Archive for December, 2009

Momofuku week, Fuji apple salad

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

The Fuji apple salad from the Momofuku cookbook is quite simple, but I will admit that I did not make my own napa cabbage kimchi, as I suspect most home chefs won’t. If I used it every day I would try making it (and I still may), but I imagine most people will not want to make the space (and funk) commitment in their refrigerators.

Whether you make your own or buy kimchi, the Fuji apple salad is no more than cubed or sliced apples tossed briefly in kimchi, plated with crispy bacon, greens, and a maple-labne (thickened yogurt) sauce. Perhaps I did not let my apples sit in the kimchi long enough, or maybe Washington apples are better than the New York ones David Chang uses, but the kimchi just wasn’t strong enough. Incidentally, Chang wrote this regarding regional apples:

I’ve always said that New York has the best apples…but Fuller did a version of our Fuji Apple Kimchi salad and I have to say that their version was so much better than ours I couldn’t believe it. The fucking apples were the best damn Fuji apples I’ve ever had—crisp, juicy, tart. I forgot that Washington State also grows apples, the fuckers.

Chang calls for cured and smoked jowl for this salad, whereas I used regular bacon, but the idea was similar. Overall the flavors were interesting together, but I did wish for a little more kimchi funk. Next time I’ll let the apples sit in the kimchi puree longer. The maple-labne sauce kept everything grounded with its slight earthy sweetness, and I’ll make it again just to eat on its own.

I’ll be back after the holiday with more from Momofuku!

Momofuku week, Bánh mì

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

Bánh mì holds a very special place in my childhood, being one of my first and most vivid flavor memories. My favorite sandwich shop is still the one my mom bought from when I was little, despite somewhat falling by the wayside next to trendier shops like Seattle Deli. I only ever order the traditional cold cut sandwich, with extra pâté, untoasted. I attribute my love of liver products to this early exposure to chicken liver pâté.

Following a trip to New York, one of my friends declared the Momofuku bánh mì the best bánh mì he had ever eaten, but until I can plan a trip, the recipe in the Momofuku cookbook will have to suffice…and it more than lives up to its reputation. The two terrines, chicken liver and ham, described in the book are dead simple to make (“easier than making meatloaf”, says Chang), and they make enough for probably 20+ sandwiches. I’ve read conflicting reports as to whether a third terrine, a veal headcheese, is included in the restaurant sandwich (Chang writes that they no longer use it). Either way, I wish they had put that recipe in the book!

Using only the two terrines still yields a bánh mì worthy of comparison to the sandwiches from my youth. The ham terrine, a “ghetto-simplified and lightly Vietnamesed jambon persillé“, scented with bay leaf, star anise, and cinnamon is a great foundation to built the rest of the sandwich on. The chicken liver terrine, heavily seasoned with fish sauce and five-spice powder, tames the liver funk with ground pork. The two together are earthy, meaty, and delicious.

If I had to pick a favorite ingredient out of a bánh mì (very difficult because the sandwich is so balanced if made correctly), it would have to be the pickled daikon. I remember picking them out and eating them by themselves when I was little. They are so simple to make, I can’t imagine not having a jar of them in my fridge. (Post on pickles upcoming.) Along with the pickles, Chang calls for Kewpie mayonnaise, sriracha, and cilantro. A note about Kewpie: it’s the best mayonnaise in the world! I love that Chang uses a store-bought mayonnaise at his restaurants. He knows when something is good and not to be messed with.

This is probably my favorite recipe from the cookbook. It really hits a personal note, and I will never tire of a good bánh mì. The first day I made the terrines I ate three sandwiches and have had one a day since then. It’s that good.

Momofuku week, Pork belly buns

Monday, December 21st, 2009

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These buns are something I have made in the past, even before the Momofuku cookbook was released. Normally I make them with red-cooked pork belly, recipe courtesy of my friend Lorna, but for these ones I used the roasted pork belly from the ramen, a prime example of the versatility of these recipes.

You really can’t get much simpler than this: rub the pork belly with equal parts of sugar and kosher salt, let it cure for a few hours, then roast. David Chang has a good narrative in the book describing the reasoning behind his roasting technique, which involves high heat for a short period, followed by a low and slow oven until finished. (A tip if you are following the book, I recommend a rinsing of the salt/sugar mixture off pork belly before you roast it. The seasoning is fairly aggressive if you want to eat the belly on its own, and why wouldn’t you want to eat the belly on its own?)

