My previous post (the one about oden, which was actually written and posted after the braised oxtail post, but Blogger strangely relegated it to January 31) was my foray into Japanese cooking, but it is a topic with which I have become quite familiar. As I learned more over the past few months, partly because of my cooking colleagues at the restaurant, and partly through obsessive reading of cookbooks and blogs, the simplicity of the cuisine has really stuck hard in my mind.
One thing which I've become very interested in is onigiri. They're basically rice balls, often formed into triangles or pyramids, filled with a savory bite, and then wrapped in nori. I've been cooking a lot of rice for these, and perfecting my rice cooking has become a bit of an obsession. My rice is better than at any time since living in the apartment in St. Peter, when I ate beans and rice twice a day for four months (those were the days!). The idea of waking up to a steaming pot of rice, too, has become very attractive, so I've been looking into programmable rice cookers.
I stumbled across Adventures in Bentomaking, a site run by a Hawaiian woman and mother, while researching rice cookers. Zojirushi is generally considered to be the best brand available in the US, and she was reviewing a new model they released which claims to enhance the umami characteristics through its cooking method. Amazingly, Zojirushi has offered to give one of her readers a rice cooker to test, too, and you can read about how to enter on her site. Needless to say, I have entered, and if I am selected, there will be many posts about onigiri, shari, and also experimentation of all sorts (I am, after all, a former professional cook at two very good and inventive restaurants; I think I can come up with some unique ways to use the rice cooker).
At any rate, a rice cooker is definitely in my future. Although Japanese white rice is a newly acquired taste at home, brown rice has consistently been one of my staples, served with a plethora of legumes. It's going to get a lot of use, now that my job will require something of a commute.