new yawk

February 13, 2012 Comments Off on new yawk

That’s my colleague, R, about to totally chow down at Momofuku.  He and I organized a field trip to New York for 80 of our design students last week.  My group has to include a new dining space in their studio project, so this was research.  And how was it?  Awesome.  And the best part was that the ramen was not in an otherworldly class than the ramen we made from their cookbook a couple of weeks ago.  OK, their pork shoulder was from Allan Benton, and ours was from the local Fareway.  That was noticeably different.  But overall definitely in the same ballpark.

The trip was a hundred miles an hour every day, as these things to.  R and I managed to go see Bob Mould one night.  We blasted up to New Haven to show students a handful of the best postwar buildings in the U.S.  And we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, walked across Manhattan, braved crowds at Fashion Week, and navigated students through the subway on a daily basis.  Even got most of them back.

So to reward ourselves, we ate like kings.  R’s person flew out.  L flew out.  And we went to Prune for dinner.  Prune’s chef, Gabrielle Hamilton, wrote a book about her upbringing and how it turned cooking into a calling for her–Blood, Bones, and Butter.  R’s wife had read it and been completely entranced, and her cooking was equally compelling–uncompromising American cuisine, definitely an “if you’re going to kill an animal, you eat ALL the animal” sort of place.  Right up our alley.  L and I split the marrow as an appetizer, and the quivering blobs of meaty deliciousness served in (long) bones were perfect.  It was kind of the platonic craft restaurant–seating for about two dozen, one service chef in the space (a lot obviously went on in the basement), and nothing mysterious about the food–everything was what you see is what you get, but done really thoughtfully.

Saturday morning L and I hit Chelsea Market for brunch.  This is foodie central–the Food Network has their offices upstairs, and the main floor is a warren of artisanal butchers, bakers, and grocers.  (I don’t know–can you call a grocer an artisinal grocer?)  That’s one of the best meals we’ve had together there–prosciutto, olive and rosemary bread, and pecorino cheese.  Oh, and coffee.  Wicked good coffee.  That kept us going for a five-mile walk up to Columbus Circle, where we showed off the Museum of Art and Design to studenti and then had drinks at the bar overlooking Central Park.  And the table next door, where Mario Battali and Isabella Rossellini were also enjoying the view.  It was Fashion Week, so their table was full of folks that we probably should have recognized–they were certainly dressed well.

The happy surprise, though, came that evening, at Balaboosta.  We’d hoped to get in to Torrisi Italian Specialties–a modern take on the classic Mulberry Street red sauce Italian–or it’s less formal sibling, Parm.  Both of those were jam-packed, though, and we had movie tickets.  Balaboosta was next door, and we saw these little darlings in the window.  Sliders.  Veal tongue sliders.  With deep-fried cauliflower.  They were as good as they looked.

So a good week.  And we made it back Sunday in time for me to pick up the kiddos for an extended 3-week stint.  We have big plans, including a slightly modest version of these guys…

ramen

January 19, 2012 Comments Off on ramen

“You’re making ramen?” O asked Saturday evening.  There had been stuff on the stove all weekend.  L was boiling a pot full of pig necks, I was roasting a pork shoulder, the house smelled amazing.

Yup.  We were making ramen.  The 48-hour Momofuku version.  A list of obscure Asian ingredients as long as your arm.  Broth that required cooking down esoteric meat bits and offal into a gelatinous goo.  O was skeptical, since to her ramen is something that takes four minutes and has no esoteric ingredients at all–unless you count the little flavor packet.

Part of the Momofuku deal is that you use everything.  If you butcher a pig and you don’t make something delicious out of everything, you’re not doing it right (and David Chang, Mr. Momofuku, has some colorful language for you).  So the ramen broth uses all kinds of meaty pig bones and boils them for hours and hours until every bit of edible protein and gelatin has been leached out.  It’s helped out by a ton of super-spicy ingredients from the top shelf of your local Asian food store, but basically it’s a time thing.  As was the pork shoulder–a simple salt and sugar dry rub of salt and sugar, then a 6-hour roast in a 250° oven.

The next day, you cook some udon noodles, spoon the reheated broth (which had turned to a meaty jello in the fridge in the interim…) over them, add some warmed up pork shoulder, and then throw in the kitchen sink.  Julienned carrots.  Hard boiled egg.  Baby corn, daikon radishes, scallions, and sesame seeds.  And nori seaweed wraps.  (OK, we didn’t even try that last one on the kiddos).

The result was sheer, unadulterated brilliance.  Spicy, salty, meaty, but with lots of veggies to crunch and noodles to slurp.  Something for every corner of the tongue, and a warm, slippery texture from all the rendered gelatin.  Add a little sriracha on top and it was just about the perfect bowl of soup.  L bought a set of giant pasta bowls just for the occasion, and they’ll see mad use.

The kids were impressed, but not totally sold.  Funnily enough, the pork shoulder was their favorite part, so it may see play elsewhere…carnitas, anyone?  But for us, the next major project is likely to move down the pig a little bit.  The legendary Momofuku pork buns, if we can figure out the zen of the puffy little wraps.

momofuku x 2

December 27, 2011 § 3 Comments

What do you get for the foodie who has everything?  Well, L and I both thought the Momofuku cookbook.  And on Christmas afternoon, we both opened our presents at the same time, and were told in no uncertain terms that this was just too freaking adorable.

We went to the Ssam Bar when we were in New York, and were instantly obsessed.  Where could we find pork belly?  And how do you make those pillowy, spongy steamed buns?  We both, a bit selfishly, decided that there needed to be a Momofuku cookbook in our collective library.

“Well,” L’s mother said, “you can take one back and get a different cookbook.”  Right.  Except which one of us was going to give theirs up?  Exactly.  We’re each keeping our copies.

I spent today in the Asian grocery stores in town–fortunately we have a sizable international population because of the University, so the amount of Squid Fish Sauce per capita stays pretty healthy.  Still, there doesn’t seem to be a bottle of Kewpie Mayonnaise to be had, nor is there any Usukuchi Soy Sauce to be found.  Clearly, the Asian grocery stores cater to the survival end of the culinary spectrum, which you’d expect given that their clientele is mostly graduate students.

Still, we have big plans to make the ramen recipe, which we figure will take a week to get all of the components assembled and cooked.  The pork buns will happen as soon as we can find a good local pork belly source.  The pig’s head torchon?  That’s a bit more adventurous, but we’re both committed to working our way up to it.  And David Chang’s introduction to this particular recipe seems to encapsulate an ethic that I think applies to chef-ery, architect-ery, and just about anything else that’s remotely craft-y:

A farm turns out a head on each beautiful, well-raised pig, but nobody’s rushing to eat it.  That’s where the cook steps in: you take it, cook it, make it delicious.  That’s the most badass way you can connect with what you cook: elevate it, honor it, lavish it with care and attention–whether you’re slicing scallions or spooning out caviar or boiling up half a pig’s head.  Turning ingredients into food, and sometimes almost literally turning a pig’s ear into a silk purse, is what cook’s do in the kitchen.

Any cookbook with that paragraph in it (OK, and a page entitled “Ghetto Sous Vide”) is worth reading cover-to-cover, I think…

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