Monday, December 8, 2008

Mission Tampopo

In my honest opinion there are two major factors in creating the perfect bowl of ramen. The broth and the Char Siu. Last week we covered the char siu. Today i have made a simple vegetable broth and will go over the construction of the bowl.

For the vegetable broth:

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 stick cinimon
  • 1 piece star anise
  • 2 piece cloves
  • 5 piece black pepper
  • 3 piece allspice
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 3 stalk celery
  • 2 medium white onions
  • 2 leeks
  • 1 head garlic
  • hunk of raw ginger about the size of your thumb
  • (for a richer earthier broth try adding mushroom stems and black bean sauce)


1. rough chop all ingredients into small pieces


2. place in a pot large enough to accomodate and cover by 1" with cold water (cold water does a better job of extracting flavor than hot water)



3. simmer for up to 1 hour and then strain through a mesh sieve or conical strainer and reserve keeping warm. at this point you may season your broth with soy sauce, miso paste, roasted garlic, kimchee or what ever flavor you prefer. (when i'm in a pinch i like to use fresh ramen soup base. not the powdered stuff but the liquid you get from the good types of instant ramen)



4. next get some water boiling for the noodles and make a couple hard boiled eggs. My hard boiled egg recipie is as follows:
  1. place eggs in pan and cover by 1" with cold water and 1 table spoon of vinegar
  2. bring to a rolling simmer (to rough of a boil will crack the shells and beat up your eggs)
  3. set a timer for 8 minutes
  4. after the timer goes off strain of the water and place the eggs in an ice bath to cool them.... this process will also stress the shells - creating cracks in the shell that will make them easier to peel


5. lay out your toppings. today i have arranged the folowing starting with the charsiu we made last week and going clockwise around the cutting board:
  • char siu
  • hardboiled eggs
  • menma (soy sauce seasoned bamboo shoots easily purchasable at any japanese grocery store. i like sunrise mart which can be found http://www.yelp.com/biz/sunrise-mart-new-york
  • chopped scallion
  • wood ear mushrooms
  • nori (dried sea weed)

6. next i set the bowls out and put 2 tbsp of soy in the bottom with 1 tbsp of sesame oil


7. add noodles and broth and place your selection of toppings ontop of the bowl.... remember the toppings are limitless you don't have to use what i use. anything can top a bowl of ramen. with good broth and good noodles you will have a delicious meal!!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

the wonders of cast iron

to day i was asked how to season a cast iron skillet.

i have found two different useable methods for seasoning cast iron.

one involves coating the pan in a neutral oil

Neutral Oils - Use vegetable oils (canola, sunflower, etc.), shortening (like Crisco shortening) or lard for seasoning your cast iron pans. I recently experimented and found out that food-grade coconut oil/butter also works great.

and placing the pan in a 300 degree oven for 4 hours.

i have outlined the second more popular and easier method below

  1. Let the pan cool. Wash it with dishwashing soap and water. Never soak or let soapy water sit in the pan for any length of time. Rinse thoroughly, then dry with paper towels.

    A lot of people disagree with using dishwashing soap and water to wash cast-iron pans. A chef told me that if a health inspector ever found a pan that had not been washed with soap and water in his kitchen, he would be in trouble. Plus the grease that is left behind will eventually become rancid. You do not want rancid oil in your foods and body.

    NEVER put cast-iron cookware in the dishwasher.

  2. Place the cleaned cast iron pan on the heated burner of your stove for a minute or two to make sure that it is bone dry. While the pan is still hot and on the stove burner, lightly oil inside of pan (I mean a light coat) with a neutral cooking oil.

  3. Leave pan on the hot burner of stove for a few minutes. Remove from hot burner and wipe excess oil off the pan with a used up rag and tongs so you don't burn the shit out of your hand.

  4. Store your cast iron cookware with the lids off, especially in humid weather, because if covered, moisture can build up and cause rust. Be sure that you place a couple paper towels inside to make sure that any moisture that forms will be absorbed by the paper towel. Never put the utensil in the dishwasher or store it away without drying it thoroughly Seasoning at higher temperatures, approaching the smoking point, of the oil used will result in darker seasoned coatings in less time that aren't sticky or gummy.

that pretty much covers it... if taken care of properly a cast iron pan can last severl lifetimes. pretty much any and all foods can be cooked in it (with the exception of boiling water)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Knives!!

