Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Noodle Bowl

Tonight it happened that I had the perfect dinner for one. I should know, I eat alone all the time and almost always enjoy it. But there was something just so singular about tonight's meal that I found myself thinking as I ate it, I want to eat this every time I eat by myself.

Tonight I made a noodle bowl. Bowl meals in general lend themselves to the cooking/eating-for-one genre. There is something cozy about a bowl. You can hold it with one hand, taking in warmth as you eat. Bowls are round and comforting. And a noodle bowl? Well, there's something exciting about getting such a variety of goodness all in one place. Noodle bowls, as their name suggests, have noodles in them. But then they have just about anything else you have on hand in them too. I was spurred on to make one tonight while looking at David Chang's wonderful cookbook Momofuku. His signature noodle bowl, Momofuku Ramen, is full of pork belly, pork shoulder, nori, scallions, fish cake, bamboo shoots, veggies, a poached egg and of course, noodles. All topped with a rich chicken/pork broth. Now, though that sounds delicious, for the average eat-alone, quick meal in, that also sounds like a lot of work.

I was aiming for something a little more...thrown together. But still delicious. What I was craving was noodles. Skinny noodles. I was craving them in broth. I was craving them with a crispy poached egg on top. What? Those of you who know me know that I rarely eat eggs. But every once in awhile I get a craving and tonight I was craving an egg I read about in Bon Appetit magazine's r.s.v.p. section and made once before. The idea is, you poach an egg. You cool the egg in an ice water bath. You roll the egg in egg whites. Then roll it in a mixture of panko, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper. And fry it in a little olive oil. The result is a soft little pillow of egg with a thin protective coating of crisp. Great little texture play going on. (If you don't make a noodle bowl, at least make yourself this egg and eat it over some wilted greens with a little soy sauce).

Anyway, I cooked some thin spaghetti and made the egg. I quick-pickled some carrots, using an extremely speedy method I read about in Momofuku--simply coat the thin slices with a mixture of salt and sugar and let sit for 10 minutes (it really works). I happened to have a little broth leftover from making Pho over the weekend, so I heat it up. This all went into a bowl, along with some cilantro and chopped green onions. That's it. So simple, and yet so much. So many things went into that bowl, and I swear it only took about 20 minutes to throw together. And the point is, you can do it your way. If you have a can of chicken broth in your cupboard, use that, and put the extra in your fridge for another use. I'm sure the quick-pickles would be even better with cucumber or radish, but I just went with what was on hand. Add some soy sauce or Sriracha. The point is to build flavor with what you have. And then eat it all by yourself.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Kitchen Rituals

In his book, The Heart of the Artichoke, David Tanis has a section of "recipes" at the beginning called "Kitchen Rituals". Each is a moment with food that would be experienced in the kitchen, alone. They range from the simple--peeling an apple--to the more complex--making chorizo. While many of us may not undertake the making of chorizo (or tripe, another of his rituals), the point is that we all have our own. We each have our little things we do when we eat alone. Though eating is traditionally a communal activity--and I love the way food and drink bring people together--sometimes food means the most in that quiet moment when eaten by yourself.

Today is New Year's Day, and though I will be eating traditional New Year's foods like hoppin' john and pork with family later today, I also needed to celebrate alone. This was my kitchen ritual, the first of 2012:
Bread dipped into olive oil w/ salt, crushed red pepper and sumac; hard Greek feta; castelvetrano olives; glass of red

Welcome to 2012, here's to a lot of good eating!

P.S.-For more on eating alone, I highly recommend Jenni Ferrari-Adler's Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant: Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone