This Sunday I’m cooking a special healthy Family Dinner, with a salmon theme. I expect it to be one of the better meals I’ve made for these occasions. It’s all about Japanese cooking with a very modern American twist. As usual, the dessert has nothing to do with the meal itself, it’s just following my love for chocolate and cheesecake.
Sake-Steamed Sockeye Salmon With Sake Butter
Yield: 4 servings
For the Fish:
1 stalk lemongrass, split lengthwise
2 cups sake
2 cups water
10 1/8-inch-thick, coin-shaped slices fresh unpeeled ginger, smashed with the side of a knife
2 star anise
Peel of 1 scrubbed orange
4 (6-ounce each) skinless sockeye-salmon fillets, preferably center-cut
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lime, cut into 4 wedges
For the Sauce:
2 tablespoons peeled and julienned fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced shallots
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, divided, cut into large dice
½ cup plus 1 teaspoon high-quality dry sake
1 tablespoon heavy cream
½ teaspoon fresh lime juice
• Set up a steamer. Use a large saucepan or a wok with a Chinese bamboo steamer set over it. (If using a metal steamer, lightly grease the steaming basket.)
• Bruise the lemongrass with the back of a knife to help release the aromatics. Cut lemongrass in half crosswise. Place the lemongrass, sake, water, ginger, star anise and orange peel in the bottom of the steamer. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.
• Meanwhile, to make the sauce, in a small saucepan over medium heat, sweat the ginger and shallots in 1 tablespoon butter for 2 to 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the high-quality sake, bring to a boil over medium-high heat and reduce by two-thirds, about 3 minutes. Add the heavy cream, bring to a boil and reduce by half, about 2 minutes. Add the pieces of cold butter, bit by bit, whisking constantly. The butter will emulsify, creating a thick, creamy sauce. Whisk in the last 2 to 3 pieces of butter with the pan off the heat. (The sauce will be very thick but will loosen up once the remaining liquids are added.) When all the butter has been incorporated, whisk in the remaining sake and the lime juice. Season to taste with salt. Cover and leave in a warm spot but off the heat.
• Season both sides of the salmon fillets generously with salt and pepper. Lay the salmon fillets (skinned-side down) in the steamer basket. If the fillets include the thinner flaps by the belly area or the tail, fold the thin pieces under so the pieces are about the same thickness. Cover with the lid. Steam until the salmon is just cooked through, about 4 minutes.
• Place a fillet on each of 4 plates. Spoon some sake butter over each portion. Garnish with a lime wedge
Hamachi With Grapefruit and Avocado
Yield: 4 small servings
4 sections ruby red grapefruit, all traces of peel and pith removed
4 slices ripe avocado
4 slices very-fresh raw hamachi or kampachi fish
4 thin julienned pieces fresh ginger
Yuzu kosho (this chili paste with citrus zest is optional)
2 1/2 teaspoons ponzu sauce
1/2 teaspoon grapeseed oil
Shaved black truffle or truffle oil (optional)
• On each small serving plate, layer in order, from bottom to top, the grapefruit, avocado, fish, a piece of ginger and a dot of yuzu kosho, if using.
• Mix together the ponzu sauce and grapeseed oil and drizzle a few drops of the mixture over each serving, followed by the truffle, if using. Serve immediately.
Aromatic Steamed Rice
Yield: About 5 cups
2 cups Japanese short-grain rice
1 stalk lemongrass
2 cups cold water
3 1/8-inch-thick coins of unpeeled fresh ginger, smashed with the side of a knife
3 star anise
Zest from 1 scrubbed orange (preferably large, wide strips cut with a vegetable peeler)
• Place raw rice in a fine-mesh strainer. Rinse under cold running water until water runs clear. Drain well.
• Smash the lemongrass stalk with the back of a knife; slice it thinly crosswise. Wrap it in a small piece of cheesecloth and tie in a bundle with kitchen twine.
• In a medium pot, combine the rice and water. Add the cheesecloth bundle to the pot, scatter the ginger, star anise, and zest over the top and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat, cover the pot and simmer gently until all the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave covered for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the lemongrass and other aromatics, fluff the rice with a fork and serve hot.
Sautéed Mushroom Salad
Yield: 4 servings
1 small head Romaine Lettuce, cut into bite size pieces, washed and dried well (about 6 cups)
8 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
2 to 3 tablespoons Ponzu dressing (see recipe below)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 small portobello mushroom, cut into 1/8-inch slices
2 eringi mushrooms (available at Asian markets, also known as eryngii or king oyster mushroom)
4 shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and cut into 1/8-inch slices
1 bunch enoki mushrooms, bottom trimmed and broken into small clumps
4 button mushrooms, stems trimmed, and cut into 1/8-inch slices
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sake
1 1/2 teaspoons butter, softened
salt and freshly ground black pepper
• Place the romaine lettuce and tomatoes into a large bowl. Drizzle with the ponzu dressing, toss to coat and set aside.
• Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the mushrooms and garlic by handfuls, starting with the Portobello and eringi mushrooms. When the mushrooms wilt down slightly, add the shiitake and enoki mushrooms, tossing with tongs. Cook until the mushrooms are tender , about 5 minutes total.
• Add soy sauce, sake and butter. Toss to coat and season to taste with salt and pepper.
• To serve, divide the lettuce and tomatoes between 4 plates. Top with the mushrooms and serve immediately.
1 1/3 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 stick butter
1 tablespoon cocoa
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped small
2 1/2 cups cream cheese
3/4 cup superfine sugar
1 tablespoon custard powder
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
2/3 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon cocoa, dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon dark corn syrup
Special equipment: 9-inch springform pan
• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
• To make the base, process the graham crackers to make rough crumbs and then add the butter and cocoa. Process again until it makes damp, clumping crumbs and then tip them into the pan. Press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan to make an even base and put into the freezer while you make the filling.
• Put a kettle on to boil.
• Melt the chocolate either in a microwave or double boiler, and set aside to cool slightly.
• Beat the cream cheese to soften it, then add the sugar and custard power, beating again to combine. Beat in the whole eggs and then the yolks, and the sour cream. Finally add the cocoa dissolved in hot water and melted chocolate and mix to a smooth batter.
• Take the springform tin out of the freezer and line the outside of the tin with a good layer of cling wrap, and then another layer of strong foil over that. This will protect it from the water bath.
• Sit the springform tin in a roasting pan and pour in the cheesecake filling. Fill the roasting pan with just boiled water to come about half way up the cake tin and bake in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour. The top of the cheesecake should be set, but the underneath should still have a wobble to it.
• Peel away the foil and cling film wrapping and sit the cheesecake in its tin on a rack to cool. Put in the refrigerator once it is no longer hot, and leave to set, covered with plastic overnight. Let it lose its chill before unspringing the cheesecake to serve.
• To make the chocolate sauce: very gently melt the chopped chocolate, cream and syrup. When the chocolate has nearly melted, take off the heat and whisk it to a smooth sauce. Let it cool a little, and pour it over the chocolate cheesecake on its serving plate.