Because after a Certain Age, the flavor packet Just Doesn't FlY
You know you're a grown up when making ramen at home means getting out the pots and pans, as opposed to tearing open a flavor packet and sheepishly turning on the microwave. (At least you think you're a grown up. The reality is, you're probably still sucking down a bowl of this rich, pork-y goodness around 2:00am, after a late night out that may or may not have involved some paint-peeling karaoke and unnaturally bright cocktails, somewhere in the depths of Little Tokyo. Just me? Man, I hope not.
If the only ramen you've ever had came in a yellow and orange plastic packet with a side of roommates, shower shoes and questionable judgement, it's time to put down the Maruchan and experience the real deal.
The good stuff is unctuous and murky. It's packed full of salty and rich pork fat and often lent an unmistakable umami by fermented miso paste and the silkiness that only a runny egg yolk can produce. It's heaving with yellow-tinted, alkaline wheat noodles that hold up firmly in the broth and have a distinct chew that can't be beat. Topped with everything from pork belly and bok choy to soft-boiled eggs and seaweed, a bowl of ramen is a veritable blank canvas made vibrant by the call of your cravings. Ramen is what you want when you've had a soul-sucking week, a big night out or too many kale salads in a row.
Have I made ramen the hard way? Yes. I have roasted bones and slow cooked pork and spent the better part of three days cooking one dish. Was it worth it? Yes. Is that going to happen any time soon? No. With three jobs and the dream of some semblance of a social life, I'm not sure that slow-cooking pork solo in my kitchen with a glass of wine for three days, is a responsible use of my time.
While you'll never find me ripping open something with the words 'chicken flavor' stamped across it, I do recognize that there's a happy medium to be found. Homemade, but made quickly.
Makes about 4 servings
Place your mushrooms in a bowl and cover them with a cup of boiling water. Let them reconstitute.
Meanwhile, in a large pot, melt the coconut oil over medium heat and add the pork. With the back of a wooden spoon, break up the pork and cook it until it is no longer pink - about 3 minutes, then add half the sliced scallions and season it with salt and pepper. (Remember, miso is a bit salty, so keep that in mind when adding salt here.) Cook for a further minute.
Add the miso paste to the pork and mix to combine. Then, add the broth, soy sauce and Sriracha. Strain the mushrooms from the water, and pour the mushroom infused water into the soup, reserving the mushrooms as a topping. Bring the mixture to a simmer, and cook for about 10 minutes. During the last 3 minutes, add the bok choy.
While the soup is simmering, cook your noodles according to the instructions on the packet and soft boil your eggs. (For a perfect soft boiled egg, I gently submerge mine into moderately boiling water and cook them for 6 minutes, then dunk them in ice water to stop the cooking, before I peel them.)
Divide the noodles among your bowls, and add the broth with the pork and bok choy. Top your ramen with the mushrooms, grated carrots, remaining scallions, and halved, soft-boiled eggs. If you're feeling spicy, throw on a little more Sriracha.
This shouldn't take you more than about half an hour to make, once you get the hang of it. That leaves you with plenty of time to rehearse your karaoke game plan, so that next time you're better prepared.
As for the ungodly hour at which you choose to consume this delicious creation, well that depends entirely on how grown-up you're really feeling.
*Miso paste can be found in Asian supermarkets and in the refrigerated portion of the international section of Whole Foods.
(Full disclosure - the noodles in the photograph are spaghetti noodles, because if I don't make a shopping list, I basically can't function properly.)
Because when your home smells like roasting garlic, rosemary and Thyme, all is right in the world
There were many things I loved about my time spent living in London - the rain (yes, the rain!), the people, and the ability to step out my front door and straight into life, to name a few. (In Los Angeles we step out our front doors and straight into permitted parking zones and streets devoid of actual human beings, and if we want life, we must seek it out and valet.) But more than anything else, what I loved about London life, was the general sense of community at the end of every day and of ritual at the end of every week.
