This my fiftieth post! What better way to celebrate than with foods you can take to a gathering, be it a party or a picnic or a potluck. I’m afraid you you you won’t find any pub food here (I couldn’t resist the alliteration!), although a plate of tatsuta age would be a welcome accompaniment to a nice cold bottle of Sapporo beer!
You know those recipes that call for “poultry seasoning,” or “taco spice blend.” You never know what’s in those spice mixes, and if you buy the prepared ones, you’re apt to get a lot of salt in with the herbs and spices. Plus, those premixed things aren’t tailored to your taste. What if you want more garlic, or less (which is more problematic), or you find a flavor that’s just disagreeable to you?
I’ve added a page to help you out. You’ll see it in the right sidebar of every post. Click on it, or tap, and you will find a comprehensive list of spice mixes and their ingredients. Just for kicks, I added some very exotic blends, too. Maybe they’ll inspire you! If you don’t see one of your favorites, let me know and I’ll research it and add it to the list. In other words, contact me!
- Tatsuta age Japanese Fried Chicken Bites
- Pizza Monkey Bread
- Sweet Potato “Burritos”
- Canned Tuna Ceviche
- Skillet Upside-down Cake
Tatsuta Age: Fried Chicken Bites
The Japanese have many varieties of fried chicken. The most well known is probably chicken katsu, chicken cutlets breaded with panko and pan fried, served over rice with katsu sauce, or curry, and sometimes a fried egg.
Tatsuta age is probably my favorite Japanese fried chicken. “Age” means “fried” in Japanese. The meaning of “tatsuta” seems to be less clear. It can refer to the autumn colors to be seen along the Tastuya River, and it seems there was a Princess Tatsuya who was also associated with autumn and its colors. A long marinade in soy sauce does color the chicken slightly red. More importantly, it flavors the chicken beautifully, and the potato starch coating is oh so light and crispy. It doesn’t absorb much oil, and it stays crispy even after it cools, making it the perfect fried chicken for a picnic.
You could use white meat for this recipe. It will cook faster than the thigh meat and will dry out very quickly if you’re not careful. You can also sub corn starch for potato starch. Do not confuse potato “starch” with potato “flour.” You might find the results, well, disagreeable!
Ingredients (feel free to double or even triple these!)
- 2 large boneless skinless chicken thighs, 1 boneless skinless chicken breast, or a combination, fat trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces. To ensure even cooking, keep the bites as uniform in size as possible. Don’t obsess and start weighing the pieces though!
- Equal parts:
- Soy sauce
- Sake or dry sherry
- Grated garlic
- Grated ginger
- Grated onion
- Spicy “oriental” mustard
- Sriracha or other hot sauce
- Potato starch or corn starch for dredging. I recommend potato starch.
- Peanut, canola, or other neutral, high smoke-point oil for frying.
Drying the marinated chicken pieces well, and waiting to dredge them until you’re ready to drop them in the oil is crucial! Dredging the chicken and letting it sit will cause the potato starch to clump and get gummy. Not yummy!
- In a small bowl, mix the soy sauce, the sake or sherry, the mirin, and any of the optional additions you choose to use.
- Place the chicken pieces in a plastic zipper bag. Pour the marinade into the bag over the chicken. Press the air out of the bag and seal.
- Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, and up to 24 hours.
- Drain the chicken, discard the marinade, and arrange the pieces on two layers of paper towel. Cover with two more sheets and lightly press to dry well. Place the chicken in the fridge until ready to fry.
- Place a cooling rack in a rimmed baking sheet and line with paper towels.
- Heat 2” of oil in a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven to 350°F.
- Put the chicken pieces in a small bowl and sprinkle with potato starch. Lightly mix with hands until all pieces are coated.
- One piece at a time, remove the chicken from the starch, shake off the excess and place in the hot oil. Do not crowd. Depending on the size of your pan and the amount of chicken you’re frying, you may need to do this in batches.
- Fry, turning the pieces often with a spider or pair of tongs, until the pieces are golden and the internal temp is 185°F for the thigh meat and 165°F for the breast meat.
- Remove the chicken pieces to the paper towel-lined cooling rack
To serve, arrange the chicken bites on a platter over lettuce. Garnish with chopped hot peppers and a squirt of Japanese Kewpie mayo. I like to slice pickled hot chilis, dredge them in the potato starch and give ‘em a quick fry. Or serve with dipping sauces; spicy mayo mix, Thai sweet chili sauce, ranch or bleu cheese dressing and a small shallow dish filled with a salt/pepper mixture. That’s actually my favorite; I love salt and the black pepper really adds some zing and brings out the flavors of the marinade. Or drizzle the pieces with salsa, cover with shredded cheese, and place in the oven until the cheese is melted. The sky’s the limit, folks! You could even make these part of a taco bar!
