THE GOCHISO GOURMET: Thanksgiving for one … or two

columnist-logo_ryantatsumoto_FINALNow that we’re entering the traditional holiday season and you-know-what is still out there, there are several avenues we can take to return to some semblance of normalcy. We can throw caution to the wind and go out in public to congregate with those large groups of friends and family that we haven’t seen since March … Oh wait, some counties have restrictions on the amount of people who can gather in public, and some even limit the amount of non-household persons within the confines of your own home. On the other hand, we can simply heat another Swanson pot pie in the oven and continue to watch that umpteenth hour of Netflix. Or, we can prepare simple small meals that add a little cheer to the season.

I Can Live On Pupu
Pupu or appetizers are my favorite section on any restaurant menu, as I prefer a variety of small dishes to a large entrée-sized portion of food. I’ve never been to Spain, but it sounds like the ideal dining location for me, with an array of tapas and wine.

Two of my favorite meals in the Bay Area simply consisted of small dishes. The first was a birthday celebration at the original (now defunct) Miyako Hotel in San Francisco’s Japantown right after noted Chef Elka Gilmore closed her eponymous Elka and a temporary restaurant opened. I believe it was named Bistro Yo Mami, with several appetizers on the menu that you could combine for your main course, so I selected a sumiso (Japanese vinegar and miso dressing) cured salmon, tuna tartare, scallop ceviche and beef tartare. I joked with our server that we should get a discount as my meal didn’t require any burners to be lit and saved the restaurant’s gas bill. The other meal was a lunch at the original incarnation of the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena, Calif. before they moved their main restaurant to Copia in Napa. Back then, trainees worked in the open kitchen, so a dining reservation was as much of a show as it was a meal. And because we were there for lunch, Ms. S agreed to multiple courses of appetizers instead of her usual main entrée. This is where we sampled a tuna and bean salad like this version.

Tuna Bean Salad. photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

Tuna and White Bean Salad
1 six ounce can solid white tuna packed in olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/3 cup chopped red onion
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
4 tsp chopped fresh sage or one tsp dried sage leaves
1 15 to 16 ounce can cannellini beans, drained

I usually double (or triple) this recipe. Drain oil from tuna into a medium bowl. Add enough olive oil to make three tbsp total. Whisk in vinegar. Add onion, parsley and sage. Mix in beans and tuna. Season with salt and pepper.

You can find all the ingredients for the tuna and bean salad at a basic supermarket and the prep work literally takes less than 15 minutes.

The ingredients for the following topping/dip can also be found at all supermarkets. It’s the usual toppings on a baked potato but meant to top either criss cross fries (that you can find in the chill case of every supermarket) or a good potato chip.

Baked Potato Dip
1 eight-ounce container of sour cream
2 heaping tbsp grated cheddar cheese
1 heaping tbsp minced fresh chives
1 heaping tbsp pre-cooked bacon
Baby potatoes
Butter

Mix the first four ingredients then set aside. I usually microwave the bacon just to warm it then roughly chop the large pieces slightly so the rendered bacon fat mixes with the fat in the sour cream. Boil the potatoes for 10 to 15 minutes, just until a skewer easily pierces the flesh. Drain, rinse, then slice in half lengthwise. Melt the butter in a frying pan, then place the potatoes cut side down to brown. Place on a serving plate cut side up and top with the sour cream mixture. Because I’ve been making the sour cream mixture as a potato chip dip regularly, I use fat free sour cream and reduced fat cheese since this isn’t a special occasion recipe anymore.

Caviar Chips. photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

Smoked Salmon Salad and Other Seafood
I first shared this recipe, which simply consists of chopped cold smoked salmon, minced celery and onion with chopped black olives and capers and spiced with dried dill and marjoram then mixed with mayonnaise, more than nine years ago. This is the perfect spread on bread, crackers or potato chips, and leftovers make a perfect sandwich spread.

Or this would be the perfect time to purchase that small tin of caviar. It doesn’t have to be beluga malossol, which will set you back about $130 for an ounce. American paddlefish malossol caviar only runs about $25 per ounce. But just a small dollop of eggs on a dollop of sour cream (or creme fraiche, the fancier French version of sour cream) on a potato chip will make you feel like you’re at a three star Michelin restaurant, even if you’re simply in the confines of your home.

This would be the time to splurge for crab legs, though I would ask the butcher at your local supermarket to cut the frozen crab lags to three-inch portions so you can easily push those morsels of goodness out of their protective shells. And because both snow and King crab have a subtle flavor, I skip the butter and simply dip them in a mixture of mayonnaise, honey and toasted sesame oil (about two teaspoons of each to a cup of mayonnaise).

Gourmet Charcuterie
Since it is the season, splurge on yourself with a nice charcuterie board. This is when you should purchase good prosciutto that’s sliced right at the deli counter. I usually make bite-sized “rosettes” that I top with fig jam and drizzle with balsamic vinegar, or if you can find it, Iberico Belotta ham, which needs no accoutrements, as you simply let the fat melt on your palate.

Don’t Forget the Bubbles
Nothing says holiday like a bubbly, carbonated beverage, whether it’s Champagne, its Spanish cousin Cava, that Italian relative Prosecco or even domestic sparkling wine. And besides tasting great, sparkling wine serves another function. The effervescence and acidity clean and refresh the palate for subsequent bites of food. And other than sushi and sashimi, sparkling wine pairs perfectly with anything fried like the chips under your Baked Potato Dip, Smoked Salmon Salad or Sour Cream and Caviar.

No Leftovers for a Week
One of the great things about creating a festive meal of small plates is that you won’t have to consume leftover turkey for the next week. There’s also a lot less prep and clean-up time and if you select foods that aren’t normally consumed the rest of the year, still makes the meal seem festive even if not grand. So even if we still must remain at home during the holidays, we can still make merry!

The Gochiso Gourmet is a column on food, wine and healthy eating. Ryan Tatsumoto is a graduate of both the University of Hawai‘i and UC San Francisco. He is a clinical pharmacist during the day and a budding chef/recipe developer/wine taster at night. He writes from Kane‘ohe, HI and can be reached at gochisogourmet@gmail.com. Views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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