Archive for January, 2010

Momofuku week: Bo ssam

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

Next to pork belly buns, Momofuku is probably most famous for bo ssam. David Chang and his crew slow roast an entire pork shoulder and serve it along side lettuce, rice, raw oysters, kimchi, and ssam sauce. If this sounds like a lot of food.. it is. The recommended minimum party size is six!

Various Momofuku bo ssam recipes have been published in newspapers and magazines, so it was no surprise that one is also included in the Momofuku cookbook, although it is so simple that no recipe is really needed. A pork shoulder (bone-in recommended, but I used boneless) is rubbed in salt and sugar overnight, then slow roasted. Towards the end of cooking, you sprinkle on a brown sugar and salt mixture and let it caramelize. (“It’s like a shoulder encrusted in pig candy,” Chang notes.)

I will admit to skepticism when I put the shoulder in with just salt and sugar, but the end result shows complexity far beyond the humble ingredients. Lettuce with rice, kimchi puree, ssam sauce (sweet, sour, and savory), and ginger scallion sauce provided the perfect accompaniments to wrap the fatty pork in. I didn’t buy oysters this time, but I have in the past and they pair surprisingly well with the pork and kimchi.

The pork is one of the most versatile recipes in the book, if not only for the amount of food you end up with. The pork is good on almost everything: ramen, kimchi stew (upcoming post), on plain rice, with eggs.. the possibilities are endless!

Momofuku week, English muffins

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Before the Momofuku cookbook I had only tried to make English muffins once, using a sourdough starter that I had been feeding for a few weeks. My luck with sourdough was always hit or miss, the bread sometimes rising, and sometimes not. I remember the sourdough English muffins ended up mealy with undercooked spots, and unremarkable nooks-and-crannies. Not so with Momofuku! These muffins, along with their accompanying bay leaf butter lard spread are wonderful, and well worth the time spent to make.

These English muffins require only about an afternoon’s work, mostly waiting for risings. The only tricky part was setting my flat-top griddle to the right temperature during the initial cooking. The muffins “bake” and get their nooks-and-crannies on a very slow griddle, and patience is required while you monitor them during the multiple flips that are required. My griddle was probably set too low so I spent a lot of time waiting and poking and peeking.

Once the initial grilling is complete, the muffins are finished in a low oven. While the finished results are great on their own, or with one of the slow-cooked eggs featured in the book, they are made even better with a spread made of butter and lard flavored by steeping fresh bay leaves. Even if you never make the English muffins, make the bay leaf butter—it’s good on everything!

Momofuku week, Cereal milk

Saturday, January 9th, 2010

One of the most common criticisms of the Momofuku cookbook is the lack of desserts. Indeed, cereal milk is one of only two sweets included in the book, but it’s unique and delicious, and probably unlike any dessert you’ll find in any other cookbook. (It also happens to be the easier of the two desserts in the book.)

The name “cereal milk” is really self explanatory—it is the milk left behind after you eat all the cereal from the bowl. At Momofuku, it is turned into an ice cream, and in the case of this dish, a panna cotta. Making cereal milk is as easy as soaking corn flakes in milk, then adding sugar and gelatin. The result is an elegant dessert that tastes like childhood.

The panna cotta is paired with a “chocolate-hazelnut thing,” which itself is made of praline paste and chocolate. Tying everything together is the unique addition of a simple avocado puree. (As odd as it sounds, it works.) Caramelized corn flakes are sprinkled on top, reminding you of where the dish comes from.

While this recipe is not difficult, it is time consuming to make all the components. I’ll be writing about the other dessert from the book (fried apple pie) in an upcoming post. That one makes cereal milk look as easy as a box of instant pudding. ;)

Momofuku week, Shrimp & grits

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

Shrimp & grits is probably the most non-Asian recipe in the Momofuku cookbook but it really highlights David Chang’s commitment to good food, even if it doesn’t necessarily fit peoples’ expectations. This is a fairly standard preparation of grits, except substituting ramen broth for water and using soy sauce for seasoning. The shrimp is quickly sauteed in the fat from the bacon, and the whole thing is topped with a slow-cooked egg and green onions.

While these grits were good I enjoy my grits with massive amounts of cheese in them, so I missed the extra richness from my regular grits. Using the ramen broth is genius and adds a very noticeable hit of umami. The yolk from the slow-cooked egg was a good substitute for the quick pan gravy I usually make with my shrimp & grits. If you’ve never made shrimp & grits before, this is a good starting point. If shrimp & grits are already a part of your repertoire, you can’t go wrong subbing in some broth for the water next time.

Momofuku week, Bacon dashi with clams

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Oh my. This dish is so delicious. In the Momofuku cookbook David Chang writes about the substitution of smoky American bacon for dried and smoked Japanese fish in dashi broth as an important early success  and an example of the philosophy behind their cooking.

We respect tradition and we revere many traditional flavor profiles, but we do not subscribe to the idea that there’s one set of blueprints that everyone should follow. I think that in the questioning of basic assumptions–about how we cook and why we cook with what we do–is when a lot of the coolest cooking happens.

Bacon dashi really does look and smell like traditional dashi, but is unctuously porky instead of fishy. I simmered quartered new Yukon potatoes in the bacon dashi, then tossed in Manila clams just until they opened. Topped with julienned green onions and crispy bacon, this dish is so simple, warming, and fulfilling. There really isn’t anything more to say.

Momofuku week, Fried chicken with octo vin

Monday, January 4th, 2010

Who doesn’t like fried chicken? I have been making the same fried chicken for years (pictured here and here), and have lusted after Korean fried chicken, so was excited to try David Chang’s version from the Momofuku cookbook.

Chang’s chicken is brined for several hours, which helps the flavor tremendously because he doesn’t use any dry rub or batter/dredge. The chicken is cooked in a two step process, starting with a steam, followed by a fry, with a thorough chill in the fridge in between. I have seen this steaming technique used in the past with chicken wings by Alton Brown and have been skeptical, but I’ll have to admit that it works well. The steaming cooks the chicken and renders fat out of the skin requiring deep frying for only a few minutes. The shorter time in oil produces a non-greasy, non-oily, crispy thin skin. (It was immediately after I threw out the steaming water that I realized that the chickeny/schmaltzy water would have made great rice. Next time!) After frying the chicken is tossed in a garlicky, gingery vinaigrette that Chang refers to as “octo vin”.

I found that the chicken, while cooked very nicely, didn’t stand up to the pungent vinaigrette. The entire process, from brine to the quick fry is designed to showcase the chicken itself. Chang writes that they use the expensive and flavorful poulet rouge in the restaurant, so the minimal technique makes sense. I was using commonly available Foster Farms Washington grown chicken, which is good but probably too subtle for this technique.

If I come across a poulet rouge or a poulet de Bresse I’ll give this recipe another shot. I may try the two step cooking with my regular fried chicken, and the octo vin will remain a staple in my fridge.

(Sorry about the bad picture. We were hungry!)