Shrimp Tempura - ☺♥
Yummy! Who doesn’t like Shrimp Tempura? I found an authentic Japanese recipe on the Internet and I replaced the existing Food Nirvana recipes for Shrimp Tempura with this recipe. It looked just right, and much more authentic! I am now reporting back with results.
The recipe I provided in June 2014 had the typical errors provided to home chefs regarding the batter. I have changed the batter recipe below to cut the amount of flour in half. Thick batters are simply wrong. A thin batter is the only way to go if you want success. That having been said, the authentic recipe for the Tempura sauce was absolute dynamite. Of course, I ordered dried smoked bonita fish from Japan and also got the right kind of dried seaweed to make the sauce known as Dashi. All in all the recipe failed regarding oil temperature and it was missing a double frying process. Nasty inferior Internet recipes really piss me off! Of course, that is why I fix them so you can get stellar results. You can now trust the recipe ingredients and directions provided below.
This recipe makes 20 pieces of Shrimp Tempura. You can scale up this recipe easily to feed more than three people. When making shrimp tempura it is common practice to make vegetable tempura for the meal. Some typical vegetables are listed later. You simply prepare them in size to be about two bites. The combination of the shrimp and the vegetables makes a complete meal.
I show some different dipping sauces at the end of this recipe that were not provided with what I found on the Internet. I expect they are good but the Tempura sauce recipe given below is truly excellent.
20 large (Use extra large or jumbo size shrimp as the stuff sold as large in supermarkets really isn't at all large) shrimp
Corn starch for coating the shrimp before dipping it into the tempura batter
Oil for deep frying (vegetable oil : sesame oil = 10 : 1) [ I suggest using soybean oil and homemade toasted sesame oil or no sesame oil at all. I actually used only fresh peanut oil and it was great.]
2" of daikon radish, grated, with the liquid squeezed out (You will find daikon radishes in Asian markets and sometimes in better domestic supermarket produce areas.)
Tempura Batter (use the ratio, egg water:flour=2:1)
1 cup of egg water (1 cold large egg broken into a chilled one cup measuring cup + ice water to make a total volume of one cup)
1/2 cup of chilled all purpose flour (you can vary this to suit yourself, but a 1:1 ratio resulted in a batter that was way too thick.)
Tempura Sauce (See the recipes for making Dashi and Mirin below)
¾ cup of Dashi
3 Tbsp. of soy sauce
2 Tbsp. of Mirin
2 tsp. of sugar
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees F.
To make the tempura sauce, combine the dashi, soy sauce, mirin, and sugar in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil. Then lower the heat and let it simmer until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove the sauce from the heat and pour it into a small serving dish and put the dish into the 180 degrees F warming oven.
To prepare the shrimp, shell them (except for the last part of the tail) and rinse them, slit the back about 1/8th of an inch deep and remove the vein, rinse again, then cut shallow crosswise slits about 1/8th of an inch deep every 1/2 inch on the "inside" curve of each shrimp. Then flatten them out on a cutting board with the inside curve on the underside. Leave them moist but not wet. The idea is to have the cornstarch used later for coating to lightly coat the shrimp, not form caked cornstarch on the surface.
Grate the daikon and squeeze the liquid out. Put the grated daikon into a small cold serving dish and set it aside.
Heat 1½" deep cooking oil to 375 degrees F using a deep fryer, or use a dutch oven on the stovetop and a candy/frying thermometer. Allow the oil temperature to decrease during frying to 350 degrees F but not lower. Then remove the fired shrimp and bring the temperature back to 375 degrees F before starting the next batch.
Note: I watched a video of a chef doing the deep frying and it was most instructive. The batter the chef used was "thin." That infers that the batter recipe shown originally with this recipe would result in a batter that is too thick, that needs to be diluted with a small amount of additional ice water. It sure was too thick, even with some dilution with ice water. During frying there were lots of small pieces of batter in the oil due to using the thinner batter and the chef used a screen type of spatula to collect the small pieces and put them onto the pieces of frying battered shrimp early in the frying (to make sure they will stick together). That made the final pieces of shrimp very attractive. No small pieces of fried batter are allowed to remain in the oil between batches as they will darken and be an unwelcome mess. In other words be sure to remove everything from the oil between batches.
