a great bone to meat to fat ratio for making stock. For a true stock, I do not season the chicken at all. Any seasoning will come from the next stage; the stock only harnesses the chicken flavor.

Add the Veggies

Add the Veggies

Add the mirepoix. You can also make a chicken stock with only chicken, but I like the flavors that the vegetables add to the final product.

Pour in the Water

Pour in the Water

Time to pour in the water, cold as starting with cold water will result in a less cloudy broth. Also toss in the aromatics. Bring to boil and simmer for 3 to 4 hours, less for a broth (but at least 1 hour so the chicken cooks through), more for a reduced demiglace.

Strain the Stock

Strain the Stock

Remove the boiled chicken. After about 4 hours of simmering, the chicken itself will probably be dry and bland. I toss it (there isn’t much meat left on the carcass anyway) but to prevent waste, you can pick the meat off the bones and use for a chicken salad or toss in nuoc cham and eat over rice. Using a sieve or even a skimmer (in the very first photo), strain out the vegetables and herbs. The recipe should yield about 1.5 to 2 quarts of stock.

Muffin Tin Storage

Muffin Tin Storage

I stored my latest batch of stock in a freezer safe plastic container, but I wish I had taken the extra step to make my “broth bullion” as Martin likes to call them. It’s so easy — just strain the broth or stock into a muffin tin, about 2/3 to 3/4 full. Freeze overnight.

Frozen Broth Bullion

Frozen Broth Bullion

Once frozen solid, just pop them out (dip the tray in a bit of warm water to loosen if it needs help) and store in a zip top bag. Whenever you need broth, just reheat in a small saucepan. I also love these little discs because they add just the right amount of oomph to my sauces. No need to defrost more than you’d use right away, and it’s just as easy as popping open a can of the store-bought stuff. And like I said earlier, nothing beats homemade!

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SPONSORED POST

Speaking of Black Friday, a little birdie told us that Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (CBTL) is participating with a Buy One Get One Free sale all weekend (November 29 through December 1) on their Kaldi and Americano machines. Not willing to brave the crazy crowds at your local mall? Have no fear — this sale is also taking place online with the promo code BOGOCBTL. Check out the website for more info and for the fine print. Enjoy!

13CBV_PS_BOGO_BlackFriday 11x17* Disclosure per FTC regulations: we were not paid for this post but expect to receive a CBTL machine from Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in the near future to try and review. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely those of Nom Nom Cat authors Alice and Martin.