13 Jun 2016
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):
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.
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!
1 pinch kosher salt
1 large garlic clove
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
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.
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.
Skin from 1 black cod fillet
Neutral oil, for frying
1 Tbsp nanami togarashi
1 tsp aioli (see above)
1 tsp ikura (salmon roe)
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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
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.
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.
1 black cod fillet
1 bunch baby bok choy
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