Perhaps to the detriment of many mornings, most evenings ended with a gathering at the pub. Whether you were a hopelessly broke student, insulting the bartender by ordering a soda water and Rose's lime for a nickel (yes, 10p got you a neon green glass of diluted cordial and a look of distain), or living large on a deposit your parents made into your account that week, you'd make a pitstop at the pub on your way home, and decompress with friends after a long day of vocal exercises, learning lines and practicing the questionably useful art of fencing (#theaterstudent #mycollegeexperiencewasbetterthanyours). Your 'local' was a place not only for drinking, but somewhere you'd park yourself for a while, simply to be social. It was a place where you could always run into someone you knew between the hours of 5 and 7, if you needed to spend a couple of hours connecting in just a little too much stage makeup and character shoes.
But the highlight for me, occurred on the seventh day, following six evenings of convening over chips, vodka Slimline's and headshot contact sheets - the highlight for me was the habitual Sunday roast. Whether you spent a day padding back and forth, from the kitchen to the couch, basting, nursing and monitoring a leg of lamb, or dragged yourself down the block to the same pub you'd spent the previous evening in, and ordered a full Sunday lunch, you were sure to have a meal that had taken time and care to prepare.
Personally, I loved preparing it myself. I loved ambling down the road to the supermarket on a Sunday morning and picking up whatever large cut of meat was being offered at a reasonable price, the sides and trimmings and bottle of red to pair with them, then heading home to spend a day marinating in the fragrant air that wafted from my tiny (and I mean tiiiny) kitchen.
I'd make small slits into lamb and beef roasts, stuff them with whole garlic cloves and rosemary sprigs, bathe them in olive oil and a healthy shower of cracked pepper and salt, and slide them into my oven to blister, render and roast. Sundays were perfect. (Until I walked back into the kitchen at the end of the night, only to be reminded of the fact that I didn't have a dishwasher. Bubble, burst.)
So, in the spirit of my London days and in an effort to take full advantage of an overcast, drizzly day to match them, I decided to spend last Sunday roasting a pork shoulder. With wine-bearing company scheduled for 7:30 and nothing else on the roster, I seized the opportunity to languish in the smell of roasting garlic, rosemary, thyme and pork while soaking potatoes and binging on the third season of Netflix's The Fall. Sunday was perfect.
For three and a half hours, my apartment smelled like actual heaven, and for the next three days, I'll have leftovers to remind me of it.
Tender, rich and incredibly flavorful, this pork roast is everything you need to end your week on a positive note. Throw in some crispy roasted potatoes, shaved brussel sprouts and a vibrant chimichurri sauce, and your place will beat any pub in town - hands down.
Set your oven to 275*F.
In a food processor or blender, combine the herbs, fennel seeds, garlic, chili flakes, salt, pepper and olive oil and blend until combined and a spreadable paste is achieved.
Pat your pork shoulder dry with a paper towel, and spread the paste all over the meat. Make sure you get into all the little crevices and cover the entire cut. This will create a beautiful crust and flavor the meat wonderfully.
Using butcher twine, tie the roast, so that it cooks evenly. You can YouTube a video on how to do this! Just type in 'how to tie a roast' and you'll be a pro in no time.
Place your roast, fatty side up. (In case that's not obvious, it's the smooth side of the roast, not the side the bone was removed from), in a roasting dish, greased with a little olive oil. Place the dish in the center of the oven and set your timer for three and a half hours. Walk away.
You'll want the temperature of your meat to read about 145/150*F when it comes out of the oven (use a meat thermometer), and then let it rest. Don't cook it past this temperature, as it will continue to cook an extra ten degrees or so, while resting. I let mine sit on the counter, covered in foil and a tea towel, for about 30 minutes.
Then slice this baby up and serve it with a little homemade (or store-bought) chimichurri sauce and your favorite sides. De-lish.
(You'll be happy to know that it's equally amazing the following day, sliced and served up on a sandwich!)
I try to get back to London as often as I can, but it's nice to know that I can recreate a sense of it right here in my own California kitchen. Trying to get a nostalgic neon soda and lime in a city of all-organic, farm-fresh, pressed-juice wholesomeness though, well that's another story.