Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Shepherd's Cheeseburger Pie

This is a classic “Bubble & Squeak” incident. Personally I must be honest & say that casseroles that involve mashed potatoes hold no real affection for me. Though nothing can surpass the deep loathing that both U.Masa & Nephew Travis hold dear, when it comes to potatoes. But since being short on time is something that I’m professional at, I had to throw something together for dinner. So here it is.

For the casserole:

8 large potatoes, mashed (& all that that entails)
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
½ kg of ground beef (1 lb)
Salt & Pepper to taste
@ ¼ c. left over pizza sauce I made (If I didn’t have that I would have used a few tbsp of ketchup & 1 or 2 of bulldog sauce, for the gaijin that would be, Worcestershire sauce)
1 cup of cheese

And for the crust:

1 ½ c flour
3 tbsp butter
1 tsp oregano
½ tsp basil
1 tbsp b.powder
½ salt
2 eggs
1 c milk

So, for the crust, I mixed the drys & cut the butter into it (I prefer using my hands, not knives or pastry cutter) & set aside
Chop the onion & mince the garlic, Brown the beef w/ the onion & garlic, add the pizza sauce (really, I only used it cuz it was convenient, I would’ve used some other kind of tomato based sauce just the same, or ketchup for that matter.)

Next, slap the rest together! Well, more specifically, preheat your oven to 200C (400F), grease a 13/9” casserole dish. & mashed the mashed potatoes into the bottom, add the meat next (sprinkle w/ S&P).
Hmmm...that doesn't look so great. Now let's throw on some cheese.
Lastly, let’s finish the crust. Mix 2 eggs with 1 c milk & mix into the dry ingr. till just mixed. (it will be lumpy, if it’s not…’ve overmixed & are destined to have a tough cardboardy top!) Mix with a spoon, if you please, Spoon the topping over the casserole. And throw that sucker in your oven for about 15 min. or till you’ve got a golden top. Serve with ketchup...for all those condiment-dependant individuals. And lookie at that cute plate! Aww!
PS. Shepherd’s Pie is usually a “potatoes/ground beef/veggies/cheese” combo, Whereas Cheeseburger Pie is a “pie crust/ground beef/tomatoes/cheese/crust” combo. Thus the mangled name!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Nagasaki Cowboy Okonomiyaki

Just when you thought that I’d given up cooking for good & taken up a career in laundering socks & underwear, I have decided that dinner shall remain a staple in our daily diets. Truth be told, I’ve got plenty of pictures of food but not quite enough time to turn them into a simple blog bit. For example, I could take these here pictures & say, “ Okonomiyaki is a cabbage pancake that I'm crazy about, try it, you’ll like it!” But…..Oh, no, I’ve got to go & turn it complicated by adding 25 different toppings & turning it into some gourmet-dinner-of-science. I feel very neutral about this dish. Personally, it’s a favorite but I’ve had to deal with so many strong opinions on the matter that I’ve opted to make it very rarely if ever. And to make matters worse ever since my mom introduced me to “Nagasaki style” I just can’t make it right unless I’ve got the whole kit & caboodle. So join me now & let us make ourselves some Okonomiyaki.

Let’s just be honest here & say that when it comes down to it, Okonomiyaki IS indeed a cabbage pancake. If you want to get terribly crude about it, you could just make a generic pancake batter & throw some cabbage in there & that would be it. But thank God we've progressed since Combo cooking & now know that you can even add a carrot to the batter & it will taste a world better.

And if you are a gaijin who is put off by that then just stop reading here because I won’t subject myself to paragraphs of defense against this great Japanese dish. Nuff Said! And even if you are of the understanding nature depending on where you are from or your heritage you may have a totally different idea of what a good okonomiyaki consists of. There are so many different types but this is the type that I made for dinner. And if you’re wondering where the cowboy part comes in; I used bacon slices instead of beef or pork strips, Okey-dokey? So…..on we go. MY list of ingredients is as follows:

For the batter:
Suiton Flour (conveniently donated for suiton dumplings & wonderful for our okonomiyaki pleasure)
¾’s Cabbage
2 carrots

250g. bacon, sliced & pre-cooked (we got several bagfuls donated, this has made for some Veeerrrry pleasant pasta experiences going on recently!)
5 packs of yakisoba (fried up & kept warm)
a pack of eggs (10-12)

Now for the fun! The batter was made with about 1 c flour & ½ c water ratio. I used about 6 cups of flour. Shred & dice cabbage & carrots (I personally like the cabbage very FINE, to avoid big hard uncooked chunks)
So mix that up & try not to think of the work “pancake” while doing so.

