Friday, December 10, 2010

CSA Week 1 and its Uses - Part II

OK, so I've got some home-made kimchi that's been getting funky in the fridge for a few days. And I've decided that its mission in life is to ultimately become kimchi ramen. So far so good - except we need a lot more fixings for that ramen. Since I started with the Momofuku kimchi recipe, I decided to plow on ahead and make a version of the Momofuku ramen, and add some kimchi for extra punch. There would be some compromises along the way - no, I'm not making my own noodles,  and I can't easily source my own pork belly - but I was pretty happy with the end result.

kimchi ramen mise en place
the mise en place
First, a broth. The Momofuku ramen broth recipe is sort of a case study in building rich, meaty flavor: kombu, dried shiitakes, pork bones, bacon all get into the mix. It's also a long-term time commitment, needing about 8+ hours of simmering. It's worth it.

You start like a basic dashi, by putting a rinsed piece of kombu in a pot with water (3 qts.),[*] bringing it to a simmer and then steeping it for 10 minutes, then removing the kombu. The next step in the recipe is to add dried shiitakes, of which I had none, so I skipped that, and instead added chicken wings (2 lbs.)[**] and simmered for another hour. Meanwhile, turn the oven to 400º and roast some pork bones (~3 lbs.; I found neck bones at Publix that were perfect for the job) for an hour and a half, turning them after an hour to brown all over. Skim any froth or scum that rises to the top of the stock every once in a while.

I took the chicken out of the pot and added the pork bones, along with 1/2 lb. of bacon. I would have loved to have used Benton's bacon like David Chang recommends, but if I had Benton's bacon I'd be cooking it and eating it out of hand till it was all gone. Keep the broth simmering, and remove the bacon after 45 minutes, then let it simmer for another 6-7 hours. Yup. 6-7 hours. Up until the last hour of cooking, keep adding water if necessary to keep the bones covered. For the last 45 minutes, add scallions (1 bunch, roughly chopped), carrot (1, roughly chopped) and an onion (cut in half). Here's a handy trick: instead of leaving the stockpot on the stove and risking setting my house on fire if I left it, I put it in the oven at 225º, went out to dinner, and finished it off late that night. Strain through a chinois (or cheesecloth), cool and reserve.

Notwithstanding the use of pork bones, this is not a tonkotsu broth. It was rich, and intensely porky, but it didn't have that dense, milky quality, which I think may come from using marrow bones and/or cooking for an even longer time. But it was some good stuff nonetheless.

Speaking of pork, I needed to make some. I didn't have belly, but I could easily get shoulder, and there are few things as simple and delicious as the Momofuku "pork shoulder for ramen" recipe. Again, it just takes some time. The ingredient list: 1 pork shoulder (I used a bone-in shoulder that was about 5 lbs but you can use boneless); 1/4 cup salt; 1/4 sugar. Mix the salt and sugar, rub all over the pork, and let it sit for a night in the fridge. Pull it out, brush it off a bit, drain off the liquid, and cook it (in a relatively snug roasting pan) for 6 hours at 250º, basting every so often with the rendered fat. I actually started the temperature at 275º for an hour to get some browning happening, and then turned it down for the rest of the time. Let it rest for half an hour, then shred the meat with two forks. Done, and awesome.

(continued ...)

What else? Some veg. I took that Savoy spinach from the CSA, and cooked it down with a little rendered pork fat. The Savoy spinach is wonderful stuff, sweeter than regular spinach, but with a little more substance to it, not all mushy when it cooks but similar in texture to mustard greens. Some chopped green onion. The ramen noodles were store bought, from Japanese Market. So was the fish cake (which tastes uncannily like gefilte fish, though it's more colorful) and nori. I also soft-boiled some eggs, which I cracked and dumped into each bowl as it was served.

Start with a generous bed of noodles (cooked for about 5 minutes in boiling water), ladle some broth over the noodles, nestle shredded pork, spinach, green onions, kimchi, egg over the top, stick some slices of fish cake around, a sheet of toasted nori, and there you have it:

kimchi ramen
the finished dish
So was it worth it? Let me say this: Mrs. F was initially a skeptic. This was a multi-day affair, after all, for a bowl of ramen (though in truth, much of that time was slow-cooking that didn't require much attention). And yet, when she tried a bowl, her skepticism was overcome - it was fantastic. The broth on its own was meaty and densely porky but not overwhelmingly so - and then brightened and enlivened when the kimchi was mixed with it. With the pork shoulder and the egg and the chewy noodles, this is something of a rich-on-rich composition, but the kimchi and vegetables cut through it and kept it from becoming ponderous and leaden. Really good stuff and worth the time.

The kimchi, of course, can find its way into several other dishes. One of my favorite other uses was to stir some into scrambled egs, which I then topped with some sharp cheddar cheese and squeezed into a toasted baguette (credit for the idea is due to Sakaya Kitchen and the kimchi scrambled eggs I had during their short-lived Dim Ssam Brunch).

Plus, I used up four of my CSA items - daikon, pak choy, garlic chives, and Savoy spinach - in one dish.

[*]The cookbook recipe is for a yield of 5 quarts, which was way more than I needed, so I halfed the recipe. Kind of.

[**]The recipe calls for a whole 4 lb. chicken, but I was halving the recipe. I also like using chicken wings in stock, they have a good ratio of bones to meat and lots of rich gelatinous bits to give body to a broth.

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