Niku-Oozara! (Japanese Meat Platter)

Behold my humble entry to Meathenge's Meat Platter Contest.

  • Beef Tataki
  • Beef Negimaki
  • Chicken Yakitori
  • Bacon-Wrapped Shitaki & Enoki Mushrooms
  • Pork Tonkatsu

You'll also notice that the platter was served with edamame (steamed soy beans, which go great with beer) and a couple of saketinis: these ones with vodka, sake, and fresh squeezed OJ.

Japanese cuisine is, obviously, best known for its preoccupation with seafood. And for good reason: there are few things more sublime than a great piece of toro, a dollop of fresh uni, or a quail egg resting on a glistening bed of salmon roe. Yet the popularity of sushi often obscures (for Americans at least, the rising popularity of tempura and of ramen restaurants nothwithstanding) the many delicious Japanese dishes made of beef, chicken, and pork.

All of these dishes share an underlying simplicity of preparation and presentation, and all can be made with a small number of core ingredients that can be found at most Asian markets and even many supermarkets these days: sake, rice vinegar, shoyu (japanese soy sauce, typically lower in sodium content than Chinese soy sauce), mirin (a sweetened rice wine used for cooking), castor sugar (confectioner's sugar will also work), panko crumbs, and garlic. Apart from these, it's all about finding top notch cuts of meat--and we're fortunate enough to have a Whole Foods in Sarasota, so while this meal wasn't done on the cheap (the organic filet mignon was $26 a pound) it was well worth the time and effort.

What do you say we get a little more acquainted with the various menu items?

Beef Tataki and Beef Negimaki

"Tataki" is a cooking method that means 'to sear on the outside while leaving the inside raw'--just like "tartar," though I don't believe they are etymologically related. Tuna tataki is another favorite, but prepared slightly differently. I marinated a chunk of filet mignon in a soy/mirin/rice vinegar/sake mixture for several hours, then seared each side of the cut, immediately plunging it into a bowl of ice water to stop it from cooking further. I then simmered the marinade while adding a bit of sugar, chilled it quickly in the freezer, and marinated the filet for another hour or so before slicing thin and serving with the marinade as a dipping sauce.

The beef negimaki (what some Americans have called "beef sushi rolls") is one of my favorites. It was prepared by mallet pounding a 1/2 inch thick slice of london broil (try to get a lean cut) until it was about 1/4 inch thick. I then cut the long slab into four pieces, rolled each around a bunch of fresh scallions, secured with short skewers, marinated, sauteed in vegetable and sesame oil until nice and seared on all sides, removed skewers, and sliced into little rolls. You can dip this in the tataki marinade if you like.

Bacon-Wrapped Shitake & Enoki Mushrooms

I featured this months ago on Kitchen Monkey, but this time it came out much better, partly because I added shitake to the enoki, and partly because I used center cut bacon, which has less fat and more meat on it. You can omit the enoki altogether if you can't find any, just slicethe shitake thin, group it together, wrap a strip of bacon around it, secure with toothpick, and grill or broil on both sides. Delicious.

Chicken Yakitori

These are done well on the grill, but you can use a broiler so long as you have a wire rack. Pieces of chicken breast or thigh are alternately broiled and dipped in a syrupy marinade similar to teriyaki sauce. After repeating the process a couple times, place on skewers with pieces of scallion, baste once more, and return to the broiler or grill until the chicken starts to darken on the edges.

Pork Tonkatsu

This is one of my favorite Japanese dishes. I started by cutting some deep slices into a beautiful pork loin chop (to keep it from curling), dredging it in a mixture of flour and white pepper, then whisked egg, then coating it in a thick layer of panko crumbs (Japanese bread crumbs that work amazingly well for a wide variety of foods.) Deep fry in vegetable oil (medium high heat) slice, and serve with cabbage (I was out of cabbage and chopped up a leftover endive), hot mustard, and tonkatsu sauce for dipping (vaguely similar to worcestshire sauce but fruitier).

