Anger Burger

OMFGkonomiyaki

Posted by on Jul 11, 2010 at 10:49 pm

Guess what?  I stocked up on groceries from the Japanese market.  I’m getting so predictable.  The truth is that I’ve wanted to make okonomiyaki for over a year now, and I am just now getting around to it.  Sad?  Or proof that putting your mind toward something eventually makes it happen?  Is one shotgun shell left a half empty or half full shotgun?  Depends on how many zombies are coming your way I guess.

Right, okonomiyaki.  There are split factions over whether or not nagaimo or mountain yam is a critical ingredient, pitting blogger against blogger.  Everyone agrees that mountain yam on its own is pretty fucking gross¹ — it’s a crunchy, starchy root toober (<–brain fart error and I’m keeping it) sort of like a jicama, except that lots of people are allergic to touching it raw and when you grate it it turns into semen.  True!

See?  Actually I grated it a little too large here so it didn’t quite get that translucent snottiness, but you can see where it might head that direction.  And stirring a big bowl of it is pretty gag-inducing.  It sort of reforms itself into a big glob that you can’t really stir through, almost like a raw egg white.

The thing is, when it cooks as a part of a savory pancake batter, it becomes fluffy and light.  Most of the okonomiyaki recipes I found online did not include grated mountain yam, and I consider this to be a real travesty.  Some even recommended against it!  This is bullshit.  They’re just saying that because they can’t find any.  There’s no question in my mind that the mountain yam produces a final texture that absolutely cannot be emulated with any other product.

Wait, maybe I should explain what okonomiyaki is?  Well, it’s a giant savory griddle-fried fritter with lots of vegetables and maybe a little meat or seafood in it, and then slathered with delicious toppings.  Some people call it “Japanese pizza” disregarding that Japanese people eat regular pizza; other people call it “Japanese pancake” also disregarding that Japanese people eat regular pancakes, too.   Ultimately, there’s no American analog for the okonomiyaki.

So aside from the mountain yam debate, there are as many different recipes for okonomiyaki as there are for potato salad.  You have to just know what sort of end product you want, but in a way, this is very freeing.  Don’t like green onions?  Don’t put them in.  Like corn?  For god’s sake, dump some corn in.  Like little shrimpies?

Have some little shrimpies. I guess these are called “sakura ebi”?  Which translates to “cherry blossom shrimp”?  All I know is: pretty.  Also: tasty.

So here’s my okonomiyaki, pretty traditional with little shrimpies, some beni shoga (that’s pickled ginger similar to the kind you get with sushi, but not exactly the same) and chopped green onion.  And corn!  There’s corn in there, but you can’t see it.  Mmm, invisible corn.

When you get this snotty, stringy glop all stirred up, and right when you’re stating to doubt yourself, that’s when you layer on the Berkshire pork belly slices.  Both sides of the “pancake” get fried for quite some time, taking care to actually cook it all the way through.  If you do the pork belly, the pork belly side gets all crispy and delicious after you flip it over.  You know what else would be rad?  Spam.

When you’re done, it gets topped with okonomi sauce — a sweet brown sauce that tastes a little like worcestershire; Kewpie mayonnaise; little powdered potent flakes of seaweed called aonori; and last but not least: dry fish flakes called katsuobushi (which dogs and cats also lose their minds over).  It seems like a random assemblage of weirdness — and it is — but no more weird than a Chicago-style hotdog.  And in my humble and learned opinion: way better tasting.  THAT’S RIGHT CHICAGO, I SAID IT.

