Thursday, May 5, 2016

Homemade Miso Ramen with Chicken

If you've had the chance to have Japanese-style ramen, then you probably haven't been able to put off satiating that craving ever since.

Japanese ramen is cherished for its multi-faceted genius. The base of a good bowl of ramen, is its broth. The second most important (some may argue the first), are the noodles. The other toppings or serving suggestions are negotiable. Some people may serve it with a soft-boiled egg, naruto (fish cakes with a pink swirl), bamboo shoots, wakame (seaweed), carrots, tofu, pork, or chicken, in addition to another long list of preferences.

The broth should be thick, and when in a chilled state, gelatinous. Always taste the broth first to see what you're getting yourself in for. This is practiced by many ramen lovers. The flavor is so rich and complex that you begin to wonder what could have been used to add so much flavor, and you may forget that you have other things to consume in the bowl.

There are many different types of ramen broths out there, including soy (shoyu), vegetable, salt (shio), pork (tonkotsu), miso, and many more. Pork broths are usually opaque and lighter in color. Soy and salt broths, tend to be "thinner" broths, without the cloudiness of the pork broth. A lot of times, the base broth is pork, and they'll add it to the other broths for enhanced flavor.

The noodles are thick and long. They should have a slight resistance when you bite into them, making them seem bouncy. They shouldn't be served mushy. Some restaurants will give you the choice of how well-done you would like your noodles, as well as thin, regular, or thick.

All this to say, and Billy and I have stopped eating pork. Since then, it's been pretty rough not getting to enjoy ramen as freely anymore. Many places don't use other meat sources for their best broths, and I personally am not a fan of the soy or salt broths. Lately, we've been getting the fish based broths, which are amazing, but I have to be honest and tell you that nothing really beats the thick and rich pork-based broth.

Because of this, I set out to make an equally delicious ramen broth, sans pork. I knew I wouldn't be able to perfect it in one go, but was determined to get it as close as possible through trial and error.

The recipe in this post features miso-chicken broth. After eating my first bowl of this, I definitely knew I needed to share it with you. I've learned a few secrets along the way too, so I'll share those as well.

Lastly, I'd like to mention that I have this full on five hour process listed below and yes, I know how daunting that is. If you're up for it, you'll be really rewarded I promise! If you're not up for the challenge, here are some work arounds:
  • Buy a pre-roasted organic chicken 
  • For the stock - buy organic, low-salt chicken broth and vegetable broth. Add a dash of sesame oil, and the full amount of miso. You don't need to add vegetables and boil down for this method. It still tastes delicious if you have the right miso paste. You won't get the gelatinous broth with this method, but it's good for a quicker process.
Non-Sponsored Recommendations:
  • Hikari Miso - Organic Red Miso Paste (seriously the BEST I've had- amazing flavor and excellent consistency) learn more
  • Sherwood's Chinese Medium Egg Noodle - not ramen noodles, but when you're buying dry noodles from the store, this has been the closest in texture for me to what they serve in a restaurant. If you're able to find non-dried ramen noodles, check them out. I've found a really great Japanese instant noodle pack with fresh preserved noodles that were to die for. Noodles are one of those things you'll have to find your personal preference on. 
I really hope you enjoy! Also, if you have any recommendations on homemade ramen, I'd love to hear about it. Have a great one and go eat some ramen.

Homemade Miso Ramen with Chicken
Three Part Process
1. Roast chicken
2. Make stock
3. Assemble ramen

Roast Chicken
Original recipe. Time: 1 hr 40 min total Serves: 4-6

1 whole chicken, preferably organic, rinsed and patted dry
1 sprig of rosemary, fresh or dried
1 sprig of sage, fresh or dried
1/2 onion
1/2 lemon
1 garlic clove, gently smashed with knife
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp paprika
1 1/2 tbsp coarse sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

How To:
Pre-heat oven to 375º F. Place whole chicken, breast side up, in a medium dutch oven. Place rosemary, sage, onion, lemon, and garlic into the cavity of the chicken. Drizzle olive oil over entire chicken. Sprinkle paprika, salt, and pepper over entire chicken.

Place in oven, and cook for 1 hour with lid on. Remove lid, and continue to cook for another 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and let rest for approximately 20-30 minutes before carving. Carve meat off, and set aside. Keep bones and all other ingredients in the dutch oven. Proceed to make the stock.

