I am very pleased to write that I am now hard at work completing my next book. It will appear next year, 2012. As often happens in such projects, one of the last things to be decided is the title, so I can’t actually tell you that now. But I would like to tell you what I am planning and hear any suggestions that you may have.
My first two books, The Japanese Kitchen and The Sushi Experience were devoted to telling my readers about the history, culture of Japanese cuisine and preparation of authentic, traditional Japanese dishes in an American kitchen using locally available ingredients and techniques familiar to American home and professional kitchens. But there is another side of Japanese cooking that my first books did not directly address. That is the continually evolving and adapting nature of Japanese cuisine and its ready adoption of materials, techniques and recipes for other cuisines. This is an integral feature of our cooking. We took tempura from the Portuguese, kabocha squash, tomatoes and potatoes from South and Central America; our beloved ton-katsu is easily recognized as German/Austrian wienerschnitzel; as my book relates, sushi found its way to Japan from its roots in Thailand. Of course, many of our classical noodle dishes and the art of stir frying came from China. These are NOT examples of “fusion” cooking; they are representative of the orderly growth and evolution of Japanese cuisine. Regardless of their “foreignness” the fundamental “rules” of Japanese cooking are always strictly obeyed. The goal of my book is to do the same thing with influences from the American way of dining and the American kitchen on the extension of Japanese cooking.
When I moved to this country in 1999, I found myself confronted with a whole new array of unfamiliar vegetables, type of fish and cuts of meat. For a while I tried to ignore them and stuck with what I knew. But gradually, I have incorporated these elements in to my Japanese cooking, and I have developed dishes that are much more harmonious with the American way of dining. This includes not only the recipes, but extends to portion size (modest!) and plating. And now, in my third book, I want to share these ideas with you. So we have shortribs braised in the Japanese way, chilled smooth zucchini and celeriac miso soup; salmon, fennel and dill rice and 122 more. But I want to stress again that these are dishes that extend Japanese cuisine; they do not defile or confuse it.
Another important feature of the book is that the nearly all of the preparations rely on one or more stocks or sauces that are presented in the book. The merit of this approach is that these materials can be prepared in advance, in quantity, stored and be ready for immediate use in cooking. Thus, preparation time and complexity for each of the individual dishes is significantly reduced. The book is, in fact, arranged by chapters that feature each of the stocks or sauces. Thus, for a start one can simply prepare one or two of the stocks and sauces and with that beginning, immediately be able to execute many of the recipes in the book.
I hope you find my idea for my third book interesting and exciting. I would be very pleased to receive any comments, questions or criticisms from my readers. Let me hear from you.
I will post some of the photos of the dishes which were taken during the recipe tasting sessions in the past months.