Editor’s note: Linda Avery returns with a look at Hiroko Shimbo’s modern take on bringing Japanese flavors into the American kitchen. See what she thought, and pick up a savory recipe for skirt steak.
by Hiroko Shimbo
photos by Frances Janisch © 2012
Do you feel intimidated by the thought of cooking a Japanese meal? Perhaps you’re worried about finding specific ingredients or a special tool, or if you’d know a specific technique. Hiroko Shimbo recognized that most American home cooks might feel that way. Author of the award-winning The Japanese Kitchen and The Sushi Experience, Hiroko is a cooking instructor at heart.
She had a brilliant idea in how to break down some of the psychological barriers through a small twist on format. In Hiroko’s American Kitchen, rather than structuring the chapters by course, or food categories like breads, meats, sweets, she decided to divide the book by sauces.
Actually, there are two stocks and four sauces: Kelp Stock, Dashi Stock, White Sumiso Sauce, Spicy Miso Sauce, Best Basting and Cooking Sauce, and Super Sauce (her name for the most useful sauce in her refrigerator). These sauces “serve as the central ingredient in each of the recipes.”
Recipes are built from there using mostly familiar ingredients. Among the diverse recipes (about 20 recipes per chapter) are Mesclun with Sumiso-Carrot Dressing, Kale in Peanut Butter-Tofu Sauce, Spiced Kabocha Squash Soup, Avocado and Salmon in Dill-Daikon Broth.
So choose an appealing sauce, such as Spicy Miso Sauce, described as robust, and a nice compliment to vegetables and proteins. Scout out a couple recipes in the miso chapter that appeal to you. I made the sauce before solidifying my recipe choice because I wanted to know exactly how it tasted. The answer was delicious and I can only image how yummy the Peanut Butter-Miso Sauce is going to be on raw veggies.
My recipe choice then was Miso Shrimp Scampi – no garlic butter on this scampi but instead sake, scallions, minced garlic and ginger, plus the spicy miso sauce. Divine.
In addition to recipes there are a half dozen techniques demonstrated, a sourcing guide for Japanese food products and handy equivalency tables.
If you’ve wanted to try cooking a Japanese dish, Hiroko has made it easier than ever. Now it’s your turn to try the Spicy Miso Sauce with a different protein: skirt steak.
You must admit, it’s a pretty nifty approach.
Skirt Steak Meets Spicy Miso Sauces
(photo by Frances Janisch © 2012)
Skirt steak and its closely related counterpart, flank steak, are bonus cuts. Skirt steak is flavorful and economical and is indispensable for dishes like Mexican fajitas and Chinese stir-fries. Here is my Japanese-flavored version of this cut. It is excellent for cooking in the oven or on the grill. Serve the cooked meat, thinly sliced, with baked sweet potato or simple steamed rice.
Makes 4 servings
For the spicy miso sauce (makes 1 1/2 cups)*
1 cup aged brown miso (aka miso)
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 cup mirin (sweet cooking wine)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sake (rice wine)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 to 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
For the skirt steak
4 small sweet potatoes (1 1/2 pounds)
1 pound skirt steak or flank steak
1/4 cup Spicy Miso Sauce
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil or vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
1 tablespoon thinly sliced scallion
Make the miso sauce
1. Place the miso, sugar, mirin, and sake in a medium pot and whisk until smooth.
2. Place pot over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook the mixture, stirring constantly for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice and cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat, add the red pepper flakes, and stir.
3. Transfer the sauce to a clear freezer container. ** Cover the jar with a lid and store it in the freezer.
Make the skirt steak
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the sweet potatoes in a medium pot, add enough water to cover, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook the potatoes for 13 to 15 minutes or until they are soft but not mushy. Remove the potatoes from the water, wrap each potato in aluminum foil, and bake them for 30 minutes.
2. Rub the beef with 2 tablespoons of the Spicy Miso Sauce and let it stand for 30 minutes, up to 2 hours. Wipe the beef with a paper towel to remove excess sauce. Season the steak with salt and pepper. Heat the canola oil in an oven-proof medium skillet over medium-low heat, add the steak, and cook until golden. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake the steak for 2 to 3 minutes for medium-rare. Transfer the beef to a warm plate.
3. Add the water and the remaining 2 tablespoons spicy Miso Sauce to the skillet and cook until it is reduced and slightly thickened. Transfer the beef to a cutting board and cut it into 1/4-inch-thick strips crosswise.
4. Divide the beef slices and potatoes among serving plates, then pour the sauce over the meat. Garnish with sesame seeds and scallion and serve.
*Note: Freezing will not change the texture of the sauce, and prepared sauce can be stored in the freezer for up to three months. When needed, take the jar out of the freezer, quickly scoop and transfer the necessary portion to a small bowl, and return the jar to the freezer to preserve the quality.
** Pen & Fork Editor’s note: cool the sauce without the lid completely before sealing and placing in the freezer.