Okonomiyaki
i learned everything I know about okonomiyaki from two people: Junko Yamamoto and Makiko Itoh of Just Hungry. (Who I guess had an unnamed emergency surgery two days ago but will be okay?  Let’s hope so!  Get well, Maki!)  Junko showed me the physicality of it, and stressed multiple times that she never used a recipe and that as long as the texture of the batter was right, your final product would be delicious.  Makiko’s recipe at her blog is the one I worked from to assure myself I was doing it right, and it’s as spot on as you can get (and she has helpful photos).  as Makiko notes, you can readily buy both powdered mountain yam and powdered okonomiyaki mix, but there’s really no reason to when any decent market with Japanese produce will always have mountain yam.  of course you could theoretically make it without the yam altogether, but did you even read the first half of this post?  one more thing!  it seems like a lot of strange ingredients, but they are all very common Japanese foods and will almost certainly be at your nearest Asian market that carries at least some Japanese goods.  also, everything is cheap and keeps for a long time, so they’re safe food investments.

for the ‘pancake’
4 oz grated mountain yam (nagaimo), which will probably be about 4 inches of tuber
4 to 5 tablespoons of dashi stock, or water with a pinch of dashi powder
1/2 cup all purpose flour, sifted
3 eggs
1/2 small green cabbage, chopped like for coleslaw
3 tablespoons of beni shoga (or sushi ginger, in a pinch)
2 chopped green onions
1 tablespoon of sakura ebi (if you can find them, if you can’t it will be okay)

suggested additions:
thinly sliced pork (belly is best, bacon is too flavorous)
squid
shrimp
Spam
your favorite vegetable — shredded carrot?  sliced mushrooms?  corn!
a fried egg for the top
cooked ramen noodles — true!
masago, aka flying fish roe (the little red eggs sometimes on California rolls)

toppings:
okonomi sauce
Kewpie mayonnaise
aonori seaweed
katsuobushi (fish flakes)

  • In a large bowl, peel the brown skin from and grate the mountain yam very finely.  It is easy to grate and will turn instantly into white slime.  This is good.  However!  The bare vegetable has a agitating quality to many folks’ skin, so either use clean kitchen gloves or carefully hold the yam by a piece of plastic and avoid touching the snot.
  • Add the water and/or dashi and stir to combine.  Add the sifted flour and stir thoroughly.  It will be quite thick and coagulate into a disgusting blob.  Add TWO of the eggs and again stir to combine.  It will become an even more disgusting blob.
  • Add the cabbage and stir to coat.  It will be somewhat difficult because the snotball will be fighting you a little, but you can’t hurt it so just keep stirring.  Add the third egg and stir some more.
  • Add the remaining ingredients such as the green onion, other optional vegetables, dried shrimp, pickled ginger, chopped squid, roughly chopped raw fresh shrimp, cubed Spam, whatever you want.  As long as it cooks reasonably fast and sounds good, throw it in.  If you’re going to do pork belly slices, wait because those will lay directly on the pancake as it cooks.
  • In a wide medium-heat non-stick frying pan or better yet, an electric griddle set to about 350°, ladle out about 1/3 of the glop and pat lightly down into a thick but not-too-thick patty.  While it sizzles away, you can add slices of pork or anything else you want to eventually actually fry directly on the surface of the heat when you flip the pancake over.  So, tofu slices, Spam slices, whatever you want.  After about 5 minutes, use a spatula to look at the underside of the pancake.  When it is nice and brown, carefully (even using two spatulas) flip the whole thing over.
  • When the top side is now brown, another 5 minutes or so, flip it back over to it’s original side and top with (in this order): okonomi sauce, Kewpie mayonnaise, aonori and katsuobushi.  The fish flakes will dance!  This is why it is fun to make as a group around an electric griddle and a couple of cold beers.
  • Immediately remove to a cutting board or plate and chop into about 4 pieces and gobble it up while it’s hot enough to burn the roof of your mouth.  Maybe that’s why it’s called Japanese pizza?
  • But while you’re eating, start the next one.
  • The recipe serves two very hungry people or four sort of hungry people who are eating additional snacks on the side.  The recipe is easily doubled and really does provide amazing social entertainment, so it’s pretty rad for when you have guests over.

