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Ramen Speed!

Ready to serve.

The word ‘ramen’ for most people conjures up images of college days or other times in their life when money was scarce and nourishment needed to be had on the cheap. Plastic bags of dried noodles with an accompaniment of soup base powder, that was primarily salt, in a small foil packet. This is a travesty. A disgrace. An outrageous insult to the soul of the real deal. Bear in mind, fair reader, that I’m not shunning the product in its entirety. The noodles are perfectly serviceable. Most of the offense comes from the contents of that little foil packet. Let’s face it though, at 20 cents a pack you get what you pay for. Most people know that going into the deal, and I’m just as guilty of slurping them down as the next guy, but with a well-stocked pantry and/or freezer you needn’t suffer through another nearly flavorless salt-bomb. My love affair with Asian style noodles has been long, and it all started with those horribly addictive foil packets. Once I started exploring outside the bag, though, and once I got my hands on the good stuff, my addiction only worsened... Ramen was one of the many things that the Japanese adopted as their own. As with many other Japanese dishes, the impetus came from China in the form of chow mein. They are a little more delicate in flavor, but fresh Ramen noodles differ little from chow mein still. The biggest difference is in how the Japanese use them as opposed to the Chinese. Often in delicate broth-based soups. Though, the heartier chow mein noodles are used in one of Japans favorite dishes and (I’m convinced of this) what could be their greatest export next to sushi, Yakisoba. That’s another post, however.

The raw ingredients.

This is a dish I recently made for myself that is a good representation of Ramen done right. Simple ingredients and simple, technique driven preparation. The format of soup/noodle/garnish is usually a very forgiving one. As long as the right noodle is served with a sauce of the right intensity the rest of the cast of characters is more or less interchangeable. I wouldn’t recommend that approach with this recipe though. Maitake mushrooms are very delicate, and easily stepped on or shoved out of the way by other flavors in my experience. With that in mind I would advise against using other mushroom varieties in conjunction with them under any circumstance. Just let them and (in this case) the clams shine on their own, the noodles and the broth will do the rest of the work. Fresh Ramen can be found in the freezer section of most Asian or Japanese markets, and some have a section dedicated to refrigerated or frozen noodles specifically. Ramen with Baby Clams in Dashi: Serves 2
  • 1 lb. Littleneck, manila or any small variety of clams
  • 1 bottle Hakutsuru Draft Sake
  • 2 tsp. peeled and minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp. crushed garlic
  • 3 cups(ish) dashi stock
  • 1 bunch Maitake mushrooms, sliced thin, stems discarded
  • ¼ pound snow pea pods, cut across into ¼ inch strips
  • 1 lime
  • 2 packets or bundles fresh Ramen noodles
  • 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
  • Soy sauce
  • Kosher salt
  • Shredded nori and sesame seeds for garnish
   

Tightly closed and ready to steam. (Insert tight clam joke here.)

Start by putting a large pot of salted water (1 gallon or more) on a back burner over high heat and bring to a boil for the noodles later.   While that's coming to a boil check the clams thoroughly. The general rule when cooking ANY bi-valve is if they are open when they’re raw, they’re garbage. If a tap doesn’t get the little bastard to close its shell, throw it out. And conversely, if they are closed after they’re cooked, they’re garbage. In either case you may be dealing with a dead mollusk, and it’s not worth finding that out the hard way. Throw it out. After inspection, heat a 2 quart sauce pan over medium heat with a small amount of sesame oil and a small amount of any other light, tasteless oil. Sesame oil can be overpowering, so it’s sometimes a good idea to cut it

Ready for a sake steam bath.

with a lighter variety like peanut or canola. When the oil is hot and with your Sake already opened and at the ready, stir in your crushed garlic and minced ginger. DO NOT LET IT BROWN! Continue stirring for about 30 seconds, or until the smell of garlic and ginger fill the kitchen, and pour in half of the Sake. Bring to a boil and reduce the Sake by ¾, then add the clams and cover. Steam the clams for 90 seconds and check on them. If they aren't open yet replace the lid and count to 10, repeat until they do. When they are open kill the heat and pull them out of the pot. It will not take long to cook them and the penalty for overcooking is tiny rubber balls of unchewable nastiness. Remove them to a plate and after they have cooled a bit pull the meat out of the shells. All but the 6 prettiest shells, leave the meat in these and use them for garnishing the finished plates or pull the meat but place it back in the shell for easier extraction at the table.

All opened and fit for consumption.

