The past week has been one filled with excitement, sleep deprivation and sadness. Excitement, because I got to go down to Austin for SxSW and Techmunch, where I spoke to a room filled with eager food bloggers about how to keep your blog from crashing as it grows. For anyone who’s been to Austin during SxSW, you know what an amazing environment it is for meeting new people and developing new ideas.
But the evening I arrived in Austin (just 2 days after I’d left Tokyo) the enthusiasm I’d had was quickly replaced with other feelings, when I got word from a friend in Tokyo that they’d had a VERY big earthquake. Traditional news outlets revealed nothing about the quake for almost an hour after it happend, so I turned to Twitter, and was horrified by the messages and photos being sent from cellphones all over Japan.
As images of my homeland being shaken and washed away began flooding the news, and the true scope of the devastation became apparent, I was overcome with an almost unbearable sense of sadness. Thankfully my family and friends are all safe and accounted for, but I don’t think there’s a single person on Earth that hasn’t been traumatized by images of the death and destruction.
The show of support from around the world, and the solidarity and resilience shown amongst the people of Japan have been the one bright spot amongst all of this, and it makes me proud to be Japanese. If any good can come of this, I hope that it serves to kickstart the nation and get it out of the rut it’s been in for 20 years now.
In that spirit of new beginnings, I created this fresh take on a classic Japanese dish: サバの味噌に (saba no miso ni), which literally means “mackerel simmered in miso”. Mackerel is an oily fish, so it benefits from a long braise, and if you cook it long enough, the bones become so soft you can eat the whole thing. The ginger and garlic help stave off the funk that mackerel can have, and the miso and mirin turn into a sweet and savory glaze that’s delicious over hot rice. To update it a bit, I’ve paired this with a crisp salad of tamed onions and celery that gives the tender braised mackerel a textural contrast as well as a tart and spicy kick that compliments the miso.
This recipe will be going into a charity cookbook called Peko Peko: A Charity Cookbook for Japan that I’m working on with Stacie from One Hungry Mama and Rachael from La Fuji Mama. It’s going to be full of awesome Japanese recipes contributed by rockstar bloggers and photos taken by yours truly. We are currently looking for sponsors to help cover the printing costs, so if you work for, or know of a company that would be interested in sponsoring the book please send us an email at info [at] pekopekocookbook [dot] com.
Miso Braised Mackeral with Spicy Mustard Salad
Enough for 4 when served with rice
1/3 cup mirin
1/3 cup sake
1″ length of ginger julienned
1 shallot thinly sliced
1 clove of garlic smashed
1 cup water
1/4 cup red or white miso
2 pounds mackerel cut into large pieces
1/2 sweet onion sliced thin on a mandoline
2 stalks celery sliced thin
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon Japanese hot mustard (karashi)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (halve if using regular salt)
In a pressure cooker, bring the mirin and sake to a boil along with the ginger, shallots and garlic. Boil for 2 minutes to burn off the alcohol. Add the water and miso and stir to dissolve the miso. Add the mackerel, then seal and lock the lid. If your pressure cooker has settings set it for the highest pressure. Bring the pressure cooker up to pressure over medium high heat, then turn down the heat as low as you can while maintaining pressure and cook for 45 minutes. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can simmer this in a pot with a lid for about 2 1/2 hours.
While the mackerel is cooking use a mandoline to slice the onion and celery very thin, then put them in a large bowl of ice water. Change the water 2 times every 20 minutes (for a total of a 1 hour soak). This will take the harsh edge off both the celery and the onion and it will also make the vegetables more crispy. Whisk the vinegar, mustard, sugar and salt in a small bowl to make the dressing.
When the mackerel is done, follow the pressure cooker directions to release the steam. The bones should be soft enough to eat. If they’re not, you can add some more water if needed, reattach the lid and continue to cook another 10-15 minutes.
Drain the onions and celery and use a paper or a salad spinner to remove as much water as possible from them. Pour on the mustard dressing then toss to coat. To serve, just put down a bed of salad, and top with the braised mackerel and serve with a side of rice.