Whew. That was a lot of meat for one sitting. I think it's veggie cous cous tonight.


Huevos Rancheros (al Mono)

Beautiful Saturday morning? Not a responsibility in the world? How about a big, heavy Mexican breakfast?

I made this a little too late to enter it into the latest "bean-themed" round of Is My Blog Burning? (Hosted on My Little Kitchen), but the beans do play a crucial role so I figured I'd offer it up anyhow.

I attended high school in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a beautiful state with a singular cuisine that borrows heavily from Mexican but has many features of its own. Huevos rancheros has a special place in my heart, reminding me of gargantuan parties along the Rio Grande followed by pilgrimages to a late-night diner to stuff ourselves, camping trips in the Jemez mountains, and other adventures of my mispent youth.

Though it never seems to be presented or to taste the same at any two restaurants, the common ingredients are fried eggs, beans, and torillas. It wasn't until my sister Kim made it for Christmas breakfast a couple years ago that it occurred to me that I could actually make the stuff. Since then I've made many variations, but I think this is the best one. I used black beans sauteed with fresh tomatoes, roasted garlic, and freshly ground cumin. I also made an extremely tasty chile arbol sauce that gave it some nice heat. Served also with monterey jack cheese and fresh cilantro. If you want a real artery clogger, add two strips of bacon. Oh yeah.

I have some leftover chile sauce and a ton of cornmeal, so maybe I'll have a go at some tamales soon. We'll see. Tomorrow will be my entry to Dr. Biggles' Meat Platter Contest, so keep an eye out.
Huevos Rancheros (al Mono)

Serves 2 or 3, depending on hunger level


1 cup dried arbol chile pods, chopped (don't remove seeds)
1 1/2 cups water
4 cloves garlic
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/4 tsp. fresh grated nutmeg (or a bit less if ground)
2 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds

1) Boil the chilis furiously for about 20 minutes, adding water when necessary to keep it from boiling down
2) in the meantime, sautee the whole garlic, peel on, in vegetable oil until it begins to darken. Cool, peel, chop. The sesame seeds can be toasted in a cast iron pan until golden.
3) Let the chilis cool a bit, then puree everything in a food processor, add salt to taste, and more nutmeg if you think necessary.

Now for the rest:

1 can black beans, rinsed (or 1/2 cups of beans if you used the soaking method for dried beans)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp. cumin (Freshly ground cumin seeds if possible)
4 corn tortillas
4 eggs
1/2 cup grated monterrey jack or sharp cheddar
fresh cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper

1) Using the same cast iron pan, toast both sides of some corn tortillas and set aside (in a toaster oven on low to keep them warm)
2) sautee the garlic in the oil, and just when they start to turn golden, add the beans, tomato, cumin, and a bit of salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes.
3) Fry the eggs, being careful to keep the yolk runny without breaking
4) ASSEMBLE: tortillas, eggs, big spoonful of bean mixture -- topped with cheese, spoon some of the chili sauce to the side or in the middle, sprinkle with cilantro, and brace yourself for an incredible breakfast.


Ginger Teriyaki Stir-Fry

See the wee sprinkles on the bed of Jasmine rice? That my friend, is furikake (pronounced: foo-ri-kah-keh). It is used in Japan as a seasoning for rice (often for leftover rice) and it comes in many varieties. The variety I have comprises mostly tiny bits of seaweed and dried salmon, but you can find many flavors. By itself the taste of this furikake bears a faint resemblence to that of fish food (at least, the kinds of fish food I've been eating, I'm not sure what kind you eat). But it does liven up plain rice quite a bit and a jar will last you a good while. Many varieties can be purchased here.

