An Abbreviated Version of David Chang’s Ramen Broth

from Momofuku, pp. 40-41.

An eight- or nine-hour ramen broth is as likely strike you as excessive and obsessive as it did me when I first read the recipe. But I do love a good ramen broth. This looked promising. Not only did I want to make a bowl of ramen that stood a chance of comparing favorably with broth in a ramen shop, I also recognized that it was a necessary component of David Chang’s absolutely scrumptious Shrimp & Grits recipe (to follow).  This recipe’s essential virtue is umami, which, to the degree that I can describe it, is Japanese for “pretty frickin’ delicious,” as distinct from “salty,” “sweet,” or “sour.” Chang builds the broth in layers of flavor: first the konbu, then the mushrooms, followed by the chicken and then the pork bones. The result is a deep, complex broth whose flavor turned out to be less fragile and more stable than I anticipated it would be. Following Change’s advice, I reduced the final broth by half to save space in my freezer. If you boil it down, you can reconstitute it with an equal amount of water.

However, I’m going to provide here an adulterated version that no doubt you will still find excessive in the amount of time it takes. If you want the complete recipe, buy the book. It’s worth it. Here, you get a second-rate broth that is not such a big production as the full version. Smaller amount and a bit less work may lead you to make it more often. David Chang would probably spit on my efforts, but that’s ok. We need purists like him against which we measure what we do.

So, I’ll begin by cutting the quantities in half:

1 piece of konbu (the thick square seaweed that is the basis of the Japanese broth, dashi)

3 quarts water

1 cup dried shiitakes, rinsed

2 pounds chicken (bone-in breast, leg and thigh, back or rib cage with meat still attached)

3 pounds meaty pork bones

Shadowcook: If you can’t find organic pork bones, try using smoked ham hocks and skip the smoked bacon. It would be a good idea to have a butcher cut the hocks in two or three pieces, depending on their size, since you’ll be roasting them.

1/2 pound smoked bacon

Shadowcook: Towards the end of making the full version, as I tasted the broth and adjusted the seasoning, I thought the smoky flavor dominated the other subtler ingredients. I still do, although the smokiness calmed down by the time I got to straining the broth. So, be aware of how strong the smoky flavor of the bacon is.

3 or 4 scallions

half a medium onion

1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped

1 tablespoon dark soy sauce

1 tablespoon mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)

kosher salt

1. Rinse the konbu under running water, then combine it with the water in a stockpot. Bring the water to a simmer over high heat and turn off the heat. Let steep for 10 minutes.

2. Remove the konbu from the pot and add the shiitakes. Turn the heat back up to high and bring the water to a boil, then turn the heat down so the liquid simmers gently. Simmer for 30 minutes, until the mushrooms are plumped and rehydrated and have lent the broth their color and aroma.

3. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Put the pork bones or ham hocks on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan and roast for an hour. Turn them over after 30 minutes.

4. Right after putting the pork bones in the oven, remove the mushrooms from the pot with a spider or slotted spoon. Add the chicken pieces to the pot. Keep the liquid at a gentle simmer. Skim and discard any froth, foam, or fat that rises to the surface of the broth. Replenish the water as necessary to keep the chicken covered. After about 1 hour, test the chicken: the meat should pull away from the bones easily. If it doesn’t, simmer until it does. Then remove it from the pot.

5. Remove the chicken from the pot and add the pork bones or hocks to the broth, along with the bacon (if you’re using pork bones). Adjust the heat as necessary to keep the broth at a steady simmer; skim the scum and replenish the water as needed. After 45 minutes, scoop out the bacon and discard it. Then gently simmer the pork bones for 6 to 7 hours. Stop adding water to replenish the pot after hour 5 or so.

Shadowcook: Does it need that long? I’m skeptical. But I went whole hog anyway. When I made the abbreviated version, however, I stopped after four hours. The broth was fine. Follow your tastes buds and please yourself.

6. Add the scallions, onion, and carrots to the pot and simmer for the final 45 minutes.

7. Remove the bones and vegetables. Strain the broth through a sieve lined with cheesecloth. At this point, either use the broth or reduce it by half to freeze. Reconstitute with equal amounts of water.

Shadowcook: At this point, Chang instructs you to finish the sauce with a bit of taré, a concentrate of salt, soy sauce, mirin and the gook that accumulates around roasted chicken backs. Sorry, I own up to not having made this sauce, which is its own recipe. Finding chicken backs — much less organic ones — is tough even in our Asian markets. So, to finish the broth, I seasoned it with the tablespoons of dark soy sauce and mirin and adjusted the salt. I was happy.

Chang concludes this recipe with a sentiment in which I heartily concur: Underseasoned broth is a crime.

NYT’s Herbed Bean and Sausage Stew in Small Slow-cooker

You can find the original recipe here. Suggestions for a vegetarian version appear at the end of this post.

I swore off buying new appliances, sold quite a few of them at a driveway sale last summer, and scaled back on my cooking once I embarked on another long course of Weight Watchers. My appliance abstinence lasted all of two months. Last week, I bought a small Cuisinart three-quart slow cooker. It’s a perfect size for this single-eater household.

