Last night I was both honored and excited to attend a performance by a group called Bowtime. The instruments in the quintet were a piano, violin, marimba, bass and guitar which seemed a bit unusual. The sound they produced, however, brought the enthusiastic audience to their feet and high praise was abundant throughout the theater. Much of the music they performed was original, written by a former student (percussionist) of my husband, who is a retired high school band director. This young man, along with his wife (violinist), has put together this unique group of musicians and have a sound that is not only beautiful but I think fair to say, one of a kind. The outstanding talent was rivaled only by the amount of pride felt by those who have witnessed this local boy grow into the fine man he is today. I congratulate him and the other members of the group. It looked like they were having fun and they were certainly spreading the love.
While I was watching them play, I began to think how making music and culinary creations share much in common. Whether you are listening to a symphony orchestra or a bar band, it takes everyone doing their job well to produce a quality sound. When creating and developing recipes, I liken the ingredients to members of a music group. Each component plays a vital role to the success of the final product. It is all about selecting the finest quality and achieving the perfect balance. The ear knows when that is achieved as do the taste buds.
Yesterday I made such a dish. My taste buds said, perfect balance and absolute perfection. I wish I could take credit for this recipe but I must give that to one of my culinary ‘boyfriends’, Michael Symon. In addition to being a fine chef and restaurateur, he is a record holding Iron Chef, cookbook author and a celebrity on several television shows. I was watching one those said shows the other day when I witnessed Michael make an Asian-inspired chicken stock in a pressure cooker. It intrigued me that he could reduce a process that usually takes 6-8 hours down to one hour, so I had to try it. When his beautiful dark stock was finished, he proceeded to use it to make a roasted chicken ramen that looked so good I knew I had to make it. What comes to mind when you think of ramen? College cheap eats? The grocery store variety in a package with that ‘oh too salty’ flavor packet? If that is the case, it is time to step it up and discover what a steaming bowl of comfort and deliciousness ramen can be when made right. You will be blown away. Thank you Chef Symon for this fabulous recipe and tips on making stock under pressure. The above link will give you the recipe and an added bonus of a video on techniques for the stock.
The beauty of this noodle bowl is the deep flavor of the stock. The roasting of the chicken and charring of the onion give it that deep brown color and richness. The addition of the ginger, garlic, shiitaki mushrooms and kombu gave it such depth. Their individual presence was subtle but together they produced a perfect symphony. When making the ramen broth, the addition of the sesame oil, soy sauce and rice vinegar gave it complexity and that no denying, Asian flair. I will have to disagree with the chef on one thing. He said to be careful not to remove the fat but I did because it just seemed a bit too greasy for me. Good move I must say. The condiments are up to you. I used snow peas, carrots, mushrooms, bean sprouts, jalapenos and scallions. I also roasted some chicken thighs when I did the wings. I took the meat off of them (the bones went into the stock), shredded it and added it to the bottom of the bowl under the noodles. One of the highlights for us was the soft cooked egg. If soft yolks aren’t for you, you could use a hard cooked egg or no egg. This dish allows for your personal touch so don’t be afraid to bust out.
The long standing popularity of noodle houses in Japan has spread to the United States. New restaurants and food carts featuring some version (s) of this Japanese staple are popping up everywhere. Nothing could make me happier as I could easily live on noodle bowls. If you are of like mind, I urge you to get right to making this most satisfying dish. The stock can be made a couple of days in advance making the finishing so much quicker if you are pressed for time. I cannot think of a better way to spread the love, one steamy bowl of ramen at a time. Hopefully, you will agree that it is a perfectly balanced symphony. Until next time, wishing you spring flowers and sending love to you from my kitchen. May your week be peaceful. Jeanne