A Momofuku inspired touch was the addition of a quick pickling to usually bare cucumber (pickling will be the subject of an upcoming post). To finish the bun: a dollop of hoisin, a slice or two of pork belly, two or three slices of pickled cucumber, and scallions. As for the steamed buns, there is a recipe in the book, but the frozen ones I buy are pretty good. Like with the noodles for ramen, the chef doesn’t want you to work too hard.

If you have…a Chinese bakery or restaurant where you can easily buy them, or even a well-stocked freezer section…I encourage you to exercise it without any pangs of guilt. How many sandwich shops bake their own bread? Right.

These are so simple and so good that it is really easy to eat three, four, or five of these buns without realizing. Chang describes these as an eleventh-hour addition to their menu, a throw away idea. They have since become Momofuku’s signature dish, and it is very easy to see why.

Momofuku week, Ramen

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

Ramen has a notable place in the Momofuku cookbook being the first picture in the book, the first recipe, and the subject of one of the first narrative stories. Fittingly, I chose ramen to be my first foray into the official-Momofuku-cookbook-world.

Making ramen stock is no more difficult than making any other kind of stock, but I can understand a Swanson canned broth user being intimidated by such a large amount of liquid simmering for hours on their stove. Is it worth it? Definitely.

As mentioned in the Momofuku introduction, this recipe is broken up into multiple sub-recipes, many of which could be optional, and all of which can be used in other recipes in the book (or eaten on their own). The only required elements are the broth, of course, and noodles. Did I make my own noodles? No. David Chang doesn’t mind. From the noodle recipe introduction:

But, and this is a big but, I really don’t think you need to track down alkaline salts or kansui and make these noodles…Substitute any other homemade pasta you like, or fresh lo mein, which you can buy in any half-respectable Asian food store or supermarket.

The other elements of ramen that I did make: roasted pork belly, pickled bamboo shoots, and slow-poached eggs. In upcoming posts I’ll talk about how the pork belly can be used in buns, how the bamboo shoots can be used on a pickle plate, and really, how can’t a runny poached egg be used? The raw ingredients used in the broth itself are also not wasted—spent shiitakes were pickled, chicken was shredded (to be served both in the ramen and on its own with ginger-scallion sauce, also from the book), blanched bacon was fried up.

As for the flavor, my only real benchmark for ramen comes from Samurai Noodle here in Seattle and it sets a fairly high standard. The Momofuku ramen comes close enough that adding in the homemade factor sends it to the top of the chart. The ramen broth is not as in-your-face as Samurai, leaving a lot of room for complexity and subtlety from the layers of ingredients used to make it. It has great mouthfeel, owing to the pork neck bones and a nice smokiness from the bacon, all on top of heavy umami from the konbu and shiitake.

For this recipe, the cost of ingredients is pretty low and the time investment is mostly inactive. Pull out your biggest stock pot, throw it all in, and put on Tampopo while you’re waiting. The $0.10 packet of Top Ramen will be history!

Momofuku week, Introduction

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Due to an excess of vacation hours at work, I have been taking about a week off per month since last June (and will have to continue until next June). You’ll hear no complaints from me about this time off, especially because it lets me get a lot of cooking done.

I have been looking through the Momofuku cookbook since I received it and have been mentally bookmarking dishes to get through on my week off. While the book has been criticized for being too daunting for home cooks I would argue otherwise. Nothing is terribly complicated—even the pig’s head torchon is written out simply, leaving obtaining said pig’s head as the hardest part—and while some recipes seem long, they are often broken up into sub-recipes. A nice feature is that many of the sub-recipes are used several times, or can be used on their own.

This kicks off a series of Momofuku related posts where I hope to show that cooking from this book is not as difficult as some of the reviews may state. And hey, this will be a chance to show people that I can actually post something more than once a month. ;)

Cinnamon sticky buns

Monday, December 14th, 2009

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There’s nothing like waking up to the smell of baked goods wafting from the kitchen. (Well, I guess it’s not quite the same if you have to make them yourself, but it’s close.) I have been making these cinnamon sticky buns for a couple months now, and they have never lasted more than a couple days in my house.

Despite a claimed dislike of orange flavor in baked goods, Jennifer seems to not mind the fine orange zest that scents this dough. An overnight slow rise in the fridge helps with flavor and texture. Inside is a simple mixture of brown sugar and cinnamon, and the whole thing is baked upside down in a gooey syrup of brown sugar, butter, honey, and pecans.