Well, it’s been over a year and guess what? THECHEFCHARETTE.. IS BACK! Literally less than a month after my last post, NYC (and quickly everywhere else) was infected with a pandemic. While so many of my friends and family talked about all the great DIY activities they were going to pick up, I ironically decided to take a huge “sabbatical” to focus on other things including re-evaluating my blog.Why am I back – you may ask? Well, I’ve realized that I still love writing, venting, photographing, and – trying to mix up concoctions of different food (and beverages!) and want to kick things off with my latest: Miso Mushroom Fettucini.
And shit, not sure if this is TMI but I found out via this stick I peed on to surprise that.. I’M PREGNANT?! (Literally, re-lived that “blue means pregnant” in Kill Bill vol 1 scene in a surreal, completely non violent/hostile way) and re-reading the pregnancy test instructions in doubt, slight confusion, fear (because it is life changing), and astonishment. What’s worse than mis-reading results is telling your husband fake news you’re pregnant. But yes, through another test and at the gynecologist’s urine test in August, she confirmed I was 7 weeks pregnant and that the embryo was the size of a blueberry.
No, it wasn’t “unexpected” – because I wanted to get pregnant before or by my 30s, but damn, there are so many stories of hopeful pregnancies and it’s quite the sensitive topic that I am trying my best to be mindful and respectable for all these lovely people out there going all out and trying. During this pandemic I thought there would be a burst of babymaking left/right – but it’s been a really weird ass clusterf* past few years that it’s ironically been a huge dip. Life is still short and I (and Oly) have been trying our best to just keep pressing on rather than wait for everything and everyone to pass us by.
Also, to my amazement – is the fact that by my first OBGYN visit (9 weeks in)… we were able to get an ultrasound and listen to the baby’s heart beat. To realize that there’s a person GROWING inside me (then finding out that it’s a boy via email/a call) is… truly astonishing.
For those who have little knowledge about pregnancy, miscarriages usually happen within the first trimester (12ish weeks in). So we shared the news more publicly at our wedding (finally, we ceremoniously got married and in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico) with more friends (which I realize is hard for some to understand when they’re drunk) – but our lives have continued on.
Many ask me how my pregnancy is going (symptoms I presume) and now my baby is the size of an avocado, I tell everyone I’ve still been overall very fortunate and that the “worst” was waking up at 3AM to relieve myself while craving In-N-Out (a craving is worst when you have to wait ~7 hours to fulfill it and you can’t do anything about it but wait till it’s available)… on other days, I have to stretch out foot cramping or my aching when I swim, somehow fall (like I will explain in another post), or continue with my “lighter” routine morning jogs.
While I’ve also picked up more interest in (home)made doughs – specifically more pasta dough, Oly’s been homemaking me pizza (a huge thank you to Cheftofer and Anna), I’m so excited to share more news and my pregnancy journey through more “pregnancy-appropriate” recipes and blog entries with you all. I’ve been completely fine abstaining from drugs (hardly ever did anything) and alcohol from the past year honestly (not many know that it’s better to abstain from alcohol half a year-ish before trying to get pregnant). I was slightly sad that I had to abstain from raw fish, but am very excited for all these opportunities to focus my time and energy on people and things that bring me joy, strengthen my body in new ways, and rest well. Cheers and enjoy this miso mushroom fettucini (I highly recommend everyone to try hand-making pasta – it makes a huge difference!) Last but not least, huge shout out and thank you to Kokoro cares for sending me the best cooking care package from Japan.
Prep 2 C 00 flour on clean working surface and create a well in the middle (like preparing for a volcano)
Add 4 lg eggs with 2 lg egg yolks and using a fork, whisk the eggs, egg yolk, and olive oil.
With the same fork, slowly incorporate flour into the mixture and carefully try to avoid breaking the well.
Once almost all of the flour is incorporated, carefully use your hands to start bringing the rest of the flour in.
Knead the dough for 7-10 minutes by hand or using a Kitchenaid mixer with the pasta attachment. When you poke the dough, it should spring back.
Knead the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature for 1 hour or until the dough does not spring back when it’s poked.
Unwrap the dough and cut it into 8 equal pieces with a pastry cutter or knife so it’s easier to work with. Take 1 piece and wrap the rest of the plastic wrap so it doesn’t dry out.
Lightly flour your clean work surface and begin to roll out the piece of dough into one long piece (you can go in a heart direction.)
Then, fold the top third down and the bottom third over that, like a love letter. Rotate the dough 90 degrees and roll the piece back into a long shape. This helps it become a rectangle and easier to cut through in even. Repeat for remaining dough pieces.
If you have a Kitchenaid attachment, run it through the 4 setting, then 2 setting to make sure it’s thin and long. Repeat for the remaining 7 triangles.
Once all of them have been thinned out, continue with the desired pasta shape cutter. If preparing for the creamy miso mushroom pasta, I recommend to use the fettuccini slicer attachment.
Note: Make sure that you keep the pasta separated and away from anything warm so that they don’t clunk together. Adding some semolina flour can also help the pasta from clumping together.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season with salt and cook pasta.
if using fresh pasta, cook for just 1/2-1 min after the pasta comes to the surface.
If using dried pasta, follow pasta directions until al dente.
Wash and chop or pull the mushrooms into bite-sized chunks.
Heat a large skillet over with 1 tbsp vegetable oil and sauté with about 1/3 of your mushrooms for 3-5 minutes until browned (don’t let it overcrowd). When they’re done, add some mirin or other cooking wine to the pan, toss, and set aside.
