Sunday, March 19, 2006

Hijiki and pretzels

A while back, I blogged about chicken hijiki noodles. That dish consisted of somen noodles simmered in chicken stock and garnished with hijiki. Thursday night I took chicken, hijiki and noodles and wound up with something different.

It was hardly rocket science; I just took the traditional recipe for hijiki simmered with abura-age and substituted sliced chicken thighs for the abura-age. Once the chicken had simmered for ten minutes, I removed it from the skillet and cooked the sauce down to taste. The reduced sauce thickened just a bit without the aid of anything like cornstarch; the flavors intensified as well. The final result was rather sweet; if you want a sauce that isn't so sweet, reduce the amount of sugar you add to the shoyu broth. Adding some seasonings (such as herbs of your choice) to the broth would probably give an interesting dimension to the sauce.

I served the finished dish over wide egg noodles from the Pennsylvania Dutch famers market. The chicken pieces almost seemed glazed from the sauce (possibly due to the high sugar/mirin content) and they had a sweetness similar to the sweet chicken teriyaki I remember from Iroha. The dish had a nice contrast between the luxurious sweetness of the sauce and the earthier tones of the hijiki and the chicken thigh meat.

Most of the solid components of the meal were gobbled up Thursday night, but I was left with some sauce. That got called into play yesterday on a scouting trip for the World Series of Birding with The Lurker and Perfect Tommy. As we drove up and down Rt. 130, vainly searching for a Chik-fil-A for lunch, I finally weakened and pulled out my "bag lunch;" a plastic container of jasmine rice sopping up the remaining chicken hijiki sauce. I was just finishing the rice by the time we finally located the Chik-fil-A; I tried not to feel too smug (probably unsuccessfully).

For dessert we visited the Pennsauken Mart pretzel shop. This time we had to wait a few minutes for pretzels to come out of the oven (along with other hopefuls). When the pretzels finally arrived, the fellow who put them into the brown paper bag for me warned, "Be careful, they're hot." Boy, were they! They were fresh out of the oven and too hot to touch without a towel or other protective device. Perfect Tommy admonished us not to close up the paper bag, lest the steam get trapped inside and condense on the pretzels. When we got back out to the car, a perfect plume of steam was emanating from my pretzel bag (but it was a cold day). I held off as long as prudence indicated, but as soon as I could, I started on that first heavenly pretzel. They really are great birding food.

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