¹ I mean, lots of people love it, but whatever. It’s my blog.

5 Posted in Make It So

No More Appliances, For Reals Now

Posted by on Jul 10, 2010 at 3:19 pm

It is possible that the reason you are sad about cooking is because your cooking implements suck.

Like most everyone, I started out with some hand-me-down pans. Also like most everyone, those already-old pots and pans suffered through many years of rough cooking, being dropped, inappropriate scrubbing and general tragedy.  But as I approach my 14th year of living on my own, I find myself trying not to take my slowly accumulated and now-functional kitchen items for granted.  Take this All Clad griddle pan – brilliant!  I mean, totally indispensable.  Grilled cheese, crepes, fried eggs, not to mention that its my only non-stick coated pan, so anything I want to fry without oil (see above “grilled” onions for enchiladas) gets me reaching straight for the griddle pan — and more importantly, realizing what total shit I was trying to cook on before.  At $50 it’s not exactly cheap, but I use it several times a week and it is not a duplication of anything else I own.

I was thinking about this today because of a long and agonizing decision to buy what I consider to be an overly expensive and redundant cooking item: a tabletop griddle.

Those little peppers are non-spicy Japanese shishito peppers, which are TASTY just with salt.

First, a backstory that I’m certain Mike will want me to share: I have a moratorium on kitchen appliances.  This isn’t so much a consumerism issue as much as a chronic and lifelong apartment-renter issue: my kitchen doesn’t have any additional storage.  I have no counter space.  We already have an additional purchased kitchen “island” table pushed up against a wall for a work station.  Our current apartment has no closets.  We don’t own a microwave.  And yet, I find myself thinking about much we love a simple meat and veg grill, where I end up eating mostly onions and Mike ends up eating mostly meat.  So we took the plunge and bought it.

I rationalized it like so: we love the food (either “teppanyaki” or “yakiniku” depending on who is talking and whether or not they think that “grilling” is only done over coals) and we love the ease of it.  I can prepare the vegetables and meat in under 10 minutes, and even though it’s hot out, with the windows open and the fan on, I didn’t feel like I’d cooked over the stove all evening.  In the winter, I’m sure we’ll appreciate the warmth.  There’s just one problem: where the fuck will I store this behemoth? And the answer is, I have no idea.  Right now the vote is: wrapped in a garbage bag and stored sideways next to the stove.  I’m sure that will look fancy.  I guess we’re just going to have to move.

But!  I don’t care, because: okonomiyaki.  More tomorrow!

6 Posted in Food Rant

Angels Must be Diabetics

Posted by on Jul 8, 2010 at 4:48 pm

I always forget about angel food cake.  That’s right!  Angel food cake exists!  I forgot! The last time I was at LAX I watched as an older woman drew forth an absolutely massive wrapped piece of angel food cake from her purse¹ and took a python-like, baseball sized bite out of it. Ever since then I keep remembering at inopportune times, like walking home from the library: oh yeah, angel food cake! And then I get home and don’t have a full carton of eggs and forget again.

Angel food cake always seems so wasteful.  A whole carton of yolks thrown away!  In the past I’ve concurrently made lemon curd or something to try and use up the yolks, but this last time I just admitted that throwing away $1.89 worth of egg yolks was more economical than buying $5 worth of lemons just to save five yolks.  Also: my grocery store had angel food cakes on sale for $2.50, so I should have just bought one, but what the fuck.  I endeavor to make all things difficult.

What is funny to me is that you can buy Betty Crocker angel food cake mix.   You still have to whip it into meringue, so the entire “cake mix” portion of the show is defeated.  If you don’t want to make angel food cake from scratch, you should just buy one.  They’re generally alright.  In fact, they’re pretty good.  But again: difficult? No.  So, to the mixer we go.

So full!  Every time I make angel food cake I think, this isn’t going to go well.  Fulling a tube pan almost to the top?  Disaster in the chute.  But no.  It doesn’t rise.