In a large saucepan, add the other 4 tbsp minced garlic and a tablespoon of oil, and stir fry for 30 seconds or until fragrant and lightly brown. Add in the sautéed mushrooms. Then, add the miso-butter sauce with heavy whipping cream.
Add the cooked pasta into the sauce, and stir until the pasta is well coated. Salt it to taste, and cook for 1-2 minutes until the pasta is al dente. Remove from heat.
Portion onto plates and garnish with sliced scallions. freshly cracked black pepper, and sesame seeds if you’d like.
I’ve been delaying this for years, but one thing Japanese people surprised me in winning in is their phenomenal kabocha. Kabocha sounds super hipster and still strange to me, but it’s basically a Japanese squash. I love it because it’s more savory ingredient than of sweet potatoes and it’s so nutritious. (Please don’t ask me the differences between squash/pumpkin/potatoes/yams. I still confuse all.)
I’m no way a mayonnaise person nor a kewpie person, yet my first kabocha salad was back in 2015 when my senpai took me to a AYCE Japanese buffet that featured this at the salad bar. Idk about you, but salad and fresh vegetables usually aren’t the best…and my senpai insisted I try it. Since then, the Japanese kabocha salad has become a personal favorite Japanese appetizer to me. No matter how creepy/weird the kewpie character looks (seriously, who thought that thing is cute and profitable for branding?!)
So, here you have it. Kabocha salad or as I like to call it – Japanese style pumpkin salad in celebration of a new internship, visiting Tokyo, and it’s fall.
Scoop the kabocha seeds with spoon and discard them and cut into 1 inch slices.
Remove the kabocha skin and cut into 1 inch cubes.
Put the kabocha in saucepan and cover with water. Steam the kabocha for about 10-15 minutes. Allow them to cool
In a frying pan, cook bacon slices over medium high heat until crispy. Drain excess oil on the paper towel and then chop the bacon into small pieces.
Thinly slice the cucumber. (optional: peel the cucumber if preferred)
Combine the kabocha, sliced cucumbers, and chopped bacon together in a bowl.
Add about 2 tbsp of Japanese mayonnaise (Kewpie) and freshly ground black pepper or lemon pepper to taste. Mix to desired consistency. Serve immediately with chopped parsley, or refrigerate.
Throughout mid/end of 2014, back when I worked for Itoya in Ginza, I’d regularly purchase this oshizushi bento box of packed sushi cubes from Matsuya, an upscale Japanese department store just down Chuo-Dori, the major street I worked at . I wish I can tell you which exact food stand I’d buy it from, but I forgot the name and only remember how to get to it visually. They also sold the same exact box at Tokyo station, my hometown train station (Futako Tamagawa) and I’d sometimes pick it up there as soon as I got off my train from work… I’m pretty sure all locations still serve them today. Anyway, that oshizushi bento box was (barely) affordable while I struggled with a $30k salary and it was a huge inspiration for my culinary pursuits – to precisely measure/cut/pack my food… and after stopping by Marukai a few weeks ago, a Japanese Supermarket in LA and the O.C., and passing by the fish selection, I realized I probably could and should make my own especially since I missed it so much.
So I ordered an oshizushihako (押し寿司箱), a pressed sushi mold box, from Amazon. It comes with 3 parts: the bottom stand for where you place your first layer of ingredients, then the side walls to contain all the ingredients, and the top lid with handles for you to press all the ingredients down on. Now, the mold comes in both plastic and wood, but I prefer the traditional wooden one. You can buy them at Marukai for $30…or… Amazon for $20! (link to the right..)
OH and by the way, the pecha kucha lecture I presented at USC about The Chef Charette has been uploaded and you can watch it here from 1:36…. things are happeninggg!!!
At Marukai I picked up 3 types of sashimi to experiment with: maguro, salmon, and hamachi. Since this was my first time, I tried the cheapest first: maguro…and miserably failed. (I regrettably didn’t take photos of my ugly fails for the fails page I plan to include in the future), then tried salmon and kinda improved. Thank God for my mom’s help and tips because the hamachi came out prettiest. Some major tips: 1) Get your ratios and timing down for your rice (water, rice, vinegar) 2) Cut with a hella sharp knife 3) Press all ingredients down with ALL of your strength to keep everything really dense and tight. Hard work pays off… really. This is probably the meal prepared of that I’m most proud of with my mom. Jeez, I miss you Japan. After you top it all off, you can add toppings like tsukemono (漬物)some pearl-y sake ikura (鮭いくら)…salmon caviar. Really, if it’s my last day on Earth, sake ikura on top of my stacked ochazuke and probably these oshizushi cubes would be my last meal.
Prepare the sushi rice by filling your rice cooker with 2 C short grain rice and 4 C water.
Once rice is cooked, transfer all the rice into a wooden steamer or container and stir in the 2 C of sushi rice vinegar. Dip your rice paddle in water so that it’s easier to work with. Cover wtih a cheesecloth or towel and let the mixture soak together for 30 minutes. If it still feels too dry, add more sushi vinegar.
Next, start preparing the oshizushi blocks by adding about 1/2″ of rice from the wooden steamer or container to the oshizushi box mold. Spread it evenly and press it down so it’s dense.
Next, spread the shiso leaves evenly. Make sure the rice is completely covered. Press it all down so it’s dense.
Add another layer of 1/2″ rice and spread it evenly and press it all down so it’s dense.
Add a thin layer of your selected sashimi slices and spread them all evenly and press it all down so it’s dense.
Remove the top and the sides of the box and carefully slice the sushi mold into 1 1/2″ cubes. Garnish as desired with the selected toppings. Repeat steps 1-7 for the remaining rice and ingredients and serve immediately.