December 23, 2013

Things Learned, 2013 Version

As we wrap up another year, some refection on the food and drink-related things I've learned in 2013:
I'm fortunate to live in Decatur, with new and interesting restaurants making us a destination locale for great eats and drinks. Paper Plane, Kimball House, and Chai Pani were all welcome additions to the neighborhood this year.
I really like visiting Charleston, SC. Three trips in 2013 and I'm looking forward to going back. Great food town. Next time, I'm visiting Westbrook Brewing, the one visit I've yet to make.
I also made my first trip ever to New Orleans this year. When you live in the south and say that people look you at you sideways. Seems everyone down here has spend time there. I loved it and look forward to returning in February next year. Some really outstanding food and culture.
I rediscovered craft beer in 2013. I drank less wine in 2013. Part of it was driven by financial realities, part by the fact that I rediscovered beer. Some great beers in 2013.
Some of my favorite new cookbooks from 2013. From these books I've learned I still have a lot to learn.

Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention things learned from dinners shared with friends where food and wine tend be the topics of choice. More than once this year I drank better than I should, and for that, and the generosity of friends, I am thankful. Onward...

December 14, 2013

Totally Awesome Randomness

Some older pics from last few week including this Thanksgiving turducken from the Cajun Meet Company in Marietta. Great cajun shop that is a new find to me. A long drive from Decatur, but worth a trip once in a while to stock up on all kinds of cajun food stuffs.

Turducken cut open.
Recently had an opportunity to try some great beers from the Maine Beer Company. Great beers! These are only available in Maine and around the northeast, so it pays off to have family in CT who can source these fine beers. According to the brewery: "Freshness is key with our beer. We produce hoppy american style ales. Hops do not like age.  So, please do not age them." Heeding their advice, I drank mine quickly. So good. 
Stopped by Pho Dai Loi 2 a few weeks back for some tasty brisket and tendon pho on a cold, rainy Friday. This stuff rocks. 'Nuff said.
The San Gennaro from Antico. I hadn't had an Antico pie in a long time. They didn't miss me. This SG great, as usual. pie made this week using the skillet-broiler method from Kenji at the Food Lab. My favorite way to crank out Neapolitan-style pizza at home in a traditional oven.

December 8, 2013

Home Cooking: Ivan Ramen

It's been a while, but I'm back...I recently spent some time with Ivan Orkin's new cookbook, Ivan Ramen. I've become increasingly interested with ramen in the past couple of years and Ivan's book is an homage to all things ramen. More than just a cookbook about ramen cookery, Orkin's book is also a fascinating memoir full of tragedy and triumph and his quest for great ramen.
Let's get on with the ramen making. I spent several days making the various components to Orkin's ramen. You could probably knock it out in one long day, but it just made sense to me to tackle each component separately. In fact, in the book, Orkin divides the master ramen recipe into eight separate recipes that all come together in the end for the bowl of ramen.Toasted bonito flakes for the katsuobushi salt which is used as one of the flavorings in the early steps that lead to the completed bowl of ramen.
Shio tare with sofrito pictured above with the salt and pork and chicken fat that hit the bowl first. Orkin adds sofrito of onion, garlic, and ginger to provide a unique depth of flavor to the tare.
The dashi is seasoned with konbu, dried mackerel, dried squid, dried sardines, and more bonito. Definitely produces a "fishier" ramen than the pork-based stuff I'm used to. Fishier, in a good way. Trust me.
Orkin's chicken stock is just that. A whole chicken, simmered in water at around 175 degrees for five hours. No vegetables, herbs, or other seasonings needed. Just a chicken cooked in water that produces a pure stock that tastes like the essence of chicken.
I did not make my own noodles. Sorry, maybe next time, but these noodles at Buford Highway Farmer's Market were so tasty that I don't think I'll ever kill myself making ramen noodles.
The ramen prep area: Each item above gets added to your bowl just before serving. A couple ounces of pork fat, then chicken fat, a little katsuobushi salt, a spoonful of sofrito, a little tare, then dashi and stock, partially soft-boiled egg, pork belly, and green onion threads.
The finished product: It was a tasty bowl of ramen. Well worth the effort and something I will make again with regularity. It is a "fishier" broth than I was used to having had and made mostly pork-based ramen in the past. The various dried fish added to the dashi really provide a taste of the sea that adds to the complexity of the dish. The pork and chicken fat added in step one are key as well. A tasty bowl of homemade ramen on a cold December night makes for a good evening. Cheers.