Saturday, July 29, 2006

CDKitchen: Onigiri and Around the World in 450 Recipes: Tsukune

Okay, eventually I was going to make Japanese food. It was a given, considering the mountain of books on Japanese culture currently littering the floor of my bedroom. But unfortunately for me, and many other Americans, good Japanese cookbooks are few and far between. And really thin. And I am convinced that the Japanese have to eat more than the same twenty dishes.

I made the rice for the onigiri in my handy Zojirushi rice maker that sings to me. (On a side note, why do Japanese appliances sing to you? Even the toilets sing.) I can easily see why these are so popular for lunches and picnics.  They're like sandwiches, except better.  I am now officially jealous of all the people that get to eat like this on a daily basis. Which is probably the whole nation of Japan.

My only irritation came when I purchased the ground chicken. I really wanted a combination of dark and white meat, but here in the US, if you eat ground chicken, people think you MUST be a health nut, and therefore, you only want ground chicken breast.  The butcher already looked harassed enough, so I let it go.

Onigiri (Rice Balls)
From CDKitchen

4 ounces salmon fillet
2 teaspoons sea salt
4 cups medium grain rice
1 envelope bonito shavings
5 seasoned plums (umeboshi)
2 sheets nori (seaweed wrappers)

Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Rinse salmon and pat dry with a paper towel.  Sprinkle with salt.  Place the salmon on a rack over a cookie sheet or small dish and bake for an hour to dry it out.

Cook the rice according to package directions (i.e. without adding fat) so that it's sticky.

Prepare three bowls. When the salmon is done, ground the fillet up into small pieces with a fork or mortar and pestle and place in the first bowl.  Mash the seasoned plums with a fork and place in the second bowl.  Empty the contents of one small bonito shavings envelope into the third bowl.  Divide the cooked rice into three portions, and add one portion to each bowl.   Mix lightly to combine with seasoning ingredients.

Wet hands slightly.  Dip one fingertip into leftover salt and smear the salt across your palms so that sticks on both hands.  Take ¼ of rice mixture from the first bowl.  Form into a ball.  Make it compact, but not so much that the grains of rice become mush.  Form into a triangle, square, or cylinder.  Repeat for the remaining rice.  Each seasoning bowl should yield four rice balls, for a total of twelve.  Place each one on a piece of parchment paper to keep them from sticking.

Cut each sheet of nori into three strips lengthwise, then cut each strip in half.  Wrap one small strip of nori around the bottom of each rice ball to form an envelope to hold it with.  Serve immediately.

If you won't be serving immediately, wait to wrap the rice in the nori, as it will absorb water from the rice and lose its crunch.  Instead, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate.  Let the rice balls come to room temperature before serving.

Makes 12 servings

Tsukune (Chicken Cakes with Teriyaki Sauce)
From Around the World in 450 Recipes by Sarah Ainley

1 pound ground chicken
1 large egg
¼ cup grated onion
1½ teaspoons sugar
1½ teaspoons soy sauce
Cornstarch, for coating
½ bunch scallion, finely shredded, to garnish
1 tablespoon oil
Teriyaki Sauce

Teriyaki Sauce:
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons sake or dry white wine
2 tablespoons soy sauce

Mix the ground chicken with the egg, grated onion, sugar and soy sauce until the ingredients are thoroughly combined and well bound. This process takes about 3 minutes, until the mixture is quite sticky, which makes for good texture. Shape the mixture into 12 small, flat, round cakes and dust them lightly all over with cornstarch.

Soak the scallions in cold water for 5 minutes and drain well.

Heat the oil in a frying pan. Place the chicken cakes in a single layer, and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes. Turn the cakes and cook for 3 minutes longer.

Mix the ingredients for the sauce and pour it into the pan. Turn the chicken cakes occasionally until they are evenly glazed. Move or gently shake the pan constantly to prevent the sauce from burning.

Arrange the chicken cakes on a plate and top with the scallions. Serve immediately.

Makes 12 tsukune

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