How about “Tsukune” ?

No.113

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One day about 2 weeks ago my husband was too happy to stop smiling. He had a good news to share with me. “Guess who called me?” he said. Hmm.. Maybe the man from the garage to tell him the part has arrived to fix his beloved car? or maybe his dentist?  A few minutes were impossible to wait, he could not keep the answer before I got a chance to try my guess. “The boss called me and said he wants me back to work!”  He was smiling from ear to ear. In my post Bento along life’s road I wrote my husband had retired from his work in March this year and he has been a super talented house husband since then. In Norway we get 5 weeks holiday in a year and his old office needs help to cover the office while people are away. This means “Yeah, back to work!” to my husband, and “Wow, back to bento!” to me. This year our daughter will be also working at an IT company in Oslo at the same time and in addition we will have a house guest for one week and I would like to make him a bento if he so wishes.

Office hours in Norway start early. My husband has to be there already at 07:30 AM and this means my bento should be ready to go at latest 07:00 AM. Thanks to the early sunrise in the Nordic summer time and the birds singing already from 03:30 AM, I have no problem to get up but I need a good planning. I started to look at my cooking books in search for good bento food which I can make ahead in a large batch and freeze. I found this recipe which I think is very good for both dinner and bento, it is called Chicken “Tsukune”, a kind of meat balls grilled and covered with graze.  I made this dish recently three times to make it as a good big batch recipe. If you follow this recipe and serve for dinner, I think it is enough for 8-10 people.

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Chicken Tsukune (serves 8-10)

Chicken ground meat   1200g
Green beans                   100g
Carrot                              120g
Dry shiitake mushrooms      4
Bamboo shoot in can, drained and minced          50g
Spring onion, minced          3
Egg, cold                             1

Salt          1.5 tea spoons
Pepper    1 tea spoon
Sake        2 table spoons
Soy sauce    2 table spoons
Corn or potato starch   3-4 table spoons
Fresh ginger, peeled and minced     20g
Salad oil

1.Soak the dry Shiitake mushrooms in 1 cup lurk warm water and 1 tea spoon sugar to reconstitute. (I always have some dry shiitake mushroom soaked in water in a tupperware in my fridge. It is very useful.) It will reconstitute after 30-40 minutes. When it is done, take it out, squeeze out water, cut off the stem and chop only the caps into fine pieces. Cool in fridge.

2. Wash green beans, break off both ends and clean. Boil water in a pan, add a pinch of salt and add the beans. Cook 2 minutes, take them out in ice water. 

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3. Peel carrot and cut into small pieces. Boil water, add a pinch of sugar (not salt!!) and cook for 2-3 minutes. Take out and cool.

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4.  Cut green beans and carrot into small pieces. Bamboo shoot and spring onion as well. Put them all in a bowl and cool completely in the fridge for 30 minutes.

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5. Keep Chicken cold in the fridge while we wait. After the vegetables are cooled, put the ground chicken meat in a bowl and mix with all the chopped vegetables and add one egg. Mix very well until it is so combined. When all the ingredients are cold, it mixes very well. This applies when you make other meat patty dish like Japanese Hamburg Steak.
Add salt, pepper. sake, ginger, corn starch, soy sauce.

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6.  Put some salad oil on your hands and shape them into 10 large balls or 16 small balls.

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7. Heat a frypan, put salad oil and fry the meat balls. Give good brown crisp crust on the surface. Use a wide flipper to flip over and fry the other side. Adjust the heat so that it does not get too brown. These patties will be cooked in the graze sauce and you do not have to cook them through on the frypan.

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8. If you are freezing some of them, you can take them out on a plate after they are fried. Cool before you put them in a freezing container. I did not freeze this batch and therefore they were put into the container like this on the photo below but it will be helpful to divide. When you like to defrost them, I will take out from the freezer and defrost in the fridge over night. Warm it up in graze sauce or microwave before serving.

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Graze sauce for 4 big patties or 8 small meat balls

Water   2.5 table spoons
Dashi powder    1/2 tea spoon
Soy sauce    4.5 table spoons
Mirin   3 table spoons
Sake   2 table spoons
Sugar  2.5 table spoons or less. It depends how sweet you want to have it.

Slurry – water and corn or potato starch

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Heat a shallow pan or a skillet large enough to have all the meat balls in it. Add water and dashi powder and cook until the powder is completely dissolved. Add all other seasonings. When sugar is dissolved, put the meat balls in the pan and simmer. Turn over the meat balls. Make a slurry, we need about 2 table spoons of it. (equal parts of corn starch and cold water)  Reduce the heat a little. Stir up the slurry well before you add to the very hot (simmering) sauce in the pan. Move the meat balls to make some space to pour the slurry in. Stir well in the sauce. When the sauce is evenly thickened and covering all the meat balls, it is ready to serve. Bon Appetite!

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