We always enjoy having guests. Not just for the company although that’s always welcome (the pooch thinks an extra set of hands to pet him is the best thing ever and likes to celebrate by showing off his dog soccer skills). It’s nice to see our world through new eyes. Sometimes you become so used to “the way things are” that you forget that not only do other people have a different experience but that your upbringing was pretty disparate too. And that’s just fine cuz knowing how far you’ve come can serve as a reference for your present and future compass as it were. After a week of delectable and at times extravagant meals showcasing to the super sister just why we
tolerate the 9 months of soggy grey consider PDXville an epicurean paradise I need a little gastronomic downtime. Last night’s scrumptious but thin belly flap was trimmed off so that the much thicker fillets would cook evenly (the fact that this yummy, unctuous delight makes the perfect sized serving for my lunch the next day is purely coincidental hehe). For a lot of us, “comfort food” evokes the sensation of home and often the dishes we ate growing up and while many of my faves are in fact home grown, my tastes have changed over time and I’ve acquired some new faves as well.
The first time I ate this お茶漬け ochazuke was for breakfast in our cabin cum hotel in Palau. This South Pacific paradise with crystal clear waters, sugar sand beaches, and jewel-like corals was easily one of the top dive destinations we’ve been to and apparently is well known among Japanese tourists too. So much so that even the non-Japanese hotels provide a Japanese breakfast and after partaking of 塩鮭 shiozake or salted salmon with お茶漬け (ochazuke) or steamed rice steeped in green tea, sitting on a tiny balcony overlooking a tropical paradise or not, you may get hooked too. The luscious salmon picks up the salty, slightly nutty miso paste and flavors the steamed rice. Traditionally ochazuke is made with leftover, even cold, rice and that’s where the green tea comes in, providing moisture and heat. You’ll often see this dish sprinkled with furikake, a dry(ish) seasoning mix usually containing chopped up nori (toasted seaweed sheets, the same type used to make sushi rolls), white sesame seeds, sugar and salt. Like many seasonings and condiments, there are many flavor variations including salted salmon, bonito flakes, and even dried kimchi (?!). Instead of green tea I used 玄米茶 genmaicha which is a mixture of green tea and toasted brown rice as I find the nutty, toasted flavor of the rice compliments the miso and katsuobushi (smoked skipjack tuna) flavored furikake. I also find that pure green tea is a bit too bitter for my tastes. Oh, and if you do develop a taste for ochazuke, it’s so popular you can eat it as a snack, top off a lavish meal with it, start out your workday with it or try to smack down a hangover with it, it’s just that good 😉
1 thing to note:
1) Wait, isn’t 塩鮭 shiozake just salted salmon? Yup, classically shiozake is made by literally salting raw salmon for 24-72 hours and then broiling or cooking it. And while that can be satisfying in itself, I like the nutty saltiness of the miso paste. I’ve added mirin to the marinade to counteract any fishiness from the salmon and the ginger and garlic just for added flavor. I don’t like my food very salty so only marinated it for 2 hours but if you want a more savory punch, do it for longer. FYI: the longer the salmon (or any protein) marinates in a salty marinade, the tougher it will get, which is another reason why I like a shorter marinating time.
2) Okay, two, 2 things. You may have noticed that I use crushed ginger and crushed garlic a lot. Do I have a basement of sous chef minions desperately peeling and chopping away? Nope. I’m lazy but in a kinder, gentler way. I use jarred crushed ginger and crushed garlic cuz it really saves time, takes up very little refrigerator space, I use it so frequently that it’s worth the extra cost to me in terms of time, and frees me up to do more important things (like writing :D) So if you do like to cook with garlic and ginger, give it a try.
1 tbsp shiro (white) miso
1 tbsp mirin
1 tsp (1 inch) crushed ginger
1/2 tsp (1/2 clove) crushed garlic
1-2 tsp vegetable oil
2-3 oz salmon fillet, skinned and pin bones removed
1/2 tsp furikake, optional
2/3-3/4 c steamed rice
1/2-1 c green tea (I used genmaicha tea)
In a shallow, flat, sealable container mix together miso, mirin, ginger, and garlic–it will form a thin paste like mustard. Place salmon in the container and coat with miso mixture (I like to flip it over a few times). Seal and marinate in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours. Oil a small baking pan and set aside.
Remove salmon from container and wipe off excess miso mixture with your fingers. It’ll look a little smeary but you don’t want large blobs.
Place salmon in pan and broil on highest rack for 3-4 minutes. My 1/2-inch thick fillet took 4 minutes. Serve over rice, sprinkle with furikake if using, and then pour hot tea over everything. Makes 1 serving.
**I didn’t include the nutrition analysis cuz removing the miso marinade significantly drops sodium content and for some reason the recipe analysis program seems to think that rice has more calories than an 8 oz steak?? If anyone has a nutritional analysis program they like I’d love to know about it 🙂 According to my estimations, this meal contains more like 300 calories, 20 g protein, and 1.9 g fat (~55 mg cholesterol).