SJ is back in Brooklyn tending to biz but daughter-in-law Exquisite Maiko and grandson Inimitable Haru remain in New Mexico for a few more days. This means pure Maiko Magic in the kitchen. HG and BSK were dazzled last night by a halibut, salad and Soba noodle dinner that exemplified the Maiko approach: Simplicity. Purity. Taste. Visual beauty.
HG watched the preparation carefully but might have missed some steps or ingredients. First, Maiko sliced cucumber paper thin, washed and dried baby arugula and some other field greens; sliced garlic very thinly. Halibut was cut into slightly larger than bite size pieces. Garlic and seaweed went into a sizzling pan. The garlic and seaweed quickly crisped and were placed on a paper towel to drain. The garlic was perfectly crisp and brown with none of the bitterness that burning can cause — its a cooking trick HG has never mastered. Then came the real magic part. Heat under the pan was raised to moderate. The fish went into the pan with some white wine and a bit of sesame oil. The pan was covered and the fish was alternately seared by the heat and steamed to perfection.
Maiko arranged a platter. An enticing circle of cucumber and a mound of salad greens as the base for the fish. Acting upon some clock in her head, Maiko removed the fish from the range, placed the pieces on the base of greens, sprinkled all with pan juices and topped it with the crisp garlic and seaweed mixture. There was room temperature Soba on the table, enriched by Mentsuyu (a broth of sorts) and thin strips of nori (the dried seaweed that wraps sushi rolls and hand rolls). Wasabi was at hand. HG and BSK were startled by the halibut. Not a favorite fish, considered tasteless. But, this was halibut full of juice and flavor. The garlic chips didn’t mask the taste but just added a crisp counterpoint to the lush halibut. There will be more fish tonight. We are grateful to the Shinto gods, Japanese culture and Maiko’s wizardry.