Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Japanese Shoyu Ramen

When we think of Ramen, the first thing that comes to mind are those inexpensive packaged noodles with a spice packet included.  Ramen, in Japan, is a dish that is passed on from generation to generation and often has a Master of Ramen soup.  

Ramen is made with spirit - and the magical ingredient comes from the heart.
Almost all of the ingredients for this soup can be found in any supermarket.  Two specialty Asian items are the dried kombu and bonito flakes.

Kombo is a wide leaf sea vegetable (kelp) that grows in cold Artic currents among Japan's northernmost Hokkaido Island.  It is popular for its umami flavor.  Kombu is essential to the delicious Japanese noodle broth 'dashi' but can be added to any soup or soup stock to bring it to life.

Bonito flakes are another component of traditional dashi noodle broth.  Bonito is a type of mackerel which is steamed and dried to wood-like hardness, then shaved into flakes.  I found both of these items in Whole Foods.  Although both of these items are strange to me, I really wanted to make a traditional Ramen.

2 pieces dried kombu
1/2 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp. dry sherry
1 Tbsp. White Wine Vinegar

1-1/2 lb. boneless pork butt or shoulder
Salt and Pepper
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2-1/2 lbs. chicken wings
1 bunch scallions, chopped
2 carrots, peeled, cut into chunks
1 head of garlic, halved horizontally
1" piece ginger, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup bonito flakes

Ramen Noodles (discard spice packet) or Rice Vermicelli Noodles

For the Dashi:  Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil.  Add two strips of Kombu.  Lower heat and simmer for 4 minutes.  Remove and discard Kombu reserving liquid.

Season pork with salt and pepper.  Roll up and tie with kitchen twine at 2" intervals.  Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat.  Cook pork, turning until brown all over, 10-12 minutes.  Add chicken, scallions, carrots, garlic, ginger and bonito flakes.

Add kombu liquid.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, skimming the surface occasionally.

Simmer until pork is tender and stock has reduced slightly; about 2-1/2 hours.  Add soy sauce mixture.

Remove pork from stock and let cool.  Chill until ready to use.  Strain stock through a fine-mesh sieve or cheesecloth into another large bowl or container; discard solids.  Cover and chill.

When ready to serve, bring stock to a simmer; it should be very hot.  At the same time cook noodles in a large pot of boiling water according to package directions and drain.  Slice pork or cut into strips.  Add noodles to your soup bowl.  Top with sliced pork and add hot stock over pork to warm through.  Stock should come up just to the level of the noodles.

Top with chopped scallions, hard-boiled egg half or pieces of nori sheets.
Add a pinch of cayenne pepper or chili oil over pork if desired.

Bringing ramen home may take a special trip to an Asian Market, but it might be the best noodle soup you'll ever make.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Deviled Potato Salad

The creamy dressing for this potato salad is what makes it taste similar to deviled eggs!
This is a cool, creamy potato salad with great old-fashioned flavor.
3 lbs. red-skin potatoes cut into 3/4-inch chunks
Salt and Pepper
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. yellow mustard
4 large hard-cooked eggs, peeled
1/2 tsp. celery seed
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 celery rib, chopped fine

How to Boil Eggs 

Bring potatoes, 1 Tbsp. salt, and enough water to cover by 1 inch to boil in large pot over high heat.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer until potatoes are just tender, about 10 minutes.
Microwave vinegar and sugar in small bowl until sugar dissolved, about 30 seconds.  Process vinegar mixture, mustard 1 hard-cooked egg yolk (reserve white), celery seed and 1/2 tsp. salt in food processor until smooth.  Transfer to medium bowl.
Drain potatoes thoroughly and transfer to large bowl.  Drizzle 2 Tbsp. dressing over hot potatoes and using a rubber spatula, gently toss until evenly coated.  Refrigerate until cooled, about 30 minutes.
Whisk mayonnaise into remaining dressing.  Add remaining egg white and 3 hard-cooked eggs to dressing and using potato masher, mash until only small pieces remain.  Add dressing and celery to cooled potatoes, tossing to combine.  Cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Philly Fluff Cake

 We made a trip recently to a bakery that my niece was raving about!  This family-owned bakery, Natale's  specializes and is famous for this cake.  Where did it get it's name?  Philly, I assume comes from the cream cheese in the recipe.  
In the bakery case, these cakes look like an Angel Food cake dusted with powdered sugar - so what's the big deal?  It's sweet, moist and buttery with a crisp brown crust and literally melts in your mouth - that's the big deal.  
10 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 cup granulated sugar, divided
6 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Confectioner's sugar for dusting
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt or tube pan.
     2.  In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream together the cream cheese, butter and shortening on medium-
          high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. 

I think this is where the "Fluff" comes in.

          In a smaller bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.
          Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and mix on low speed until blended - it will
          be very thick.

     3.  Gradually add 1 cup of the sugar and the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add
          the vanilla and the remaining 1 cup sugar and continue beating, scraping down the sides of the bowl 
          once or twice, until the batter is smooth.

The cake will settle while cooling - it's too pretty to turn over!

     4.  Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake for 60 to 65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center
          comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack to 15 minutes.  Invert the cake onto a platter and cool 
          completely.  Dust with a generous amount of confectioner's sugar.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Tortellini, Spinach & Tomato Soup

If you have tortellini in your freezer, a hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano in the fridge, and a can of diced tomatoes on the shelf, all you'll need to do is pick up a bag of triple-washed spinach on the way home for this terrific soup.

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 medium onion, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups chicken stock
14 oz. frozen cheese tortellini
1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes, with liquid
5 oz. pkg. baby organic spinach, coarsely chopped
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic and onion and saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add the broth and bring to a boil.  Add the tortellini and cook about 5 minutes until pasta is almost tender.  Add the tomatoes and their liquid, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until pasta is tender.  

Stir in the spinach and cook until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes.  Serve sprinkled with the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Artisan Cast Iron Dutch Oven Bread

This recipe is a typical one with two rising periods.  Most of this time it's the yeast working and not you! 2 cups water 1...