Next is assembly time. Turn the heat on low on an oiled frying pan (or better yet a yakiniku hot plate) spread a ladleful of batter out & flatten it out. Be careful if it’s too thick it will be raw & gummy inside before you’re done & that is a NO-NO!!
Now put some yakisoba on top of the batter & a few slices of bacon.

Here comes the fun part, if you don’t like timing your cooking perfectly, then this is going to be BIG FUN for you. Hee hee!! Crack an egg next to the okonomiyaki and poke the yoke. Check out mine, all it’s missing is an eyeball & it looks like a regular embryo. Let the egg cook for long enough so that it’s not yet, like a really wet sunny side up egg with the yoke broken. (NOT how I like my eggs)
Ready for the fun part? Put your spatula under the okonomiyaki & flip it (yakisoba/bacon & all) on top of the egg. It may take some practice to get it right, but it should hold together pretty well, with only a stray bacon bit here or there. Let it cook a minute or two longer & then flip it over again (back to the “batter-side down” position) to let the batter cook a bit longer.
Caution: don’t let the flame be too high or you’ll end up with a raw inside & believe me, (as I’ve already said) that’s not the way we like it in Japan.

This is the end result. Ain’t that purrrty?And, here’s the fun bit….TOPPINGS. Here are the traditional toppings you can choose from generally the sauce & mayo go first & the rest follow in whatever order you like:

- Mayo
- Bulldog sauce (Okonomiyaki sauce, for that matter, yakisoba sauce & tonkastu sauce will work fine too, they’re nearly all the same thing, anyway)
- Fish flakes
- Ao nori
- Normal nori (cut into tiny strips)
- Tempura bits
- Negi, diced
- Beni-shoga

And that’s the end of the story folks. Pull up a chair, turn on your Masturi music & be sure to wash it down with a glass or two of Nama-beru!! Enjoy your Okonomiyaki.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Highlights of a Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!!

Well, I thought I'd put up a few pics of the Christmas/New years Highlights. Sorry, folks but I'm neither very good at taking photos nor very faithful to take them. (Particularly when there are multitudes of children running around & lots of hungry parents to feed)

In case you don't have 3.5 children, you don't know about the house of chaos which all happy children in this neighborhood seem to enjoy so much. I'm still wondering why some of my friendly friends would join forces to chase roughly 15 children around while singing rounds of "Oh-Praise-the-Lord". I'm NOT complaining, my kids voices are now gone & Vesna & I are not altogether sorry.

Gosh, golly, gee-whiz, there was a lot of memorable moments from our New Years. Many friendly faces & screaming children. I guess I ought to dredge up a couple from the fuzzy recesses of my brain. (I'm suffering from a cold along with the other 8 sneezy children in this house):

- Cozy New Years with familiar faces & lots of excitingly named cocktails (involving Tabasco & shot glasses) and vats of gyoza & karage (which, I'll admit, I did eat one or two of).
- Children let loose in "dress up" euphoria, each in thier own make believe world & the parents hiding their faces in shame as their ladybug/fairy/chef/samurai daughters played mommy & daddy.
- Having all my kids asleep by 10:15 (the parting of the Red Sea & now this) so that I could make plate-loads of hours de vours that I had to force my friendlies to eat. (I'm afraid they though it was some kind of art exhibit instead of a late night snack)
- Somehow ending up with 35 men, women & children eating dinner in our little house. Arms, legs & forks were everywhere, phones ringing & babies crying. It was memorable!
- Getting to actually "hang out" with one of my girl-friends! (gosh, 10 years ago I'd be ashamed to say that!!)
- Having a house full of happy/tired/confused parents always on the look out for some way to help me in my hour (ok, several hours) of distress.

Well, there's lots more where that came from but I haven't the time or brain cell. So....lets close with a few photos. And may you have a jolly 2008. I for one am going to crank up the coffee pot & get started on this school term.
Christmas Brunch
Cherry Pie. (if you look closely you might be able to find a bubble mid-pop!)
French Pear Tart!! OMG!!! That's me diving in there!!
Winter Salad! Did I already say I like pears?
The Brined Turkey who layeth down his life for the home!
Wow, the funky chicken ladies. No words!
Oli's genius dress up scheme. (I'm not sure what evil character Travis is trying to be, but you can be sure he's playing his part with all his heart, no doubt it's something from the "Revenge of Chinese Chef")
Awwwww!!! They had too much fun.
The boys waiting to get on the ice!
The popular game called: "How many peaunt butter sandwich eating kids can you fit on one tiny picnic mat"
PS: If you happen to have attended any of these blasty-blast events & have taken photos that are noteworthy -- Please think of me! I love you!