Even though my tube pan has the classic little cooling feet (if you ever wondered what those things were for, it’s for cooling sponge cakes; when they are warm they are in danger of crushing under their own weight, so they need to hang upside down for at least an hour) I always invert my cake to a bottle anyway — more air circulation means faster cooling time.  Also, it looks goofy, which I value above most things.

And that’s it.  Easy peasy.  Clean up is easy less horrible because nothing is greasy.  But we still haven’t hit on why I should remember to make angel food cakes in the first place:

Deeeelishus.  Like a marshmallow.  And then I am reminded of what I always forget even when I remember to make angel food cake:  make it in a sheet pan so I have more crust.  Oh well, sometime in 2011 when I get around to it again I’ll maybe possibly remember.

Angel Food Cake
straight outta Joy of Cooking.

sift together and set aside:
1 cup cake flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt

in a large bowl beat on low speed for 1 minute:
1 1/2 cups cold egg whites (probably 12 eggs exactly)
1 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. almond extract

have ready:
an additional 3/4 cup of sugar

  • Heat oven to 350°.
  • After beating on low speed for a minute, increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until the volume increases about 5 times (and since this is very hard to visualize) or until the egg foam is a soft foam composed of tiny but still visible bubbles.  This takes from 1 1/2 to 3 minutes depending on the age of the eggs.
  • Beat in the additional 3/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, over the next 2 to 3 minutes.  When all the sugar has been added the whites will be totally opaque and creamy with no visible bubbles and will hold soft, glossy peaks that bend over at the points when you lift out the beater.  Do not beat until the points are totally upright stiff when you lift out the beater.
  • Sift a fine layer of the flour mixture over the whites (about 1/8th of the total) and gently fold in with a rubber spatula until the flour is almost incorporated.  Do not overmix.  Repeat the process with the remaining flour in about 7 more batches, taking care to fully mix in the flour with the last batch.  If you don’t know how to “fold in” flour then you should Google it first.
  • Spoon the batter into a removable-bottom tube pan that is UNGREASED in any fashion.  Straight out of the wash (but dry) is perfect.  Carefully smooth the batter as you go to prevent any large bubbles.
  • Bake for 35 – 40 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  • Let cool upside down over a bottle for at least an hour, or until totally cool to the touch.
  • To unmold, first run a butter knife around the edge of the pan and lift the cake out by the tube portion.  With a long knife or similar implement, run along the bottom of the cake between the cake and the pan.  Leave the knife still under the cake on one side.  Use a spatula or similar item to insert between the cake and pan on the other side.  Having someone help you, lift the two utensils so you are holding the cake with them, and have the other person push on the tube in the middle to drop the pan bottom.  Set the cake onto a plate.
  • If you wrap the cake in plastic wrap, it will ruin the toasted marshmallow crust.  I’m just warning you.  You have to eat the cake in the first 24 hours.  That’s my solution, anyway.

¹ No kidding, this is near the top of my goals in life. To always have cake in my purse. When I was about 17 my mom and I met for coffee one afternoon and she said, “Do you want some cake?” and I remember looking at the cafe’s pastry case and thinking, hmmm, maybe, and then turning around in time to see my mom pulling a piece of homemade pound cake out of her purse. And at that moment, all my teenage grief and angst over my relationship with my mom (founded on nothing at all) totally evaporated and was replaced with love and respect. True story!

8 Posted in Make It So

Feast-a-Pie

Posted by on Jul 6, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Goodness, it’s been a while since Great-Grandma Charlotte had a say here, eh?  She’s not normally such a wallflower.

feast-o-pie

Here’s a question every foodie should ask themselves: why not make a pizza quiche?  Can’t think of any reason why not to, can you?  Let’s ignore for a moment that the Feast-a-Pie isn’t a “new version” of pizza as much as a crass mockery and instead put our minds towards giving the thing a chance.  Quiche is delicious and rich.  Pizza is delicious and rich.  Quiche has cheese in it.  Pizza has cheese in it.  Uh.  Pepperoni is good.