Pizza Monkey Bread
Something always seems to go wrong when I make these! It usually has to do with the pan I bake them in, the oven temp, or my portioning the dough into balls. This time it was the pan. I thought I knew exactly where my bundt pan was. It has apparently been moved. I only discovered this at the moment I was set to arrange my little garlic blobs in it. I know, mise-en-place fail! I had to jury-rig a pie plate with an upside ramekin in the center. The overflow was almost alarming! But they tasted great!
These are great additions to a party table. If you’re bringing them to someone else’s party though, keep in mind that these are best served right out of the oven. If your hostess is okay with it, you could take the assembled but unbaked bread to the party and bake it there; not counting preheating the oven, the baking time is fairly short – twenty to thirty minutes. Alternately, par-bake them, about 10 minutes, and finish them up quickly at the party.
- 1 recipe pizza dough. Or store bought, or pick up some from your local pizzeria, about a pound.
- 1/4 cup or more of olive oil, plus olive oil for brushing
- 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan/Romano cheese, plus more for sprinkling.
- 1/4 cup pepperoni, finely diced, or cooked sweet (or hot; up to you) Italian sausage, very finely crumbled. Dice if necessary.
- 1 cup cubed (about 1″) Monterey Jack cheese
- Flour for dusting the cheese.
- 1 tsp each dried oregano, dried thyme, and dried basil
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- pinch of red pepper optional
- Marinara sauce, pizza sauce, or pesto dip for dipping
- Preheat the oven to 375°F
- Put the cheese cubes into the freezer. You don’t want the cheese frozen, just cold, so it’ll melt a bit more slowly during baking.
- Whisk the herbs, the garlic powder, and the onion powder, and the 1/4 cup olive oil until thoroughly combined. When you assembly the monkey bread, you’ll need to stir the mixture frequently to make sure the bites get coated with all the flavors.
- Lightly grease a tube pan or a bundt pan or a cake pan with an oven-safe lightly oiled ramekin placed upside down in the center. But we know how that turned out
- Turn the pizza dough out onto a lightly floured surface.
- Press down lightly to degas. Divide the dough into two equal-ish pieces. Cover one piece with a damp lint-free dish cloth, and put it in the fridge until you’re ready to shape it.
- Roll the first piece out until it’s a large rectangle, about 13” x 9”.
- Lightly brush or spray the surface of the dough with olive oil.
- Spread the cheese mixture evenly over the dough. Then spread the pepperoni. Using your rolling pin, gently press the cheese and pepperoni into the dough.
- Starting at the top, roll the dough into a long log and pinch the seams and ends closed.
- Repeat with the remaining piece of dough.
- Cut the dough rolls into roughly 1 1/2″ pieces. Don’t worry about exact uniformity.
- With your hands, form each piece into a ball by pulling the top of the dough to the bottom, and tucking it into the center until you a have a smooth little orb. Twist the bottom closed.
- Take the jack cheese cubes out of the freezer. Dredge them lightly in some flour. Press a cheese bite into the center of each ball and pinch it to seal the cheese inside. Some of your balls will leak. That’s okay, it adds to the appearance.
- Dip each little bite in the oil and herb mixture. Arrange the balls randomly into tube or cake pan. After each layer is arranged sprinkle with the cheese mix.
- Cover the dough with a damp dish cloth and set aside for 30 minutes or so. The monkey bread should have gotten puffy, but may not have doubled in size.
- Brush the dough one more time with the garlicky olive oil and sprinkle very lightly with coarse sea salt, if desired.
- Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown. The internal temp should be between 190° and 200°F. I strongly recommend using an instant read thermometer to check your bread. A browned crust may turn out to be “fake news” if the top browned too quickly, and that “tap the loaf to see if it sounds hollow” thingthat I just never got! If you think the crust is browning too quickly, lightly tent the loaf with aluminum foil.Remove the bread from the oven to a cooling rack set in a baking sheet. Brush it one more time with olive oil.
- When the bread has cooled enough to touch comfortably, turn it out of the pan onto the serving plate. Start tearing! Serve immediately, with a bowl of your favorite marinara sauce, pizza sauce, or pesto sauce (or all three!) for dipping.
