ハンバーガー (Hamburger)

Let me say first that this is by far the prettiest Japanese food recipe I’ve made. All my other dishes were very tasty (if I do say so myself – and others have agreed with me), but either the dish itself was rather unattractive or my photos were just shoddy. Finally, I can share with you some delicious 食べ物 that looks as good as it tastes! I hope you’re hungry…

I should explain a bit here about 洋食 (youshoku) or Western Food. Having been influenced by good eats from France, Italy, and China as well as the Americas, Japanese cooks began adapting foreign recipes and making them their own in the early 1900’s. Such foreign adaptations were called youshoku as apposed to 和食 (washoku) which refers to traditional Japanese cuisine. The かぼちゃコロッケ (kabocha korokke) I made is an example of youshoku and was inspired by French croquettes. Gyoza (dumplings) and ramen noodles are Japanese-style Chinese food. Western culinary influence has penetrated so deeply that even in the small town of Uchiko where I lived you could find some rather hilarious – yet surprisingly delicious – spins on fast-food like the spaghetti-dog, mochi and peanut butter sandwiches, and potato salad and sausage pizza. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried, I only wish I had photos. I DID snap a photo of some rather disgusting (to us) string cheese my friends and I discovered at Matsuyama Airport:

"Fish Cheese" is basically the English translation.

Anyway, since youshoku is a relatively easy form of Japanese food for those outside of Japan to make I find that I’ve been making it more often than other, more complicated washoku. As I gain more confidence in my Japanese cooking – or my culinary abilities in general for that matter – I promise I’ll be able to share more traditional style recipes with you. Until then, I recommend Just Hungry: a blog written by self-described nomad Makiko chronicling her Japanese home cooking. Now, ready for some delicious “hanbaga” in a special sauce? 料理をしましょう!

ハンバーガー (Hamburger) (from Let’s Cook Japanese Food! by Amy Kaneko)

Ingredients:

For the Hamburgers…

1/3   C   panko

¼   C   milk

3   T   canola or other neutral oil, separated, if needed*

1 small yellow onion, minced

¾   lb.   ground beef

¼   lb.   ground pork

1   medium egg, lightly beaten

½   t   salt

¼   t   fresh ground pepper

For the Sauce…

2   T   sake

1   C   tonkatsu sauce**

¼   C   red wine

¼   C   water

2   T   ketchup

* Note: I used a non-stick pan just to be safe, although the source recipe doesn’t specify, and found the oil for the patties to be completely unnecessary. The natural moisture in the beef and pork was more than enough to keep the patties from sticking.

** Note: It took a year before I was able to find bottled tonkatsu sauce in my area (see Beezer’s Notes below) so don’t feel discouraged if you’re unable to find it on shelves. I’ve been told Bulldog brand makes a great sauce, so if any stores around you carry Bulldog products you might be in luck. If not, you can either buy tonkatsu sauce online or make a substitute version of Japanese hamburger sauce as follows: in a small saucepan combine 1 Cup ketchup, ¼ Cup Worcestershire sauce, ¼ Cup red wine, ¼ Cup water, and 1 teaspoon sugar and mix well. Cook over Medium heat for about 3 minutes and pour over fully-cooked hamburger patties and coat well before serving. (Also, yes, I suppose you can make the tonkatsu sauce from scratch as well but I have yet to try so I can’t recommend a recipe; if anyone has a good one, please share!)

Procedure:

  1. To prep for the hamburger patties mix together panko and milk in a small bowl and set aside. In a frying pan, heat 1 Tablespoon of the oil over Medium heat and add onions. Cook, stirring often, until lightly browned – about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
  2. As the onions cool, prepare your Hamburger Sauce by combining tonkatsu sauce, wine, water, and ketchup in a small saucepan over medium heat (or follow the instructions in the Notes above for a substitution if no tonkatsu sauce can be found). Adjust the temperature as needed to allow sauce to simmer for at least 3 minutes and then set aside. My sauce was quite thin so I kept it at a low heat the entire time I cooked the patties and it reduced beautifully.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the beef, pork, soaked panko, cooled onion, egg, salt, and pepper. Using your hands (or a potato masher if you’re feeling less adventurous), mix to distribute all ingredients evenly. Gather the patty base into a large mass and slap it back into the bowl a few times to release any air bubbles. This will help ensure patties that are dense and helps them hold together. Divide the patty mix into 4 equal portions and form each patty into a disk about 1½ inches thick.
  4. In a frying pan large enough to accommodate the patties without crowding, heat the remaining oil (if using) over Medium-high heat. If you don’t have a pan large enough, cook the patties in 2 batches. When the oil is hot, carefully add the patties and cook until a brown crust starts to form on the bottom – 3 to 5 minutes depending on the size of your pan. Carefully flip the patties once and cook until a brown crust forms on the second side – 3 to 5 minutes more.
  5. Add 1 Tablespoon of the sake to the pan, cover, and continue cooking for 2 minutes. Uncover and carefully turn the patties over, adding the remaining 1 Tablespoon sake, cover, and cook until the patties become very brown on the outside and cooked through – about 2 minutes longer. As soon as the patties are done, pour in the Hamburger Sauce, flip the patties once to coat them well, and heat for a few minutes to bring the sauce up to temperature. Serve immediately.