I can’t say 100% no to the idea.  I can say that a mere 1/4 cup of milk to 4 eggs is going to make a very eggy, very solid product, which I can’t get behind.  I’d drop the eggs to maybe 2 at most, swap out the milk for some cream and increase the volume to about a full cup.  I even like the idea of serving it with tomato sauce — imagine a gravy boat of warm, herby tomato sauce passed around to pour over your heap of cheesy, creamy pepperoni bits.  Not horrific?  I honestly can’t tell if I’ve lost all sense of perspective here.

Feast-o-Pie

crust:
1 cup sifted flour
1/3 cup lard (or 1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. vegetable shortening)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. water

filling:
4 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup moist (!) diced salami
1/2 cup diced pepperoni
8oz grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
1/2 tsp. dry basil
1/2 tsp. dry oregano

  • To make the crust, cut the lard into the flour with a pastry cutter until there are pieces no larger than a lentil.  Add salt.  Sprinkle over the water, stir with a fork and press together into a patty.  On a floured work surface, roll out slightly larger than a pie pan, and place into pie.  Crimp edges so they’re fancy.
  • Heat oven to a screaming 425°.
  • For the filling, beat the eggs and milk together in a large bowl and then stir in everything else.  Pour into the pie shell.
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes, which will almost certainly result in a nearly carbonized pie.  Serve with tomato sauce if desired.

I Hate the 4th of July

Posted by on Jul 4, 2010 at 6:21 pm

When I was a kid my mom would always say “Hate is a strong word…” when we declared we hated something.  As though she could catch us on a technicality.  Like, I might strongly dislike bedtime, but that leaves a minuscule quantity of liking it.

So, I hate the 4th of July.  I don’t hate America or anything (I strongly dislike it in it’s current state) (mom) but the 4th of July is the convergence of everything I can’t stand.  Noise.  Heat.  Drunkenness¹.  Noise.  An interruption of commerce.  BBQs.  Noise.

So far today I’ve experienced:

  • A trail of blood leading from what looks suspiciously like a pile of human excrement in my apartment building’s walkway.  The blood leads to one of my neighbors’ doors.
  • The neighbor we refer to as DJ Awesome² start his weekly party up by egging on his yappy dogs into a frenzy of tiny deafening terror.  This has riled up our other neighbor’s Rottweiler into berserker rage.
  • The children who live in the apartment building behind ours decided to scream bloody murder for several minutes, the volume and conviction of which implied disembowelment or worse.  Investigation revealed that the screaming was the result of realizing they were children.
  • Firecrackers.  Or possibly gunfire.  Both are loud and should be illegal.

DSC_5449

Anyway, since I’m not as much into eating to comfort myself as baking to comfort myself, I decided to make another of Smitten Kitchen’s braided lemon breads.  You guys, this is a really solid recipe.  Today is the fourth time I’ve made it, and each time I think, Jesus, this is a keeper. Curiously, each time I make it my dough turns out much easier to handle than Smitten’s — hers even looks significantly wetter than mine, though I follow the recipe to a T.  But when she says to make it directly onto the surface you’ll be baking it on, I agree with vehemence.

DSC_5429

Mine varies on a few other small fronts.  I roll mine out much thinner (and therefore bigger) on a Silpat, but for no other reason than I want a flatter braid and I don’t have any parchment in the house.  You’re not supposed to use knives on Silpats, so it takes me a little longer to carefully-carefully cut the side strips without harming the silicone.

DSC_5431

It should come as no surprise that I increase the filling.  I mean, I don’t want a piece of bread with a whisper of stuff inside.  I want a giant danish.  So, I not-quite-but-almost double the cream cheese.  It ends up being a gooey mess, but that’s not a criticism.