To make the tempura batter, sift the flour into a one quart cold stainless steel bowl.
Break the egg into the cold measuring cup and add the ice water to bring the total volume to one cup. Then pour the mixture into a pre-chilled one quart mixing bowl.
Whisk the egg mixture vigorously and discard (spoon off) the foam that forms on the surface.
Slowly pour the egg mixture into the chilled flour and mix the batter with a serving spoon but do not over mix. It is okay to leave a few lumps in batter. Keep the batter cold all the time. This can be done by placing the batter bowl into ice cubes or crushed ice in a larger bowl.
Coat each piece of shrimp with cornstarch. I prefer having a bowl of cornstarch and coating each shrimp individually and completely, then shaking off excess cornstarch. Put each piece of coated shrimp onto a paper towel.
Coat each piece of shrimp individually with the batter, letting excess batter drip off, then put it into the hot oil, doing no more than five shrimp per batch.
Deep fry each shrimp until it is pale gold in color. Turn over after two minutes to assure even frying on both sides. The total frying time during the first frying will be about five minutes. Do not crowd the fryer with too many shrimp; leave at least half of the oil surface empty. This means fry no more than five jumbo shrimp at a time. That is particularly important if you use a thinner batter and want to collect the small pieces of frying batter early in the frying and put them onto the pieces of frying shrimp.
Use a slotted spoon and transfer each piece of the fried shrimp tempura to a wire rack or to a plate lined with a paper towel to drain excess oil. I like to keep finished batches in a 180 degrees F warming oven so they don't get cold during the frying of later batches. If you do that when frying three or more batches of shrimp remember to put a paper towel between each batch layer so the oil that drains from the shrimp does not soak into the shrimp made in an earlier batch. Alternatively, you can put a wire rack on a cookie sheet in the oven and skip using the paper towels as you will have plenty of surface area on the wire rack for multiple batches of fried shrimp.
Between batches, remove and discard the leftover batter crumbs from the oil.
Now repeat the frying process again using batches, this time of once fried shrimp. The result, provided you remove the shrimp from the hot oil after about two to three minutes, will be vastly superior to a single frying process re. coating crispness.
Serve the hot shrimp tempura with the warm tempura sauce in a small serving dish and with the grated daikon on the side on the plate holding the shrimp.
Make the batter right before deep frying to avoid activation of wheat gluten.
If you put in too many shrimp at the same time the oil temperature will drop quickly. You do not want that to happen as it will result in an oil soaked final product instead of having a crisp batter coating. Maintain the right temperature for frying at all times, ergo wait between batches until the oil temperature has risen to 375 degrees F. Also, if you are not using a deep fryer then cut the heat back temporarily when the oil reaches the right temperature so that it doesn't get too hot. You can increase the heat to maintain the right temperature once you start to put the batch of shrimp into the oil. You can also turn off the heat temporarily if necessary to lower the temperature to 375 degrees F.
For vegetable tempura, you can use vegetables such as sweet potato, kabocha squash, lotus root, king oyster mushrooms, etc. I typically use tiny carrots or carrot slices(slightly pre-cooked), raw green beans, small pieces of raw broccoli, sweet green, red or yellow pepper chunks, sliced summer squash, zucchini squash, etc. The cornstarch and batter coating and frying processes are the same as those used with the shrimp. Do not overcook as the vegetables should be barely cooked to retain their physical character and taste, i.e., not be totally limp.
To make Dashi:
Ichiban Dashi is known as First Sea Stock, which means the first use of the ingredients used to make batches of Dashi. Sometimes the ingredients are re-used to make a second batch that is weaker in flavor.
Buy the ingredients online at AsianFoodGrocer.com or Amazon or from a local Asian market. You can also buy packets of dried Dashi and use it with boiling water to make the broth. I ordered the dried smoked bonita fish filet through Amazon and it was shipped directly from Japan. It was definitely worth the wait and the cost. Wow! What a great authentic Tempura sauce! Do, however, note that the quantities provided in the dashi recipe below are far more than what you will need for the shrimp quantities listed above. I suggest cutting the Dashi recipe in half. Ditto the Mirin recipe.
