For most of us, Christmas has come and gone in a flash, and all that remains is a huge mound of torn and crumpled wrapping paper – Most of us have moved the new presents to their respective new homes, except for those special devices that require you to read an entire book before attempting setup – hopefully, you don’t have many of those left sitting in the middle of the floor.
Each year at Christmas -just like the kid who plays more with the box that the train set came in, than he does with the train- we all tend to be more impressed with some “minor” gift (you know, a filler gift) than we are with the big stuff. For me this year, that category is filled by a little plastic device meant to cook rice in your microwave. In true Alton Brown fashion, it also serves as a super fast steamer too. Do I really need this thing? No, not really -but making rice on the stove easily takes 30+ minutes, and this baby cuts that to 16! And then there’s the issue of the microwave finally filling the promise it made to us back when it first was introduced – remember when the microwave was supposed to actually “cook” food? I don’t know about you, but I can’t even remember the last time I really cooked something in my microwave!
My microwave is used almost entirely for defrosting stuff and heating up leftovers! And frankly, if that was all it ever did, I’d still love it. But, don’t we want our kitchen tools to excel at multiple jobs? Well, this little gem stretches the ability of your microwave, and cuts your cooking time in half in the process – and you don’t pay with a loss of taste either – really nice rice.
This little treasure is called a Miracle Ware Rice and Pasta Cooker, and is made by Progressive. Do you know Progressive? Here’s what I know about Progressive – they apparently market a collection of Chinese made kitchen ware, which seems to always be of good quality, and relatively decent price. If you want a few hours of fun sometime, go to Amazon/Home and Garden/Kitchen and put “progressive” in the search box – here, I’ll do it for you. It shows 4,866 items! And it looks to me as if they are all Progressive items. Now, some of these are absolutely laughable in their single use application – but among them you’ll find some truly wonderful items too.
So, I made my first batch of rice, and it turned out super. Now, what to use it for? Well, we had made some bagels and lox for breakfast, and I had the better part of a pound of lox left – I do a lot of my food shopping at our local Grocery Outlet, a sort of grocery discounter that specializes in closeouts, over-stocks, and outdated items – you must shop carefully – but among the stuff to avoid are lux items as well, and priced much less than at regular stores. The pound of lox was, as I remember, about $7 – if you find it this cheap, it won’t be in perfect slices – mine was in strips and pieces, which for my purposes is fine.
OK, I’m about to suggest a use for lox which purists would sneer at – let ’em sneer – if taste matters, and it does with me, this is a perfect use! Lox is, as you probably know, cold smoked and cured salmon – as such, it is eaten just as it comes from the refrigerator – and as such, it differs little from what is served as smoked salmon at many sushi shops. I love sushi – the real stuff – and sashimi as well (OK, I haven’t graduated to urchin and sea cucumber yet, but all fish, yes). And as a lover of sushi and sashimi, I’ve discovered how you can cut the often ridiculous cost of individual servings of sushi and still enjoy the same tastes – it’s called donburi.
Donburi is a simple bowl of sushi rice with a topping of usually raw fish. You won’t see donburi on all sushi shop menus – being a kind of paranoid guy, I think the reason is because a donburi bowl is never priced anywhere near the price of its contents served individually as sushi – So, why cut your own throat? But whenever I’m at a sushi restaurant that serves a raw fish donburi, it’s often my choice.
And when you’re home, and in the mood for the taste of sushi, think donburi – it’s a lot easier to put together than sushi, and the taste is identical. That’s exactly what I did with my leftover lox, and here’s how I put it together. (BTW, I’m not Asian, but I love Asian cooking, and I often experiment by combining Asian and Western approaches – that’s what I’m doing here.)
I’m calling this Nova Lox Donburi, which I dare you to find anywhere else. First, fix your rice – once you have your rice cooked, you can leave it unadorned, or make pseudo sushi rice – true sushi rice must be made when the cooked rice is still hot, and in a labor intensive process, seasoned rice vinegar is added in small doses and mixed in while the rice is fanned to cool it all the while. Or, you can do what I do and add about a 1/4 cup of seasoned rice vinegar all at once to your cooked rice, and mix it in well – purists be damned! I also like to add a Japanese condiment called, Furikake, to the rice at this point – this is a mix containing sesame seeds, seaweed, and maybe even dried bits of fish or shrimp – this will, of course, give your rice a little taste of the sea, which is often nice – such as right now.
Now for the topping – most donburi toppings are covered with a sauce, and there are some classic donburi sauces. But you wouldn’t expect me to give you one of those here, would you? Well, besides telling you that you can let your imagination go wild here, I’m really going to stick fairly close to the classic stuff – here’s what I put together.
1 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1 Tbs mirin or sake
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp fish sauce (optional – actually everything here is optional!)
I marinated my lox in this mix for about 15 minutes, rather than pour it over – but that’s just a personal preference. Put about a cup of your cooked rice in a bowl, and put some lox and sauce over it. I also sprinkled a Tbs. of toasted sesame seeds over all at serving time (toast them in a hot skillet until they start to pop!).
Maybe it’s not a purist’s dish, but by-golly, this satisfied my jaded Asian taste buds. And I think you may enjoy it as well.