Sunday, January 07, 2007
Writing and researching for the post about Momofuku Ando's death, it's obvious my thoughts turned to noodles. It's fitting and expected, and I was sure I could work through it, finish the post, then go make some oatmeal for breakfast.
But it kept nagging me. Louder and louder. Finally, I realized I couldn't brush it off. I needed noodles. Reluctant to step into a restaurant yet again, I took matters into my own hands. Using what I had in the house, supplemented by a couple fresh vegetables I sneaked across the street for (the first 80-cent receipt in the history of Whole Foods, I bet), I put together a bowl of ramen that, while not entirely authentic, more than satisfied the need for rich salty broth and noodles.
Purists would roll their eyes at the concoction, but I managed to approach the rich, complex broth, traditionally reached through long simmers of pork meat and bones, using an unorthodox combination of chicken breast, a touch of corn starch, and a poached egg. Not exactly an innovation of Momofuku proportions, but on this blustering winter day in Los Angeles (it's 70 degrees right now), it hit the spot.
The boneless skinless chicken breast was a martyr to the broth -- after it imparted its flavor and whatever richness it could muster, it was thoroughly spent: too dry to eat. But it was a worthy sacrifice. If you have chicken bones or skin, or a fattier cut, you'll end up with a richer broth.
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
3-4 1/2 inch slices boneless, skinless chicken breast (about one-third of one breast; see note above)
1 shiitake mushroom, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 package instant miso soup (I used Mishima red miso soup)
pinch ground ginger
crushed red pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon soy sauce
about 1/2 teaspoon corn starch
a one-inch-diameter bunch of long skinny noodles (ramen would be ideal, I won't tell if you use somen or soba or even angel hair!)
1 small handful spinach leaves
nori to garnish, optional
In a small pot, heat sesame oil over medium heat. Add garlic, stir to spread oil across bottom of pot. Lay chicken pieces down in pot in a single layer. After about a minute, add 2 cups water and stir, lifting chicken pieces off the bottom of the pot. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add mushroom slices, miso soup mix, ginger, pepper, and soy sauce. Stir, increase heat to return to a boil, then reduce to a simmer again. Sprinkle half of cornstarch into broth and stir through. Repeat with second half. Continue to simmer broth, stirring occasionally while preparing noodles -- the longer it sits, the better.
Meanwhile, bring 4 cups water to a boil in a medium pot. Add noodles, and boil about 2 minutes less than the package instructions dictate (since they'll be going into hot broth). When they are done cooking, remove them from the water with a pasta server, slotted spoon, forks, or spider, to serving bowl. Keep water boiling over heat.
Poach egg in the noodle water: stir water in a circular motion to create a little vortex in the center. Crack egg into vortex. After about 1 minute use a slotted spoon to remove egg from water and place atop noodles.
Ladle broth over noodles and egg, avoiding chicken pieces. Place spinach leaves atop broth in a corner of the bowl (I know, a circle doesn't have corners, bear with me here, wiseacre), pushing down slightly to start them cooking in the broth. If you've got it, garnish with nori.