Cook the Books: Untangling my Chopsticks~

2 01 2011

Cook the Books has us reading “Untangling my Chopsticks: A Culinary Sojourn in Kyoto”  by Victoria Abbott Riccardi this time around.  I think I was hooked within the first paragraph of the dust cover.  I’ve been fascinated by Japanese culture since I first saw Shogun in the late 70’s…early 80’s.  I actually read all of Shogun after seeing the mini-series.  This, was a really quick read for me, because I could hardly put it down, and I had a bit of time off.  I do a lot of reading on Sunday Night, Spa Night…so a little jasmine in the air, and away to Kyoto we went…

I don’t live where I can acquire quite all the ingredients for a Kyoto style Kaiseki-ryori, but we did have a lovely multiple course dinner for New Year’s Eve, nonetheless.  We started with miso soup.  I was so tickled to actually find light miso paste!  I’ve looked before, and not been able to find anything but red, so this was delightful!  Although I couldn’t get kombu to make my own kombu dashi, I was able to acquire dashi no moto, so we were able to get close enough for the soup to taste like it should.  When we got to the bottom of the bowl, there was a treasure of 3 cubes of tofu waiting for us.

Next up was a raw fish course…kind of a sushi dish…where the rice is pressed onto a plate, then the fish is scattered onto the rice with condiments.  In our case, avocado and black sesame seeds.  The chopped tuna was dressed with a spicy mayo (sriracha and mayo with a few drops of sesame oil).  We scooped a whole quarter up into the martini glass to eat with chopsticks…

The next course was our grilled or broiled course…we didn’t have a fried course or a steamed course.  I had my eye on a steamed savory custard too.  Maybe another time.  I had also planned on tempura for the fried course, but over estimated my energy! LOL!

Next up was Chicken Yakitori…oh my!  Simply oh my!  I used only chicken thigh meat, but I could consider giving chicken liver a thought, mind you just a thoughtful taste, done this way.  The yakitori sauce is easy beyond easy, the meat marinates quickly, cooks quickly, and literally cooked while we were eating the sushi course (my favorite, but this one made a close 2nd!).  Don’t skip the green onion or leek.  It really adds something.  We had this with plain steamed rice and extra yakitori sauce. Mmmmm…..

Finally, we have the Shabu-shabu…on the platter from 12 o’clock around we have blanched swiss chard leaves, 1-2 is noodles, 3 is blanched leek leaves, 4-5 and 7-8 gourmet mushrooms, 6 o’clock is blanched carrot slices,  9 is blanched onion, 10-11 is noodles, at 12 o’clock below the swiss chard leaves are tofu cubes and in the center is thinly sliced beef tenderloin.  The sauce that accompanies this dish is a ponzu sauce, which is a lemony soy sauce.

The veggies were blanched or parboiled according to their density and cooking time.  The idea was to leave some cooking time, but not a whole lot.  The cooking broth would take on the flavors from the various bits and pieces of food cooked in the communal pot.  At the end of the meal, the noodles would be added to the pot, and finished in the steaming soup.  This was fascinating and warrants trying again!

All in all it was a quite pleasant way to dine, and a pleasant way to kill an evening!  To do a full scale Kaiseki meal would require a lot of forethought, planning and help to get it all to come together in the right time frame! LOL!  It just made me appreciate the concept that much more!

In the meanwhile, if you need a little trip to Kyoto, it’s much easier to pick up Victoria Abbott Riccardi’s book “Untangling my Chopsticks: A Culinary Sojourn in Kyoto” and take a fantasy trip there…  She’s thoughtfully provided a few easy recipes as well!

Thank you, Rachel, for hostessing this event!  This was a great book for me!  One I won’t be parting with!  I’m snagged, hook, line and sinker, and looking for more Japanese recipes to stretch out a meal with.  I’m thinking this makes a lot of sense…little bits of different things…spread over different food groups!  I rather like that!