So i was asked recently to talk about knives in an email.

"I've always wanted to ask a chef, maybe you could put this on your blog: how do you find a good deal on knives? Like there are knives out there that are like $400 and then there are $25 knives. How can you tell which knives are good? How can you tell when you're getting a good deal?"

There are many different styles of knife available to chefs these days with varying price ranges from $20 to thousands. The different style of knife you choose should depend on what you are doing with it, how it feels in your hand (comfort factor) and durability.

There are three main types of knife construction on the market today. Stamped, forged and folded steel.

STAMPED

Stamped knives are made from template cutters that cut the shape of the knives into flat metal. Stamped knives are lighter but don't have the same quality and balance as the forged knives do. Due to the lack of density, the stamped knives don't hold edges as well as the forged knives. Stamped knives are usually less expensive.

FORGED

Forged knives undergo a treatment process to enhance the flexibility, density, and hardness of the knife. Forged knives tend to be heavier than stamped knives but are much better balanced. Forged knives are hand made through a process of extreme heat and hand moulding. Each knife is carefully and hand crafted with extreme detail. The tang of the knife merges into the handle and is typically secured by three rivets.

FOLDED

Folded steel knives are the top of the line in both construction, aesthetic and materials used. Most folded knives are Japanese in construction which use a different composite alloy. Unlike stamped and forged knives folded knives start out as a block of steel that is pounded flat and folded in on it self and pounded flat again. This process gradually forms the shape of the knife creating a superior edge and sharpness. Most Japanese knife companies make knives in both traditional Japanese style and western style knives.

Japanese Style

Western Style Japanese Knives

The choice is up to you. expect to pay any where between $20 and $75 for stamped knives, $80 - $200 for forged knives and $80 - $3000 for folded steel Japanese knives. If you are interested in a nicer knife i recommend getting something on the lower end and taking some classes in knife sharpening or looking it up on the Internet. A personal favorite brand of mine though is the Shun, which can be found here: http://www.kershawknives.com/searchresults.php?brand=shun&search_by=searchform&searchvalue=shun&x=0&y=0. Both versatile and affordable it's a great knife for beginners and professionals alike (because of the price point i don't mind destroying them in my kitchen)

Shun

Char Siu!!

This is photo documentation and step by step instruction on the basic process involved in making char siu (chinese), Charshu or Charsyu (japanese) braised seasoned pork....

This is a classic component in many chinese and japanese recipes and a common topping for ramen noodles.

Char Siu

  • 3 pounds pork (fresh butt, shoulder or belly will all work fine.... for this recipe i have used 1.5# butt and 1.5# shoulder to compare the final product)
  • 2 cups shoyu or soy sauce
  • 2 cups sake
  • 2 cups mirin (or granulated sugar)
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 tbsp chopped chives
  • 2 tbsp fresh grated ginger

Procedure

1. tie the pork in two 1 1/2 pound logs with 6 or 7 lengths of butcher twine

2. sear the pork on high heat in canola oil untill golden brown on all sides

3. Chop the chives, grate the ginger on a cheese grater using the smallest shredding teeth and gather the rest of the liquid ingredients

4. remove the seared pork from the pan and place in a roasting pan big enough to contain the pork and the liquid (which will go half way up the side of the pork)

5. drain off the fat from the seared pork and add the ginger, scallion, mirin, soy, water and sake. using a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula stir the liquid while scraping the bottom of the pan to loose anything stuck

6. pour the liquid over the pork and place the roasting pan on the middle rack of a 325 degree oven and braise for approximately 2 hours.... turn the pork or baste with the liquid every 30 minutes. adjust consistancy of the liquid with extra water as needed. there is alot of sugar in the mix so besure not to let it over reduce and burn.

7. when you remove it from the oven it should be shiny and glazed while being tender enough to cut easily with a knife. strain off the liquid to remove the ginger and scallion and any other foreign matter and cool the pork in the liquid to keep the meat from drying out.

8. this is Char Siu your finished product... the shoulder is on the left and the boston butt is on the right. shoulder is a less expensive product and also inferior in quality; the butt should run you around $2.00 a pound and yields a better product. pork belly is probably the best cut for this dish though and runs around $2.35/lb in chinatown. this product should be cooled and put in the fridge within two hours and can be stored cold for up to 7 days. The remaining liquid can be used as seasoning, thinned out and reused for your next batch of pork or simply thrown away.