Beezer’s Notes:

Mmmm… you know, I don’t cook meat very often (both from expense and from choice) but a recipe like this really makes me want to! These Japanese hamburgers are super moist, very flavorful all by themselves, and especially delicious with the sauce. The sake adds a subtle sweetness while the wine brings a complexity and the tonkatsu gives it a punch.  I haven’t tried the sauce substitute, but I’m sure it has very similar flavors if only lacking a bit in authenticity. I shouldn’t be speaking to strongly of authenticity though, since the tonkatsu sauce I was so happy to find is actually made by a local company which took some real liberties with the ingredients: anise seeds, cinnamon, fennel, and cloves being some. Still, it’s a better bottle of tonkatsu sauce than I could make, I’m sure, and a little extra spice never hurt anyone. Going back to the burgers themselves, you might find that they remind you more of meatloaf than an American quarter-pounder the panko and onions making the mix lighter. Either way, the beef/pork ratio is a real winner in my book and I’ll have to remember it in the future for hamburgers in general.

Overall Enjoyment:   ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥

Really Simple Turkey Meat Sauce

Things have been really busy on the work front recently. I’ve been staying up nights and coming home starving so I really wanted a recipe I could make a large batch of, store for a week, and have enough protein to carry me through the night. Pasta is an easy answer for this, as any college student will tell you…but I’ve never been dedicated enough to make my own sauce before. Enter: the Really Simple Turkey Meat Sauce recipe!

This sauce recipe is great because it has everything you need for the basic, well-rounded meal (you can even throw in more veg if you want to boost the health factor) without the hassle. During times like this, I need a can-cook-it-in-my-sleep kind of meal since I’m more zombie than human anyway and certainly don’t have any patience. I’ve adapted the source recipe to use my ground turkey meat instead of the traditional ground beef simply because I like the taste better.

Really Simple Turkey Meat Sauce (adapted from Eating Well, December 2010)

Ingredients:

1   lb.   whole-wheat spaghetti (I ended up using linguini)

2   t   EVOO

1   large onion, finely chopped

1   large carrot, finely chopped

1   stalk celery, finely chopped

4   cloves garlic, minced

1   T   Italian seasoning (I used a mix of oregano, thyme, and basil)

1   lb.   lean ground turkey meat

1   28 oz.  can peeled whole or crushed tomatoes

¼   C   chopped parsley

½   t   salt

½   C   grated Parmesan cheese

Procedure:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta until just tender and drain (about 8 minutes).
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, and celery and cook – stirring occasionally – for 5 minutes or so or until the onion begins to brown.
  3. Stir in garlic and Italian seasoning and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Then, add the ground turkey and cook, breaking up the meat with a spoon or wooden spatula for 3 to 5 minutes or until no longer pink. Now, if you’re like me, you’ll need to transfer the contents of the skillet to a medium-sized sauce pan for the next step. I do not have a skillet large enough to contain the added tomatoes.
  4. Increase heat to High and stir in tomatoes. If using whole tomatoes use a potato masher or fork to mush them up in the mixture (this will also help break up any larger bits of meat). Cook until sauce thickens – about 6 minutes. Stir in parsley and salt. Serve sauce over pasta and top with the cheese.

Beezer’s Notes:

For being as simple as it is, this sauce is very good! I ended up being right about the tomato paste, though; without it the sauce is much more watery and runny than it otherwise would have been. Since the source recipe used beef, I can’t be absolutely sure the original recipe would have turned out as watery, but I can’t see ground beef adding that much more viscosity. The turkey meat makes for a lighter dish either way and so I think a quarter Cup of tomato paste would have thickened the sauce up well without making it too heavy. If you want to thicken up the sauce just a tad without the tomato paste, you could always melt in some of your grated cheese at the end. I did that and liked the results.

