Ramen for Kate

I am not certain it is possible to make authentic ramen in an apartment kitchen and in a short amount of time, but our family loves this recipe (whether it is truly authentic or not) which mixes techniques from a number of cooks (David Chang, Food Lab, and others) to make a pretty wonderful weeknight meal.  If you want to make it more special–and you have a few hours to let pork belly very slowly braise–it makes a great centerpiece to the dish and raises the elegance level dramatically (braised pork belly recipe follows). This recipe serves two, but can easily be doubled or tripled.


32 oz. low- or no-salt chicken broth (the better the quality, the better the dish-Whole foods makes a very good stock)

1 slice of thick cut bacon or 2 thin cut slices, cut across into squares

one inch square of pacific kombu (optional-but available at Whole Foods as well as at Asian groceries)

½ inch slice or two pieces of dried ginger

one carrot, sliced into the thinnest strips (think matchsticks) that you can

handful of pea pods, trimmed of tough ends and strings

4-5 shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced across the cap

2 scallions sliced into rounds using the white and very light green–save the scallion ends for the broth

2 eggs (you might want to make 3 in case one explodes during cooking)

soy sauce


vegetable oil

1/2 package of Japanese curly noodles

cooked meat of your choice (pieces of chicken, slices of cooked pork or beef, even shrimp could work)


1.  To make the eggs, place them in a pot of just boiling water (they can come straight from the fridge or can sit on the counter for a few minutes first) and cook keeping the water just gently bubbling for 6 1/2 minutes.    While the eggs are cooking, half fill a bowl with cold water and ice cubes.  When the eggs are done, immediately place them in the bowl of ice water until they cool.  These can be made an hour or two ahead (or even a day, but then store them in the fridge).

2.  Place the chicken stock, bacon, kombu (if using), ginger and scallion trimmings into a large stock pot.  Bring to a boil and cook for 15-20 minutes, until the bacon has rendered its fat and become limp.  Strain out the bacon, kombu, ginger and scallion ends.  Add soy sauce to taste (but remember more will be added at the table).

3.  In a fry pan, heat 1 T. of vegetable oil over medium heat until hot and add the shiitake mushrooms along with a tablespoon or so of mirin.  Cook until the mushrooms are just beginning to brown and the mirin has evaporated and coated the mushroom slices.

4.  While the mushrooms are cooking place the pea pods in a container of very hot water to soften a bit, then drain.

5.  Bring a pot of water to a boil for the noodles.

6.  Carefully peel the eggs and set them aside.

7.  Reheat the broth, if needed.

8.  Place the 1/2 package of noodles into the boiling water and separate them using a fork or chopsticks.  Cook for approximately 3 minutes, then drain.

9.  To assemble the ramen, place the noodles in the bottom of a bowl and ladel the hot broth over the noodles.  Top with the carrots, pea pods, scallions, and meat.  Hold an egg in your hand and carefully slice in half and immediately transfer to bowl.

10.  Add more soy sauce at the table.

Polenta – soft or crispy

For someone who grew up thinking mashed potatoes were the epitome of comfort food, polenta has been a real revelation–the range of textures and the depth of flavor make it one of my favorite starches to put under ragus or to serve on the side with grilled meats.


4 cups chicken stock (no or low-salt) or water

1 cup water (to be added to stock or water for a total of 5 cups)

1 cup polenta (not instant)

salt to taste (use 2t if only liquid is water, less if main liquid is chicken stock that has salt)

¼ cup grated parmegian reggiano

1 T. unsalted butter


  1.  Bring the 5 cups of chicken stock/ water to a boil in a large pot or pan.
  2.  Slowly add the polenta, stirring all the while with a whisk or wooden spoon to prevent lumps.
  3.  Reduce heat to low and continue stirring until polenta thickens (about 5 minutes).
  4.  With heat on lowest setting, continue cooking, stirring every few minutes so the polenta doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan, for 20-30 minutes or until all the grains are cooked and soft. If it becomes too stiff and dry, add a little more water.
  5.  Add the parmegian reggiano and, once it is fully incorporated, taste for and correct salt.
  6.  Stir in the butter.

Polenta can be served as is (soft) with a topping of tomato sauce, shredded meat, sautéed vegetables, or even just more parmegian cheese.  It can also be spooned onto a foil-covered or greased flat pan (like a cookie sheet) and cooled.  It can then be cut into pieces and sautéed until browned in either olive oil or butter or (carefully) grilled.