DSC_5434

Any filling works.  You don’t even need the cream cheese.  You could get a can of “almond filling” from the store and make a giant almond croissant braid.  Sprinkle the top with sliced almonds and then powder sugar it when its cooled.  Chocolate would work — chocolate and nuts and dried sour cherries?  Good god.  I did apricot last time (Trader Joe’s reduced sugar apricot preserves are literally just reduced sugar, not artificially sweetened, and work brilliantly for all kinds of baking) and my mother said she would have preferred it without any cream cheese, just the apricot filling.  This last time I couldn’t decide between another lemon braid or tarted-up³ raspberry version.  Which of course came to the end that all gluttonous crossroads do: BOTH.

DSC_5441

I’m not even going to put the recipe here, because Smitten Kitchen already did it so well.  It’s a delightful dalliance from being a miserable curmudgeon, 4th of July or not.

¹ In others.
² I’ll leave you to figure out why we named him that, but here’s a hint: I’m being sarcastic.
³ By adding lemon juice, not by putting blue eye shadow on it.

11 Posted in Food Rant, Make It So

Because KFC Sucks, That’s Why

Posted by on Jul 1, 2010 at 10:45 pm

My grandma Evelyn was from South Carolina, and she knew how to fry a damn chicken.  This is all well and good, but she passed away when I was too young to learn the secret chant to make Real Southern Fried Chicken, and thus the torch sputtered and died.  A very sad story.

DSC_5386

Since we can’t all learn how to make Real Southern Fried Chicken, the Japanese have kindly offered a consolation prize: kaarage.  What you really need to know is that it is not supposed to be Real Southern Fried chicken, but it is a much easier substitute.  Wait, not a substitute!  It is still excellently delicious, just differently so.

DSC_5390

Much of the magic comes from a quick marinade.  No more than an hour – in fact, by the time you get everything else ready, the chicken will be ready to fry.

DSC_5389

Part of the reason it comes together so fast is that you cut boneless, skinless chicken into sort-of-bite-size pieces.  More like two bites, or one large one.  They fry fast and are are easy to eat, and that’s kind of my personal motto for frying things.  I always use thigh meat, but this is a rare occasion where white meat would still work — they cook so quickly it’s difficult to dry them out.

DSC_5396

I’ve never tested to see what the temperature of my cooking oil is, and when I tried to tonight I couldn’t find my thermometer.  Well!  All I know is is that it’s a bit like pancakes: the first one always comes out a little weird.  The rest will be fine.  You want a nice rolling fuzzy boil when the chicken goes in, not a violent VOOSH! and not a piddling little sizzle.  It should be invigorating but not scary.

DSC_5398

And the worst part of all: I didn’t get a photo of how much flour to hit the chicken pieces with before frying, and this is the most important step.  I’m a pretty crackerjack food journalist, let me tell you.  The secret to kaarage — and where it veers drastically away from American fried chicken — is that there is almost no coating on it.  Just the loosest of dustings, a few smacks on each side of a dripping-wet piece of chicken and straight into the oil it goes.  American fried chicken is often double-coated to ensure a thick crispy skin, something I never cared for.  Kaarage gets much of its charm from having almost no crust so that the result is lighter and a little chewy where the bare chicken has cooked a hair faster than the covered part.

DSC_5395

Something Japanese and Americans have in common is an appreciation for refreshing and crispy cabbage along side the fried chicken – Koreans like the refreshing and crispy part too, though in the form of pickled radishes.  My variation involves a little lightly dressed cabbage, carrot and shiso slaw.  It makes sense, particularly when you consider that kaarage is often served with a blob of Kewpie mayonnaise.  In this case, there’s a spoonful of Kewpie in the slaw.