A couple of weeks ago, the New York Times published this recipe. It calls for skipping the pre-soaking part of bean cooking. I liked that idea, especially since lately I switched to using Rancho Gordo’s heirloom dried beans, which are much fresher than most store-bought kind. Not only did I not pre-soak the Rancho Gordo beans, but the stew  finished in under 8 hours on the Low setting. The amount of water needed will vary according to the freshness of the beans and your preference for soupy stews or stewy soups. However, the recipe does not call for a slow-cooker, so I’ve had to adapt it. Perhaps it works best on a weekend morning, when you can do the prep cooking without rushing. A vegetarian adaptation appears at the end.

The result is a rich, smoky, and flavorful pot of beans and sausage:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, more for serving

1 pound fresh sweet Italian sausages, sliced 3/4-inch thick

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon cumin

2 medium carrots, finely diced

2 celery stalks, finely diced

1 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 pound Great Northern beans, rinsed and picked through

Shadowcook: Or canellini or mayacoba bean. In any case, a white bean that holds its shape.

2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste

Shadowcook: Interesting that whoever thought this up has you put kosher salt into the pot with the beans at the beginning of their cooking. Most cooks claim salt retards absorption of water in a hard bean. I suspect the older the bean, the more likely that’s true. But if you’re using recently dried beans, salt may not impede the softening process as much. I followed the directions and the beans cooked quickly.

2 thyme sprigs

1 large rosemary sprig

1 bay leaf

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, more for serving

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, more to taste

1. Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and brown until through, about 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel.

Shadowcook: Don’t crowd the sausage rounds. Insufficient space around anything that is sauteeing creates steam. Food needs room to brown and fry properly.

2. Add the tomato paste and cumin to the pot. Cook, stirring, until dark golden, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic. Cook, stirring until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the beans, 8 cups water, salt, thyme, rosemary and bay leaf. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and simmer gently until the beans are tender, about 2 hours, adding more water if needed to make sure the beans remain submerged.

Shadowcook: For the slow cooker, after you have cooked the tomato paste, cumin, carrots, celery, onion, and garlic, transfer it all to a slow cooker. Make bring you all the oil and bits with the vegetables to the ceramic pot. Then add the beans and herbs to the pot. Pour in 6-7 cups of water. The rule of thumb in converting recipes to slow-cookers is to reduce the liquid by half. I began this stew with 4 cups and within 4 hours (the beans still hard) I had to add another 3 cups. Set the temperature to Low for 10 hours. Walk away, but come back in four or five hours to check the beans.

3. When the beans are tender, return the sausage to the pot. Simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning. Ladle into warm bowls and serve drizzled with additional vinegar and olive oil.

Shadowcook: For a vegetarian version, substitute a bunch of chopped Swiss chard leaves and 2 chopped leeks for the sausage. Sauté the chopped chard and leeks in olive oil, add the remaining ingredients to the sauteed leaves, and proceed with the recipe.

For another meat version, consider adding a ham hock to the beans and water, after you’ve sauteed the vegetables in olive oil.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s Sweetcorn Soup with Chipotle and Lime

From The Observer/Guardian, September 10, 2010.

It’s a good day when a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe fits within my Weight Watchers diet. Ottolenghi comes up with ideas that work better on paper than in the pan. This one is a keeper. In this spice fantasy of his, he takes summer (corn) and winter (squash) on a vacation to Southeast Asia. The directions are straightforward. The ingredients are not as outré as you might first think. Yotam offers good substitutions, if you can’t come up with lime leaves, like I can.

A bit of chopping but otherwise easy…

Serves 6

Amount per serving: 1 and a half cups

Weight Watchers points per serving: 5

Calories per serving: 350

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 shallots (100g), peeled and chopped

5 garlic cloves, chopped

3 celery sticks, cut into 1 cm [1/4 inch] dice

1 teaspoon ground cumin

3/4 teaspoon ground coriander

400g [14 oz] peeled pumpkin or butternut squash, cut into 1 cm [1/4 inch] dice

2 bay leaves

3 lime leaves, or a few shaved strips of lime zest

1 liter [4.2 cups] water

1 chipotle chilli, soaks in boiling water for 15 minutes

Shadowcook: Or, if you can’t find dried chipotles, buy a can of chipotles in adobo sauce, rinse off the sauce, and chop. The more seeds you remove, the less heat you’ll taste in the soup.

4 sweetcorn cobs, kernels shaved off

160g [about half a cup] soured cream [that’s sour cream]

3 limes, halved

1 handful torn coriander [cilantro] leaves

Salt

Heat the oil in a medium pot, add the shallots, garlic, celery, ground cumin, ground coriander and a little salt, and sauté on low heat for 12 minutes, to soften the vegetables.

Add the pumpkin (or squash), bay leaves, lime leaves (or zest), and water. Squeeze the water of out of the chipotle chilli, remove and discard the seeds, chop roughly and add to the pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the pumpkin is soft. Add the corn and cook for five minutes.

Use a slotted spoon to lift out about half of the vegetables, and removed and discard the bay and lime leaves. Blitz the remaining soup until smooth, then return to the vegetables to the pot and bring to a light simmer. Add a little water if you find it too thick. Stir in half the soured cream and taste for seasoning.

Shadowcook: I used my blender. A food processor works just as well.

Divide the soup into six bowls, squeeze the juice of half a lime into each portion, drop about a tablespoonful of soured cream in the middle and scatter over the torn coriander leaves.

Shadowcook: Or, for all you singletons, freeze in 4 or 5 small containers all but a cup and a half. A bowl of this soup in winter will remind you of August.