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Making Ramen at Home

Posted by on Saturday Mar 28th, 2015

There’s been a lot of fuss about ramen this winter. As the bowls of Japanese noodle soup have made their way into the mainstream, via a lot of new restaurants, the never-before-seen availability of fresh ramen noodles at Whole Foods in NYC, and the appearance of crazy fusion creations on menus, there’s been a lot of interest in the dish. Also some backlash and serious reflection.

But at bottom, everything ramen chefs and noodle makers have told me about ramen leads me to believe that trendiness doesn’t really matter. If you want a comforting meal that you could eat every day, look to ramen and be fulfilled, belly and soul. If you’re like me, you’re never going to go out for ramen every day. And that’s why I put together this beginner’s guide to making the soup at home.

We ate ramen every day for at least a week as I was testing broths and toppings. I loved that. We’ll do a ramen week again soon. This works not just because it’s a comfort food, but also because the more you cook ramen, the better you understand what you want your bowl to be. If you want to get into it, read my full guide over at First We Feast.

Most of the time, I don’t deep fry at home. This isn’t a problem. I figure if I eat French fries at restaurants and baked potatoes here, I’ve achieved a balance I don’t need to upset. And then, once in a while, I fry potatoes at home and remember: oh, this is wonderful.

So the delight I took in some recently fried fries did not beg the question of whether frying at home is hard (it’s not). Rather, it made me think about if homemade chips are worth the $10 of oil I need to fill up my pot to deep fry them. And that’s when we have to talk about reusing oil more than once. To do so, you simply strain out all the particulates that have gotten into your oil. I did so twice, first through a strainer, and then through a strainer lined with a paper towel. The idea is to get out any organic matter that might spoil. With “naked” and battered foods, there’s not a lot of residue to strain out; with floured or breadcrumb-covered chicken or zucchini, there will be more. I stored this cleaned-up oil in a jar.

After straining, I had yet another object cluttering my kitchen, though: a jar of used oil. So, I kept frying. Yes, after the French fry meal, I went on a short but steady fried food bender. It mostly involved battered banana fritters with chocolate sauce, which I cooked up fresh for guests after we’d eaten our main, not the kind of entertaining I usually do. Apparently my jar of oil was stretching my boundaries.

Once I’d used the oil five times or so, I disposed of it (responsibly! not down the drain). I’d eaten my fill of homemade fried food for the time being, the oil was spent, and the jar no longer had to crowd my countertop. It’ll be a while before I make French fries again, but when I do, I’ll make them often–just for a couple of weeks.

P.S. One of the few fried recipes on the site–Fried Chicken Salad with Buttermilk Dressing.

Kitchen Stuff: The Digital Thermometer

Posted by on Friday Mar 20th, 2015

In a small kitchen, you don’t need a lot of equipment to cook great food. Still, you do need some pots, pans, utensils, and dishes–obviously. In the BGSK book, you’ll find a bare bones list of necessary tools, but I’ve long wanted to bring you a similar resource on the web.

So we’re going one by one, stocking up our virtual pantries and maybe our real ones too. You can see the whole “set” here.

How I try to keep the specialized kitchen equipment to a minimum! One of the items I was strictest about for as long as I could remember was the thermometer. We won’t have one, I promised myself anytime I read instructions for checking the temperature on the inside of your roast beef. And then Alex and I researched one to get my mom for a gift for a very specific reason–grilling outdoors in the summer, after the light is gone, when it’s impossible to see what color the inside of your chicken is. We got her the ThermoWorks Thermapen.

Not long after, I committed. And I’m happy I did. The thermometer itself is tiny, so storage really isn’t an issue. It takes the guesswork out of cooking meats like the garlicky pork loin I’ve been obsessed with since October. You can stick it into hot oil for a reading, should you decide to make French fries. And you can finally make those finicky candies you’ve been eying, like marshmallows and caramel. The Thermapen gives accurate readings quickly. It’s cute, easy to clean, and, as I already told you, small enough for a small kitchen.

Here are a few ways you’ll use your digital thermometer:

Winter’s Panzanella

Posted by on Wednesday Mar 18th, 2015

I hesitate to admit this when I’m about to tell you to summon summer with roasted tomato panzanella, but I haven’t found as much displeasure in the weather this winter as I ordinarily do. New York City is the proud provider of freezing cold sunshine, and I have a hard time frowning on sunny days or during Prospect Park’s especially beautiful winter golden hour, even when the sun forgets it’s supposed to heat as well as brighten. We visited Lake Placid in January, which put cold into perspective and also reminded us that snowshoeing is a reason to leave the house, I discovered rosemary & fennel seed tea and expanded my mastery of textile arts (crochet, macramé), Alex got into mixing Manhattans, TV got better and better, and we braised a lot of meat. Winter! For two more days until spring!

In this spirit of optimism, I’ve been ordering the most unusual local vegetables I see on Good Eggs, like romanesco cauliflower and sunchokes, in an effort to celebrate what little the frigid ground can produce. It works out okay, or at least the crucifers and roots aren’t fatal to my outlook, so long as I splurge on herbs, too or dollop everything in green sauce.

That’s how I ended up with a lot of basil hanging around. I had opened up a can of whole tomatoes for these roasted oysters, and I roasted them without their juice, but with a lot of olive oil and salt. The oily juice I stored them in seemed like it really wanted to be soaked up in stale bread the next day, and then it hit me: a winter version of the epic summer salad was staring out at me from the fridge. I tore up some mozzarella (just the regular supermarket kind), marinated shallots, and poured balsamic vinegar. And then I cracked on an egg onto my plate of rich panzanella.

Green Eggs & Potato Skillet for Two

Posted by on Thursday Mar 12th, 2015

The best food I cook comes from recreating imaginary dishes. I don’t usually know where my cravings spew from, but all of a sudden I’ll be steaming onions in turmeric for tagine, and I’m perfectly happy with the situation. After all, the best long-term way to keep yourself in the kitchen is probably to make what you want, consciously or unconsciously, so that the result is satisfying enough that dirty dishes don’t put you off cooking for weeks to come.

A sandwich with meat, cheese, and a real vegetable inside? I should know about this.

That’s what I thought when, in researching a piece on Philly Cheesesteaks, I got extraordinarily distracted by the discovery of the steak hero’s porky brother, the Roast Pork Sandwich. While most sandwiches claim a couple tomato slices or some lettuce as all their vegetables, this sandwich has a heap of sautéed broccoli rabe inside with the pork and the cheese. That makes it, in my book, a complete meal, and therefore a dish I should know about.

Even better, both the pork and rabe can be seasoned and cooked in advance, making this satisfying sub accessible on a weeknight if you do some cooking over the weekend.

Normally, the cheese melted on top the pork and rabe is aged provolone. But here I use Roth Cheese’s nutty alpine-style melting cheese, which really rounds out the sandwich.

Do you have a favorite pancake recipe? Rosa Parks did: hers had peanut butter in the batter.