Makes 4 cups of stock
4 cups of water
16 to 20 square inches of kombu** (water soluble seaweed)
1/2 cup of loosely packed katsuobushi (bonito tuna, cleaned, fileted, cooked, smoked, dried and shaved)
Place the water and the kombu in a pot and let the kombu soak for about 15 minutes. Place the pot over medium heat. Right before the water starts to boil (watch for bubbles starting to break around the edge of the pot), remove the pot from the heat and scatter the katsuobushi over the surface of the water.
After 3 or 4 minutes (the katsuobushi will have sunk to the bottom of the pot by this point), strain the stock through a strainer lined with a tightly woven cotton cloth, cheesecloth, or a coffee-filter.
You can refrigerate the stock in a tightly covered container for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.
** If you want to weigh out the kombu, somewhere between 0.45-ounces or 0.6 ounces (13 to 18 grams) is okay.
Alternate Dashi Recipe: (this appears to be more concentrated in the use of the dried bonito flakes and also re. the seaweed on a weight basis. I did not use this recipe.)
6 cups of cold water
1 oz of kombu (dried kelp), about 20 square inches
2 (5-gram) packages of katsuo bushi (dried bonito flakes), about 1 cup
Bring the cold water and kombu just to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Remove the saucepan from the heat and remove the kombu. Sprinkle the katsuo bushi over liquid; let the mixture stand 3 minutes and, if necessary, stir to make the katsuo bushi sink. Pour through a cheesecloth-lined sieve or a coffee filter into a bowl.
Why make it at home? The answer is that most commercial products bear little resemblance to the highest quality Mirin made only in Japan and they are expensive when you consider the volume of Mirin used in different recipes for Japanese food.
Yield: generous 1/2 cup
5 tablespoons of sugar, such as organic cane sugar
1/2 cup of sake (rice wine)
1 1/2 teaspoons of pure cane syrup, such as Steen’s® (optional ... I did not use any cane syrup)
Combine the ingredients in a very small saucepan, such as butter warmer/melter. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then stir to ensure the sugar has dissolved.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and set it aside to cool. Taste and add the cane syrup for depth, if you like.
Alternate Shrimp Tempura Dipping Sauces
The dipping sauces shown below each simply have the ingredients prepared as indicated and then combined and mixed to make the final sauce.
Ginger Soy Dipping Sauce (mix, bring to a boil, mix to dissolve the sugar, then remove it from the heat and serve it warm)
1/4 cup of soy sauce
3 tablespoons of rice wine
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons of grated fresh ginger
1 scallion, finely chopped
Teppayaki Mustard Dipping Sauce (served cold)
3 tablespoons of mayonnaise
2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon of lime juice
2 teaspoons of soy sauce
1 teaspoon of grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons of prepared horseradish
Chile Aioli Dipping Sauce (served cold)
1/2 cup of mayonnaise
2 tablespoons of Thai-style chili sauce
1 tablespoon of lime juice
1/4 teaspoon of soy sauce
1 tablespoon of grated fresh ginger
Grilled Swordfish - ☺♥
Swordfish can be wonderful. Most restaurants and individuals at home have no idea how to cook swordfish … or for that matter how to prepare it prior to cooking. Most of the time it is too dry and tough, and worse, it might be served with the skin on and the dark flesh included. Yuck! Expensive, smelly, fishy tasting fish! How stupid!
I created my recipe based on how much I despised swordfish as served in typical restaurants. My results were/are perfect and I’ve received many rave reviews. Below is the simple and best way to prepare and cook grilled swordfish, but the directions must be followed precisely.
First, buy the steaks with a thickness of 1¼” … not thinner and not thicker. A quality seafood market will receive swordfish in large uncut sections at least once a week so by calling ahead you can schedule pickup of your order on the day the fish arrives, and your custom thickness requirements will be easy for them to prepare. Check what they have done re. thickness before completing your purchase. Also, make certain that any swordfish that you buy is fresh and not previously frozen. The cost will be around $12.99 per pound. One pound will serve two adults, but if you are buying one piece for only two adults and it is large in area you may have to buy more than one pound. Or, if it is the right thickness you can have the fish monger/butcher cut a one pound piece for you from a whole large steak.
