Happiness is…Breakfast Udon Noodles

It's easy to turn leftover udon or ramen into Breakfast Noodles.

I tend to eat things in phases. One week, I’m totally into salty foods like potato chips or popcorn. The next week it might be dark and sweet French hot chocolate or salted caramel ice cream.

This week, probably because I’ve been super busy, I’ve gotten into building meals around poached eggs. Eggs are such a lovely and complete food, a quick way to get protein and get on with the day.

And I think eggs are just beautiful, especially if you can get ones from a farmer’s market or a friend who has chickens. The yolks on those are such a fantastic shade of marigold orange, like the label on a bottle of Veuve Clicquot. But even grocery store eggs are pretty, with their cheerful yellow yolks surrounded by soft, chalk-colored whites.

To make my Breakfast Udon NoodlesI started with a reheated bowl of leftover plain udon and broth from Geta, my super-cute neighborhood Japanese restaurant. I ate half of them last night and of course when all the toppings were gone, I sort of lost interest.

My favorite Japanese noodles are topped with pork belly a la Momofuku or Daikokuya Ramen in LA. Since I didn’t have a slab of that lying around, I cut up a piece of thick-cut bacon and tried to cook it slowly, so it stayed tender.

Poach an egg by adding 1 inch of water to a shallow pot or frying pan with a light bottom. Turn it on high, and once it starts to simmer, but not quite boil, add a splash of vinegar. This keeps the egg yolk from spreading all over. Now carefully drop in the egg. It will start turning white as it cooks from the edges to the middle. Spoon a little water over the top of the egg, and use the spoon to move the egg around a bit, so it releases from the pan. When most of the white is set, it’s done.

I topped my noodles with the bacon and poached egg, along with some chopped green onions and a few shakes of shichimi togarashi, a Japanese seven-spice powder.

It’s brothy, spicy, bacon & eggy and easy: I’m happy.

Think Pink: Delicious & Easy Valentine’s Day Food & Drinks


Whether you’ve got a big Valentine’s dinner planned or not, I think it’s nice to be able to start your celebration at home. So I put together a gallery with some of my favorite, easy-to-make pink foods and drinks for Valentine’s Day. The post is co-hosted with my cocktails and entertaining website, The Bubbly Girl, where many of these recipes were featured.

Visit the recipes section at The Bubbly Girl for the Kismet Cocktail, Raspberry Royale cocktail, the Chocolate Corks which is fudgy and moist since it starts with a yeast based chocolate dough.

You could pick up ingredients for most of these recipes at Trader Joe’s, along with the super-affordable Blason Cremant de Bourgogne Brut Rosé. The red Italian sparkler Brachetto d’Acqui is usually at BevMo or a larger liquor stores with a decent wine department.

To make the Jack Rose cocktail, add 1 ounce Pama pomegranate liqueur, two ounces applejack (or Calvados if you can’t find it) and the juice of half a lime to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake it until your hands are really cold, then strain it into a smallish martini glass.

Cheers!

The Sushification of America & The Best Sauce in the World, According to Ruth Reichl

Ruth Reichl - the former Gourmet editor - here with Masaharu Morimoto - spoke to the ways Japan has influenced American cuisine. Photo Courtesy NY Daily News

First thing Saturday morning, I drove up to the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone to catch the last day of the Worlds of Flavor Japan Conference. Ruth Reichl was just one of the bold letter names in food in St. Helena Nov. 4 -6. The foodie glitterati also included Thomas Keller of The French Laundry, David Chang of Momofuku, Doug Keane of Cyrus, Masaharu Morimoto of Iron Chef and newish Morimoto Napa and three of the seven Michelin three-star chefs in Kyoto.

Saturday afternoon, Reichl took the stage to reflect on the ways Japanese flavors have influenced American cuisine. She says that for years, Americans pretty much had no concept of what real Japanese food was about – the devotion to seasonal ingredients and achieving an exquisite balance of flavors and textures.

A rare and accurate early account of a trip to a Japanese restaurant was written in 1914 by Clarence Edgar Edwords in his book called Bohemian San Francisco. He describes eating raw fish and enjoying it and even mastering the use of chopsticks.

Up until the 70s, much of the food writing about Japanese cuisine focused on sukiyaki, a winter dish of beef, vegetables and noodles. And Reichl herself caught hell in 1983 for doing her first New York Times food review on a soba noodle place – and giving it three stars. “Never mind that it was an excellent soba noodle parlor,” Reichl added sotto voce.

