Momofuku: Secrets and Lies

24 Jun
Nike Fuelband

Nike FuelbandI

I am in mourning. The Nike+ fuelband which I bought in New York at the end of April seems to have given up the ghost. I have tried calling Nike twice now, but I am simply unwilling to sit on the phone for an hour waiting for them to answer and then tell me that because I live in Germany they will not be able to help me fix my little tired fuelband. The black bracelet has been at least one major source of getting my ass moving in the past two and half months on a daily basis. If I don’t make my self-set daily goal (measured with an internal accelerometer on the magic band in fictional Nike Fuel units), then I feel HORRIBLE. Guilty almost. But “Error 23 – please call us” will not go away and I am afraid we are at am impasse. I could cry. The damn thing cost me 150 bucks and it is still only sold in the US. (F***, f***, f***). Yes, I am a little drunk at the moment and therefore especially emotional.

The wake for said bracelet was celebrated with an elaborate feast (I could be Irish, no?). I grabbed the Momofuku cookbook from my stack yesterday at about noon (Long live David Chang!), and perused until I found three worthy recipes that would consume most of my weekend with shopping, planning, cooking, and then finally scarfing down hours of work in less than an hour.

The master. The Bastard. How many damn hours?

The master. The Bastard. How many damn hours?

To compensate I ran a 10k after selecting the recipes yesterday and then biked about 20 km around Munich visiting at least 7 shops collecting the ridiculous ingredients. Secret #1: even if the ingredient list looks easy, it’s JUST NOT. At least in Germany.

I didn’t cook a goddamn thing yesterday because it took, as mentioned, hours to collect most of what I needed for three dishes:

1) Cured Hamachi (Yellowtail fish) with an Edamame (soybean) and horseradish puree
2) Roasted Oyster Mushrooms with boiled pistachios, pickled radishes and pickled Jerusalem artichokes
3) Pan-fried corn with smoked bacon batons and braised onions

I picked three “small dishes” on purpose. I find it’s generally a lot more interesting to have a bunch of flavors and contrasts in a variety of  small dishes than it is to have a slab of protein, a starch, a salad and a dessert. I don’t always feel this way (read: winter), but right now that is the mood. I love seasonal ingredients that bring some variety into life.

I was perhaps most inspired by Chang’s photos in his cookbook. The various pieces of the dishes looked SO pure, strewn on a white plate, glowing unadulterated and delectable. Lie #1: it takes shit loads of work to get to this point on many of the ingredients even if it looks like nothing.

I won’t belabor the subject. Just a few photos of my efforts:

Some of the interim steps to get to finished products

Some of the interim steps to get to finished products

Truly, three recipes were required. Two would not have been enough. And the photos do not do proper justice to the shopping, chopping, braising, boiling, sauteing, and frying that went into the job. I woke up at about 8 this morning (checked email…yes…I am one of those people statistics that looks at the iphone before even putting on the glasses, squinting at the screen and hoping something interesting came in overnight, no, “buy a tractor” does not count as interesting), came downstairs, brewed the coffee and got half the ingredients out of the fridge. I knew there were at least 5 or so interim steps I needed to get out of the way before I hit the gym (Fuelband is dead, but Runkeeper remains very much alive, haunting me, haunting me). Several of the steps required an entire hour. (Boiling of the pistachios, braising of the onions) And the pickles needed to set up for at least 8-10 hours to even qualify.

I won’t belabor the description further. I hope you’re at least a little intrigued. Needless to say, I got the bulk of the work out of the way by noon. 3 hours of fun. You know I sit here and bitch, but really I enjoy it, otherwise I wouldn’t do it. The simple steps let me stand there and enter this almost meditative state of bliss. All I need to think about is some simple slice and dice, stir, heat adjustment and an occasional quick check of the cookbook. The rest of my brainpower is devoted to whatever I want it to be focused on. And yet I am simultaneously productive. It’s wonderful. Better than yoga, which requires sweat, heavy breathing, bad hair.

I finished up the gym today (5.5 k run, 40 min elliptical, 10 k bike ride, yeah, thanks for asking) around 2:30, showered and dressed and then grabbed a bubble tea (half sugar) to drink in the English garden on the way back.

English Garden Idle, Sunday afternoon

English Garden Idle, Sunday afternoon

Doesn’t that look relaxing? The plan had been to sit there an hour and get a little color but the gods decided it was not to be – clouds were out by then and I felt the weight of the recipes to come on me. And I was tired. Time for a little rest.

After an hour pause at home, the rest of the cooking ensued.

Secret #2: the professional cooks…they bury recipes in the recipes. You think you are cooking 3 recipes when in fact you are preparing a dozen. It’s just that they do something like this: Ingredient 7 in recipe number 2: “1/2 cup Ramen broth (see page 40)”, at which point you curse and turn to page 40 realizing that you have not purchased the required ingredients nor planned the 6 hours required into making HOMEMADE Ramen broth. Damn David Chang, bouillon cubes worked JUST FINE.

Long story short (because I do pity you a bit by now, as this is getting LONG), the three dishes came together. I decided on this order: #1) Hamachi (bullshit, SWORDFISH – forget Hamachi in Munich unless you are screwing a Japanese samurai or something) because of its subtle flavors and the fact that it would be served cold.

Swordfish Not Hamachi, but still good

Swordfish Not Hamachi, but still good

#2) Oyster mushrooms – a somewhat richer dish that was too complex to end with, and #3) the corn – a good foil for a Chinese tradition of serving the starch last to fill you up in case the proteins did not do the job before.

Dish 2: Roasted Oyster Mushrooms with Pistachio and Pickles

Dish 2: Roasted Oyster Mushrooms with Pistachio and Pickles

And I enjoyed all three. The mushrooms were the best and I would make them again in a second. The corn will become leftovers for the next two days in tacos paired with shrimp and hot sauce and wrapped up in a corn tortilla. The hamachi/swordfish…maybe will appear on my toast tomorrow morning with a slice of avocado.

Crowd pleaser, but boring cured fish with edamame slick

Crowd pleaser, but boring cured fish with edamame slick

Elegant (and best dish) Oyster Mushrooms

Elegant (and best dish) Oyster Mushrooms

"Fill-er-up Corn, roasted onions, bacon batons"

“Fill-er-up Corn, roasted onions, bacon batons”


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