Black cod over bok choy with soy-yuzu broth (and other goodies)

This is another ambitious afternoon cooking experiment that culminated in a menu of three dishes. It's a lot of work for a payoff with relatively small portions, but well worth the trouble!

The dishes are (click to scroll to recipe):

Black cod chicharron w/ aioli, ikura

This is based on a recollection of a dish I swear I had at Akiko's in San Francisco as the starter to their omakase menu that night - a chicharron made of fish skin, topped with a dollop of aioli and ikura, or salmon roe. I forgot to take a picture of it and haven't been able to find any other pictures of it online, so I could be dreaming but either way this is a delicious amuse-bouche to start the meal. I'm in love with the idea of transforming a non-traditional fish skin, usually discarded, into a chicharron, and to be honest this is the dish I was most excited about of all of them; it's also the most work by far for the smallest portion!

We'll start by making the aioli from scratch.

Homemade Aioli

We're using homemade aioli for our chicharron, but you can use it to improve just about anything. It's amazing in sandwiches, or for dipping vegetables (I like to dip asparagus fries in it, but that's another post). This recipe is inspired by the Food Wishes recipe.

Aioli is an emulsion of oil and egg yolk (tiny oil globules suspended in water / water-soluble compounds), flavored with garlic and whipped together into a delicious creamy sauce, aka mayonnaise with garlic. In the past I've made aioli by adding garlic to jarred mayo, but this is so easy to make we can skip the jarred stuff and make it fresh ourselves.

By the way, if you ever see a recipe for "garlic aioli", it's redundant since aioli is made from garlic by definition.

A note on kosher salt: we're using kosher salt as opposed to regular table salt here, which is more coarse and helps the garlic take on the texture we want. It's also the gold standard in restaurants and kitchens around the world, so pick yourself up some the next time you're at the grocery store!

Ingredients

1 pinch kosher salt

1 large garlic clove

1 large egg yolk

1 tsp dijon mustard

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Mince the garlic clove. Add the pinch of kosher salt, and then using the flat of your knife blade, crush the minced garlic into the cutting board, then mince once over again. Repeat two or three times to get a thick, oily paste of sorts.
  2. Place a large mixing bowl over a towel or paper towel made into a ring, to prevent slipping and freeing your other hand.
  3. Add the garlic, egg yolk, and dijon mustard into the bowl. Whisk well to combine.
  4. Whisking the entire time, very slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl in a thin consistent stream.
  5. Add salt to taste.

For the chicharron:

This begins with removing the skin from a fillet of fish - I used black cod, but you could probably also use sea bass or halibut as well. It's very important to remove as little meat as possible with the skin, and then cut/scrape as much of it off as you can once you have the skin separated. I found this surprisingly difficult - you need to work extremely gently with the skin to avoid tearing it, and I would probably not attempt this dish unless you have a really, really sharp knife on hand. The cleaned skin is then dehydrated in an oven on low temp, and then briefly deep-fried before being seasoned/served.

The chicharron is topped with ikura, or salmon eggs (roe). They're large orange spheres, and a total trip to eat - they 'pop' ever so slightly when you bite into them, and are filled with salty, brine-y goodness. I found a package of them at my local Japanese supermarket, and had a bunch left over, so stay tuned for some upcoming dishes featuring ikura.

A package of ikura (from the amazing Nijiya Market in SF)

I'm seasoning the chicharron with nanami togarashi. Shichimi togarashi is a very common Japanese blend of seven spices, and nanami togarashi is a slight variation with different proportions and an emphasis on citrus. It happened to be what I had on hand; you could use either variety interchangeably, or even just salt and pepper to let the aioli and ikura shine.

Remember, when deep-frying, always use a neutral oil like canola, never olive oil.

Ingredients

Skin from 1 black cod fillet

Neutral oil, for frying

1 Tbsp nanami togarashi

1 tsp aioli (see above)

1 tsp ikura (salmon roe)

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees.
  2. Place the fish skin on a piece of parchment paper on a baking tray, and put it in the oven for about 7 minutes, or until dehydrated and slightly shrunken.
  3. Remove the fish skin from the oven, gently blot excess oil with a paper towel, and set aside.
  4. Heat a half-inch of neutral oil in a small pot to 350 degrees.
  5. Gently lower the fish skin into the oil and deep-fry about 30-45 seconds, or until crispy and slightly puffy.
  6. Remove the fish skin from the oil and immediately season with the togarashi.
  7. Pipe on a dollop of aioli. I don't have a pastry bag, so I put some aioli in a ziplog bag and cut the corner off, which is surprisingly effective.

A note on dehydration: I found the 250 degree oven dehydrated the fish skin pretty quickly and I was nervous about overdoing it. Next time I might try and go low and slow with the oven on its lowest setting. The fish skin also shrank a LOT throughout the dehydration and frying process; I'm not sure if this can be prevented or alleviated except by starting with a larger piece.

