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Ramen Shop, Oakland

2 Sep

I recently had my favorite bowl of ramen in the US, at Ramen Shop in Oakland (edging out Shin Sen Gumi Hakata Ramen):

ramen

The veggie ramen shown above (“shoyu broth with meyer lemo, chanterelles, salt-cured egg, broccoli di ciccio, shaved carrots, negi, and mizuna”) was very good, and I tend to like shoyu or salt broths over miso broths, but it was the “garlic miso ramen with smoked king salmon, pork belly, shoyu-marinated egg, frisée, gypsy peppers, and shungiku” that blew my mind. Such a rich, creamy, yet not too greasy broth, and noodles with a nice bite.

The fried rice with pork, nettles, tomatoes, anise hyssop, and shrimp/chili paste was also very, very good– each grain well-coated but not too sticky.

Japanese Food Dinner Party

26 May

A few weeks ago I had friends over for some Japanese food (sushi rolls, as well as various dishes focused on a few simple ingredients, inspired by Japanese Farm Food).

turnips

saute

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IMG_20130428_190118_930

Boiled Edamame with Hickory-smoked Salt (from The Meadow)

Smashed Cucumber Pickles: Japanese cucumbers roughly crushed with a dowel and torn into irregular chunks, mixed with a whole stalk of sliced green garlic, sea salt, and a little ginger, and sealed in a ziploc bag in the fridge for two hours before dinner. Really good– one of my favorite new kinds of pickle.

Turnips and Leaves Pickled in Salt: sliced Tokyo turnips along with the freshest leaves, salt, young ginger, dry red chile (a little), an entire Meyer lemon’s worth of zest (in lieu of yuzu), and salt, also refrigerated in a bag for two hours, then rinsed in water to cut down on the salt.

Snap Peas: Fried sliced young ginger and red chiles in sesame oil, then added the snap peas for just three minutes, until they started to turn bright green. A bit oily but still quite good.

Fried Shishito Peppers: no recipe needed…

Cured Salmon Roe: Fresh salmon roe, rinsed several times until the water ran clear (very gently to avoid breaking them), mixed with a little sea salt, another meyer lemon’s worth of zest and juice, then let sit for a few hours. Served on top of a seared slab of salmon, topped with a little lemon-infused flake salt.

and of course, the team-effort sushi rolls: Dry sushi rice rinsed and drained 8 times until the water ran clear,  boiled with a strip of kombu, spread out on a board and drizzled with rice vinegar while vigorously fanning to rapidly cool it. Then rolled up in nori with some mix of maguro, toro, hamachi, salmon, shiso leaf, avocado, cucumber, and pickled ginger. With fresh-grated real wasabi root (a rare find, at Nijiya).

Great food and company, one of the best evenings in a while.

Roasting a Chicken

14 Apr

I made a moist, tasty roast chicken for 4 tonight. Tip of the hat to ei-nyung for the recipe and low-temperature tips (I added fennel, as I tend to do):

roast chicken

roast chicken

I picked up a local, pastured chicken, peppered and salted it (about 2 tsp sea salt), put it in a Dutch oven, and surrounded it with 8 cloves of garlic, two minced shallots, minced carrots, rosemary, bay leaves, and a sliced bulb of fennel.

I browned it breast-down on the stovetop for about 6 minutes, then flipped it for another 7, stirring the vegetables around the edges to cook them.

Then I covered it with both foil and the lid for a tight seal and slid it into a 250F oven for 80 minutes.

I took it out, rested it under foil for about 15 minutes before carving, and made a simple gravy: I took out the roasted vegetables (to serve on the side, minus the bay leaves, as almost a vegetable jam), strained out most of the fat, and cooked the juices down with the juice of two meyer lemons, making about a cup of brightly tart/rich sauce.

A spinach and farmer cheese salad, some very sweet first snap peas of the season, carrots, baby radishes, and a friend’s excellent shaker lemon pie rounded out the meal. It’s good to be back in springtime.

Salty Salmon, Poached Egg, Butter Spinach

18 Feb

salmon

A quick, satisfying dinner during minimal-starch month (and after a weekend of salt-depleting exercise).

I’d shopped with Niçoise salad on the brain, but ended up making: salmon rubbed with salt, white pepper, and sesame seeds, broiled for 8 minutes skin-side-up, on a bed of butter-sauteed lettuce, celery, and black olives, topped with chopped up crispy salmon skin and a poached egg.

Slow Milk-Braised Pork Shoulder (Carnitas?)

10 Feb

It was a rough day overall, but a pork shoulder braised in milk and taken in the direction of carnitas turned out very well:

pork, shredded

It started with five pounds of bone-in pork shoulder from Olivier’s butchery (at their recommendation, a cut with plenty of fat and even the skin left on one side), coated in salt and pepper, then browned in a little oil at medium-high heat on each side in a dutch oven on the stovetop.

