Monday, April 5, 2010

Shroom Ramen

There are certain ingredients and flavors that we crave when we are feeling under the weather. Some of us have a thing for tomato soup and grilled cheese. Others crave tuna sandwiches. And let's face it, everyone think of chicken noodle soup first. For me, I'll take the flavors and comfort of Mushrooms and Ginger over any of these.

I know this combination can seem a little strange. Really, there’s something magical about mushrooms, any day of the week. But mixing that savory goodness with something that, when overused can be more reminiscent of medicine than food? To the ears, it just doesn’t seem right. But to the tongue and the stomach, there really isn’t anything going on here that doesn’t bring and exciting comfort, even when sick.

This recipe came about during my wife’s second pregnancy. She has had morning sickness something fierce this time, and I was trying to find some way to sneak ginger into our meals to help. She absolutely hates the flavor; especially that kick raw & candied ginger has a tendency to have. I had tried everything I could think of. Acorn squash soup with candied ginger and corn fritters, Asian slaw with a ginger sauce, and even steeping ginger into some of our more standard soup broths. Nothing was getting past her overly ginger-sensitive tongue.

Finally, I had the perfect idea one weekend. It was ramen night that night, and I myself was feeling a bit queasy after a long week. Ramen night usually entails making a Tonkotsu broth which generally takes about 5 hours. I just didn’t feel like babysitting a stock pot for that long. So I was scouring the fridge looking for inspiration when I found 2 lbs of mushrooms sitting in the back, on the verge of becoming refrigerator funk. (Yeah, I know, that’s a lot of mushrooms to forget about, but I love mushrooms.)

My first reaction was to dry these puppies out and figure out what to do with them later. Then it dawned on me, hello broth. So, I forewent (Ha, fun word.) the absurdly low 200 degree oven and cranked it up to a slightly more respectable 250. Sliced mushrooms, a warm oven, and some time to relax.

After an hour of the house smelling like heaven, I couldn’t take it anymore and decided it was time. In one pot I introduced a nub of ginger, a small onion, garlic, and a drizzle of sesame oil. In the other, I brought some salted water up to a boil to cook some previously made noodles (Yes, packaged ramen noodles will work in a pinch.)

Finally, the noodles were cooked and cooled and it was time to finish the broth. I added the mushrooms, a star anise, and a quart or so of water. Steeping only takes about 10 minutes, and it was time to eat. All it takes is some of the strained broth, a portion of the noodles, a little sliced scallion, and a drizzle of chili oil for me, and dinner was served.

Yes, fresh noodles are best, but Packaged Ramen Noodles will work in a pinch.

Mushroom Broth

2 lb Baby Bella Mushrooms*

1 small onion, diced small

1 inch nub Ginger, fine dice

2 cloves garlic, fine dice

1 star anise

3-4 cups water

½ tsp sesame oil

*Button will work, but aren’t as flavorful.


Cook your noodles in salty water, drain, and run under cold water for a minute to completely cool and stop the cooking.

1 - Prepare those fungal beauties. Rinse under cold water to remove any dirt. Slice to about ¼ - ½ inch thick. Lay them out in a single layer onto your sheet pan and bump it in to the oven…..You did remember to put some 250 degree love on that, right? Well, they only want an hour, so get back at it.

2 - While the mushrooms are going their thing, get the rest of your misen plas going. Get all your veggies chopped right. *The garlic and ginger should be chopped smaller than your onion.

3 - When you have only about 5 minutes left, use your soup pot to heat your sesame oil until it ripples. Toss ½ your onions and all your garlic in there. Don’t leave this alone! You are sautéing and it’s easy to go from sauté to burn.

4 - When the onions are starting to look kind of see through, its time to finish this broth. Pull the mushrooms from the oven and add them strait to the pot, add 3-4 cups COLD water, the ginger, and the remaining onions. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes.

5 - Now, add the star anise. Yes, really add it this late in the game. Trouble with this little spice is that, the longer you let it in the game, the more it will take over. Boil the broth for 2 minutes, and then kill the heat. Let the broth rest for 2-3 more minutes on the burner.

6 - The last step is to strain the solids out of the broth, portion over noodles that were cooked separately, and return the solids back to the pot.

Surprise surprise. If you hold on to those solids, add another 3-4 cups of water and boil for 6 minutes you have Mushroom Broth, the sequel. You know, sequels are good, but never quite as good as the originals.