My first time encountering Doria was in a small youshoku (Japanese western food) restaurant in Yokohama. She was one of the few names I wasn’t familiar with as my eyes scrolled down the menu of indulgent items such as Hayashi rice, curry rice, seafood gratin, and omelette rice. When I asked the owner what it was, he gave me shocked expression (I seem to be mistaken for a native whenever I go to Japan) as he jabbered off a passionate description of cream, cheese, and rice, insisting I must order it. And so I did. My first spoonful of crispy cheese encrusted, Béchamel sauce coated, buttery rice with generous pieces of chicken, onions, and mushroom was heavenly. It’s the ultimate comfort food, one that unfortunately cannot be found readily in restaurants in the Bay Area. So I did what any reasonable girl would do- make some of my own.
This recipe is based off of a few different ones found on Cookpad (a Japanese recipe sharing site). I didn’t measure my ingredients exactly and eyeballed most of them (like the rice, which is probably a good 2-3 cups uncooked). I used a mixture of brown and white rice, but feel free to use the variety you prefer and when to cook it. The quantity of butter and flour can vary, but they must always be 1:1 in ratio. The amount of milk you choose to use can also vary depending on how much sauce you need and how thick you want it to be. I’ve added seafood to mine, but you can add any type of meat you prefer, or even make it vegetarian (if you want some calorie damage control)!
2 carrots (sliced)
1 onion (sliced)
1 can of mushrooms (I didn’t have any fresh on hand)
Roughly a dozen shrimp (Deveined and deshelled)
A small bag of scallops
Leftover rice (enough for a large gratin dish)
Cornstarch- two pinches
Salt- to taste
Pepper- to taste
Your favorite cheese (I used mozzarella)
Splash of white wine (optional)
52g unsalted butter
52g all purpose flour
800ml whole milk
1) Season your scallops and shrimp lightly with salt and pepper. Add a pinch of cornstarch and mix evenly.
2) In a large skillet, heat olive oil. Add onions and carrots, and cook both until tender.
3) In another pan, melt butter on high heat and add flour. Mix evenly before adding milk, then salt and pepper to taste. Whisk over medium fire until incorporated. The mixture should be thick and able to coat the back of a wooden spatula. (I transferred the mixture to a stainless steel saucepan to avoid scratching the pan with my whisk). Turn off heat and let it sit aside.
4) Add mushrooms and cook for another 2 minutes or so before scooping all vegetables on a plate. (Note: There’s no need to add any seasoning because the sauce is flavorful enough for the entire dish.)
5) Add some olive oil to pan again, and lightly sear both scallops and shrimp. Add a splash of white wine if you fancy. Be careful not to overcook, as the seafood will cook again in the oven later. Take them off the heat and set aside.
6) In the same pan, lightly fry the rice to heat it up (this step isn’t necessary if you’re making fresh rice on the day of). Mix in about 4/5 of your vegetables and seafood and 2/3 of your Béchamel sauce. Layer into gratin dish, top the rice with the rest of your seafood and vegetables, and coat with remaining sauce. Top with cheese.
7) Bake your rice at 200 degrees Celsius (or roughly 390 degrees Fahrenheit) for 15-25 minutes, or until your cheese is bubbly and golden brown. Serve right away!