The ginger teriyaki sauce I've been making for several years now. The base is a fairly standard teriyaki, but I like to add a good amount of fresh ginger and garlic, and I occasionally use honey instead of sugar. My wok skills are definitely improving, but the sponge-like, unidentifiable mushrooms I purchased at the Vietnamese market absorbed the liberal amount of oil I placed in the wok and so despite my rapid stirring some food stuck to the bottom and burnt. I salvaged 95% of the stir-fry, but the wok I had to scrub with soap, thus getting rid of what little of the nice seasoned patina was left after the lime juice of the larb gai ate most of it away. Aaaarrrgh. Damn you sponge-like, unidentifiable Vietnamese mushrooms!!

Ginger Teriyaki Chicken Stir-Fry

Serves 4

4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
3 Tbsp. light soy sauce
3 Tbsp. sake
3 Tbsp. mirin*
1 Tbsp. confectioner's sugar (or honey)

1 lb. chicken breast (or pork loin fillet, or sirloin) sliced into thin strips across the grain
1 1/2 cups nappa cabbage, chopped
1 cup snowpeas
1 1/2 cups mushrooms, chopped (Shitake are ideal. Not too spongey)
1 leek, chopped

* if you can't find mirin, a sweet rice vinegar used for all sorts of Japanese dishes, you can substitute 2 Tbsps. of rice vinegar and add a little more sugar or honey. It will be good, but not quite the same.


1) Combine the first 6 ingredients in a bowl and whisk until sugar is well blended. Add to a large ziploc bag along with the strips of meat, and marinate in the frigo for at least an hour.
2) I can be very particular, so you don't necessarily have to do step 2. Taking out the chicken, I first pour the marinade back into the original bowl, and set the meat on a plate. Then, with a pair of tongs I baptize each little chicken piece in the marinade to wash from it the sins of its youth. I'm kidding, these are heathen chicken pieces: the little quick dunk is to get the pieces of ginger and garlic off so that they don't cook too quickly and burn before the chicken is done.
3) After all the vegetables have been chopped I am ready to stir-fry. The wok goes on high heat, 2 Tbsp of veggie oil and 1 Tbsp sesame oil go in, followed by the chicken. Stir! Stir quickly and with great determination lest your little heathen chicken strips burn. Stir-frying the chicken in two batches is a good idea. Set them aside when they are done.
4) Cook the vegetables in batches. I do the leeks and the nappa at the same time, then set aside with the chicken, then stir-fry the mushrooms and the snowpeas at the same time. DO NOT overcook. You want the vegetables to still have some of their raw crunchiness, even after step 5.
5) Once those are done, combine everything together in the wok and add the marinade. Stir long enough to coat everything in the marinade and to cook the garlic and ginger. Serve with steamed rice.


New Look, Same Great Blog

My mind is cluttered enough, no reason for the blog to be. In the past, to keep the posts from taking up too much space on the main page, I have posted the recipes in the comments. No more! Now beneath every post you will find a link: Read the recipe! which you can click in order to, well, read the recipe. I haven't yet figured out how to tweak the template so that Read the recipe doesn't appear in every post, even those with no recipe (like this one), so if anyone has any bright ideas I'm all ears.

We're going to Sangria Tappas again tonight, so we'll probably get a little of that ol' Spanish wine. Hopefully won't drink too much of it. Hopefully won't knock a mug of forks onto the floor like last time.


Tom Yam Soup & Larb Gai (Thai Chicken Salad)

Yesterday Nick and I embarked on a three-hour culinary quest that took us to four different markets and two different cities. It started at an Indian market in Bradenton, where Nick picked up some ingredients for a seafood curry he'll be making soon. We then zipped over to the Red Barn farmer's market, where we gorged on tostados and tacos al pastor at Maria's taco stand. Afterward, I picked up some great-looking tomatoes ($1 for about five tennis ball-sized 'matoes) the longest leek I've ever seen, and some serrano peppers.

We then hit Wong Kai imports, where I purchased a package of frozen galangal (for the soup) and a box of green tea frozen pops. They were tasty and refreshing but also strangely floral and not really very green tea-like. Nick noted that they tasted like perfume, and they did--but in a good way, if you can imagine that.

