Nueva Cocina

The kitchen is almost done. As I write this, I have one more day of serious work before it’s going to be fully operational, wanting only a day or two of cosmetic finish work (molding, trim, and paint). The new stove is like a Lamborghini; everything that used to take meaningful portions of an hour now takes mere minutes, countable on the hand without the spoon. It came in on time, and within acceptable budgetary parameters–meaning that various material/hardware expenses (and I went to the hardware store and/or lumber yard every day) didn’t exceed 5% of the total.

To celebrate, even though the island is still just covered in 3/4″ A/C plywood, we made a feast from some of the bounty acquired at Mitsuwa, where we stopped for lunch and a big shop on our way home from Newark airport. We got lots of Washugyu beef and Berkshire pork for future meals (see tomorrow) and tons of staples in the form of bottled and dried ingredients. And sake.

Last night’s dinner was in three courses, because I was energized by both the sight of the finish line and the quality of the new goodies. To begin, some luscious, artisanal tofu that I would tell you all about but for the fact that every single thing written on the label was in Japanese. Fresh, silken circles of delicate deliciousness, it was. I made a sauce using fresh sea urchin puréed with usukuchi (light soy sauce), rice vinegar, a tiny dab of smooth peanut butter (since I find that uni have a slightly peanutty flavor) and sake with the alcohol burned off. It made for a very pudding-like, seductive dish, especially for those members of the family (everyone but me) who do not love sea urchin. It’s funny, but “slimy orange invertebrate gonads” aren’t that much of a selling point. Go figure.

The same was pretty much true for the mackerel. I freaking LOVE mackerel, but the other members of the family find it too fishy. I figured I’d hide this quality by cooking it escabeche-style, but to no avail. They saw through my ploy, and ate around the offending fillet. Fortunately for them, the rest of the dish was cabbage and scallion kneaded with salt until soft, then rinsed and dressed with soy, mirin, rice and ume vinegars, and sesame oil, and a tomato/vinegar/scallion/honshimeji mushroom sauce that were each quite tasty in their own right.

I scarfed down all the glorious, oily fish while they grimaced at me, picking out cabbage that wasn’t tainted with mackerel cooties.

Last (I waited, since everyone loves the noodle soup) I defrosted some pork stock on the jet engine that is the new stove and added in some fat sanuki udon, usukuchi, togarashi, and more scallion. And there was much rejoicing. I drank Vouvray, but the bottle is all the way downstairs. It was very nice, especially for what I paid for it. I’ll update tomorrow with the info; Loire whites are excellent values and make for wonderful drinking with most seafood.

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I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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