Monday, February 23, 2009

Fancy Fish

Today it hit me that I have been talking, thinking, reading, and generally mucking about with food for months without cooking anything especially interesting. In part this is because I have to feed the kiddies, but mostly I've just been focused on other things.

Then I went into Tavelt for the first time. This is the food court supermarket underneath Fuji Daimaru department store. I was stunned: good prices, wide range, all kinds of great things. So I just sort of grabbed, thinking vaguely in the back of my head what sort of stuff I might do with it all, and ended up with a pile. Some is in the fridge for tomorrow, but a lot got used tonight.

Now first of all, I reheated yesterday's leftover spaghetti with homemade meat sauce, which Sam had inhaled. Garnished with lots of grape tomatoes and a hefty grating of real Parmesan, it looked like this:
Here's what Sam thought of it:
So that was him sorted out. I saved some pasta and tomatoes for Maia, no problem.

For mom and dad, I had two things that looked particularly excellent: buri toro and hamasa loin. In English, that's the fatty cut of yellowtail (buri) and the loin of amberjack. Total cost, about $10US for a lot of meat. (Told you Tavelt has good prices!) All of it was marked otsukuri-yo お造り用, i.e. "good for eating raw in slices," so I figured I could do what I liked.

I also got a pile of something akin to tatsoi, some kind of little greens, and then those little tomatoes, and I have shallots, and then some karami-daikon, which is a sort of spicy daikon radish that is a special seasonal thing in Kyoto (and infinitely superior to regular daikon -- just a hint to anyone who just might possibly be growing organic vegetables in a cold climate). So I made a tossed salad out of all this stuff, slicing much of it thin with my brand-new toy:
(Note wine bottle for size comparison.) A 270mm Masamoto gyuto, the most spectacular knife I have ever held in my hand and one of the finest gyuto in the world, no question. This was my very belated holiday present. (The lateness is me agonizing about what to buy.)

I tossed the salad with olive oil, a spritz of lemon juice and a dash of red wine vinegar, lots of fresh-ground black pepper and a hint of salt, and a bit of grated Parmesan.

For the yellowtail, I decided that I would do half as raw slices and half in a tartare. I cut half the fish into coarse cubes, and then hand-minced it fine with the heel end of my whacking great 200mm deba knife:
To this was added some of that spicy daikon, chervil, tarragon, lemon juice, salt, pepper, chiffonaded shiso leaves, and super-fine-minced shallot. Mince some more to mix, pack into a small bowl, cover tightly with plastic, leave on the counter for a few hours (the house is pretty cold, and what's going to happen to it anyway?). I served the tartare in a sort of coarse cylinder, since the cylindrical molds I have are either way too small or way too large, and garnished with thin toast. I plated this with the salad and the rest of the yellowtail cut in slices. The results:
For the amberjack, I coated the surface with minced chervil, shiso, scallion, salt, pepper, and a lot of koji-miso, which is a chunky kind of miso that is especially good roasted. I wrapped it tightly in plastic and let it sit for several hours. Then at the last minute I put it on my stovetop wire grill over super-high heat, barely 2 minutes a side, let it rest a minute or two, and cut in fat slices. I served it with shredded daikon (I cheated and used the stuff that came in the packaging of the fish -- nobody eats the stuff anyway), fresh shiso leaves, a dip of soy and grated karami-daikon, and a little fresh-grated real wasabi. Looked like this:
General opinion was that this meal was pretty terrific. I'm proud of it, really: I didn't use recipes, just made it up on the fly, and it was very, very good. Of course, 90% of the quality came from the wonderful fish, but I suppose it's that last 10% of bringing the ingredients forward that makes the difference.

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Gareth said...

As someone infatuated with sharp kitchen implements - mostly from the wrong side of the shop displays - how much do knives like that retail for in Japan? This article about master bladesmiths was also quite fun...

Chris said...

Quite a lot, really. The Masamoto gyuto was about $250, the Aritsugu deba about $150. The markup plus shipping from U.S. retailers ends up being about 33%, give or take.

The New Yorker article is interesting and well written, and Bob Kramer is certainly something of a celebrity among knife enthusiasts. But the article was also a bit controversial: many feel that it did not explain or adequately take account of Kramer's most important contributions, particularly the role he has played in the rise of Japanese cutlery to the consciousness of the Western purchaser. It also overemphasizes this little project he's got of resuscitating an old American smith's methods, which really has very little to do with why Bob Kramer is a big deal. I think that's all true, but it was a decent article nonetheless.

Gareth said...

Thanks for the pricing information: I'm starting to think about next Christmas already... It's an easy sell since I can promise good things to all those who fund such gifts (=my wife). When I lived in Berlin a friend of mine was given a top-of-the-line Japanese knife for his birthday - worth about $300 if memory serves - and he spent days just cutting random foodstuffs and ogling the results. I remember he cut his birthday cake into slivers about a millimetre thick!

The wider context of the Bob Kramer piece is interesting: I guess the writer found a good narrative thread and ran with that and other aspects of his story moved into the background.