These don’t keep very well, and should be eaten on the same day they’re baked. If you do need to reheat them, brush them with a little oil, wrap them up on some foil, and heat them in a 300°F oven for five to ten minutes.
Sweet Potato Burritos
This hardly qualifies as a “recipe.” Besides the sweet potato, your choices are limited only by your own imagination. These are pretty large. They’re not really finger food as presented, but I think they’re quirky and tasty enough to find their way onto a party’s grazing table.
I really have to apologize for the photo of this dish. I wasn’t paying much attention when I was halving the sweet potato; it was too late when I realized I was cutting on the wrong vector (the wide side instead of the narrow). So my skins were split, and didn’t make that nice little boat shape. They were quite delicious, though!
Ingredients (for two, as a light meal)
- 1 medium sweet potato, halved lengthwise
- Olive oil for brushing
- Salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar, or other cheese or cheeses of your choice
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 can beans. I like black beans. They add contrast to the dish.
- A handful of cilantro, chopped. Reserve a tablespoon for garnish
- Lime, avocado and sour cream for garnishing
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Brush the cut sides of the potato with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Place the potatoes, cut side down, on a foil covered baking sheet. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the flesh is very, very soft.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool until you’re able to handle the potato halves comfortably.
- Preheat the broiler.
- Carefully scoop the flesh from the potato halves, taking care not to rip the skins. Place the flesh in a bowl.
- Broil the potato skins 6″ from the heat until crispy and just beginning to char. Remove from oven and let cool.
- Add the cheese, the spices, and the cilantro to the bowl with the flesh and fold to combine.
- Spoon the filling into the crispy skins, top with extra cheese if desired.
- Place the skins back into the oven and broil until cheese on top starts to bubble.
- Serve hot with a salad and some good Mexican bread.
Canned Tuna Ceviche
Recipe adapted from SkinnyTaste.com
I was going to present you with a great ceviche recipe, raw fish and all. Then I had two epiphanies: I live in the middle of the desert, nearly 300 miles from the nearest coast. This makes sourcing fresh, sashimi grade fish tough. And being so tough to source, it can be prohibitively expensive, even in small amounts. And while it’s said that lime juice “cooks” the fish, there’s a reason for those quote marks! Lime juice changes the texture of the fish so it resembles cooked fish, but it’s not really cooked! Shelf life is not too long, even in the fridge.
Then I came across this recipe, which I tried with both canned tuna and canned salmon (also surprisingly not cheap, if you buy quality, but not as dear as fresh fish) with very satisfying results and none of the raw fish worries! So, with no feelings of guilt or failure whatsoever, I present you with the “ceviche for the masses!”
- 1 good quality can of tuna or salmon, drained. Pacific Wild is my favorite brand. It’s a little pricey, but the fish are all “pole-and-line” caught, packed immediately into the cans with some sea salt, no added water or oil, and then quickly heated just once (most canned fish is cooked twice) and canned. The species of fish and where it’s from are listed on the can. Albacore is higher in mercury than skipjack, but it’s flavor is cleaner. If you use salmon, it’s best to get Pacific salmon, which is usually wild caught.
- Optional add ins
- Par-cooked shrimp, octopus, or squid, or if you’re feeling generous, lobster or crab. If you’re Bill Gates, both! Dice any additional seafood into very small pieces
- About a quarter cup of each:
- Diced red or yellow onion
- diced green or red bell pepper
- seeded and diced Roma tomato
- seeded and diced cucumber
- 1 pepper of your choice, finely diced. If you like a bit of a kick, jalapeño or Serrano, seeded with ribs removed, em>are good choices. If you like, you can leave out the pepper altogether and just hit it with a dash of hot sauce to taste.
- The juice of about 5 limes. Invest in one of those yellow citrus pressers, really!
- A handful of cilantro, chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- In a medium bowl, mix the drained fish gently with about a tbsp of the lime juice. If you’re using additional seafood, increase the lime juice to 2, or even 3 tbsp. Refrigerate while you prep the veggies.
- Add the diced veggies to the marinating fish and mix well. Taste, and add salt and pepper if needed.
- Toss in the cilantro and mix to combine, being oh so careful not to break up the fish too much.
- Add the remaining lime juice.
