Thanksgiving 2010!

Another year, another turkey day!!  This year, we had a mix of old friends and family out in Davis for a super cozy holiday.  We had nine people sleeping in our tiny house, including my in-laws, who  along with Adam, provided us with lots of wine, and Little Miss’s baby brother, who is far from a baby.  Yuan was relegated to the unfinished basement.  Well, he volunteered I suspect because he was afraid that I would draw on him while he was asleep.  Thanksgiving is a well-oiled machine of sorts, as long as we don’t get distracted or have too much wine early in the day.  Little Miss declared that we did not need to menu plan and after some coordination on the shopping list and turkey transport,  Yuan, Little Miss and I threw together a holiday feast.  We have become somewhat set in our ways as our must-haves (mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, brussel sprouts with bacon, sausage stuffing, and turkey) have taken over the menu, making it hard for us to add new items.

Little Miss came out on Tuesday and we spent a day making desserts.  This year, we revisited the pumpkin cheesecake, tried the Normandy apple tart recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking book, and made a pecan pie.  We had never tried the pecan pie, and the results were semi successful – how does one not burn the crust?!?  Tasted yummy though.

This year, my cousin Nozomi, who goes to college on the east coast, came out for Thanksgiving.  Having grown up in Japan, she was deprived of Thanksgiving for the first fifteen years of her life and ever since first experiencing this wonderous food holiday seven years ago, it is her favorite!  Which is not surprising since we are related and she too loves food – she can eat an entire fish down to the bone, eyeballs and all.  This was also her first trip to California and she kept asking me if we could go see the “Full House bridge!”  Nozo inexplicably loves tiny marshmallows, and as soon as she arrived she demanded we make that “orange marshmellow thing,” so we did.

We had two turkeys this year for variety and it turned out great!  Everything cooked faster and we got to experiment.  Ms. Turkey was smoked by Yuan on the grill all afternoon and Mr. Turkey was roasted in the oven after spending the night in the fridge covered in a tangerine salt rub then rubbed with a herb tangerine peel butter.  Mr. Turkey is on the left and Ms. Turkey (smoked) is on the right.  The turkey couple here in somewhat compromising positions…

They later worked it out and looked and tasted amazing on the table.

Yuan made a sauteed mushroom medley that Adam couldn’t keep his grubby fingers out of.

Nozo’s Thanksgiving dinner plate.  And yes, she ate ALL of it.

And while I never got a chance to sharpee Yuan, I did manage to give him a gorgeous sparkly hot pink pedicure while he was in a wine stupor on the floor.  Sooo pretty!

And Nozo got to visit her “Full House” bridge.

Matsutake! Mushroom of My People

Every fall, the people of Japan eagerly await matsutake season and pay an absurd amount of money to consume this delectable and distinctively fragrant fungi. Here, the close North American cousin of the Japanese matsutake is tricholoma magnivelare and although it is not as popular as Japan’s tricholoma matsutake they are very similar in texture and smell. Oh, the sweet sweet matsutake aroma…

I hounded the mushroom vendor at the farmer’s market for almost two months in search of the cherished mushroom and finally purchased 4 small mushrooms for $30/lb. I excitedly told a friend about my great triumph in obtaining my precious matsutake to which he replied, “oh, I just went hiking on the coast and they were growing all over the place. I’ll take you if you want to go tomorrow morning.” I immediately forgot that I’ve been told my entire life never to pick your own mushrooms for fear of death, and got up at 7 a.m. (believe me, this is EARLY for me for a Saturday) to drive to go mushroom picking.

We went down a trail, then bushwacked into the woods a bit, and lo and behold! A MATSUTAKE! I couldn’t believe it! It smelled like the real thing, looked like the real thing, and was growing out of the ground! I squealed like a teenager at a Jonas Brothers concert and did a little happy jig. Jake taught me to look in the leaf litter for slight mounds near tan oak and huckleberry bushes, and the distinctive characteristics of the matsutake, like the shreddable stem, white color (some with brownish discoloration), and gills attached to the stem, which is covered by a partial veil. Then he showed me how to pry them from their leafy beds.

When I started the day, I made a personal goal to find at least one matsutake during the trip but once I started to recognize what to look for, they were everywhere!! Then I really hit the motherlode. I saw a small white button peeking out from beneath the fallen leaves and as I was uncovering it, I noticed that there was an half arc of them.