We then headed back to Sarasota where we stopped at an Asian market that specializes in Thai and Vietnamese groceries. They had an interesting variety of meats, including pig brains and various unidentifiable whole fishes. But I was there for the mint, the cilantro, and the lemongrass. Alas, they didn't have kaffir lime leaves for the tom yam, but i made do with some lime zest, as per the suggestion of chef Madhu Menon from Shiok Far-eastern Cuisine. I had other recipes for tom yam, but I'm a fan of Madhu's site so I thought I'd try his.

I adhered to it for the most part, though as I said I had no lime leaves. I also started with chicken stock, but since I was using chicken for the salad I wanted to use prawns for the soup, so I combined the original recipe with Madhu's suggestion for making prawn tom yam. I added about two extra cups of water, and using a bit of cheesecloth I wrapped the prawn shells and let them simmer in the soup for about 30 minutes before the final stages, so it was really more of a shrimp-and-chicken stock. It's bonafide. And here's the original recipe.

If you've never had it, consider tom yam as not so much a soup as it is culinary therapy. It's heat hits the back of your throat, not your tongue, so it has (for many) the pleasing effect of draining your sinuses and producing a nice endorphin rush without burning your tastebuds to the point where all trace of flavor disappears.

The larb is delicious as well, without the heat. The flavor combination of mint, cilantro, lime juice, and toasted rice powder is great, and provides a nice break from the intensity of the tom yam.

LARB GAI (Thai Chicken Salad)
Serves 4

1 Tbsp jasmine rice
2 tsp veg. oil
1 lb minced chicken breast
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1 stem of lemon grass, white part, chopped and crushed
1/3 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup lime juice
3 spring onions thinly sliced diagonally
4 shallots, sliced
1/2 cup finely chopped coriander leaves
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint
1 head of green leaf lettuce
1/4 cup unsalted peanuts, chopped
lime wedges to serve

1) Heat frying pan over medium heat and dry-fry the rice until it is golden-brown. Move rice to a mortar and grind it into a fine powder.
2) Heat wok over medium heat. Add oil, then add minced chicken and cook for about 5 minutes.
3) Add fish sauce, lemon grass, and stock, cook for 10 minutes more, remove wok and cool.
4) Transfer to bowl*, stir in lime juice, spring onion, shallots, coriander, mint, and ground rice. Mix.
5) Arrange letuce on plate, top with chicken mixture, sprinkle with nuts, serve with lime wedges.

*This step is primarily to save the seasoned coating on a carbon steel wok from the lime juice. If you have a non-stick wok you can mix everything directly in the wok.


Mu Shu Pork

"Mu shu" is said (by a website I found) to mean "forest blossom." This could be a reference to the presence of lily buds in the traditional recipe. Or it could be because the monks that created it worshipped in a monastery surrounded by flowers, deep in the forests of Ban Bi Dian (I just made that up).

It is, hands down, my favorite Chinese dish, and I was excited to find a recipe for it in my new "Essentials of the Wok" cookbook. I immediately bought all the ingredients I could find and set about distorting the recipe to suit my own malevolent ends.

First of all, I couldn't find lily buds. Second of all, in my trip to the Asian market I forgot to pick up some Chinese rice wine, so I used sake, which I almost always seem to have a bottle of. There is a lot of mutual political antagonism between China and Japan right now, so this is my own little way of trying to bring the two nations closer together.

I posted the recipe in the comments, since it is rather long. It requires a lot of preparation, but you can make extra pancakes and freeze them, drastically cutting down on prep time. Check with your Asian grocer, you may even be able to buy the "pancakes."


