Thanks again to Jet for keeping this blog going during my long silence. I will write more about the reason for the long silence in a post this week, but until then, please enjoy the latest! – Christiana
In the very beginning of thinking about our pig, I knew the Momofuku Ramen was a, if not the, must do. I was looking at an early game plan email, which, sort of comedically presumed we’d get about 10 times as much loin and shoulder as we did. Even then, the Momofuku Ramen was the Holy Grail. This recipe has been very thoroughly embraced and documented by the blogosphere. The thing I don’t hear anyone saying about David Chang and Peter Meehan and their brilliant book is that, counter-intuitively, it is an essentially American story about American food and American business. While I love love love love many cookbooks, like the way David Chang loves fried chicken, this is a total favorite.
Christiana has already, somewhat faithfully, recounted her experience with the broth. I had waited for our bacon to actually make it because it seemed important that, after waiting for 3 years, we have 100% ReRide Ranch Almond Finished Berkshire Cup O’ Noodles. Seems silly, right? I purchased the belly and bacon of another hog to make the pâté on the slaughter day. The reality is that I am shocked so many food bloggers actually purchased the meaty neck bones, pork belly, pork shoulder and bacon required for the recipe, not to mention the whole chicken, three chicken backs, konbu, nori, onion, scallions, carrots, shiitakes, usukuchi, sake, mirin, bamboo shoots, collards, eggs and etc…, then spent two days making it and documenting it. For me, this 30 page recipe sort of presumes you already have half a pig in the freezer. You can read about the recipe here or here or here. I have a few takeaways…..
1) Tare is bird flu sick. The book says you can make it or substitute soy sauce. Disregard that advice. The Japanese barbecue sauce resulting from roasted chicken backs sautéed in soy sauce, sake and mirin, has no substitute. Michael and I stood in the kitchen sucking the meat and fat out of the spent backs and I’ve been splashing it on everything for the past 24 hours. Really, you could brush it on ANYTHING, like chard, for example, to make it epic. Tare is truly brilliant. It is also zero additional work in the context of the two day cooking marathon required for a dish Americans mainly remember from college when they ate it because it is really cheap, takes no work to prepare, and MSG is every bit as satisfying as wild chanterelle mushrooms.
2) I have no business with a couple of pounds of home cured pork belly confit. It is so delicious, I keep wandering into the kitchen for another slice. With tare, it borders on sublime. Really, there isn’t enough oatmeal and fish oil to make me believe this behavior is OK. Also? It yields over a cup of rendered fat and a quarter cup of insanely delicious, gelatinous, porkiness which is richer and darker than Demi Glacé. Chang and Meehan suggest adding pork jelly to anything that would benefit from a glossier mouth feel, which is everything.
3) In the early stages of thinking about actually doing this, I was sure we should plan a party. It seemed sort of sad to imagine the two of us standing around in the kitchen slurping ramen made from so many luxe ingredients after so much work and we’d have ten servings. Kent sold us a lamb this week [FOR REALS: more on this development soon – ed], and, unexpectedly, I found myself with an appointment to have it custom butchered on Monday, following a weekend in which we had nothing planned. Deconstructed Cup O’ Noodles obviously wanted and maybe even needed to be served to Christiana and Kent after sorting out how to cut up our lamb at the Old Fashioned Country Butcher. Michael and I did have our noodles alone, but we sat in the living room and talked and laughed about how great they are. It wasn’t sad at all.
4) You should totally pickle the spent shiitakes. They are awesome. Again, in the context of cooking pretty steadily during all waking hours for 2 days, they don’t seem like added work. Christiana and momofukufor2 make much of Chang and Meehan addressing options for the spent konbu and shiitakes, yet remaining silent on the whole boiled chicken. To me, this was the center of their sales pitch. Everyone knows a gazillion things to do with boiled chicken. Many may find the $9 worth or mushrooms and the “only for dashi” konbu a barrier to entry. There is a lot of discussion online about the spent bacon. I used the scraps from ours and pitched it after boiling it for 45 minutes. Not uninterestingly, Michael’s first question when taking out the trash was, “Why are you throwing this bacon out?”
5) You will feel smug when you crack your perfectly poached forty minute egg out of the shell and into your bowl of piping hot bowl of mushroom and pork infused dashi with noodles, collards, pork belly, pork shoulder, bamboo shoots and nori.
Buy a hog from Lefty, have Kent butcher it, buy Momofuku, make the ramen and tell us about it. It is an awesome experience for any semi-serious home cook and provides many happy hours of planning, execution and reward. Momofuku Ramen scratches the very deepest comfort food itch. In fact, it is so awesome I am concerned, knowing how killer it is, that I will find other soups wanting by comparison. As much fun as this is, it certainly isn’t feasible as part of the weekly rotation.
A final note – I am so grateful to Jet for sharing this with me, because we all know that I wouldn’t have followed the recipe as faithfully as she did. I loved it. Jet described the ramen as a really smart recipe, and I think that is on the money – delicious, interesting, just a tiny bit challenging. I’m so glad I got to experience it! – Christiana