Overall Enjoyment: ♥   ♥   ♥

Double-Layer Ice Cream Pie

I like ice cream. I like pie. I like ice cream with my pie….but somehow, I had never before encountered – nor even considered – an ice cream pie. I suppose it’s not all that different from an ice cream cake, that easy fall-back for countless birthdays across the America, and yet the idea of a crunchy shell supporting two yummy flavors topped with a generous drizzle of caramel sauce was too good to pass up. Especially when the caramel sauce mentioned was advertised as “easy” and I had never before made caramel sauce in my life (sadly, melting caramel candies with cream doesn’t count). Plus, how can you go wrong with Ree’s wonderful step-by-step photo instructions?? I tweaked it a bit for my own tastes (and laziness) but barley enough to mention; see Beezer’s Notes below if you’re really that curious. I promise I won’t be offended if you skip directly to Ree’s site and work from her pictures – that woman could publish a photo-book of recipes that would still be perfectly functional without a single  typed word.

Double-Layer Ice Cream Pie (adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks)

Ingredients:

For the Crust…

3     egg whites

¼   t     salt

½   C    sugar

1     C    almonds, finely chopped

For the Filling…

2    Pints of ice cream, one each of different flavors

For the Caramel Sauce…

4     T     butter

1      C     brown sugar, packed

½    C    heavy cream

1      T    vanilla

pinch of salt

For Chocolate Ganache…

1     C     dark or semisweet chocolate chips

1     C     heavy cream

Procedure:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Add sugar and salt and beat again until stiff and glossy. Gently fold in nuts and spread mixture over the bottom and up the sides of a non-glass pie pan – make sure the sides are adequately coated. Bake for about 15 minutes or until a light golden brown. Allow crust to cool completely.
  2. About ten minutes or so before crust is completely cool, remove the first of the ice cream pints from the freezer and allow to soften while waiting on the crust.
  3. Once crust is completely cool and ice cream has softened, spread the first pint across the bottom of the crust and smooth the top. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 10 minutes or so to harden a bit. At the same time, remove your second ice cream pint and allow to soften on the counter while the first layer hardens.
  4. Remove pie from the freezer and spread the second pint of ice cream on top of the first. Smooth the top and return the completed pie to the freezer to solidify one last time. While waiting, prepare the sauces.
  5. Mix all caramel sauce ingredients except the vanilla in a small sauce pan over med-low heat. Cook while whisking gently for 5 minutes or so until thicker. Add the vanilla and cook a minute more to thicken further. Remove from heat and transfer sauce to a jar. If not serving the same day, refrigerate the sauce til needed.
  6. To make the chocolate ganache, mix chocolate and cream in another small sauce pan over med-low heat until smooth. Remove from heat and transfer to another jar. Again, if not serving the same day (or if you prefer your sauce cold) store in the fridge.
  7. When ready to serve, slice pie (meringue crust will stick a bit to the pan, that’s normal) and drizzle sauce(s) of choice over the top. Yum! 🙂

Beezer’s Notes:

Mmmm, this pie was everything I expected it to be. The crunch of the almond-filled meringue was a great base for the ice cream and the sauces added an extra layer of flavor on top. Plus, if you’re like me and pour the sauces on warm, you’ll end up with a slowly melting mound of deliciousness you can scoop up around chewy meringue blobs. Desserts taste even better when they soften into fun textures – don’t deny it!

I didn’t intend to tweak much in this recipe, I just didn’t want to measure out egg whites. I decided to use three eggs’ worth instead and bumped the sugar in the meringue up to ½ Cup to compensate. I also used almonds instead of pecans since I had them on hand. The addition of a chocolate sauce was simply because one of my ice cream pints was flavored caramel (it was on sale!) and I thought that a caramel ice cream with caramel sauce might be a bit too much for some folks. Lastly, I divided up the procedure a bit in how I layered my ice cream.

To be completely honest, it wasn’t some grand plan of clean layers or impressive presentation I had in mind when I changed the filling process. I ended up freezing my first layer because I was convinced the second pint of ice cream wouldn’t fit on top! It wasn’t until the first layer had frozen solid that I decided, what the hell, and gave it a shot. Lo and behold: two whole pints fit perfectly! Of course. Why do I always doubt?? Anyway, the two-part freeze did result in lovely divided layers, though, so I decided to keep the procedure. I’m sure your pie will be delicious any way you choose to fill it. Especially with all that sauce. 😉

Overall Enjoyment: ♥    ♥    ♥    ♥

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