Whole milk was added to cover it about 2/3 up the sides (most of a half-gallon container since I had some excess space around it), along with a head of sliced garlic, a bay leaf, dried sage, and thyme:

pork shoulder

After bringing the milk and spices to a light simmer at medium heat, it went into a “300F” oven, covered, coming out every half hour to get flipped over and fill the room with a tantalizing smell.

I expected anywhere from 2 to 4 hours cooking time based on the internet. After two and a half hours you could peel the meat away from the bones with a little effort from a fork, but the body of the meat was still intact. I sliced off a small piece and was disappointed– it was fully cooked, but fairly dry and not especially flavorful. Was it under-cooked? Already over-cooked? I figured if it was over-cooked I’d already missed the boat, so I put it back in for another half hour. What a change! At three hours you could easily slide a fork half an inch into the bulk of the meat, though it still held together. I gave it another 30ish minutes, tasted a piece, and it was succulent and delicious.

pork shoulder

I believe the expression is “falling off the bone”:

pork bone

I was able to pull this apart into pieces (see the first photo) by hand, only using a knife to trim off a few pieces of fat without burning myself.

Following an online suggestion I also made a sauce by straining the liquid (which had separated into curds and whey) and pressing and then discarding everything solid. Twenty minutes on the stovetop over medium heat reduced the liquid to about half its volume, and a little time with the immersion blender emulsified it into a sweet, surprisingly-not-too-fatty sauce.

So good, even if it was about 11pm at this point.

I know what I’ll be eating the next few mornings on the fire escape…

[ edit ] Monday morning, fried into carnitas:

image

In Pursuit of Tartiflette (and beer)

27 Jan

Delicious, delicious tartiflette

I’d eaten Tartiflette (potatoes and cheese, baked– it sounds simple but it’s so much more) twice– many years ago in Southeastern France, and a year ago in Tavern de la Fermette in Southern Belgium (photo above). Both times it was a tastebud shock-and-awe (in a rich “I’m taking a month off my life” way).

Today I was having a few friends over to taste some Belgian beers, and was inspired to try to make it. I think it turned out really well.

A few quick-and-blurry photos:

lardons

tartiflette

And the process, based on a mix of online recipes and memory:

  • Preheat the oven to 350F.
  • Boil 2 lbs of medium yukon gold potatoes for about 25 minutes, until just starting to get soft (but not fully cooked). Remove and rinse under cold water, then cut into 1/2″ cubes.
  • In parallel: melt 2 Tbsp butter in a skillet on medium-high heat.
  • Cut three slices of extra-thick bacon into 1/4″ squares (lardons, sort of),  and fry in the butter until golden and slightly crispy (about 10 minutes). Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and leave the fat in the pan.
  • Chop a large white onion finely, then saute patiently over medium heat in the bacon fat / butter until slightly golden and caramelized (maybe 20 minutes). Remove and drain, discarding excess fat.
  • Return the onions, the bacon, and a cup of white wine to the pan (in the restaurant in France they said they used Champagne, but I didn’t have any) and cook on high heat, stirring rapidly, until the wine evaporates– maybe 2 minutes.
  • Turn the heat down to low. Add the cubed partially-cooked potatoes, stir for a minute, then add half a cup of heavy cream, some black pepper, and salt. Stir together for a minute or two.
  • Pour everything into a lightly buttered 10″ pie plate or other baking dish, then top with half a pound of a creamy, aged, slightly funky French cows-milk cheese (traditionally you’d use Reblochon, but I couldn’t find it– instead I used the slightly firmer Raclette).
  • Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes (I’d read you should then remove the foil and put it under the broiler for 5 minutes to brown the cheese, but I got impatient).

The sweetness from the onions and wine is key. We devoured it.

It was especially great alternating with sips of a Rochefort 10 trappist ale (Quadrupel), followed by a Goose Island Bourbon County Stout (2007, which I’d been hanging on to for many years).

We also had Brussels sprouts (cut in half, mixed with bits of fried bacon, olive oil, salt, and pepper, then roasted in the oven for about 25 minutes at 350F, and impulsively drizzled with Satsuma juice before serving), some hearty seeded bread and funky blue cheese paired with a Supplication sour beer, briny lye-soaked Castelvetrano olives with a Doggie Claws barleywine, and some other beer and cheese.

Consumed:

dinner

beer

Fresh Dungeness Crab, Garlic Noodles

3 Dec

Feisty, pinchy Dungeness Crab from the ocean to the kitchen in a few hours. Now that’s some delicious, sweet crustacean.

Image

Image

Take live, actively-thrashing-around crabs (one source: Fair Share CSF) and drop one or two over boiling water in a large steamer. 12 minutes for a pair of 1 1/3lb crabs seemed ideal .

Briefly plunge them into cold water, then clean out the guts: break off the apron, remove the carapace and most green-black guts, scrape out the rest of the guts by hand, and remove the spongy crescent-shaped gills and the mandibles. Finally, break it in half and rinse off any remaining bits of guts. Hat tip to canida for a good set of crab cleaning photos at Instructables, and the tip to use the crab toe as a pick. Why have I never thought of that?

