Slow Food Dinner Party

Slow Food Dinner Party

I think I’ve mentioned that after watching several docu-series “Cooked” and “Chef’s Table” to name a few, I am a little obsessed with cooking all my food from scratch.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m as guilty as anyone stopping by the prepared foods section at Alfalfa’s or Chipotle every now and then, but I’ve made a promise to myself that I’ll cook/bake something new each week.  I’m trying to get away from my lazy cheese and cracker dinners I eat so often.

Now that I’m back in the swing of life (I took some time off and hibernated for about 3 years), I wanted to have my good girlfriends over to make homemade ramen.  First, I was scared to do this endeavor alone and second, what better excuse to get friends together and drink wine all day while we cook good food?  Sounds like a win-win-win to me!

What gave me the inspiration was not only my love for ramen but also the pictures and recipe for homemade ramen in the cookbook Feed Zone Table by Biju Thomas and Allen Lim.  These guys started Skratch the natural electrolyte mix and have a few other cookbooks that I’ve made many meals and whole food ride and run snacks from.

In my normal fashion I got obsessed with finding just the right recipes and then in the end I took a bunch of recipes and adjusted them to make them my own.  I purchased a few other ramen cookbooks and then headed to our local Asian market.  I purchased legit ramen bowls, soup spoons and a few other items necessary for ramen making.

The Broth

I was a little intimidated to make my own broth because I’m a little queasy when it comes to raw poultry or fresh pork bones.  I also didn’t want a recipe that would totally freak me out and include chicken feet (there are several authentic recipes out there!).  I also needed to purchase a large stock pot — the one I ended up purchasing at Target was 16 quarts.

I chose to start my broth with the traditional Kombu seaweed and bonito flakes (these are easily found at Whole Foods Market).  I then boiled a whole chicken for a few hours.  I wasn’t sure what to do with the chicken after boiling it for two hours — I felt like that was too long of a time for the meat to be any good so I just threw out the whole thing.  I then added fresh pork bones, my back up was going to be beef bones if I couldn’t find pork bones.  I ended up special ordering pork bones from Whole Foods Market, they looked pretty gruesome in the packaging.  I kept the bones in a paper bag until I needed them, then didn’t dwell on the bones long and threw them into the pot as quickly and I could and closed the lid.  I let these bones boil with onions, random root vegetables and a variety of mushrooms (morel & baby bella) for quite a few hours.  Most people will boil these overnight, but I had started my broth at 10am so by 6:30p it was done.

If you are going to make your own stock, I would invest in one of those fat separators, this will help you separate the fat from the broth.

After several hours of boiling, The resulting broth had a delicious complexity and great flavor.  It did need some salt once we added it to our noodles, or you can make a shoyu base (basically a shoyu sauce mixed with miring and sugar) to add salt into your ramen and to add another layer of umami or flavor.  We didn’t make the shoyu base and just added straight shoyu to our broth and it was just as delicious.  I ended up with about 5 quarts of broth after 6 of us enjoyed a steaming hot bowl of ramen.  I ended up freezing a few quarts to save them for later.

The Noodles

img_0887Probably more intimidating then the broth is making fresh ramen noodles.  Once we got started, this was actually the easiest and most fun part of the night.  There are only three ingredients to the noodles, bread flour (you want a high gluten flower, sorry to all those that shun gluten), potassium carbonate, and water.

Potassium carbonate is what gives ramen noodles their distinctive color and flavor.  You can evidently make your own by baking baking soda, but I found a bottle easily at my asian market.  It’s usually near the soy sauces and looks like water in a bottle.  It’s evidently high alkaline and will turn your flour mixture yellow as soon as it’s added.  You only need 1-2 teaspoons for 4 cups of flour.

Living in Colorado, it’s been super dry here for many months and I needed to add more than a cup of water for 4 cups of bread flour.  I just added a tiny bit of water until the dough barely held together.  We mixed the dough in my Kitchenaid stand mixer using the dough hook.  Then we made flat discs and wrapped the dough in plastic wrap and let the dough rest in the refrigerator for a few hours.

Once we were ready to make noodles, we cut the dough into about 4-5 pieces and started feeding them through our pasta makers. img_0889I have the Kitchenaid mixer attachments and one of my friends brought a hand crank pasta maker.  Both were super easy to use and we used the spaghetti cutter to make perfect noodles.  We used potato starch on the noodles to keep them from sticking to each other.

These fresh noodles only take about 30 seconds to cook in boiling water, and the result is the most amazing ramen noodle you’ve ever eaten!  You will never eat those little rectangular packages ever again after enjoying your own fresh noodles.

The Toppings

The third most important element of ramen is the toppings…you can basically add whatever your little heart desires.  You can go traditional or modern.  We chose a mix of both and had chopped green onions, julienned carrots, roasted broccoli, and homemade char siu pork loin we made after making the noodles.  We sliced the pork loin super thin (this is so the broth warms the pork and also makes it easy to eat with chop sticks.)

img_5905The end result was a super fun afternoon turned evening with friends with the most amazing bowls of homemade ramen we could have imagined.  The slow food dinner party was a huge success and we’ll be tackling tamales at our next dinner party.


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