Ragu alla Bolognese - Redux

This is a reprise of an enormously delicious sauce made last October--you can find that post here. The batch pictured here was actually made for New Year's Eve 2005 dinner, but I was inspired to post it and draw attention to the original venture by a recent post on Meathenge. Judging from the photo it seems Dr. Biggles has the exact same brand and model of pasta machine as Kitchen Monkey, so maybe he can tell me if he has any advice on cleaning it. I remember the flimsy, multilingual manual saying something about not using water. I then commenced to lose said manual. The spaghetti setting on the machine can be a nightmare if your dough gets stuck in the machine, so I tend to stick to trusty ol' tagliatelle, and yes, if you use semolina you'll have a much richer-tasting noodle. Serve with bruschetta to win the adoration of friends and family.

Seriously though, if you like good home-cooked Italian this sauce will rock your world. Time consuming, yes, but inexpensive. It has gone through modifications, but comes originally from one of Marcella Hazan's books. Did I mention she lives in Sarasota now? One of my friends saw her in Whole Foods the other day, which reminded me of the time a friend of mine from high school swore up and down that he had seen Bob Dylan in his local Berkeley, CA supermarket, standing in the frozen foods isle, staring at a box of Creamsicles. I believe him.


Kitcho - Tallahassee, Florida

Over the weekend I went up to Tallahassee to see an old friend, and I'm not talking about the bowl of fish you see here--although I could be. Kitcho is the Japanese restaurant where I worked when I lived in the state's capital, and it has to be one of the consistently best sushi restaurants I've been to. Sure, there are places in Sarasota that have better yellowtail, places in NYC that have a wider variety, and places in DC that have more atmosphere.

But if sashimi is your thing, nothing can beat Kitcho's chirashi for variety, freshness, and reasonable price. Chirashi, for those of you who typically eat rolls or avoid sushi altogether, is simply a bowl of sushi rice topped with a variety of sashimi. One of the great thing's about Kitcho's chirashi is that it comes with miso and a salad that most people choose to top with "Kitcho dressing," which is a creamy garlic dressing that induces many people to forgo propriety and literally drink the remaining dressing once the salad is eaten. The chirashi may have a variety of fish, but typically you get tuna, yellowtail, grouper, octopus, eel, conch, shrimp, and tomago (a japanese omelette-like egg piece made with sake and tamari). I'm not a huge fan of the 'pus--so I had mine substituted with ikura (salmon eggs). They were kind enough to top the ikura with a quail egg, which is a tiny orb of salty goodness. The side dish? Grouper with kimchi. Damn straight.

This is Yuichi Mori, the owner and head sushi chef. A good guy with a great restaurant. Please don't call him Luigi.


Bacon-Wrapped, Pecan-Stuffed Dates (& Pinot Noir Drinking Sheep)

On NPR today they had a brief story about how sales of Pinot Noir have spiked since the release of the movie Sideways, which would have been funny enough if we hadn't been drinking pinot noir while we were listening to it--pinot noir which we were inspired to purchase because we saw the movie Sideways last night. I felt like a bit of a dork, but since that occurs on a fairly regular basis, I was able to see the humor in it.

In any case, we enjoyed the wine with some Morbier cheese, which is good n' stinky, and has a streak of vegetable ash in it, whatever that might be. Liz tells me that the ash divides the two sides of the cheese, one half of which is the "morning milk" and the other half is the "afternoon milk." How she knows these things is a mystery to me.

The bacon appetizers are easy enough. Stuff some pitted dates with pecans or walnuts, wrap the whole thing in a lovely strip of bacon, and bake them all until they are done. Delicious.

French Toast with Lemon Curd & Fresh Strawberries

I didn't make this, it was Liz's idea and doing--but it was such a great combination for breakfast I had to post it. Sorry no picture, but you know what french toast looks like, so close your eyes and imagine two of them done to cinnamon-dusted perfection and topped with a quivering dollop of lemon-yellow curd, with a casual smattering of deep red, quartered, fresh strawberries. Isn't that nice? You have such a vivid imagination that I don't even need pictures.

The lemon curd she made several days ago, from a recipe in Gourmet, which you can find here at Epicurious. The strawberries were picked fresh from the same farm where Nick (from I'm Cookin' Here) got his strawberries, which seem to be plentiful in Flordia at this time of year.