As you can see in the picture, I didn't get perfectly puffy chicharron look I was going for, but the dish was still delicious nonetheless! I found the togarashi seasoning was very strong, even with the aioli to cut through it. You may want to adjust proportions or seasonings depending on your preferences for spicy foods.

Bacon dashi pea soup

This dish is basically just a bacon attack, under the guise of being a light pea soup. It's inspired by the recipe on Tiny Urban Kitchen, and I'm amping the bacon to 11 by making it with David Chang's bacon dashi.

First, we'll make the bacon dashi.

For the bacon dashi:

Like the aioli, bacon dashi is a general purpose ingredient with many applications. It has an incredibly rich and bacon-y flavor, much more intense than regular bonito dashi. Momofuku uses it in their ramen broth - I'll certainly be experimenting with it.

Note that unsurprisingly, the finished product is decently fatty; David Chang recommends against skimming it, but I couldn't resist and skimmed off a tablespoon or so of the fat that rises to the top.

Ingredients

4 cups of water

1/2 sheet of kombu (dried kelp)

1/2 lb bacon

2 tsp mirin (sweet rice wine)

1 tsp sake

1 tsp shoyu (Japanese soy sauce)

Directions

  1. Add the water and kombu to a pot, and maintain on medium/low heat for 30 minutes. David Chang recommends a consistent 140 degrees but I wasn't very exact with it.
  2. Add the bacon to the pot, and very gently simmer for another 30 minutes. I cut the stack of bacon slices into very rough cubes, but that's optional.
  3. Strain out the kombu and bacon; discard.
  4. Season the dashi with the mirin, sake, and shoyu.

For the soup:

I served the soup in a tiny cup to make it look nice, but this makes enough for about 2 regular appetizer-sized servings. Note the dish will be very salty from the bacon dashi and crumbled bacon, and so does not have any additional salt added.

Ingredients

1 slice bacon

1 cup bacon dashi (see above)

1 small onion

1/2 bag of frozen peas

Juice from 1/2 lemon, about 2 tsp

Directions

  1. Starting with a large, cold saute pan, cook the bacon slice on medium heat until crispy. Remove onto a paper towel.
  2. Retain 1 Tbsp of bacon grease in the pan and drain off / discard the rest.
  3. Slice the onion and cook in the pan with the leftover bacon grease until slightly browned, about 10 minutes.
  4. Add the bacon dashi, half the bag of frozen peas, and the lemon juice to the pan and cook for 5-7 minutes to soften the peas. See the original recipe for a neat explanation of how the addition of acid via the lemon prevents browning and preserves the beautiful green color of the peas.
  5. Transfer everything to a blender and blend until smooth.
  6. Serve garnished with the crumbled bacon slice.

A note on the soup: I found it pretty hard to blend the soup to the very smooth consistency I wanted. Next time I'd maybe blend it even more aggressively or pour it through a strainer to get out the larger unincorporated bits.

Black cod over bok choy w/ soy-yuzu broth

This is also based on a recipe from Tiny Urban Kitchen. The fish and vegetables are prepared incredibly simply, which lets the broth really shine. Here I'm using the black cod from the chicharron dish, but again you could substitute sea bass or halibut, and serving the fish on a bed of baby bok choy. I'm cooking the fish in the oven for an easy preparation.

The secret weapon in the broth here is yuzu kosho, a Japanese seasoning made from green chilies fermented with the zest and juice of yuzu, an Asian citrus fruit. It packs an intense spicy/citrus-y punch that will make the broth really stand out here. Careful not to overdo it though - start with a teaspoon and taste the broth before adding more if you like.

Note the broth calls for making a batch of regular dashi. I didn't use leftover bacon dashi here because combined with the yuzu kosho it would probably overpower the dish.

Ingredients

1 black cod fillet

1 bunch baby bok choy

For the broth:

3 cups of water

1/2 sheet kombu

1 handful katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes)

1 handful shiitake mushrooms, 5 or so

1 Tbsp shoyu

1 tsp yuzu kosho

Directions

  1. Make regular dashi from the kombu and katsuobushi: slowly bring the 3 cups of water and the kombu up to a simmer. Discard the kombu and add the katsuobushi, and gently simmer for 20 minutes. Strain out the katsuobushi flakes.
  2. Simmer the shiitake mushrooms with 2 cups of the dashi for 15 minutes, then remove and discard.
  3. Add the shoyu and yuzu kosho to the mushroom dashi, stir and keep warm.
  4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  5. Place the fish onto a piece of aluminum foil, brush with just a few drops of olive oil, and cook in the oven until its internal temperature reaches 130 degrees, about 10-15 minutes.
  6. While the fish is cooking, remove the base of the baby bok choy and carefully wash (bok choy, along with leeks, can be very dirty and gritty.)
  7. Bring 2 inches of water to a boil and steam the bok choy over it for 6-7 minutes (I have a cheap pot with a steamer insert.)
  8. Place the bok choy in a small pile in the center of the serving plate, then gently slide the fish on top. Pour over the broth and serve.

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