- Chill for at least an hour to let the flavors meld
Use a slotted spoon to plate this, as ceviche sitting out, soaking in its own juices, is unappealing. If your creation will be sitting out for a while, do present it on ice! It’s not raw, but it’s still fish! As for how to serve it? The world is your can of tuna, baby! Use it as a filling for little hollowed out cuke boats. Fill endive or radicchio leaves with the ceviche as a rather elegant “wrap.” Any ceviche would be welcome at a taco bar, too. Bake some wonton skins in muffin tins til just crisp, and fill the cups to brimming with citrusy seafood! Ceviche also lends itself well to Japan, or at least American Japanese restaurants; it’s delicious in an unorthodox sushi roll.
Skillet Upside-down Cake
Every party needs a dessert, right? Upside-down cake is so retro, and so easy! And you can use any type of fruit; no need to confine yourself to the cliche of pineapple rounds perfectly arranged concentrically with a perfect little maraschino cherry nestled in each. Make yours an explosion of berries, or use stone fruits; peaches, nectarines or plums. A warm cinnamon apple upside down cake is the perfect finish for a Sunday brunch, or a coffee go with after a sit down dinner. Or a sweet nosh with the bridge game, if you want real retro. (Note to self: learn how to play bridge, teach Mark, find another couple that knows how to play and set up a date. Then bake a Bananas Foster upside down cake. Whew that was a long note to self!)
- 1 1/2cups AP flour
- Baking powder
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter or light brown sugar. You can use dark brown sugar, but the molasses flavor will be more pronounced.
- 2 to 3 cups sliced or chopped fruit. If using frozen fruit, do not thaw; the fruit will keep its shape and consistency better.
- 3 – 4 tbsp chopped fresh herbs optional
- Whisk the flower, baking powder, and salt in a medium mixing bowl.
- In another bowl, using a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together on low speed, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs and continue beating until the eggs are incorporated ant the mixture is smooth.
- Add 1/3 of the flour mix, and stir with a wooden or nylon spoon to combine. Add 1/2 cup of the milk, continuing to stir. Repeat with the remaining flour and milk. Flour should be the last ingredient you add.
- If all of this feels like too much work, make the batter in your food processor. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl and set aside. Process the butter and the cream until pale yellow and smooth. Scrape the sides of the bowl down as necessary. Add the eggs and process on low until combined. Add the milk and flour in the order indicated above, and process briefly, until just smooth.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F
- Heat a 10″ oven-safe skillet, preferably well-seasoned cast iron, over low heat. You can use a 9″ skillet, but you may find you have extra batter.
- Add the sugar to the melted butter in the pan and stir briefly to distribute.
- Arrange the fruit tightly in a single layer on top of the sugar layer.
- Spoon the batter on top of the fruit. Spread and smooth with a spatula.
- Bake the cake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the “top” of the cake is golden and toothpick or wooden skewer inserted comes out clean. “Clean” means no wet dough sticking to the toothpick; a few sticking crumbs is okay.
- Remove the cake from the oven and place it on a cooling rack very briefly, just a minute or two. If you wait much longer, the cake will be very difficult to un-pan.
- Run a sharp, thin knife around the perimeter of the cake to loosen.
- Invert your cake plate over the skillet, then in an dramatic sweeping gesture, flip it over. Remember, the skillet is still very hot; use pot holders or kitchen towels! And make sure you do it in front of an audience, if you’re quite confident the cake will come out in one piece.
- Carefully remove the cake from the skillet, and scrape up any fruit bits that are stuck to the bottom; add them to the top of the cake.
- Serve the cake slightly warm or at room temperature. Store wrapped in plastic wrap or an airtight container. The cake will keep for several days. Or more likely not. It will more likely disappear!
My Fiftieth Post!
My thanks to all of you, dear readers, for stopping by and taking a look at my latest obsessions. Can you tell which of the above recipes is my current fad? Ah, I smell a contest! Unfortunately, I currently have nothing of value to offer as a prize (no, you may not have my Le Creuset cast iron enameled Dutch oven!). I get my inspiration for cooking from many sources. You all are my inspiration for writing, though.
Please take note of the two different ways you can contact me; click or tap the “contact me” link in the right margin, or leave a public comment in the space below. I would so love to hear from you. About anything at all! And of course I’d like to know if you’ve tried any of my recipes, and how they came out for you, or how you tweaked them. I’d particularly like to know if your dish didn’t come out as expected. I’ll work with you to figure out what went wrong, and fix it for next time.
So, my friends, until next time, say it with me:
Dance like no one’s watching, sing like no one’s listening, but cook like everyone’s eating. Bon appétit!