An alternative is for you to buy the weight you want in one piece, particularly if you are preparing a meal for four or more people, and then cut it to proper sized pieces at home. This is actually the best way to be sure you get what you want.
Rinse the fish and remove excess moisture with paper towels. Cut the skin from the fish by slipping a sharp knife under the skin and gradually pulling the edge of the skin as you continue cutting it off. After the initial cut I hold the skin edge and lift the fish into the air and then use the knife along the opening between the flesh and the skin for easy skin removal.
Cut the steak in half exposing the dark red flesh from the center on each piece. Cut it out and discard it. All of it. When you are done you will have only the light colored flesh, yielding a 100% edible piece of swordfish. Upon cooking it will not have any oily fishy taste that would have been present if cooked with the skin. Moreover, the strong tasting red flesh will not spoil the experience of eating the delicious and mild lighter flesh.
For one pound of swordfish prepare the following coating:
½ stick of butter, melted
1/3 cup of Texas Pete’s® hot sauce – room temperature.
½ tsp. of White pepper
Mix the ingredients and coat both sides of the chilled raw fish on a plate, pouring any excess coating over the fish. As the fish will be cold the buttery hot sauce coating will gradually thicken and set on the surface, even at room temperature.
Note: Before grilling the fish make certain all other food items for the meal are ready to eat, as you want to serve and eat the fish while it is hot from the grill. You will want to serve the fish on a pre-warmed platter for maximum enjoyment.
Prepare and light a charcoal grill. Use a charcoal grill and not a gas grill and not a broiler and not a skillet. Place ample briquettes in the grill two deep tightly packed and make sure the grilling rack is exactly four inches above the top of the briquettes. Do not start grilling the fish until the briquettes are all glowing/ uniformly gray in color. You want the grill to be quite hot with even heat.
Place each piece of coated swordfish on the grill assuring even coating on the side facing the heat first. Grill for exactly nine minutes or less per side depending on the thickness of the swordfish and the intensity of the heat from your charcoal grill. Do not worry about any temporary flaming from the buttery coating hitting the hot briquettes. Put excess coating from the plate onto the top side of the swordfish immediately before turning the pieces over to grill the second side. Then carefully use a good spatula to get under the cooked side completely, and flip the pieces over. Again grill for nine minutes … or less. Note: It is smart to lift a piece of fish partially with a spatula after the first six minutes of grilling to check the degree of doneness of the grilled surface. Respond accordingly.
Do not overcook. If necessary, cut into one of the pieces after cooking on the first side and flipping to make sure the cooking time isn’t excessive (the center should still be pretty much raw). You can also test for doneness while grilling the second side after only five minutes. The fish should not be raw in the center when it is finished cooking but anything other than raw is fine, except for dry flesh anywhere except the crisp surface. A dry interior is a disaster. With practice, using your equipment, you will learn the perfect combination of heat and time, so that testing for doneness won’t be necessary.
Remove the swordfish pieces and serve immediately. Any excess coating from the plate used initially to coat the swordfish can be placed on the cooked swordfish to enhance the already great flavor.
The swordfish will be crispy on the outside and exceptionally moist and tender on the inside. If it isn’t perfectly moist and tender it has been overcooked. That will definitely happen if the steaks are too thin or if they are grilled too close to the hot briquettes. If they are cooked too far away from the briquettes or with too little heat from not using enough briquettes they will not be crisp on the outside and the fish, by the time it is cooked, will be too dry due to evaporation. Fast hot grilling without burning the surface is the key to success.
The taste is fabulous, and not hot or over seasoned. Note that the butter and hot sauce mixture is used to lightly season the fish and mostly to lubricate it so it doesn’t stick to the grill. Thus, there is only a small effect from using the hot sauce in the coating … just the right effect for people who don’t in general like highly seasoned food. Heat aficionados can add more coating or hot sauce to the grilled fish if they prefer, but everyone I know who has tried it does not add any other seasoning, including salt.