While other ethnic cuisines took hold because of immigration, that didn’t happen with Japanese foods. Part of the problem is that there wasn’t a good supply of fresh fish needed to make Japanese cuisine in the U.S. But Reichl says things started to change after the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976 that made it profitable for fishermen to invest in boats that could freeze fish at sea and deliver sushi-grade seafood to market. (It also set up many fish populations for over-fishing.)

Sushi restaurants started to open on the West Coast and high-end restaurants of all types started serving raw fish carpaccio, crudo and tartare. Now sushi is found in any supermarket. Reichl thinks the generation who grew up on grab-and-go industrial sushi is now creating the nation’s street food culture. “The sushification of America is now complete,” Reichl said.

We’ve started to get our heads – and mouths – around concepts like umami. But the next frontier in food is texture – and the Japanese know there’s more to it than crunchy. Reichl mused that maybe one day Americans will develop an appreciation for slippery – the texture one finds in natto, okra and yamaimo – the misunderstood mountain potato.

This simple combination of soy butter and lime is a great sauce for seafood or poultry and can be dressed up by adding ginger, garlic or even chipotle chile.

During an interview Reichl did with some years ago with David Bouley, Eric Ripert and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, they all revealed that visiting Japan had the most profound influence on the way they cooked. They gained a greater appreciation for presenting seasonal fare from kaiseki ryori. But they all realized too how sublime simple combinations can be. J-G dubbed soy, butter and lime to be the best sauce in the world and the other chefs agreed.

Here’s how to make it at home: for every tablespoon of butter, mix in 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce over a low-medium flame. When the butter is melted, whisk in one teaspoon of fresh lime juice. The sauce will be a gorgeous caramel color and tastes delicious over seafood or poultry. Once you have the ratio down, it can easily be varied by adding small amounts of fresh ginger root, minced garlic or even chipotle chiles.

Salted Butter Caramel…Mmmm!

A tiny pool of Gale Gand's Salted Butter Caramel graced this chocolate pot de cremé.

Is there anything better than salted butter caramel?

I think not. I mean who doesn’t like the taste of sugar? But it’s even better with a bit of saltiness to make you want – no need – to take another bite. That’s why it’s so hard to put down that bag of kettle corn from the farmer’s market. Or why the addictive caramel and cheese corn mix first served at Garrett’s Popcorn in Chicago is widely imitated.

Salted caramel is usually associated with Brittany in France, where it’s called caramel au beurre salé. The style is said to have been created in the 1970s by a chocolatier and caramélier named Henri Le Roux. He added some of the region’s famous grey sea salt – aka fleur de sel de Guerande – to his pot of caramel. I have tasted Le Roux’s salted caramels – which come in an assorted box with flavors like caramelized apple tatin, bitter chocolate and orange ginger – and they were worth every penny.

For some reason, I was slightly intimidated by the thought of making salted caramel at home. But Gale Gand, the Chicago pastry chef, made it look so easy when she was the special guest at the Sweet Sundays breakfast earlier this week at Epcot Food & Wine Festival at Walt Disney World.

I picked up a good tip: Gale dropped little spots of caramel on a white plate to judge whether it was dark enough. In just a few minutes it went from pale gold to deep maple, so it doesn’t take long.

She served it atop a Chocolate Pot de Cremé with a Black Pepper Whipped Cream, but I can imagine lots of other ways to enjoy it.

Her recipe is so simple it’s Tweetable.

Gale Gand’s Salted Butter Caramel
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup cream
1/4 tsp. fleur de sel

Boil the sugar and water until it gets to the desired shade of golden brown. When it’s there, let it cool a bit. Whisk in the cream until it’s fully incorporated and then add the salt. Voila!

Crab, Chanterelles and Ned Ludd in Portland

Chef Jason French scored with Dungeness crab and Oregon chanterelle mushrooms over grilled artisan bread.

This past weekend, I flew up to Sandy, Oregon – a little town 30 minutes outside Portland – for my friend Isabel Cruz’ 50th birthday celebration. Isabel and her husband Bill Tosheff recently purchased a 60-acre farm, which was the setting for the birthday bash.

One of the many surprises of the weekend was meeting Jason French, the chef from the popular Portland restaurant called Ned Ludd. At first I thought it was an unfortunate name for a restaurant. But it took on an awkward elegance when I figured out that Ludd was short for Luddite. At Ned Ludd they cook everything over wood fires, and that’s exactly what French did for the party.

Ned Ludd Chef Jason French - with cool culinary tatts - gets love from Isabel Cruz and Bill Tosheff.

The first course was Dungeness crab and local chanterelle mushrooms over grilled rustic bread, and it turned out to be my favorite dish of the night. French drizzled the brown bread with Spanish arbequina olive oil and squeezed on some fresh lemon to heighten the flavors. I think I’ll be making my own version this weekend.