DSC_5404

Japanese Fried Chicken, as Told to You by a Whitey
until you have the right idea on just how lightly to dress each raw piece of chicken with the flour mixture, you might be best frying one piece at a time until it seems tasty.  i’ve also read that double-frying the chicken — that is, taking it out before it is entirely done cooking, letting it cool, and then frying it in the oil again to brown it — makes the crispiness almost indestructible and better for eating cold the next day.  this may be true, but i’ve never tried it.  another thing is to not try too hard to get nice tidy pieces of chicken cut since the small gnarly bits cook up chewy and are my favorite part.  just try to ensure they’re all the same size so they cook at the same speed.

1/2-inch of peeled ginger, grated fine (or more! I do closer to 1-inch)
1 clove garlic, grated fine
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. sake
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into large bite-size pieces

for the coating:
3 heaping spoonfuls of all-purpose flour
3 heaping spoonfuls of corn starch
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. togarashi, (a Japanese spice mix you should keep on hand)

oil for frying (peanut is great, canola will work too)

  • Mix together the ginger, garlic, sugar, sake, soy sauce and sesame oil in a medium bowl.  Add the cut up chunks of chicken and give it a good stir.  Try to remember to stir it every 10 minutes or so to make sure everything is well-covered and gets all the delicious flavorous bits.
  • In a smaller bowl, mix together the coating ingredients.
  • If you want, make some cabbage slaw now and set aside in the fridge.  If not, find something else to do for 15 – 30 minutes to let the chicken marinate.  You want the chicken to rest for at least 30 minutes, but no longer than an hour.
  • Line a pan or plate with a folded pad of newsprint, paper bags, or paper towels.  You’ll be putting hot oily chicken on this to drain.  Have everything else also at hand and ready to go for when you start frying: a pair of chopsticks or tongs for grabbing the chicken out of the oil, the chicken itself, the bowl of coating mix, a pair of chopsticks or a fork for actually coating the chicken and dropping it into the oil and a few paper towels or a crusty dish towel or something for wiping up spills.
  • Heat your oil in a small, heavy sauce pan.   I have no idea how hot, but it’s the medium-low flame on my high-output burner.  That’s not helpful at all, is it?  Here’s the trick I do either way: take a small little chunk of chicken and drop it into the oil.  If it immediately bubbles cheerily and the chicken moves around a bit, you’re good to go.  If it FRIES and SPITS your oil is way too hot.  If it sort of sits there not doing anything and then sluggishly fizzes, your oil is too cool.
  • Taking one piece at a time but working with moderate speed (don’t be nuts, just don’t be distracted), pick up the chicken, don’t let it drain too much (the juice is the best part!), quickly slap it around in the coating mixture to get a few sides dusted and then dump it straight into the oil.  I cannot overstress how little you need to coat the pieces!  It’s literally: drop into the coating and by the time you wrangle it back out again it’ll have enough.  If you don’t believe me, experiment; try a piece with a lot of coating, and try a piece with almost none at all.  See which one you like better.
  • Fry each piece until the coated part is pale golden and the exposed chicken is dark brown.  The pieces darken as they cool on the paper, so take care not to overcook.  Typically, my pieces take about 3 – 5 minutes to cook.
  • Work in batches of about five pieces of chicken at a time until you’re all done.
  • Carefully set the hot pot of oil way aside somewhere where no one will bump it and then eat your dinner.

“Japanese” Slaw
the shiso is the real star of the show here.  if you can find it at an asian market, I highly recommend you get it, it’s delightful.  it’s also very easy to grow (it’s a weed!) if you’re interested in that kind of thing.  also, there’s a Vietnamese variety that has a beautiful purple underside that is sometimes easier to find, and that works too.  this recipe is a small batch, but it’s easily doubled or tripled.

1/4 small head of cabbage, finely shredded
1 carrot, shredded
about 5 or 6 shiso leaves, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. Kewpie mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. seasoned Japanese rice vinegar (often called “sushi vinegar”)
2 tsp. granulated sugar

  • Combine everything!  You’re done.  Eat within an hour or two.
4 Posted in Make It So