Monday, March 1, 2010

Close and Comfy

This past weekend a few of us got together at Yuki's place for dinner in drinks, the first time we'd had a get-together at her place even though she moved there more than 8 months ago. I hadn't done a very good job of planning and invitations had been a bit late, so half of the regular crew couldn't make it. Fortunately we had a couple of guest appearances to help boost attendance in the form of our friend Jake, who is teaching English in Mie-ken but was visiting Tokyo for a conference, and Yayoi, Mike's girlfriend who has recently started to coming to more and more of our events. Shunji is good about making it to just about everything we do, so there was 6 of us in total, just enough to keep conversation interesting but still small enough to feel close and intimate.

When I cook for other people, I like to go big. Monday-Friday, cooking for myself at home after a long day at work, it's ok for my meal to be a simple stir-fry, but not on the weekends. Weekends give me the time to put real effort into making something special. Not only was this the first time getting together at Yuki's, it was the first time Yayoi had come from Yokohama, where she and Mike live, so I wanted to make something memorable. For that, I called on Thomas Keller, whose book is full of mouthwatering recipes design for 6. I opted to go with Pan Roasted Chicken with Sweet Sausages and Peppers.

Admittedly, I cheated on the recipe a bit. I didn't break down a whole chicken (for some absurd reason a whole chicken is more expensive than the sum of the parts in Japan), nor did I brine it (though I def want to try it some time!), but I did make a soffritto, which I thought was pretty badass. How do you make a soffritto? You take a healthy dose of olive oil and a bunch of diced onions and you cook them over low heat for a looooong time (I went with 2 hrs), then you add a bunch of tomatoes and let them cook for even longer (another 2 1/2 hrs) until it all melds together into a smooth, sweet, delicious sauce. Living in dorms sucks a lot, but free utilities helps a lot.

I loaded up on ingredients in Kameari, where they're cheaper, before heading over to Yuki's later in the afternoon to start pulling everything together. First, I cut a half dozen bell peppers in half and roasted them until they were pretty soft, then peeled the skin off once they had cooled and tore them into strips. I seasoned a small mountains worth of chicken thighs, drumsticks, and wings with salt and pepper and seared them until the skin was gold and crispy then gave 3 chopped up sausages a whirl in the pan as well. The meat got set aside and into the pan went the soffritto, some chicken broth, and the peppers. The sauce thickened up a bit, to peppers softened, and deliciousness was born. The meat got tossed back in and mixed together to make beautiful sweet meat-meets-vegetable slow cooked goodness and all was right in the world.

I know it isn't the sexiest looking dish you've ever seen and the peppers look a bit like bright colored slugs, but damn was it good... I like to think I'm usually pretty modest, but this stuff rocked. It is now officially on my go-to list for kickass meals.

Yuki and I also have a tendency to indulge ourselves in dessert as well and it is rare for us to not have something sweet after a weekend meal. One thing we've tried a couple of times now and are getting pretty good is making our own chocolate sauce. While it doesn't hold a candle to my Grandma Brock's homemade hot fudge sauce, it's definitely good stuff and makes any bowl of ice cream waaaaaaaay better.

A small gathering with good food, good friends, and a good time. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday night if you ask me...


  1. Both the main dish and dessert were delicious. I get to eat Ai's great cooking all the time but this stuff had a more American flavor and it was really well done. Thanks for having me.

  2. Awesome post! Totally agree with Jake - food was so good. And you know what, Akihabakara and Ishikawacho are directly connected, so we should definitely have these small get-togethers more often! Thanks again!