By the time we stopped for lunch in this awesome field, we had collected almost three bucketfuls of matsutake. On the way back to the trail, we stumbled upon a patch of chanterelles, including the prettiest chanterelle I have ever seen! I ate an all mushroom diet the next day, then spent about 24 hours worried about dying of renal failure due to some deadly mushroom I had just consumed, but remembered that I definitely know what matsutakes smelled like and really, nothing else smells like it. I’m also still alive.

Over the course of the last month, I have been experimenting with various mushroom recipes. Usually, you try to find ways to economically stretch out the precious fungus that you paid an arm and a leg for and you barely have enough to make the two matsutake classics, matsutake soup “dobinmushi” and matsutake rice. I made a matsutake dashi and steamed some rice with the broth, a splash of sake and soy sauce, and sliced matsutakes. The steam from the rice cooker filled my house with that wonderous pungent piney aroma.

I gave some to the local Japanese restaurant owner (who then gave us some complimentary treats!), I froze some for later, and made mushroom dashi which I keep in the freezer. I also made matsutake noodle soup, matsutake dumplings, matsutake egg custard (chawanmushi), and various chanterelle and matsutake omelettes, pastas, and sautees. The chanterelles were meaty with the most amazing buttery texture and the matsutakes infused everything with their wonderful matsutake fragrance. Highlights were a shellfish pasta with chanterelles and matsutakes, and this simple but savory matsutake butter saute with ginger and homegrown chives.

Thanks to Jake and mother nature for a matsutake adventure in deliciousness.

Christmas Eve Revelry

Happy Holidays! Yuan joined us for Christmas for the second year in a row and we had a lovely and rather active holiday. I got to go home early, Yuan took the train to Davis, and we had a lovely time drinking eggnog and planning our Christmas Eve feast. Our friends Heather and Wes joined us for Christmas Eve and we had a holiday meal gleaned from our Norwegian and Japanese heritages.

Heather brought over yummy mushroom appetizers.

As per Bjorn’s family tradition, we made Norwegian meatballs the night before Christmas. Yuan took over meatball making this year and I had to keep reassuring him that the meatballs needed to be browner. They were really delicious.

Christmas Eve Norwegian Meatballs
(made by Asians)

Meatball Accompaniments:
Roasted Carrots, Brussel Sprouts & Mashed Potatoes

Heather also brought a delightfully light pear salad with pancetta.

Yuan wanted fried pork, so I made pork katsu…then I fried a bit of pancetta wrapped shrimp while I was at it.

Sauteed Matsutake with Ginger

Christmas day we drove into San Francisco for some prime rib and eggplant parm at a friend’s house. Yum! The next day, we spent the afternoon on Clement Street eating dim sum and buying tiny dishes. If you live in the Bay Area, I highly recommend Kamei – an Asian kitchen supply store. The aisle after aisle of dishware makes me so excited I feel like I want EVERYTHING! I find it exhilarating and overwhelming. But that’s just me, and I love tiny dishes. Kamei has more than just tiny dishes though, they have an assortment of every kind of kitchen and food serving and preparing equipment. It’s awesome!

We had a great holiday eating well and hanging out with new and old friends.

Happy Birthday Philippe!

It should come as no raging shock to anyone that we three squabbling asians take our food very personally. Thankfully, as far as obsessions go, this one’s socially acceptable to share with others. Ever since the invention of hungry, people have been coming together to share meals that commemorate special occasions, or no occasion at all. And for people who love to cook, there’s a special kind of happy that comes from feeding people. Like the warm feeling you get from a big swig of whiskey on a cold day, except without feeling like you got slapped in the face by said whiskey. Sometimes we get our fix by throwing our own dinners and bbqs and the like, but somehow we also seem to think we have time to be amateur caterers, so we three occasionally provide food for various friends’ occasions and events.

A couple of weeks ago (I know, I know, I’ve been busy), we made some party snacks for my dear friend Philippe’s 3rd annual 26th birthday. A few of the highlights:

mini porcini quiches

sage-roasted garlic white bean dip with veggies

gougeres

homemade fig sesame jam with manchego

watermelon tartare with feta and mint

DJ Pepe, you’re always there with a big smile, a silly joke, and the best of the internet, always willing to defend my honor with your stealth baguette attack, and maybe most important, always reading our blog! A repeated, belated happy birthday to my favorite Frenchman – not one year older, one year better!