Serve on paper for easy cleanup, with fresh parsley and melted salted butter– you don’t need any other sauce when it’s this sweet and fresh.

And for the perfect side dish, garlic noodles: I started with some special smoky/sweet heirloom garlic from the family farm, roughly crushed two large cloves, and cooked  them in several Tbsp of olive oil over medium heat to infuse the oil with garlic. Then I took those cloves out and added 3 Tbsp of butter and the rest of the head of garlic (finely minced/pressed) and sauteed until the garlic was cooked. Stir in half a pound of al dente boiled spaghetti and toss it in the pan, covering the noodles with the garlic oil/butter and cooking a few more minutes. Add a bit of salt and black pepper, and you’re ready to serve. It also keeps warm well until the crab is ready.

An excellent dinner!

Even if the whole production somehow managed to last three and a half hours (including another crab test dish that was great but not really worth the laborious effort: parboiling/steaming crab for three minutes, removing the guts, picking the meat out of the shell– slow and difficult because it’s still so sticky / raw, then rubbing it with a garlic/chili/thyme/salt spice mix, laying it out in a thin layer on a baking sheet, and baking it at 500F for ten minutes to make a savory-sweet crab spread for toast).

Dandelion Madagascar Chocolate

27 Oct

The Dandelion Chocolate single-origin bar from Madagascar cacao beans is amazing: bright, with berry and citrus flavors. A+.

I like the ingredients list: Cocoa Beans & Cane Sugar. That’s it.

This is my new favorite special-occasion chocolate, displacing the Mast Brother Madagascar and the Mast Brothers Maine Sea Salt.

roasted duck, black pepper, egg pasta (flour+water)

5 Oct

After working late, I dropped by flour + water on my way home to see if there was a seat at the bar, sat down within 15  minutes, and had one of the better meals I’ve had there:

roasted duck breast with chestnut, roasted squash, walnut & pumpkin seed

I do like the time of year when chestnuts make an appearance in food. And this dish was phenomenal– juicy, tender duck with a slightly sweet chestnut puree and a lot of mellow, well-blended supporting flavors.

black pepper tagliarini with tesa, broccoli di ciccio & soft cooked egg

This was one of my favorite pasta experiences here, up with the carrot caramelle and radiatore with whey-braised hen.

The pasta was just so tender and perfectly cooked, the egg was exceptional (and mixing it in distributed rich, dark yellow, runny yolk over each strand of pasta), and the tesa (cured pork belly) was intense, like a concentrated less-salty bacon, but used in moderation and didn’t overpower the pasta.

Quite a dinner.

And while I rarely have anything to say about wine, the De Forville Barbaresco, Vigna Loreto 2008, Piemonte was also one of my favorites in quite a while– a taste almost like swimming in a gravel-lined, fresh mountain stream– in a good way (I think the oenophile-approved adjective is “mineraly”).

From Lamb to Plate

16 Sep

Last weekend I had friends over for a nice dinner: a delicious whole leg of lamb (from a local farm, slaughtered and butchered by a friend just a few days before), a salad of wild arugula + homemade ricotta + roasted yellow nectarines, roasted eggplant with dry-farmed tomatoes and preserved lemon, and a platter of five kinds of figs. This is the story of the food:

The lamb was from Amador Grazers (all grass fed, no antibiotics or growth hormones). If you’re not squeamish about such things, you can see a photo of my friend slaughtering and butchering it here.

I made an herb paste of rosemary, thyme, black pepper, sea salt, and about a head of crushed garlic, and rubbed it on every surface of the leg:

I let it sit for a little under an hour while I preheated the oven to “425″ (which in my oven is 350). I put the leg in and roasted it for about 90 minutes, occasionally checking the temperature. When the inside of the thickest part hit 130 (and the thinner areas were at 135), I took it out and let it rest half an hour before carving. It was absolutely delicious– moist and so flavorful. I probably could have even gone more rare:

While the lamb was resting I improvised a sauce: I deglazed lamb fat and crunchy bits from the pan by adding some red wine and briefly boiling, then tossed in four diced up really soft figs and some mint and simmered it for about 10 minutes to reduce it into a sweet, rich sauce.

Earlier, we’d made ricotta (milk, cream, salt, lemon juice — I’ve made it before), which went well with the especially spicy wild arugula and some yellow peaches I’d roasted in the oven while the lamb was resting:

For dessert, a platter of figs, every variety I could find at the farmers’ market. Clockwise from the right: Black Mission figs (the common ones), Brown Turkish Figs, green Kadota Figs (my favorite: with an especially jammy pink center), a small black fig whose name I don’t remember, and Candy Stripe figs.

A good evening and good company.

p.s. If you’re curious how one transports a raw eight-pound leg of lamb on ice for an hour and a half without a car, here’s the answer:

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