Homemade Ramen Chicken Stock
Adapted from Wagamama. NO pork and Gluten-Free. Time: 3 hrs 15 min total Serves: 4-6

Chicken bones and other ingredients, from above recipe
2 carrots, chopped
4 leeks, sliced (triple rinsed)
1-2 inch piece of ginger, peeled
4 napa cabbage leaves, roughly chopped
handful of cilantro
2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
pinch of white pepper
1 dried piece of kelp, or kombu
4 oz miso paste, I use organic red

How To:
In the dutch oven from previous recipe, cover chicken bones with purified water. Fill to cover the bones. Bring to a boil, and drop heat down to medium low. Simmer for two hours and skim any foam that surfaces.

Add the carrots, leeks, ginger, and cabbage. Add more water to cover the bones and all ingredients. Bring to a boil, and drop down heat to medium low. Simmer again for another hour.

Strain chicken stock, and return to dutch oven. Discard the vegetables and bones. To the stock, add salt, sugar, white pepper, kelp, and miso paste. Stir until paste is dissolved, and taste for seasoning. Keep heat on low, so that it's just kept warm for serving.

Miso Ramen with Chicken
Inspired by Wagamama. Time: 5-10 min Serves: 4-6

Prepared chicken stock, from above recipe
Cooked chicken, from above recipe, sliced or shredded (to your taste)
9 oz ramen noodles (I like to use Chinese egg noodles too, but you may have to experiment until you find your favorite), cooked according to the package directions
1 tbsp miso paste, per serving
1 tbsp butter chilled, per serving
1 dried seaweed or wakame, per serving
2 tbsp corn, preferably organic, per serving
2 tbsp sliced green onion, per serving
4-5 slices bamboo shoots or menma, per serving
1/2 carrot, matchstick chopped, per serving
few leaves of spinach, per serving
pinch of cilantro, per serving
couple slices of cabbage, per serving

How to:
Assemble all ingredients above how you wish. I like to place my noodles in the bowl first, then place all of my toppings on. I then pour my broth over, and finish with butter and miso on top. This way, they slowly dissolve into my broth, and my noodles are at the bottom. I like it this way, but of course eat it in whatever manner suits your taste.

I serve mine with small ladle-style spoons and chopsticks.

Now really enjoy. You may want to share this meal with someone, because it's really so good and you're probably going to want to brag. Just saying ;)

Friday, March 11, 2016

Cardamom Orange Cake with Orange-Honey Syrup

Spongy, yellow cake, with a spicy undertone
Close up of orange cake
Last time I was at my Oma's house, I was able to get a bag full of fragrant, juicy oranges, from her orange tree in the backyard. I love having so much citrus on hand, because it motivates me to get creative with what I cook and bake.

I made this cake to appeal to different senses. It's very floral and the spice component of the cardamom is very grounding and soothing in a way. The orange-honey syrup adds a stickiness to it  (which reminds me of this story I read as a child, making it feel nostalgic). The overall texture is spongy and delicate. It's a lovely cake that goes great with a cup of tea. I even ate it for breakfast, but you don't have to follow that lead.

I hope you enjoy. Let me know what you think.

Happy baking.

Cardamom and Orange Cake with Orange-Honey Syrup
Serves: 8 Time: 1 hr Adapted from my Matcha Green Tea Drizzle Cake

3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp, all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cardamom, ground
orange zest, from one small orange
1/2 cup sugar, preferably organic
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup butter, melted

Orange-Honey Syrup:
freshly squeezed orange juice from one small orange, about 1/4 cup
1/2 cup water
2 star anise pods
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp orange zest
créme fraîche (or sour cream), for serving

How To:
Preheat oven to 350º F. Prepare an 8 or 9 inch spring-form pan. Cut a parchment circle to fit the bottom. Butter the bottom for the paper to stick on it, and butter the sides well.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cardamom, and orange zest. Set aside.

Set up a double-boiler, or place a sauce pan with two inches of water in it, on the stove top. Bring to a boil, then drop to a light simmer. Place a heat-proof bowl over prepared pan. The bowl should be large enough that steam from below can't come into the mixture above in the bowl. Add sugar and eggs into the bowl. Whip the mixture (I use a hand held electric whip) until it becomes light and frothy, about 3-5 minutes. The mass will have doubled or tripled in size, and it will be quite airy.

Add about a half cup of the egg mixture into the dry mixture. Mix well until no lumps. Now, gently fold in the flour mixture into the whipped eggs. Continue to stir gently until no flour lumps remain. Pour the vanilla and the melted butter into the side of the pan. Gently fold until just combined. Use caution not to over mix. The texture will be like thin cake batter.

Gently pour into prepared pan. Bake in oven for 30 minutes or until wood pick comes out clean.

