Thursday, February 4, 2010
I knew my version would feature homemade dashi. And a few entertaining blog entries about foot-kneaded udon got me thinking I could make my own noodles from scratch. Then I noticed that this month's Beet 'n Squash You contest is battle mushrooms, which happens to be one of my favorite ingredients. Suddenly all of my ideas began to coalesce.
over here for further instructions.
Meanwhile, the rest of the soup was well worth making again...with frozen udon next time. Frozen udon is surprisingly high in quality, about on par with what you would get at all but the best Japanese restaurants in the U.S. (or at the airport in Japan). The homemade dashi was much better than instant hon-dashi, with a subtle ocean-y flavor that wasn't overpowered by salt or MSG. I splurged on some really nice looking kombu (kelp) and bonito (dried skipjack). The bonito came in large flakes, and looked much nicer than the tiny shavings I usually buy in individually-wrapped packs.
Homemade Dashi (inspired by Gourmet Magazine)
1 oz. kombu (broken into 4-5 inch pieces)
1 large handful (about a cup) of bonito flakes
6 cups of water
1. Heat kombu and water together until water is nearly (but not quite) at boiling point. Lower heat and simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Remove kombu.
2. Immediately drop bonito into the broth and steep for 3 minutes.
3. Strain through a fine mesh strainer and discard solids.
Mushroom Udon Soup
By poaching the mushrooms in the dashi, I wanted to infuse the dashi with the mushrooms and vice versa. The results were umami-tastic.
2 servings of udon noodles (fresh or frozen)
Assorted fresh mushrooms (I used enoki and beech, maitake for the tempura recipe below, and pickled shiitakes).
Handful of spinach, washed
1 green onion, sliced thinly
6 cups homemade dashi
Soy sauce to taste
Ichimi togarishi for serving (optional)
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
2. Season your strained dashi with about a tablespoon of soy sauce (add more or less as you prefer). Taste. If you are satisfied, add the washed mushrooms to the broth and bring to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer for about five minutes, covered. Turn heat to low and keep pot covered, so that the broth remains warm for plating.
3. Once your large pot of water is boiling, blanch your spinach and set aside. Return to a boil and cook noodles according to package instructions.
4. Drain noodles. Place a bundle in the bottom of a bowl and top with mushrooms, spinach, and a few ladlefuls of broth. Then scatter some green onion on top.
Maitake Tempura (inspired by Flavor Explosions)
I read a lot of different recipes for tempura batter, but all agreed on one point: the water must be ice cold so your batter turns out crisp, not soggy.
1 egg yolk
2 cups of ice cold sparkling water
Corn starch for dusting
4 cups of canola or grapeseed oil
1 bunch of maitake mushrooms
Sea salt to taste
1. Mix flour, water, and egg yolk together into a wet batter.
2. Clean your maitakes and dry thoroughly. You can also dust with a bit of corn starch to make them even drier. Break maitakes into smallish clumps.
3. Place oil in a medium-sized saucepan. Try and pick one that isn't too wide, so the oil is deep enough for frying (hence, deep-frying). Heat oil on high for about five minutes. You can test if the oil is ready by dropping a bit of batter into it. It should sizzle immediately. Turn the heat down slightly. Now, in batches, dredge the maitake thoroughly in the tempura batter and drop into the hot oil. Cook until crispy, turning once (about two minutes total). Do not crowd the pan, or the temperature of the oil will drop too much. I did these two at a time.
4. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate. Continue frying until all maitakes are cooked. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve (either atop your soup noodles or on their own with a squeeze of lemon).