Thursday, May 27, 2010

A great bento staple - Carrots, Hijiki and Shirataki Noodles has a great recipe for stewed hijiki seaweed and carrots supplemented with some fried tofu cake cut with a cookie cutter. I've done taken this recipe and made my own version of it.

For me, I decided to add shirataki noodles (also known as yam starch noodles)to this dish. You see while my hijiki is re-hydrating, I rinse and par-boil the noodles AND julienne my carrots using a mandolin slicer with a julienne insert. Once the seaweed is hydrated, the noodles should be drained and chopped into shorter lengths. Put the noodles, carrots and seaweed back into the same pot you parboiled the noodles in. Add fresh water and vegetable stock soup base. Or if you have if add some canned/boxed premade stuff. Personally, I prefer using a stock base as I have more control over the intensity of the flavor since it will generally be eaten cold which dulls flavors. If at all possible, I suggest using the Better than Bouillon brand of soup base as the manufacturer tends to roast the veggies which gives greater depth of flavor. That being said, add a good heaping tablespoon of base to the water in the pot with the noodles, seaweed, and carrots. Bring your pot to a boil and maintain it for approximately 30 minutes. This should be enough time for the noodles to take up the flavor of the vegetable stock. Drain off your vegetable stock and let things cool before storing it away.

I have had this bento staple last for two weeks in my fridge before going bad. I find that this dish can taste equally well cold or reheated. And you rarely need to add any extra salt to it as it draws the salt from the vegetable base.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Hamburger press

If you just happen to have a hamburger press or know someone who does, borrow it and try it with the beef and potato croquettes recipe. Line the bottom tray with wax paper, parchment paper or even plastic wrap, so you can remove the finished patty without ruining it. Using a press like this will make the finished patties a consistent size and thickness. I use one when I make beef & potato croquettes. It helps to keep the cooking times consistent and minimizes burned patties.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Beef and Potato Croquettes

1/2 lb ground beef
1 lb potatoes
3 eggs
bread crumbs, unseasoned
oil for deep frying

Cook ground beef. If beef is too fatty, drain off half of the grease. Boil potatoes until soft then mash them until they are free from lumps. Mix cooked beef with the mashed potatoes. Scoop a handful of the mixture and compress into a patty. Beat the eggs with a bit of water to make a egg wash. Coat all sides of the patty with the egg wash, then into the bread crumbs. Heat the oil til hot. Deep fry the breaded patties until golden brown. Drain on paper towel.

Note: The grease is needed to help bind the potatoes together. An 80/20 blend should work best without draining off the grease. Also, you should be using regular old breadcrumbs, not panko breadcrumbs. This is because you can not get an even coating with panko. They are too flaky to coat the patty very well.

Note: 7-21-07: Used 85/15 ground beef and added all of the beef and grease to the potatoes. Potatoes were also mashed fine. I also used a hamburger press to even out the thickness of the patties. It worked out real well. However, the mixture is very soft and crumbly. So I put the patties in to the freezer until I could work with them without them falling apart. It worked but some still fell apart as I dipped them in the egg and breaded them. Perhaps next time, I’ll add a few eggs to bind the mixture better since just the beef grease alone isn’t enough.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Wax Paper Sheets

You could find these single cut sheets in a supermarket or Wal-mart but I'll bet you're more likely to find them in a restaurant supply shop. They are 5 inch by 10 inch sheets that have been pre-folded and placed into a dispenser box so that they pop up like kleenex. This are great for keeping individual portions separated so that they don't stick together if you happen to stack them. These sheets also work great as an alternative to paper towel in covering your foods as they heat in the microwave. The waxy surface keeps most foods from sticking and tends to keep the steam close to the food so that it doesn’t dry out so fast.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Something different to add to your bentos

On impulse, I bought some fresh brussels sprouts the other day for dinner. I decided to cook them with some garlic, ginger and turkey bacon. The result....well, since I was trying to only dirty one pan, it wasn't the success I had hope it would be. You see I choose to steam the sprouts, which were quartered, after I had cooked the bacon to a crispy texture. The water needed to steam the sprouts softened the bacon. Oh well...guess I'll have to steam the sprouts separately before adding them to my bacon next time.

And for an FYI: I tend to pick up turkey bacon mainly for the reason that it's ALL meat and there is little grease to clean up afterwards. Feel free to use regular bacon if you want.

Brussels Sprouts with Garlic, Ginger and Bacon

1/2 lbs Brussel Sprouts, quartered
3-4 slices of turkey bacon, sliced in to strips
1-2 cloves garlic, mashed and chopped
1/3 inch ginger, minced fine
vegetable oil (if using turkey bacon)

Quarter and steam brussels sprouts. Slice bacon into thin strips. Add bacon, ginger and garlic to fry pan along with a bit of vegetable oil. (omit extra oil if using regular bacon). Once the bacon begins to get crispy, add the steamed brussels sprouts. Cook until bacon is done and serve.

Personally, I'm not too sure how this dish would work cold with regular bacon. I would think that the grease would make the dish unpleasant cold. Your call.