Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Bento without a Box

For some reason, I felt like cooking today. I decided to make 5 different items that were all inspired by the whole Japanese bento box thing. I had no idea that bento boxes became "hip". I guess I'm late to the party. Whatever. There's no box here. Only food.

On the Menu:

1. Chicken Tempura
2. Pork Gyoza
3. Ginger/Sesame Braised Broccoli
4. Pickled Carrots
5. Sushi Rice

I'm going to try to make this post as efficient as possible since there are so many recipes. Nothing on the above list is difficult to make, so I'm just going to list the recipe and a few pics if that's ok.
If anything's unclear, please ask by commenting. 

1. Chicken Tempura (batter from recipe)
1 Chicken Breast (in the 1 pound range), cut into manageable pieces for frying/eating
3/8 cup flour (6 tbs)
1/8 cup cornstarch  (2 tbs)
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp parsley
1/2 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp thyme
1 egg white, beaten
1/2 cup ICE COLD water

Mix up all the batter ingredients and stash in the fridge for 30 minutes. The batter being cold is imperative for this batter to work properly. Get enough oil in a heavy pot/pan for frying. (I'll let you figure this out, it's different for every kitchen set-up. I prefer to use cast iron and flip vs. a true deep fry). Dredge the chicken pieces in cornstarch (I put them in a plastic bag with the cornstarch and shook to cover). Shake off excess. Dip into batter. Fry until golden brown. Ensure your oil is 350 for proper frying.


2. Pork Gyoza (based on this)

This is the biggest pain in the butt for this meal, but worth it. 

8 oz ground pork
16 wonton wrappers (use a cup to make them round if you want "Gyoza", proper)
1/2 cup Marinated Green Beans, finely sliced
Green Bean Marinade (Totally optional, I just had some left over from last night that I made for lunch, but I think it actually made a difference in the Gyoza)
1/2 cup Sherry
2 Tbs Mirin
1 Tbs Soy sauce
1/4 tsp Chinese 5 spice
1 tsp Sesame Oil
2 Tbs green onion, chopped
1 tsp Sesame Oil
1 tsp Sugar
1 tsp Soy Sauce
1 tsp Fresh Ginger, Minced
1 tsp Shallots, Minced
1/2 tsp Garlic Salt

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Heat some oil in a frying pan.

Put a rounded teaspoon of filling in a wrapper and put water along the edge of the wrapper and fold over to seal.

Put the gyoza in the pan and fry on high heat until the bottoms brown. Turn the heat to low.

Add 1/3 cup chicken broth to the pan. Cover and steam on low heat for about 2 minutes.

3. Ginger/Sesame Braised Broccoli (modified from this)
8 oz Broccoli, trimmed
2 tsp Sesame Oil
1 Tbs Fresh Ginger, Minced
1 tsp Mirin
1 tsp Soy Sauce
1/8 tsp Salt
1/8 tsp Lemon Juice

Heat the sesame oil in a pan over med-low heat. Toss in the ginger and smell for it to become fragrant (should only take 10-15 seconds). Add the broccoli, soy sauce, mirin and salt. Toss to combine and cover until the steam cooks the broccoli to just tender. Add the lemon juice and serve.

4. Pickled Carrots (made this one up)
3 Carrots, thickly Julienned
1/2 cup Rice vinegar
2 Tbs Mirin
1/2 tsp Sugar
1/4 tsp Salt

This one's really easy. Just combine and let sit for a few hours. They are really good. Trust me.

5. Sushi Rice (Alton Brown's recipe, halved)
1 Cup Rice
1 Cup Water
1 Tbs rice vinegar
1 Tbs sugar
1.5 tsp kosher salt

Rinse the rice in a fine colander under running water. Repeat 2 to 3 times or until the water is clear.

Place the rice and 1 cup of water into a medium saucepan and place over high heat. Bring to a boil, uncovered. Once it begins to boil, reduce the heat to the lowest setting and cover. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes.

Combine the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl and heat in the microwave on high for 30 to 45 seconds. Transfer the rice into a large wooden or glass mixing bowl and add the vinegar mixture. Fold thoroughly to combine and coat each grain of rice with the mixture. Garnish with black sesame seeds.

Final Thoughts:

I realize that this is over the top complicated for a weeknight meal. You can make one or two of these and have a pretty good meal. I have never made any of these before and I have to say, they all really worked well together. The broccoli, carrots and rice work on their own but are awesome together, and the gyoza and the chicken also work well together or alone. The real winners were the rice and the carrots. Really surprising how good they were.

By the way, I used green beans in the gyoza because I didn't have any cabbage. I think it worked really well.

If you end up making everything, serve in a bento box, or just on a plate as per below. I made a dipping sauce for everything with some soy sauce, mirin, and rice vinegar. It was pretty damn good and there were no leftovers.


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