The short version of the story is: you know that flu I had last week? Well, it slyly worked its way into a full Crohn’s flare-up, which means I am on steroids right now. In a way, I want to be all, “Dudes, its fine,” and in another way there’s always this skin-crawling sense of proximity that happens each time I have one of these attacks; this could be the hospital time. This could be the one that the steroids don’t fix. The last time I was this sick was the time I was at the top of Mauna Kea, as is mentioned in my “About” page at the top of the site up there. Except, this time I didn’t have to shit outside and then ride with a van full of journalists 1.5 hours back down a winding mountain road, stopping twice to shit again in the red glow of the van’s brake lights. But once again, that’s a story for another time.
So: steroids. They’re insidious. On one hand, they’re a miracle – the night I started taking them the pain stopped and I actually slept a full 8 hours without having to jump up and race to the toilet. On the other hand, they’re like smoking weed and doing a little coke at the same time, but subtract any good qualities of either drug. All the nervous energy you could ever want, minus the ability to focus it. Except for food – particularly greasy, sugary food – you can focus on food. Food that will never make you full, because the part of your brain that is tripped when your stomach is too full is totally incapacitated by the steroids. And when you start to taper back off the steroids? Oh boy, then the fun starts. Ever been around a very, very sleepy 4 year-old that refuses to nap? Magnify that. A lot.
So the first day of my recovery phase, Mike the Viking suggested that I make doria for dinner, and I blew him off. Because I don’t like doria, see.
Oh wait, what’s doria? Let’s back up.
Japanese comfort food. You’re not surprised that I love Japanese interpretations of foreign comfort foods, I know, so let’s move past that idiosyncrasy and cut to the chase: doria might be Italian, but is sort of French at the same time. Who knows. But here’s what it is: a rice dish covered in cream sauce and cheese.
The most popular doria in Japanese restaurants (at least here in America) seems to be of the seafood variety – lots of shrimp and squid and scallops, it appears – but I can’t abide by creamy seafood. The Viking’s favorite doria came from a restaurant in Seattle called Fort St. George, and is of the bacon and egg variety, of which I never could choke down more than a few mouthfuls. And I love Japanese comfort food! Fort St. George serves “butter squid with mayonnaise” for christ’s sake. Oh, my heart. Anyway, doria: white rice smothered in heavy, thick, gluey cream sauce and big pieces of soft bacon? Nope.
Still, there was an air of challenge to his suggestion, and the steroids had me jogging in place while eating two cookies at the same time, so I jogged my crazy ass over to the computer and started looking into doria. Turns out that Fort St. George’s version is pretty whack – most Japanese versions seem to be more of a European or Western-flavored fried rice topped with sauce, and this began to grow on me a little. In fact, I decided that I could make something worthwhile, and more importantly, something within my strict carb-only recovery diet¹.
The result? Much tastier version that Fort St. George’s, though not a wise main dish. But as a side dish? Divine. Silky, creamy, mushroomy, comforting. After I was done running laps around my kitchen and making motor-boat noises, it went down real nice.
there’s a lot of ways to make doria since its more a branch of food (like risotto) than a particular meal, but this recipes operates as a base anyway. if making a seafood version (shrimp, squid, crab, halibut, salmon, scallops – you know what seafood is, right?), add it late in the cooking process just to barely cook through – it’ll finish cooking in the oven. if making vegetarian, focus on the mushroom flavors and for odin’s sake, invest in some porcini mushroom powder. it makes everything taste better. provided that thing is supposed to taste rich and meaty. otherwise maybe not.
2 C cooked and cold white rice
4 oz. pork belly or very, very mild bacon, diced small
4 oz. mushrooms, diced small
1/2 medium onion, diced small
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. ketchup
1/2 tsp. porcini mushroom powder (optional, but highly recommended)
for the cheese sauce:
1 1/2 C milk
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp granulated onion or 1/4 fresh onion, finely grated, juice and all
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 C grated fontina cheese, or any very mild, very soft white cheese
- To prepare ahead of time, cook the rice and the cheese sauce to assemble later. At least do the rice early, because it’s better if it’s cold and dry.
- To make the cheese sauce, I have to say one thing that’s going to sound maybe bossy or judgmental, but I say it because I care about you and I want you to be happy: you should learn how to make cheese sauce anyway. And I don’t really want to clutter up this particular post with instructions because I’m lazy, but without the cheese this is just bechamel, which is important. Want to know why fancy restaurant lasagna tastes better than yours? They use bechamel sauce in it, just a little. True. But in short: melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the flour and stir until foamy, stirring steadily for about 3 minutes. Off heat, whisk in 1 C of the milk with a fleet hand – if you snooze, you lump. Return to medium-low heat, whisking regularly while adding the onion, nutmeg, salt and pepper. When the mixture thickens and begins to simmer, whisk in 1/4 C of the remaining milk. When the mixture again thickens and simmers, add the last 1/4 C milk. When the mixture again thickens and simmers, stir in the cheese and remove the sauce from the heat. It is done. You may now put it in the fridge by pouring into a container and placing plastic wrap directly on the surface of the sauce, otherwise a gruesome skin will form.
- Prep all your meat and vegetables. If using pork: saute this in a large saute pan over medium-high heat first, adding the onion, mushroom and salt when it melts off some fat but hasn’t started browning yet. Keep stirring this mixture (turning down to medium if it seems to be browning faster than actually cooking down, if that makes sense) until reduced in volume by about 1/3 and showing lots of lovely caramelized brown pieces, about 10 minutes. Stir regularly!
- Add to the pan the rice, quickly stirring to thoroughly combine. Add the soy sauce, ketchup, porcini powder and pepper, and then remove from heat. This isn’t fried rice, this is just mixed rice.
- Portion the rice either between 3 or 4 serving bowls, or one 9×9 inch casserole pan. Immediately top with the cheese sauce, adding some extra shredded cheese to the top if you want, but the cheese sauce itself will actually brown without it. Still, don’t make it a habit of turning down cheese.
- Bake in 350° oven for 15 – 20 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling around the edges and starting to brown. If bubbling but not browning, broil UNDER EAGLE EYE WATCH until aesthetically pleasing, probably 2 -3 minutes.
- Eat and burn the shit out of the roof of your mouth.
¹ This part sounds like a joke and is not – no fiber, low protein. That’s what I can eat when I’m recovering. So it’s basically just me, a sack of rice and some cheese. Or potatoes, if I’m feeling risky. Sounds rad, except when you’ve finally gotten around to training yourself to eat better after almost a year of effort. Once again: fuck you, Crohn’s.