While the cake is baking, prepare the drizzle. In a small saucepan, add orange juice, water, star anise, honey, and orange zest. Turn heat on to medium. Once mixture begins to bubble, turn heat down to medium-low and let simmer for 10-15 minutes or until slightly thickened and reduced. Turn off heat and set aside.

When cake is finished baking, let set in pan for 15—30 minutes before inverting. Run a knife or offset spatula around circumference of cake. Invert cake on to a serving plate (and remove the parchment). You may also choose to let the cake rest until it is fully cool before inverting. Using a tooth pick or skewer, poke many holes around the whole cake. Pour drizzle over the top of the cake, reserving about a tablespoon of the drizzle.

In a small bowl, mix a few tablespoons of créme fraîche (or sour cream) with a teaspoon or so of the drizzle. Dollop on to serving slices and garnish with orange segments. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Meatballs and Veg Sauce

meatballs, gluten free and pork free, with brown rice spaghetti noodles
close up shot of meatballs, garnished with parmesan, lemon zest, and basil
vegetable sauce with zucchini, mushroom, cherry tomatoes, with gf, pork free meatballs
Red wine, cherry tomato, mushroom, and zucchini tomato sauce. No bread crumb meatballs.

It's winter, and meals like these are super comforting. I typically don't make meatballs too often, but was feeling like it for some reason this week. I was considering the ingredients and process as I meal planned, and was really excited when I sat down to eat this last night.

This delightful vegetable sauce pairs extremely well with the pork-free, gluten-free meatballs. The sauce is rich in flavor, sweet, tangy, and deep. The meatballs are a simple combination of ground meat, with a tender texture and subtle herb flavor. Be sure to garnish with parmesan and lemon zest, with a sprinkle of basil. It makes the dish complete— and perfect.

We haven't been eating pork for a few months now, so I've used chicken sausage with ground beef for this recipe. The combination created the same flavors I was seeking, but whatever your preference, both will still work great. I just use an egg as the binding agent, and nix the crumb component completely. Along with the ingredients, the process is really important too. Partially frying the meatballs before adding them into the sauce, really helps to sear in the moisture and tenderness of the meatball, while giving it a nice exterior texture.

The sauce contains red wine, and a healthy dose of vegetables. I love the taste of the slowly simmered veg, it may have been my favorite part. Tasting this sauce for the first time knocked my socks off. Don't be afraid to taste it though, just to make sure it's hitting the spot for you too. For the noodles, I used brown rice spaghetti noodles, which have a great texture.

All around, this is a great meal that I highly suggest trying out. Definitely doing this meal again, and since I was so swayed, I just had to share it with you too. I hope you enjoy!

Meatballs and Veg Sauce
Time: 1 hr 20 min Serves: 4-5
Pork-Free Gluten-Free
Cook's note: If you have the time to let the sauce simmer for awhile, feel free to do so. It gets more amazing with the longer it can simmer. Stir it occasionally, to make sure it's not sticking to the bottom.

1, 24 oz jar of tomato sauce, I used a garlic flavored one
2/3 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 large zucchini, cubed
1/2 cup mushrooms, quartered
1/3 cup red wine, I used a Cabernet Sauvignon

1 package, or about .75 lbs, chicken Italian sausage
1 package, or about 1-1.5 lbs, ground beef, preferably organic
1 egg
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/2 tbsp oregano, dried
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1/2 tsp sage, dried
1/4 tsp rosemary, dried
1/3 cup olive oil (for frying)

1 package spaghetti noodles, I used brown rice pasta, follow package instructions to cook. Set aside with a bit of drizzled olive oil to prevent them sticking too much together.
Zest of 1 lemon, divided
1/2 cup parmesan, finely grated
fresh basil for topping

How To:
In a large sauté pan with about 4-5 inch depth, add all sauce ingredients. Heat over medium, to medium-low heat. Stir to incorporate, and cover with a lid. Let sauce simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Stir occasionally, and again right before adding meatballs.

For meatballs, combine all ingredients. Mix with a metal spoon until ingredients are well incorporated. Form meatballs with your hands to about 1/4 cup each. Set on a plate.

Heat the olive oil in a medium sauté pan, over medium heat. Don't allow the oil to smoke, it may take a couple minutes until the oil is hot enough. Add about half of the formed meatballs to the hot oil. Fry in two batches so that they don't touch while cooking. Be careful to not burn yourself. Let meatballs brown on one side without being disturbed, for about five minutes. Using tongs, gently flip over to the other side. Let them cook for about two minutes.

Using tongs, gently add browned meatballs into the sauce pan, evenly distributing them. Turn heat down to low. Cover with a lid, and continue to cook for another 30 minutes up to an hour. Taste sauce, adjust seasoning if needed.

