Thursday, January 17, 2013

Miso, umami, and those nifty Japanese

Umami is considered the fifth taste to go along sour, sweet, salty, and bitter.  It is more of an unctous, feel-good, yummy in my tummy kind of flavor.  To me at least.  The Japanese came up with the name for it (and maybe were the first to figure it out? Maybe?) and appropriately so since a lot of their cuisine is jacked full of L-glutatmate.  Miso soup, that piping hot sushi joint staple, is filled to the brim with umami ingredients, and yes miso is one of them.

I usually find it in paste form and it is simply mixed with water.  Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer for a few, taste, adjust, use.  It was the base of the sauce with the salmon dish pictured above. 

First get your pan really hot.  The test I like to use is to drop some driplets (those are baby drops) into the dry pan.  If the driplets bounce and dance around the pan I call it ready to go.  If they stick in one spot and boil; wait longer.  If they immediately vanish in a puff of smoke; I don't know what to tell you.  Next was some peanut oil and let this get nice and hot once again.  It should shimmer slightly.  My seasoned salmon goes in, presentation side down, and I turn the heat down to medium and don't touch it.  Let it get a nice, flavorful crust on the pretty side and do almost all of the cooking that way.  The salmon shouldn't stick at all.  If it did it means you're an impatient ninny-muggins and you didn't let the pan get hot enough.  Flip it for a minute or so and then I put mine into a low (180F) toaster over to keep it warm.  Back to the pan we put in minced garlic and ginger, stir, smell, and toss in sliced red pepper and mushrooms (shiitakes if ya got 'em).  When they are half done I put in my miso/water mixture, rice wine vinegar, and soy sauce.  Then baby bok choy and clams go in with the lid on to steam the goodness in. 

When the clams have popped open it is time to plate din din!  I made a nice bed of the veggies, put the salmon on top (with some toasted seasame seeds and sliced raw scallions, arrange the clams, and sauced it up!  (Next time I am going to use smaller clams.  Count necks would be a good option.  These suckers were a little too big and chewy.

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