Wasabi Chicken

Just about everybody who has eaten wasabi, also known as Japanese horseradish, undoubtedly remembers the first time as an unforgettable dining experience.

The first time I had wasabi was probably 30 years ago at a sushi bar in Denver. I was there with a friend, Bob Frederickson, who fancied himself as a sushi aficionado. It didn’t take me very long to understand why.

I fell in love with sushi almost immediately, especially liking the kick that the green wasabi that accompanied the seafood gave me.

Wasabi has an extremely strong flavor, its burn more akin to that of a hot mustard than that of the capsaicin in a chili pepper. It also has the tendency to stimulate the nasal passages more than the tongue.

These days, I get my fill of sushi at Little Bangkok, a restaurant in East Grand Forks that specializes in Thai food. We go there once or twice a month, and I usually dine only on sushi.

I recently found out that the green wasabi served with sushi is usually white wasabi powder mixed with colorants and mustard. I happen to have a small spice bottle of it in my cupboard and have been wondering what other uses it could have other than with sushi. Then, I came across the following recipe, which looks like the perfect vehicle.

Wasabi Chicken
3 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise
3 teaspoons wasabi powder
¾ pound boneless, skinless, chicken breast
1 teaspoon canola oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Mix mayonnaise with the wasabi powder and set aside. Flatten chicken to ¼-inch thick with a meat bat, the bottom of a heavy skillet or your palm.
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium-high heat. Add the chicken and sear it 4 minutes. Turn and sear the other side for 4 minutes. Salt and pepper the cooked sides to taste. A meat thermometer should read 165 degrees.
Remove skillet from heat and place chicken on a plate. Drizzle the wasabi sauce over the chicken. Cover with another plate or foil to keep warm until the vegetables are ready. Use the same skillet for the accompanying side dish.
Yield: Serves 2.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 306 calories, 47 percent of calories from fat, 16 grams fat (2.1 grams saturated, 6.7 grams monounsaturated), 108 milligrams cholesterol, 36.5 grams protein, 1.9 grams carbohydrates, 0.3 grams fiber, 305 milligrams sodium.

Pan-Roasted Ginger Corn and Broccoli
2 teaspoons canola oil
2 teaspoons ground ginger
3 cups frozen corn kernels
1 cup broccoli florets
1 medium red bell pepper, sliced (about 1 cup)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Add the oil to the nonstick skillet used for the chicken and heat over medium-high heat. Add the ginger, corn, broccoli and red pepper. Toss to coat the vegetables with the oil and cover with a lid. Cook 5 minutes, turn vegetables over and cook, covered, 5 more minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Note: This dish may also be prepared by placing all the ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl and microwaving on high 6 minutes. Remove and toss with salt and pepper to taste.
Yield: Serves 2.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 226 calories, 13 percent of calories from fat), 3.3 grams fat (0.8 grams saturated, 1 gram monounsaturated), no cholesterol, 9 grams protein, 48.1 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fiber, 47 milligrams sodium.

California Rolls

The first time I ate sushi was more than 25 years ago in Denver. The warehouse district of the city had several sushi bars that an old friend, Bob Frederickson, liked to visit.

After my first taste at 0ne of the bars, I fell in love with sushi. I particularily liked sashimi or raw fish. And I really was fond of the sushi rice. I still love sushi, and every once in a while, I head out to Konichiwa in Grand Forks for a fix.

One of this week’s e-mail offerings that I received from New Asian Cuisine is a recipe for California rolls, which many people associate with sushi. It’s from Hideo Dekura, Brigid Treloar and Ryuichi Yoshii, authors of “The Complete Book of Sushi.”

California Rolls
4 nori sheets
3 cups sushi rice
8 teaspoons ocean trout roe or tobiko (flying fish roe)
1 to 2 cucumbers cut into thin, lengthwise slices
8 jumbo shrimp (king prawns), cooked, shelled, veins and tails removed
1 to 2 avocados, peeled, pitted and sliced
4 to 8 lettuce leaves, torn or sliced (optional)
Lay 1 nori sheet on a rolling mat and put ¾ cup sushi rice on it. Spread rice over nori sheet, leaving ¾ inch of bare nori at far side and making a small ledge of rice in front of this bare strip.
Spoon 2 teaspoons roe along center of rice, using back of a spoon to spread. Lay 2 shrimp along center, with one-quarter of cucumber strips. Lay one-quarter of avocado slices along center. Add one-quarter of lettuce. Roll mat over once, away from you, pressing ingredients in to keep roll firm, leaving the ¾-inch strip of nori rice-free.
Covering roll (but not rice-free strip of nori), hold rolling mat in position and press all around to make roll firm. Lift up top of rolling mat and turn roll over a little more so that strip of nori on far side joins other edge of nori to seal roll. Use your fingers to make sure roll is properly closed. Roll entire roll once more, and use finger pressure to shape roll in a circle, an oval, or a square.
Using a sharp knife, cut each roll in half, then cut each half in half again. Then cut each quarter in half crosswise to make a total of 8 equal-sized pieces. Cut gently to maintain shape.
Yield: Makes 4 rolls (32 pieces).