Now put the dashi in the pot with the clam cooking liquor and bring to a simmer. DO NOT BOIL! Boiling will destroy a well-made dashi. If you need a recipe for dashi stock, it’s simple. Soak a strip of konbu in 2 quarts cold water for 30 minutes then bring to a simmer. Remove the konbu, add 6 onces shaved bonito flakes and bring to a full boil then immediately kill the heat and let it sit, unmolested, for another 30 minutes,  or until the fish flakes fall to the bottom. Strain and use, refrigerate, or freeze. Once the soup base is at a simmer, add the soy sauce in small amounts and taste between each addition. The goal of this is so the soy flavor doesn’t dominate the broth. Once you can taste the soy on even terms with the dashi add some kosher salt to bring the salt content up to where you would like it to be. You want the broth to be about as salty as seawater. This may seem like overkill but the noodles will absorb it, and if the salt content isn’t high enough once the noodles are added the whole dish will taste flat. Add the noodles to the boiling water on the back of the stove and cook as the package directs. Probably in the neighborhood of 4-5 minutes. Drain and rinse the noodles

Evicted from their homes, but not finished yet!

under hot running water until the sticky film coating them is gone. While the noodles are draining and rinsing, now that you’ve seasoned the soup the way you want it we can add the mushrooms and snow peas and stir until the peas are cooked. Cook ONLY until the snow peas are bright green, any longer and their color will be unappealing and they will lose most of their sweetness to the soup liquid. At this point add the shelled clam meat and heat through. Squeeze the lime juice into the pot until you can just taste it. Lime, too, can overpower.    

Block of dashi pulled from the deep freeze and into the pot.

To plate, put the noodles in serving bowls and ladle the broth over, making sure to distribute the veg and clams evenly. Arrange the reserved clams still in the shell around the bowl and add the sliced scallion, black and white sesame and shredded nori, and serve.

Veggies in for a VERY quick swim.

Some of these instructions may seem a little intense. For optimum flavor this is not a dish you can walk away from, though. It will need constant attention, but it will come together and ready to serve in less than half an hour if you already have dashi on hand, so this is also not a long babysitting job like a stock. (Tip: make dashi, or any stock for that matter, in large batches and freeze it in usable portions for future consumption.)   These are not high level techniques, in any case. If you can’t focus on your cooking for half an hour at a time then I can’t help you anyway. At that point I would suggest following the package instructions and just cover your ramen with water in a bowl, add the contents of that foil packet, and let “Chef Mike”(rowave) do the work for you.

Pre-dinner snack. Sashimi plate of Surf clam, Hamachi belly, and Bonito tataki.

Live well and cook better, Jack-                        

Braised Leeks for Irish Dinner

Editor's note: Achilles aka "Chilly" is one of R.E.'s new onion choppers and this is his first post. We haven't scared him off yet, so you can expect to see lots more from this guy in the near future. For The Rogue Estate's Chef's Night, featured in March 14, 2012's Real Detroit Weekly, I was tasked with braising leeks to be used as a side dish for our Authentic Irish dinner service led by Ian Malbon. Let's start with the basics, and usually for me that's defining what I will be doing and with what. A braise is a cooking method where you sear your item at a high temperature, then drop the heat, add liquid, cover it, and let it cook in the liquid until it becomes fork tender. A leek is a vegetable from the onion and garlic family. Instead of being round like an onion, it grows upwards in layers of concentric cylinders. This is important to understand, because in between these layers lies a lot of dirt, and as such we must take care to rid our wonderful leeks of any impurities.
Braised Leeks for Irish Dinner
Recipe Type: Side Dish
Author: Chilly P
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 20 mins
Total time: 30 mins
Serves: 4-8
Ingredients
  • 4 Large Leeks
  • 1 tbls butter
  • 1 tbls salt
  • 1/2 tbls fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 tbls dried Thyme (1 tbls fresh)
  • 1/2 cup of white wine
Instructions
  1. For this recipe, I kept the leeks whole. Fill your (clean) sink with cold water...enough to let the leeks soak in. This will allow dirt to pass through the circles and settle at the bottom of the sink.
  2. Slice off the very bottom of the leek where the roots are, then slice off the green leaves after the white stem base. What you want to be left with is the part that is for all intents and purposes, white (side note: keep the leaves to add to a stock...they carry wonderful flavor, although mostly inedible). Place the leeks in their bath as you prep them. After about 10 minutes, unplug your drain, and turn the water back on. You can feel free to run water through the leeks to help purge any remaining impurities. Place your leeks on paper towels and allow them to dry.
  3. At the stove you want a saute pan (with a lid) on medium heat. Add the butter and wait until it bubbles. Add the leeks and allow them to brown on the bottom. Once browned, turn them over and allow the other side to brown. Add salt and pepper at this point.
  4. The reason I waited to add the seasoning was because there was nothing for the salt and pepper to adhere to at first. Now that the butter is coating one side of the leeks, it's game on.
  5. When the other side browns, turn them over a few times to ensure an adequate coating of butter and seasoning. Turn the heat down to medium-low, add the wine and thyme, and cover. You're looking for a simmer here, nothing more; we don't want to burn or boil our leeks. Congratulations...you are now braising!
  6. Allow the leeks to braise until a sharp knife slides easily through the leek (about 20 minutes - feel free to turn the leeks throughout the process). Once this achieved, remove the leeks from the pan and place into a serving dish. Pour the remaining braising liquid goodness over them and allow them to come to room temperature. When you're ready to serve, slice them in half and pour about a tablespoon of braising liquid over them.
This dish fits well with just about any plate and its simplicity really lets the sweetness and texture of the leeks shine - a great side with any protein. Leeks aren't just for St Paddy's day any more! Do you have a favorite preparation for leeks we should try here at the Estate? Let me know about it in the comments. -Chilly

