When she was a child and learning history in elementary school, Tracy Chang says she and her cousin “invented Thanksgiving” in their family, using prodigious culinary skills to combine traditional Japanese sticky rice with the American custom of a stuffed bird. Today, the alum of kitchens from Boston’s O Ya to Basque Country’s Michelin-starred Martin Berasategui is thankful for a strong first year of her debut restaurant PAGU. It’s quickly become a Cambridge community hub, especially with the recent addition of morning breakfast feasts. A variation of Chang’s first tasty Thanksgiving dish is now served here during the holiday season.
1. At holiday dinners, Chang loves to sip on Basque cider and a bottle from Waltham’s Dovetail Sake, Massachusetts’ only sake brewery. PAGU even uses Dovetail’s kasu, a byproduct of sake production, as an ingredient for eats such as blueberry muffins and squid ink lobster rolls. Waste not, want not.
2. Scattered on the table are Japanese black maple leaves, nods to a tree from the yard of Chang’s childhood home in Lexington. In poignant, full-circle form, Chang’s current home and restaurant is steps from the MIT campus where her parents first met.
3. We get by with a little help from our friends, so Chang keeps close reminders of talented, supportive pals. The ceramic dishware is by buddy Jordan Colón, a Berkshires-based chef-turned-potter. Crocheted pugs, references to Chang’s pooch Phoebe, are gifts from friends, and many of PAGU’s black walnut tables were fashioned by another.
2 Cornish hens, deboned
3 cups sticky rice
3 cups water
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons dried shrimp, rehydrated
1 / 2 cup Taiwanese sausage
1 / 4 cup shallots, caramelized
10 pieces dried shiitake, rehydrated
and sliced thin
2 cups shiitake dashi
1 cup chicken stock
1 / 4 cup sesame oil
1 / 4 cup Wanjashan soy sauce
3/ 4 cup peas, frozen
3 / 4 cup carrots, frozen
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 / 2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine
2 tablespoons Wanjashan soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
• Preheat convection oven to 400 degrees.
• In a medium bowl, soak sticky rice in water for 30 minutes. (The rice will absorb the water, so there’s no need to strain later.) In a small pan, saute rehydrated, diced shrimp in 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and set aside. In a small pan, saute Taiwanese sausage in 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil until golden and set aside. In a small pan, caramelize shallots in 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and set aside.
• In a small pot, simmer the dried shiitake in water for 30-45 minutes. Strain and reserve the dashi. Squeeze out the shiitake and slice. Set both aside separately.
• In a rice cooker, add the sticky rice, shiitake dashi, chicken stock, shrimp, sausage and shallots. Mix well. Cook the rice, then add sesame oil, soy sauce, peas, carrots, shiitake, salt and pepper, mixing well so the color is uniformly brown. Taste and season again if necessary. Set aside to cool before stuffing deboned hen.
• In a small bowl, mix the marinade ingredients. Marinate the deboned Cornish hens for 20 minutes. Remove the hens from the marinade before stuffing with sticky rice. Roast for 20 minutes until golden and the internal temperature is 165 degrees.