Archives for posts with tag: shitake mushrooms

It’s been a very mild winter in Austin, but it finally got chilly Sunday and we even had some styrofoam-like snow in the afternoon. I love winter months because I like eating hearty soups, and nothing feels more comforting than having a hot bowl of soup on a cold gray winter day.

As I was scanning my pantry for ingredients that I already have, I noticed these Vidalia Onions that I’ve had for a while, and the thought popped into my head to make French Onion soup. I have never made, nor have had french onion soup, mainly because I thought a soup composed of onions must be pretty boring. My boyfriend got me a French cooking book a while ago, and the recipe looked pretty interesting. I also had a pack of fresh shitake mushrooms left over from the Vegan Enchiladas I made the other night, so I decide to adapt the recipe into a French onion and mushroom soup.

The basics of the French onion soup is to sweat thinly sliced onions in some butter or olive oil on low heat for 30-40 minutes until the onions are lightly browned. I added the mushrooms about 10 minutes into the onion cooking process, since I think mushrooms takes slightly shorter time to brown than onions.

After about 30 minutes, your onions should be translucent and very pliable, and your mushrooms should be very soft as well. Keep cooking until you see brown spots on either the onions or the mushrooms like below.

I added about 4 cups of vegetarian broth into the mushroom/onion mixture, and let that sit for about 15 minutes on medium low heat.

The recipe called for the onion mushroom soup to be pureed in a food processor, but I personally prefer being able to eat bite sized mushrooms and onions with my soup, so I only pureed half of the onion mushroom soup and mixed the whole pieces of vegetables back in afterwards. It’s important to taste, and season the soup at this point.

The finished soup is ladled into individual soup bowls or large ramekins, topped with toasted pieces of bread and sliced grueyer cheese, and popped into the oven to broil for about 5 minutes. You want to watch the cheese on top carefully because it’s easy to burn the toast and cheese.

The cheesy toast on the top of the soup actually turned out to be my favourite part of the dish, it was crunch near the surface but soft and juicy on the bottom where it soaks up the onion soup. It is definitely something I would make again. I served the onion soup with some corned beef reuben sandwichs and pared it with a fruity Pinot Noir.

The French onion mushroom soup is vegetarian by it self, and I could definitely have eaten it with some chunky hot bread and called it a meal.

The French onion soup recipe I used is from the Complete Robuchon cookbook.

If you thought the wing recipe was long, it still pales in comparison to the time and attention paid to the Momofuku Ramen Noodle Bowl. A bowl of ramen at Momofuku cost $16, and now knowing how much time and energy goes into the construction of the bowl of noodles, I’d say it’s well worth it.

Making the broth is a time consuming process, and I would suggest starting in mid morning so by dinner time, the broth should be ready. I also believe that if you chill the broth overnight, the flavors will meld together even more the next day, so starting a day or two early is never a bad idea with these recipes. There are 8 or 9 different ingredients that need to be simmered, most of them one at a time, and the entire process takes about 8 or 9 hours.

To make the broth, you start with boiling and seeping a piece of kombu, or seaweed, which lends a savory and salty flavor to the water. The kombu only needs to be seeped for about 10-15 minutes after the water boils, and is discarded afterwards.

Dried Shitake Mushrooms are simmered in the kombu broth next to lend the golden color the very distinctive mushroom flavor. You can buy dried Shitakes from Asian supermarkets and I’ve seen them sold at Central Market as well. They are a lot cheaper and has a stronger flavor than fresh Shitake mushrooms, and they keep a lot longer as well. A lot of Asian recipes will call the use of Shitake mushrooms and they are all made from re-hydrated dried Shitakes. The shitakes are taken out after 30-40 minutes in the broth, and you can use these to make pickled Shitakes to put in the Ramen bowl.

Next ingredient to get a bath in the broth is chicken, and the recipe says to use a whole 4 lb chicken, but since I was only making half the recipe for the broth, I decided to use drumsticks. You want to use chicken pieces that have bones it for the broth, and drumsticks are a cheap option. After 1 hour of simmering, the chicken drumsticks are taken out, and you can shred them and use them later in the Ramen bowl. It’s important to add water as needed to keep the chicken covered.

Once you start placing meat in the broth, you will find that natural fats and blood remnants released from the skin and the bones of the meat will rise to the surface and form scum. It’s very important to continuously de-scum the surface of the broth for any oils if you want a clean tasting broth. Like I said before, it’s a very time consuming project that needs to be babysat constantly.

While the chicken is simmering, you should start browning pork bones for the next addition. You can buy pork bones from Asian or Hispanic supermarkets and like the chicken bones, they are very cheap. I tried substituting beef bones the first time I made the broth but the taste was just off.

After the chicken is done, the browned bones and smoked bacon are placed in the broth, and here the de-scumming becomes even more important, since bone marrow and bacon both are high fat ingredients. After 45 minutes, the bacon is taken out and discarded. Then the bones are simmered for 6-7 more hours, or as long as your schedule allows, adding water as needed to keep the bones covered.

During the final hour of cooking, onions, carrots, and spring onions are added to the broth.

When the broth is finally done, discard the bones and the vegetables, and strain the broth into a large bowl for when you are ready to use. You can either refrigerate the broth or freeze the broth in freezer bags for later use. They will keep for at least 2 or 3 months. If you decide to chill the broth in the fridge, you will find that the broth may chill to a gelatin consistency the next day, which is okay. If there is a layer of congealed fat on top of the chilled broth, you want to remove that to make sure that the broth is as clear as possible.Before using the broth, you want to reheat it gently and add the Tare to season the broth. How much to add is completely a personal preference. The Tare is very salty so start small and build from there.

When reheating the broth, you may want to add a cup of water (or more) to thin out the broth a bit, and re-season with the Tare to taste. The finished broth should be a golden brown color, not cloudy. I continued to de-scum the broth until it was ready to serve.

In the ramen I had at Momofuku, there was both pork belly and pulled pork. I decided to make just pulled pork since I’m only making the ramen for two. If you do decide to make the pork belly, you can use the leftovers to make Momofuku pork buns, which is also excellent. Compared to the broth, the pulled pork is pretty easy to make. You marinate the pork in a salt and sugar rub for 6 to 24 hours, then slow braise it in the oven for 6-7 hours. I was feeling lazy this time, but next time I would considering smoking the pork shoulder. The pork can be served shredded or in slices.

The brown stuff at the bottom of the pan left over from roasting the pork, also called fond, is something you want to think about keeping. It’s basically concentrated flavor. French cooks likes to mix it with wine and broth and cook it until it’s thick for sauces or flavoring or even foundations for broth. You can use the same method I used to make the Tare and start experimenting.

For the pickled vegetables, you want to make pickled thai bird chili first if you like adding heat to the veges. These are very easy to make and will last forever if you keep them in the pickling liquid in the fridge.

The pickled Shitake and seasoned bamboo shoots both use 1 or 2 pickled Thai bird chilies. These pickled vegetables can be used in other Asian dishes like sushi/kimbap, bibimbap, etc (see my previous entry on Korean food).

The noodle I used is just fresh Chinese egg noodles you can pick up from Asian supermarkets. They take 1 minute to cook in boiling water, then I drained and ran them in cold running water to stop the cooking process. I tossed the noodles in some sesame oil and set it aside until I’m ready to serve the bowls. When you are ready to serve, place all the individual ingredients in an assembly line to add to the bowls.

After approximately 12 hours of work total, I’d say that the result was well worth it. I was also very satisfied with the way my broth came out, much better than last time.