Chef’s Night Recipe: Beef Burgundy

[When Bob isn't wandering the markets in search of new products and exotic produce, he's back in the kitchen cooking.] It's winter and that means it's time for braising and pot roasting. This recipe works fine by either method, or a combination of the two. The most important thing this dish needs is time - so plan ahead to give it plenty. It only gets better the longer it cooks. We prepared this as one of the Winter Comfort Foods for a recent Chef's Night menu and it's been featured in a photo gallery by The Hungry Dude's Joe Hakim, a Photo Gallery on the Rogue Estate Facebook and an article in Real Detroit Weekly. Enjoy! Beef Burgundy to serve a table of 4 This is a very flexible and forgiving dish that is perfect for the beginner. Ingredients are inexpensive and short of full out neglect,  it's tough to actually mess up. Like most soups; leftovers taste even better the following day. The software: 3lbs Beef Short Ribs or Flatiron Steaks, roughly chopped 2 Tablespoons peanut oil, vegetable shortening or bacon fat 2 cups diced yellow onion 2 tablespoons crushed garlic (more if desired) 3 cups diced carrot 1 cup finely diced celery 2 cups full bodied red wine - I used Chateau de la Taille Bordeaux 2 cups beef stock 2 tablespoons butter juice of 1/2 lemon 1 star anise Salt Black Pepper 3 hours of time from prep to serve The hardware: A Large (12"+) pan or dutch oven, preferably cast iron. Large (2+ Qt) saucepan optional. The Method: Prep all ingredients before starting - this will make things go much smoother during assembly and cooking. For the wine - use something you'll enjoy drinking, since there will likely be some leftover. If it tastes good in a glass, it'll taste good in a recipe. When chopping beef & veg, smaller pieces mean less cook time. This recipe was timed with beef cut to roughly 1 1/2" cubes. 1/4" dice on the onions and 1/4" slice on the carrots & celery. With everything cleaned, sliced, diced and ready, add the oil or fat to the pan and heat it on med-hi until nearly wisps of smoke appear. Salt the beef and add to the pan carefully (It will spit a little). Don't over crowd the pan - brown in batches. Brown on all sides. When a good color & crust is on the beef, remove to a bowl. A good set of tongs is the best tool for this job. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions and garlic. Cook the onions and garlic down until they're translucent. Crank the heat up to high and add the wine to the pan to deglaze. Use the tongs or a spatula to scrape all the stuff off the bottom of the pan and mix it around with the onions and wine. As the Wine begins to bubble, reduce the heat to medium-low. (If using a sauce pan, transfer everything over to it at this time.) Return the beef to the pan, add the carrots, celery, beef stock and star anise. Give everything a stir and let it simmer for at least 2 hours. Reduce the heat as needed. Things should be bubbly but NOT boiling. Time is your most important ingredient here. Don't fuss over the pan. Check every 30 minutes, give it a stir, add beef stock and/or wine as needed to keep everything 1/2 submerged. As the beef and carrots become tender enough to mash with a fork around the 90 minute mark, allow liquid to reduce and thicken. After 2 hours, everything should be tender and the liquid should be thick, similar to gravy. If not, cook a little longer. Fish out the star anise, add the butter and lemon juice, stirring everything to combine. Taste the liquid and add salt & pepper as desired, serve immediately. Not surprisingly, this dish will pair perfectly with the wine you used to cook with. Goes great with some fresh, hot bread of any type on the side for scooping, or even just as a carrier for butter. ;) We look forward to your questions and success stories in the comments below or on our Facebook! -///    
A consummate nerd, yet still plays well with others.