Tuna Tataki (Recipe)

Special note from August 4, 2010: First, while the original post follows, I thought it time for a 2010 update, which you can read here. Second, the photo above is one I took. I've noticed some other blogs using it. That's fine. If you do, much obliged if you could credit Kitchen Monkey. Thanks! Now read.

This is one of the best appetizers ever, and also happens to be one of the easiest to make. One of the joys of Sarasota (apart from it being January 12 with a high of 80 degrees) is the bounty of seafood and fishmongers. In fact, I happen to live less than a block away from a restaraunt/seafood-market that sells sushi-grade tuna and yellowtail, my two favorites. The guy behind the counter is very professional, and he won't let you take the fish until he has wrapped it in paper, then enclosed it in a plastic bag filled with ice to keep it superfresh--even when you explain to him that you live across the street.

And yes, to make tataki you really need your tuna to be sushi-grade. I must warn you though: if you are lucky enough to have easy access to it, there is a danger of it becoming habit-forming. The drawback to having such easy access to such great tuna is that I'm not a rich man, and the stuff can run $17 a pound or more, so I have instead had to learn a degree of self control. Sometimes as I pass the market, I shake my fist in the air at the injustice of it all.

I find that for four people, about 2/3 pound is ideal, so you're looking at anywhere from $9 to $12. Worth it if you ask me. Ask the monger to try and cut it off the tail end; if he cuts it off the large end, you're bound to get a steak that is too thin for good tataki. You ideally want a chunk that, if not square, is about 1 1/2 inches high and 2 1/2 inches wide.

Once you've got it home, sprinkle sesame seeds liberally onto all four sides, this gives it a little bit of crunch without changing the flavor significantly. At medium-high, heat 1 parts veggie oil to 1/2 part pure sesame oil in a pan, and with a pair of tongs sear the tuna on four sides. Don't sear it for very long! Just enough so that about an eighth of an inch cooks through on each side. If you like you can sear the two ends as well. Immediately remove from the pan, and slice thinly, no more than a quarter of an inch slices.

Serve as soon as possible. I find it works best with this simple variation of ponzu sauce: mix 2 parts soy sauce with 1 part lemon juice and 1 part orange juice. Garnish with shredded daikon or just eat.


Ramen Part 3

This was an undertaking of epic proportions. Everything was from scratch. As you may know from previous Ramen posts (here and here), I am a huge fan of authentic Japanese ramen, the kind that people in Tokyo sometimes wait in line for for more than an hour. While I'm under no illusions that my ramen is anything close to what you can get in the best ramen shops in Japan or even NYC, I do think it has improved significantly since the first time I attempted it last summer.

There were two motives behind this task. First, there's nowhere in Sarasota to get ramen, although I predict ramen shops eventually catching on in the states, just as sushi has. Second, I wanted to know how everything was done. This wasn't easy. There are suprising few recipes out there for real hard core ramen, partly, I've heard, because most accomplished ramen chefs are fairly secretive about their exact methods. By cobbling together directions and recipes from 2 or 3 Japanese cookbooks and a few websites, as well as my own recent ramen experiences, I came up with something that failed to reach the orgasmic nature of the bowl I had at Minca in NYC, but was nonetheless lightyears beyond my last batch of ramen.

I started the day before by making the noodles. That's right, I made the noodles. They were easily the weakest part of the final dish. At first I used too little flour and the noodles stuck together. Then I used too much flour, making the noodles a little too al dente, even after cooking them thoroughly.

The pork, on the other hand, was amazing. I believe it was just as good as the pork at Minca. After searing it in the wok with ginger, garlic, and scallions, I let it slow cook in the oven for about 5 hours in a soy, sake, water mixture. I couldn't get the nice thin slices that you find in many bowls of ramen, but it was some of the most tender, delicious pork I've ever had, and given how cheap Boston butt is down here I definitely recommend it as a roast recipe.