French Herbs of Provence
The freshest of thyme, savory, rosemary, bay leaf and basil make an aromatic bouquet perfect to infuse dishes with a fragrant dash of French countryside flavor. This traditional assortment of herbs is a classic to keep in stock, and it has been used for centuries in traditional Provencal dishes. The herbs can be tied together with a string or put into a small cloth bag tied at the top if you are cooking a food item where you want to remove the herbs at the end of the cooking cycle.
Italian Seasoning - ?
I often see recipes calling for Italian Seasoning as one of the ingredients. I have an aversion to having to buy pre-made mixes of herbs and spices, particularly when the typical pantry has all the necessary ingredients to make the mix. My second reason is that buying mixes leads to ignorance and taste confined to the purchased mix instead of knowledge you can employ to create new recipes and herb/spice combinations. My final reason for avoiding commercial mixes is that the potential combinations sold are huge in number without any reliable guide to help the shopper determine which mix is the best. One will never know if the gamut of mix tastes and applications are covered.
Thus, I obtained the following recipe from Food.com® and offer it as one example of taking charge in your kitchen. Now you can save money and keep your herb and spice cupboard uncluttered, and best of all, add to your knowledge and freedom to modify the recipe.
3 tablespoons dried basil
3 tablespoons dried oregano
3 tablespoons dried parsley
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
The mixture of the above ingredients is enhanced by processing all of them at the same time in a small food processor like a Magic Bullet®, creating a fine and uniform mixture. When dispensed later after storage in a small spice jar the right ratio of each ingredient will be assured.
Tuscan Herbs - ?
I was looking on the Internet for a recipe for Tuscan Herbs and I found a nice one at Divina Cucina®, which I have edited and included below. I have yet to try it but I already know it will be excellent as I use these fresh herbs often individually or in combinations. As the recipe indicates this mixture is particularly good on meats like roast pork and on roasted vegetables.
Note that I did not include specific amounts of the ingredients. Neither did the provider of the recipe. The idea is that you are to experiment a bit to come up with the combination that pleases you best. I suggest as a starting point to use equal amounts of fresh rosemary, fresh sage and fresh garlic, and only a bit of ground sea salt, and a small amount of cracked peppercorns. The remainder of the text below is that of the provider with minor editing done by me. Have fun!
Probably one of the best recipes I have learned and taught in Tuscany is my Tuscan Herbs.
Every butcher has his own blend, which is used on the fabulous prepared meats, ready to cook, which are sold in the markets here.
The base is a simple trinity of rosemary, sage and garlic, finely chopped with fine sea salt. This makes a fabulous gift anytime of the year.
Remove the herbs from branches and place them on a cutting board with some sliced garlic and salt.
Chop the herbs with a sharp knife or a mezzaluna until the pieces are very fine.
The salt absorbs the essential oils in the herbs and helps to dry the herbs.
Once the herbs are finely chopped, you can leave them out for a day or so to dry and then put them in a jar.
Local butchers also include black pepper, fennel seeds or pollen in making their Tuscan Herbs, and sometimes they add fresh bay leaves.
I like to use the basic recipe and add things to it as the recipe for what I am cooking inspires me.
Enjoy! It is great on meats and also on roasted vegetables.
Most of my students end up adding it to a plate of good Tuscan oil and just dipping bread in it.
If you want to use it freshly made then go light on the salt.
Your Herb Supply
One of the most annoying problems for the home chef is to have a great idea for a meal, only to find certain key ingredients missing from the refrigerator, freezer or food storage room. Quite often the missing ingredients are common herbs that for the best recipes need to be fresh, not dried. This discussion is intended to help you maintain a reliable supply of the best herbs, economically.
It doesn’t matter whether you grow good quantities of fresh herbs or buy them economically when they are in season. Two things you don’t want to do are 1) Pay supermarket prices for fresh herbs, and 2) Use dry herbs when you need fresh herbs. If you grow or buy, economically, large quantities of fresh herbs the problem is how to preserve those herbs so that they retain all of their delicate fresh scents and flavors. Most of the time leftover fresh herbs rot in the refrigerator. No more! Now we get down to business.
