Miso is not just for soup anymore. It is a power ingredient whose flavor can be summed up in one word: umami. It lends depth, richness, and body to many dishes. So read on to learn more about this Japanese ingredient and I bet you’ll want to incorporate it in your next new dish.
What is miso? Miso paste is made of fermented soybeans or grains, salt, and koji-kin, which is a kind of fungus (not as scary as it sounds). Miso is an ingredient used in Japanese cooking for centuries. It is full of protein, which can be beneficial in vegetarian dishes, and other vitamins and minerals. It has a long shelf life so you can store it in the refrigerator and use it any time in many recipes.
Varieties. There are many varieties of miso, including white, yellow, light, and dark brown. The darker miso has a stronger and more pungent flavor because it’s been aged for longer and contains more soybeans. The three main types of miso available at the market are white, red, and mixed. White miso is pale and golden in color, with a mild flavor and the shortest fermentation time. It’s good for subtle flavor in recipes. Red miso has a stronger, saltier flavor, coming from a longer fermentation process—up to one year. Mixed miso is a mixture of white and red, and has a dark brown color and a strong flavor. Make sure to buy the refrigerated, live miso so that it still contains the beneficial bacteria that make it one of the healthiest foods you can eat.
Glazes and sauces. Miso glaze can be used on practically anything—vegetables, fish, chicken, and even meat. Nasu dengaku is a popular Japanese dish of miso-glazed eggplant. Winter squash, such as butternut or zucchini, is delicious with the glaze. Miso glazes on fish are delicious. They are most commonly seen on salmon because of its buttery texture, but can also be used on with cod, trout, or mahi-mahi. Combine with oil, vinegar, and/or soy sauce, and you can glaze meat or chicken before grilling or broiling. It can also be used as a thickener for pan sauces or stews, added at the end of cooking to thicken and add flavor. Miso paste is great in stir-fry sauces combined with vinegar, soy sauce, and other Asian ingredients, lending a richer, thicker consistency coating your meats and veggies.
Dressings and Dips. Miso dressings are fabulous on cooked vegetables, leafy green salads (especially spinach), and noodle salads. Add it to an oil-and-vinegar mixture or use with rice or cider vinegar for an even more tangy flavor punch. Miso can be used traditionally in a dipping sauce for veggies and chicken fingers, but can also be used to make breading for veggies, chicken, and fish because it helps breadcrumbs stick to the food while adding flavor.
Rubs. Create a spice rub and add miso to chicken and turkey for a unique, flavorful twist. Miso butter is an easy condiment to make and adds a lot of flavor to dishes. Mix 2 sticks of butter or butter substitute with 1 cup of white miso to make a big batch of miso butter. Use in fresh corn dishes instead of plain butter, to cook fresh tomatoes served with pasta, to glaze carrots, in creamy soups, or on toasted bread. v
24 chicken wings, split
4 Tbsp. canola oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
⅔ cup light miso paste
2 tsp. finely grated fresh ginger
2 tsp. soy sauce
1 small red chili pepper, minced
3 Tbsp. light brown sugar
lime wedges, for serving
Preheat oven to 400°F. Prepare a baking sheet by lining with parchment and placing a rack on top. (If you don’t have a rack, use baking sheet without.) In large bowl, toss wings with oil and season with salt and pepper. Transfer wings to baking sheet. Bake about 40 minutes, turning halfway through, until crispy and cooked through.
Meanwhile, combine remaining ingredients (except lime wedges) in small saucepan. Add 3 tablespoons water and cook over moderately low heat, whisking frequently, until sugar dissolves and glaze is smooth and thickened. Brush glaze over wings and bake 10 minutes longer till brown and sticky. Serve with lime wedges.
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