The toppings were largely inspired by the Minca experience, but the broth was more of a miso ramen, as opposed to a shoyu ramen, which has more of a soy sauce base.

Anyhow, it all started 2 months ago, when I made a huge batch of chicken stock. Setting some of it aside in my wok I added ginger and a little napa cabbage and let it simmer for a few more hours, then froze it into ice cube trays. So after thawing a few pints of this I combined it with some thawed cubes of dashi stock, which Renee gave me for Christmas. I just have to pause and reflect on how cool it is that I have the kind of friend who would give me frozen dashi stock cubes for Christmas.

We also had eaten as an appetizer a nice tuna tataki, which will probably be in the next post. I need to dispense with the habit of constantly eating while I'm cooking, because I'm too often half-full by the time dinner is ready. Somehow I still made room for some of Nick's strawberry cobbler, which he made from strawberries he had picked earlier that day.

So, without further ado, allow me to introduce to the world wide web my amateur, but tasty nonetheless, recipe for Miso Ramen.

(There are enough stock recipes out there that there's no reason for me to print mine. Just make sure that you add a whole bunch of ginger and some nappa cabbage to a least a good portion of your total batch of stock, and simmer for several more hours)


3 cups flour to start, about 2 cups to add gradually
4 eggs
Vegetable oil (optional)

1) In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Make a well in the center and add the eggs. Slowly whisk with a fork until it begins to form a ball.
2) On a flat surface knead the dough, adding more flour when it gets sticky.
3) Let dough rest for a half hour. If you don't have a pasta machine you need go no further unless you are practiced in the ancient art of cutting thin pasta by hand. If you do, put it on a setting spaghetti size or (hopefully) smaller.
4) when cut, make serving size nests of pasta and allow to dry for at least an hour or more. They are then ready to boil--it should take about 3 minutes.
5) If you want to preserve them for a while, you can deep fry the nests in veggie oil. Once cooled, they are ready to boil.


1 1/2 lbs Pork Shoulder with fat, trussed with butcher's twine
5 scallions, green part, crushed
4 cloves garlic
1 3-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced thin
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups water
4 Tbsp shoyu (Japanese light soy sauce, regular soy is fine though)
3 Tbsp sake
2 Tbsp confectioner's sugar

1) Heat the oil in a wok, add the scallions and ginger, and stir fry for less than one minute, add garlic and stir fry for another 20 seconds or so
2) Add the pork, turning it with a pair of tongs so that very side is well seared
3) Add the water, shoyu, sake, and sugar, mixing well, and bring to a boil
4) Turn heat to medium-low and let simmer for 20 minutes
5) At this point, you may want to add more liquid (same ratios) and transfer to a dutch overn or casserole. Cover tightly and set in the oven at 200 degrees and leave as long as you like. At least 4 hours. Be sure to turn the pork occasionally if it is not completely submerged.
6) Slice thinly - it is now ready to be placed in the ramen.


3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp Vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. sesame oil
4 Tbsp. miso paste
1/2 cup of stock
1/2 tsp. chili oil

1) Sautee the garlic in the oil and sesame oil.
2) Just as the garlic starts to brown, add the miso paste and a little bit of the stock to thin it out.
3) Gradually add more stock until the paste reaches the consistency of melted peanut butter, then add the chili oil and blend.
The eggs were hard-boiled, then soaked overnight in a mixture of 3 parts soy sauce, to 1 part water and 1 part mirin, with a little bit of fish sauce added.


There are limitless possibilities where toppings are concerned. I decided to go simple for this dish. Apart from the pork, which tends to be a staple in most ramen, I went with some wakame, sliced scallions, and a hard-boiled egg marinated over night in a mixture of soy sauce and mirin, then halved.


The assembly was fairly simple. A couple spoonfuls of base in the bottom of the bowl, tong in the noodles, ladle in the "soup," mix up a little, and add the toppings. Serve with some white pepper or a bit of chili oil. Eat.

