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Versatile fish marinade from old Japan.

Versatile fish marinade from old Japan The residue of sake (rice wine) production, known as sake lees or sake kasu, gives foods a rich, slightly fermented and pungent flavor. Although it's new to the Western palate, the Japanese have used it for centuries to preserve foods.

In the traditional mixture, the cook combines lees with mirin (sweetened sake), water, sugar, and sometimes secret seasonings to make a marinade frequently used on fish; the fish is first soaked in brine to give it succulence and longevity. Here, we have simplified the recipe, and reduced the salt and sugar to give a milder flavor. When you shop, look for fish with a high fat content, such as Chilean sea bass, salmon, or sablefish (also called black cod, found in Asian markets). You can find the sake lees, generally sold in 1-pound bags, in Japanese markets. If you have to buy a 5-pound bucket, freeze what you don't need for future use. Price varies from 50 cents to $2 a pound.

For a stronger, more authentic flavor, look for ready-to-cook marinated salmon and black cod; the fish names will be followed by the word kasu. Prices range from $10 to $12 a pound. You can find the fish in Japanese markets and in some supermarkets serving an Asian clientele.

Sake Kasu on Fish and Vegetables

3 pounds boned Chilean sea bass, salmon, or sablefish (black cod) fillets Sugar-salt brine (recipe follows) 1 pound sake lees, paste or sheets 3/4 cup each mirin and water 1/4 cup sugar 3 medium-size (about 1 1/4 lb. total) red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and each cut into 8 equal-size wedges 9 small (about 1/ 1/4 lb. total) yellow or green patty pan squash

Place fish in the sugar-salt brine. Cover and chill 1 hour, turning occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a blender or food processor, whirl together sake lees, mirin, water, and sugar until smooth. Cover and chill until ready to use, up to 1 week; or freeze up to 3 months.

Drain fish, discarding brine; rinse and pat dry. Place fish in a 9-by 13-inch baking dish; spread about 2 cups of the sake lees marinade over fish, coating all sides. Cover and chill at least 6 hours or up to 3 days, turning occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a 3- to 4-quart pan, bring about 2 quarts water to a boil over high heat. Add pepper wedges and cook just until tender, about 3 minutes. Lift from water with a slotted spoon; set aside. Add squash and cook until tender when pierced with a fork, about 6 minutes; drain, cool, and cut in halves. If made ahead, cover and chill up until next day.

In a bowl, mix pepper and squash with 1 cup sake less marinade. To grill the vegetables, you'll need 12 slender wooden skewers, each about 10 inches long. With each pair of skewers spaced about 1 1/2 inches apart, alternately thread 4 pepper wedges and 3 squash halves. If made ahead, cover and chill up to 2 hours.

An hour before serving, ignite about 60 charcoal briquets on firegrate of a barbecue (use a covered one) with lid off and with drafts open. When covered with gray ash, 30 to 40 minutes, spread briquets into a single solid layer. Spray grill with non-stick cooking spray and place about 6 inches above briquets.

When coals are medium (you can hold your hand 4 to 5 seconds at grill lavel), set vegetable skewers on grill, cover barbecue, and cook until browned on grill side, about 5 minutes. Turn skewers and cook until browned on other side, about 5 minutes more. Place vegetables on a platter; cover to keep warm. Lift fillets from marinade, brushing off excess, and place on grill. Cover barbecue and cook until browned, about 6 minutes. Turn fish over, cover barbecue, and cook until fish is opaque and moist-looking in thickest part (cut to test), about 7 minutes longer. Place on platter with vegetables. Serves 6.

Estimated per serving (without sake kasu marinade): 275 cal.: 44g protein; 5.2 g fat; 12 g carbo.; 818 mg sodium; 93 mg chol.

Sugar-salt brine. In a 9- by 13-inch baking dish, combine 1/2 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons salt, and 3 cups warm water; stir until sugar and salt dissolve.
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Title Annotation:recipes
Date:Jun 1, 1991
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