The proper way to preserve all fresh herbs is to vacuum seal small quantities in individual labeled bags and freeze them. There will be no freezer burn and all of the original flavor and scent will be retained. The only thing you sacrifice is appearance. For example, thawed fresh parsley will not look like fresh parsley and should not be used where fresh parsley is needed for appearance. Conversely, rosemary looks just as good after thawing as it looked when freshly picked.
The point is pretty obvious. Your deep freeze in combination with vacuum sealing assures you a ready supply of herbs of great quality in scent and taste year round. I wonder how many readers are realizing the extensive broad benefits of owning and using a high quality vacuum sealer? Humor me … if you have just read this material send me an email and tell me if you now use or are going to buy (and use) a vacuum sealer.
SOUPS, STEWS AND CHOWDERS:
Air Transport Command® Beer Cheese Soup - ?
Back in the day (1970’s and 1980’s) the Air Transport Command® restaurant next to the Wilmington DE airport made delicious Beer Cheese soup. The recipe I found for that soup is supposed to be accurate, but I have some doubt as the ratio of milk to other ingredients seems to be a quite high. Also, I note no salt addition, which may be okay as the bacon and the cheese provide some salt. I have an additional problem with the handling of the bacon and the bacon fat after frying, so I have simply changed the instructions to make sense! I typically find Internet recipes for well known dishes from well known restaurants or hotels to be woefully deficient and often dead wrong. In this case the onion called for in the directions was missing from the list of required ingredients!
I will test this recipe with the changes I have made and modify it as necessary. Made right this soup belongs on your table. It wasn’t thin and it wasn’t thick, so this recipe may change as I work with it. My initial recommendation is to hold back one quart of the milk, make the soup and then add as much milk to it as necessary to get the right concentration of flavor and good consistency.
The milk addition/adjustment can be done immediately prior to adding the beer and then the soup is heated to a simmer before the beer is added. Following the beer addition the seasonings are adjusted to suit your preferences. This approach is the safest way to guarantee a great final result.
Ingredients: (makes five quarts or 12 to 16 servings of soup)
4 quarts of milk, divided (with one quart reserved for use near the end of the soup preparation)
1½ tsp. of Tabasco sauce
4½ tsp. of Worcestershire sauce
¼ lb. of bacon
1 cup of diced fresh sweet onion
1, 14 oz. can of chicken broth
1/3 cup of cornstarch
2 lbs. of sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
1½ cups of beer, room temperature (one bottle)
A few sprigs of fresh parsley as garnish
Combine 2 quarts of the milk with the two sauces in a soup pot. Heat to simmering on medium heat, but at no time should this soup come to a boil.
Sauté the bacon slices in a skillet until crisp, then remove them and reserve the bacon. Break it up into small pieces when it is cool.
Drain all but two tablespoons of the hot bacon fat from the skillet. Add the onion to the skillet and sauté it until it is translucent. Turn off the heat. Put the bacon pieces in with the onion. Set the skillet aside.
When the milk has come to a simmer (or a scald temperature, steaming but not boiling) add the chicken broth.
Mix the cornstarch with the remaining one quart of cold milk. Gradually add the cornstarch mixture to the hot milk using as much as is needed for the desired consistency. This will take some time on medium heat, with frequent stirring, because cornstarch thickens best at a full boil and you do not want to boil this soup. Keep it at a simmer on low to very low heat.
Gradually add the grated cheese, continuing to stir well until the cheese melts and the soup is smooth, then add the reserved bacon and onion and mix well.
This is the point where I recommend the addition of the reserved milk, accompanied by stirring to mix all ingredients well, but only the amount of milk necessary to achieve great taste and consistency. Do heat the soup back to a simmer after the milk addition.
Remove the pot from the heat and pour in the beer, foam and all, and mix well.
At this point you may choose to adjust the seasonings, perhaps with the addition of ground white pepper and some sea salt. Remember to mix the soup well after any addtional seasoning is added.
Serve the beer cheese soup hot, garnished with a sprig of fresh parsley. Also, serve some saltine crackers and butter on the side.