In like a lion, out like a lion

31 Mar

The saying, if I recall correctly, is “In like a lion, out like a lamb.”

This year, March decided to stomp in and roar about like a lion, and still continues to roar and lash about on her way out.  We have a winter weather advisory for tonight – and thankfully, we aren’t expecting the 4 to 8 inches of snow predicted for areas north and west of New York City, we still will have a chilly evening to get through… and possibly a messy commute on Friday morning.  What happened to the lamb?

Yesterday’s lunch was a home-run lunch.  My older daughter, fed, bathed and unwinding from her day (thanks hubby!) bounced into my arms as she said, “Mama, o bento Zeeeeeeeeeeenbu owatta yo!” (Translation – Mama, I finished ALLLLLLLLLLLL my bento!”  The little one, in her Linus pose of holding her blankie in her left hand, right thumb in mouth, piped up just as excited as her older sister, “Zeeeeeeeeeeeen bu mama, BEN-TO!” (Translation – Mama ALLLLLLLLLLL!  Bento!)

Today’s lunch included:

Blanched sugar snap peas, cut into half

Red pepper slices

Roasted chicken wings and drumette, marinated in a little miso and soy sauce over night

Turkey meatball

Boiled quail egg

Roasted beets

There is a fund-raising event at my daughter’s school today for the victimes of the March 11, 2011 Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami.  I received an email yesterday from the class mother asking for contributors for entrees and baked goods.

My head spun.  Baking after a full day at work did not appeal to me.

I got home, and looked through the refrigerator/freezer, and decided to create a Japanese meal for the donation.  Chicken breast  in freezer – check.  Miso soup ingredients – miso, shiitake powder, tofu and abura age, check.  Broccoli – check.  Rice – of course, check.

After the girls went to bed, I quickly defrosted the two chicken breasts.  I cleaned them, and butterflied the thicker end of the breast.  I created a quick marinade of 1/4 cup each of soy sauce, and mirin, 2 tbs of sake and 1 tbs fresh ginger juice (a knob of ginger, grated), mixed it together, and poured over the chicken.  The chicken remained in the sauce for about 45 minutes.

In the interim, I brought a medium-sized pot to boil, and quickly blanched a head of broccoli.  Once it turned brilliant green (and remains crispy), I removed it from the boiling water, and drained in a colander.  While the broccoli was still warm, I placed it in a small bowl, and poured a soy-ginger vinaigrette over it.  This included the following:  3 tbs of soy sauce, 2 tbs of rice vinegar, 2 tbs of olive oil, and 1 tsp of finely chopped fresh ginger, mixed well.  Although the color wasn’t as pretty due to the soy sauce, I felt this would season the broccoli well.  **Before I went to bed, I drained the excess dressing from the bowl to prevent the broccoli from getting too salty or too mushy

I also prepared steamed rice in my trusty rice cooker.  For this particular set of dishes, I made white rice.   I rinsed the rice with water several times until the water ran clear and then drained it.  I filled the rice cooker pot with filtered water, and set the timer to have the rice ready at midnight.  This would give me enough time for the rice to be put out to cool, and I could put into a portable tupperware.

A large pot was filled with filtered water (about 10 cups), and I mixed 2 tbs shiitake powder into it.  A package of medium- firm tofu was first halved width-wise, and then I cut them to create 1/2 inch cubes.  I also took out two aburaage pieces which I store in the freezer, and poured boiling water over each, to remove excess oil.  I gently squeezed the excess water out, and cut them into 1/4 inch wide pieces.  Abura age are slices of tofu which have been deep-fried – they have a very interesting texture, and I’ve had them as miso soup “gu” or “contents” growing up.  They come in pieces that are about 3 inches by 6 inches, and a fluffy 1/4 inch thick.  Once de-oiled, and pressed, they are pretty much flattened, and are easily maneuverable.  Next time, a picture will be included!

Once the shiitake/water mixture came close to a boil, I added the tofu and abura age pieces.  I lowered the heat to barely a simmer for about 5 minutes, and turned the heat off.  I added 2 heaping tbs of miso, and let it slowly dissolve into the liquid.  One point to note – never boil miso soup, as you lose the fragrance of the miso.  I checked on the miso soup periodically, and I adjusted the flavor with additional miso as necessary.

I was then ready for the chicken.

I pre-heated my cast iron skillet, and added a small amount of canola oil.  Once it heated up, I added the chicken pieces, and watched them carefully to prevent them from burning.  Due to the high sugar content in the marinade, it’s very easy to burn, so it’s important to keep an extra eye out.

Once the chicken browned and crisped on one side, I turned them over, and let them brown on the other.  I lowered the heat to medium, and added 2 tbs of sake, and put foil over the chicken to steam.  I continued to check the chicken, and added a little water as needed to ensure it didn’t burn.

The extra marinade was poured into a small pot, and I heated it up and let it reduce.

Once the chicken was done, I put it into a corningware to cool, pouring the reduced marinade over it.

Once everything was cool, I transplanted them into portable containers – as much as I hate using plastic, I wasn’t ready to donate my beloved pyrex glassware containers.  So they went into Gladware (BPA Free), and put into the fridge.

For the miso soup, I included 1 tbs of dried wakame (seaweed) and 1 chopped scallion in snack sized ziplock bags to be added right before eaten.

I worried afterward – did I make enough chicken?  What if it doesn’t taste good?  Was there enough rice?  Will the broccoli be too salty?

Hopefully whomever purchases it enjoys it – plus, the proceeds will go to a worthy cause.

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