Weekly Winner: A Rockin’ Riff on Ramen

For whatever reason, I’ve always been intimidated to make ramen. I’ve always felt it was a dish best left to all the fabulous ramen shops that are scattered throughout Chicago. I thought that any attempt I made would just be “faking it” and I would wind up with a poor imitation of a really good, complex soup.

The secret to ramen obviously lies in the broth. It has to be rich, unctuous and totally comforting. You simply can’t pour some store-bought broth into a bowl and add ramen noodles and call it ramen. That is, unless you are in college — I know I lived on that stuff). Luckily for me (and all of us), Food & Wine magazine has changed the ramen game for all of us. Miso Chicken Ramen is the rich-tasting, soul-satisfying, comforting soup I craved, but its super easy and comes together in just about a half hour.

Miso Chicken Ramen

Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 qt chicken stock or low-sodium broth

3 Tbsp white miso

1 Tbsp soy sauce

1/2 lb shredded cooked chicken (about 2 cups)

Ice

2 large eggs

Two 3-oz packages ramen noodles, seasoning packets discarded

Shredded carrot, thinly sliced scallion and Sriracha, for serving

Procedure:

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the stock, miso and soy sauce; bring to a boil over high heat, whisking to dissolve the miso. Add the chicken and simmer over moderate heat for 2 minutes. Keep hot over low heat.
  2. Set up a small ice bath. Fill another medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add the eggs and simmer over moderate heat for exactly 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the eggs to the ice bath to cool. Carefully peel the eggs and cut them into half lengthwise.
  3. Meanwhile, return the saucepan of water to a boil. Add the ramen and cook until just softened, about 3 minutes. Drain well and transfer to 2 large bowls. Ladle the broth and chicken over the noodles and top with the eggs. Serve with shredded carrot, thinly sliced scallion and Sriracha.
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Weekly Winner: Parcels of Porky Pasta Perfection

Who doesn’t love stuffed shells? I mean, it’s pasta….. stuffed with…stuff! Usually cheese, sometimes ground beef, but wait… pork?? Yes please!’

Pork Stuffed Shells is a surprisingly elegant-tasting dish. The pork and bechamel (or in this case, the Italian term “Balsamella” sauce combine to make a luxurious filling for your standard-issue large pasta shells. Set them on a bed of homemade roasted tomato sauce and you’re in for quite a tasty treat.

The recipe, which comes from Cuisine at Home is not difficult but it is a bit time-consuming. Worth every minute, if you ask me. Technically you certainly could use jarred tomato sauce but really, if you’ve got the time, you can definitely manage this recipe.  Besides, the garlicky, roasted tomato sauce is the perfect bed to nestle these porky parcels into before tucking them in with a nice blanket of cheese.

Pork Stuffed Shells

Serves 6 (the recipe says it serves 8, but seriously?? These things are tasty… you will eat more than three per person!)

Ingredients:

24 large pasta shells (conchiglioni)

1 cup diced onions

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp minced fresh garlic

1 lb ground pork

1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary

1/4 cup dry sherry

Salt and red pepper flakes to taste

1 recipe Balsamella (recipe below)

1 recipe Roasted Tomato Sauce, divided (recipe below)

1 cup shredded Romano

1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil

Roasted Tomato Sauce:

2-1/2 lbs Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1/2 cup chopped onion

3 cloves garlic, smashed

3 Tbsp olive oil

Salt and red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 450F. Toss tomatoes, onion, and garlic with oil; season with salt and pepper flakes. Transfer mixture to a baking dish; roast until tomatoes blister, 35-40 minutes. Puree mixture in a food processor or with a handheld blender.

Balsamella Sauce

4 Tbsp unsalted butter

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2-1/4 cups whole milk

1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

Salt & white pepper to taste

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook 1 minute. Whisk in milk and nutmeg, bring sauce to a simmer, then reduce heat to low and cook until thick, whisking occasionally, 10 minutes. Season Balsamella with salt and white pepper.

Procedure:

  • Preheat oven to 400F
  • Parboil shells in a pot of boiling salted water until pliable, 7 minutes; drain, rinse with cold water, then drain again.
  • Cook onion in oil in a skillet over medium heat until softened, 4 minutes. Add garlic; cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Add pork and rosemary; cook until browned, crushing pork with a potato masher until fine, 8-10 minutes.
  • Stir in sherry and cook until nearly evaporated, 5 minutes; season with salt and pepper flakes, let cool completely, then stir in Balsamella.
  • Spread 3 cups tomato sauce in the bottom of a 3-quart baking dish. Divide pork mixture among shells, arrange on top of sauce, cover with foil, and bake 15 minutes. Remove foil, sprinkle shells with Romano, and bake until cheese is golden, 15 minutes; let rest 5 minutes, then garnish with basil and serve with remaining 1 cup tomato sauce.