To plate, use tongs to swirl the spaghetti onto the plate. Scoop sauce and meatballs over spaghetti, using care to cover the noodles. Generously dust each plate with parmesan cheese, and a pinch of lemon zest. Tear basil into smaller pieces and sprinkle over dish. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Oma's Nokle Soup

Eastern European stew, with potatoes, carrots, and dumplings called "nokles"
Eastern European stew, with potatoes, carrots, and dumplings called "nokles"
Yugoslavian, German, stew/soup, with potatoes, carrots, and dumplings called "nokles"
Chicken, carrots, dumplings, potatoes, tomato, homemade broth.

I wanted to feature a heritage soup that originated in Yugoslavia and Austria from my Oma and her mom before her. I'm not sure if it goes back even further, but I feel lucky to get to taste something that has been served to many generations in my family.

My grandma's family were farmers. I think about them working in the fields, and cooking over the fire they built inside the oven. It's a reality so separated from my own, but I still think it should be considered and regarded as important as my own family heritage.

This soup has been served to me and my cousins ever since we can remember. As we got older and were asked what we wanted to eat, we would invariably answer Nokle Soup. It's a dish that is rustic and easy to make.

The recipe utilizes large pieces of everything, so don't cut the ingredients too small. The beauty of it is its rustic quality. The tastes are pure and very soul-satisfying.

Nokles are flour and egg dumplings that are really easy to make. The texture is smooth with a dense interior crumb. The ingredients of this soup are very simple, and you may be tempted to add to it, but the simplicity of the process and the straight-forward taste of each ingredient will really win you over. The broth is very flavorful, yet mild enough for the more delicate palate.

Although this isn't a Christmas dish my family served during the holidays or anything like that, it's one of those recipes I hold close to my heart. As I get older, Christmas is magical for different reasons. It's not so much the gifts we receive but it's about the people we love, past and present.

I hope you have a lovely holiday, and enjoy Christmas with those you love. Also, this soup could be a nice dish to serve after all of those heavy holiday meals— just saying. ;)

Oma's Nokle Soup
Time: 1 hr 15 min Serves: 4-6
Cook's Note: The yield is really easy to increase. If you would like to add a whole parted chicken, it works really great, just make sure to cover with water. Also, you can add more or less veg depending on taste. My Oma says that you can add any type of vegetable you like as well, things like celery or mushrooms.

1 onion, chopped into large pieces
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/4 tsp whole peppercorns
1/2 tsp paprika
2 chicken breasts on bone, or any chicken pieces on bone, preferably use Free-Range, organic
5 carrots, peeled and cut in half (or thirds)
2 - 3 tomatoes, halved
1 large russet potato, peeled and cut into large pieces, preferably use organic
1 tsp Himalayan sea salt, or to taste
4-5 stalks of cilantro (with leaves), optional

Nokle Ingredients:
1 cup flour
1/8 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup water, less or more depending on dough

How To:
In a large stock pot, add about 7-8 cups water, preferably filtered. Put over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, peppercorns, paprika, chicken, carrots, tomatoes, and potato. Bring to a boil, and drop heat down to medium-low. Cover pot, slightly askew to allow steam to escape. Let simmer for about an hour.

Skim off any built up foam, discard. Remove chicken from pot and de-bone. Cut meat into large pieces. Discard bones and fat. Add meat back into pot. At this point, you can break apart the larger pieces of potato a bit, using the back of a wooden spoon.

Add salt and cilantro. Stir to incorporate.

Prepare the nokle dough:
In a medium bowl, sift in flour (or whisk). Add salt. Add eggs to the middle of the flour and stir around with a spoon.

Add about two tablespoons of water, stir. Continue to add a small amount of water until the dough is smooth and still thick. You may need less or more water as is indicated in ingredient list. The goal is to get it smooth and manageable, not too dry; and not too wet (it should be like really soft play dough).

With a spoon, cut into dough, scooping about a tablespoon and a half. It should roughly be in the shape of a crescent. Use another spoon and gently push the dough off of the first spoon into the simmering soup.

Continue this process, gently dropping each dumpling into the soup in all visibly open spots. Don't pile the dumplings on top of each other, but it's okay if they start to touch. Don't stir the soup at this point.

Cover pot with lid and let dumplings cook for 15 minutes undisturbed.

Remove lid after 15 minutes, and the nokles should have puffed up and filled the whole circumference of the pot. At this point you can gently stir the soup with a wooden spoon.

Taste soup for seasoning, adjust if needed. You may remove the whole peppercorns before serving if you wish, or just give a heads up to those you're serving.

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