Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Instant Ramen Redux

This past weekend was gorgeous in the Bay Area. Sunny, clear skies and temperatures creeping up to 70 on Saturday. (yes, 70 is now considered warm to us) Indian Summer was not a myth in the Bay! 
Then Monday, we were rudely awakened to pouring rain.
Today and yesterday are hot enough to warrant shorts and sandals.
To say the weather has been unpredictable would be an understatement. 
The only way to deal is enjoy every sunny moment out, in the sun and for the rainy days there's always ramen!
DH's sis, Casey and her bf, Dim recently gave us a much coveted copy of Lucky Peach, the new quarterly by restaurateur, David Chang. The first issue was dedicated in large part to ramen, a specialty of Mr. Chang. One of the more interesting articles featured 5 completely alternative executions of instant ramen. The four of us were intrigued and agreed to cook the recipes one night for a dinner experiment. 
Monday's rainy weather seemed an appropriate time to host the ramen redux night.
Casey took on the 'instant ramen cacio e pepe' and the 'instant ramen fideos' while I tackled the 'instant ramen gnocchi' and the 'ramen crusted skate'. 

The fifth recipe didn't technically use the instant ramen but the flavor seasoning packet for an instant dip recipe. This was by far the easiest of the five and surprisingly easiest of the 5 and will certainly come in handy for impromptu guests and gatherings.

Next up, the 'instant ramen cacio e pepe'. Cacio e pepe is one of my favorite traditional Roman pasta dishes and holds a soft spot for both DH and me. Casey did a wonderful job with this re-interpretation, perfectly integrating the Pecorino Romano into the instant ramen so as to avoid chunks of melted cheese. As it were, this would turn out to be the most successful, delicious dish of the evening.

Along with the cacio e pepe, we had the 'ramen crusted skate with sauteed bibb lettuce' for first course. This was the simplest of the ramen recipes and in theory could have been the most delicious but skate as the fish of choice would render that impossible. Have you ever cooked with skate?? DH and I had not and so perhaps we didn't know what to ask for but the cuts we got were riddled with cartilage and had very little actual fish meat. For my time, skate was the most misguided choice in the series. Rock cod or halibut or tilapia all would have been worlds better.

'Instant ramen gnocchi Parisienne' and 'Instant ramen fideos' would provide the second course. The gnocchi recipe featured arguably the most innovative re-interpretation, creating a pate a choux with hot milk and ramen. The recipe suggests the pate only needs a 1/2 hour or so in the fridge to set but at least a couple hours if not overnight would greatly improve the texture. Also, don't be afraid to salt the water. The finished gnocchi came out on the bland side.

For the 'fideos', clams and mussels (and chorizo for the meat-eaters) are mixed in with the instant ramen in a shallow pan with minimal liquid to create a delicious, well-balanced, Spanish-inspired ramen. The absence of chorizo was stark but there is always soyrizo for the veggies and def would have imparted at least some those fabulous, Spanish flavors.

These recipes are all interesting in their own right but definitely need some tweaking and perfecting. All in all it made for a very interesting, filling evening.

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