Fetabulous Chicken (With Basil Cous Cous)

I'm always looking for new uses for feta cheese. I have incorporated it into omelettes, sandwiches, and meat and seafood dishes of all kinds. If somebody made feta ice cream, I would probably try it. I love its flavor, its saltiness, and its texture, whether fresh or melted. I like its name: "FETA." Like some sort of sleek and heroic, but briny, Greek God who protects the children of sailors.

This dish is an amalgamation of 3 different recipes, and it turned out great, although using chicken breasts instead of chicken thighs might make the going a bit easier. But all I had were thighs, and dark meat tastes better anyhow. The recipe involves making a paste from feta, lemon juice, and oregano, which is then sealed inside the pounded-flat chicken with skewers or toothpicks. The thighs are then sauteed with tomatoes, broth, and other ingredients.

Is it a summer dish? Perhaps, but then, in Sarasota it reached 78 degrees today.

Serve it with some nice cous cous, some olives (Calamata would be best, but all I had at the time was an can of ol' Californian,) and some pita or flatbread. Your friends and family will enjoy it, and your children will be well protected, sailor.


Lamb Stew Provencal & Roasted Fennel Pods

For the holidays I got some great kitchen loot. My sister gave me some nice tableware from Japan and two beautiful placemats she bought recently in Nigeria, Liz gave me some really cool wooden bowls from her trip Costa Rica, and from my mother and brother I got two cookbooks, one a general cookbook with some of everything and the other dedicated to the art of the WOK! Needless to say, I'm excited.

This dish was from the the first cookbook, and it was incredibly tasty. I will definitely make it again, and if you like lamb I highly recommend it. I'm also a huge fan of fennel, so I picked up a unit of fennel. I roasted the bulbs with some olive oil, salt and pepper, and they were mellow and delicious. The fennel "leaves" I used as a garnish and also sprinkled in the salad. I realize there is probably a better word than "unit," so if you want to prove your culinary prowess before all readers of Kitchen Monkey, please let me know

The recipe I've altered somewhat. It can easily be halved to serve 3 people or two very hungry people. Otherwise it serves 5 or 6.


2 lbs. boneless lamb, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
2 tsp. + 1 tsp.; vegetable oil
3 medium onions
2 red peppers
1 tsp. salt
4 garlic cloves
2 (14 oz.) cans of imported plum tomatoes
1/4 tsp. dried thyme or 1/2 tsp. fresh thyme
1/4 tsp. fennel seeds
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
3 strips orange peel, 1/2 inch wide, 3 inches long
1/4 cup fresh basil, torn into small pieces

1) preheat oven to 350 degrees
2) salt cubes of lamb
3) sear lamb in 3 tsp. olive oil in a large dutch oven (if you don't have one, you can do the searing and sauteeing steps in a large sautee pan and then transfer everything to a casserole for the baking)
4) To lamb drippings add 1 tbsp oil, onions, peppers, and salt. Sautee, stirring, for about 15-20 minutes until very soft
5) Add garlic and sautee for 1 minute more
6) Add tomatoes with juice, stir to break up
7) Add thyme, fennel, pepper, orange peels, and lamb. Bring to boil
8) Place dutch oven (or casserole) in your oven for 1 hour at 350, then turn down to 250 and bake for another hour
9) to serve, sprinkle with basil.

10) If you wish, clean and quarter the bulbs, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and bake in a shallow pan in the oven for the last hour and a quarter (or so).

German/Popeye Pancakes

This is my mum's recipe, and we have it every time I go to Utah for Christmas. I don't know if German Pancakes really have German origins, it could be one of those "french toast" or "french fry" things. We used to call them Popeye pancakes when I was a kid. We also used to put ketchup on tacos, but that's a different story. In any case, these are delicious for breakfast, and I recommend slathering them with apple syrup, a recipe for which you will also find posted in the comments. How do they puff up so nicely? As with so many things in life, the key is BUTTER.