The Momofuku Challenge

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The Momofuku ChallengeCooking Inside the Lines

As I’ve mentioned before, the Momofuku cook book has intimidated the heck out of me for quite some time. I’m not sure why, but the recipes can be lengthy and it seems a majority of them require a lot of marinating or sitting to make everything work. For someone with a new business, planning a wedding and remodeling a home with their adorable husband-t0-be – time is of the essence right? So I wasn’t sure if had time to tackle or take on lengthy recipes with a lot of steps. Yeah, wrong as usual.

I have three words for Chef Chang: God Bless You. I tried his Fried Chicken (with Octo Vinaigrette) and Ginger Scallion Noodles last week and I can’t get the flavors out of my head. No wonder his restaurants are so successful – the food haunts you. So memorable in fact that I’m trying a pork dish of his on top of, wait for it, Ginger Scallion Noodles. Love, love, love. I can’t wait to go to New York and actually visit one or four of his restaurants to try the real thing. Intimidated no more I am! What I also love about this cook book is Chef Chang’s tone, he can be brusque and drop tons of f-bombs (which is too funny in parts) but I also love his passion for cooking and his belief that his recipes will knock your socks off (they do poodles) which in turn makes you want to roll up your sleeves and let ‘er rip.

Give these a try and it will blow your mind. If I like the pork, I’ll share here too…wait, I did and it was AMAZING. Hands down, my favorite slow-roasted pork recipe ever and all you do is cover it in salt and sugar and sugar. Who knew? Recipes below pandas.

Recipes courtesy of Momofuku Cookbook, Published by Clarkson Potter, 2009

Fried Chicken (Serves 2 to 4)

  • 4 cups of lukewarm water
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of kosher salt
  • One 3-t0- 3 1/2 pound chicken, cut into 4 pieces (2 legs, 2 breast halves with wings attached)
  • 4 cups grapeseed or other neutral cooking oil
  • Octo Vinaigrette (below)

1. Combine the water, sugar, and salt in a large container with a lid or a large freezer bag, and stir until the sugar and salt dissolve. Add the chicken to the brine, cover or seal, and refrigerate for at least one hour and no more than six.

2. Set up steamer on the stove. Drain the chicken and discard the brine. Put the chicken in the steamer basket (if you are using a stacking Chinese-style bamboo steamer, put the legs in the bottom level and the breast on the top). Turn the heat to medium and set the lid of the steamer  ever so slightly ajar. Steam the chicken for 40 minutes, then remove it from the steamer and put it on a cooling rack to cool. Chill it in the refrigerator, preferably on the rack, for at least two hours or overnight.

3. Take the chicken out of the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before you fry it.

4. In a deep skillet, heat enough oil for the chicken to be submerged to 375 degrees. Fry the chicken in batches, turning once, until the skin is deep brown and crisp, six to eight minutes. Remove to a paper-towel lined plate to drain.

5. Cut the chicken into a few pieces: cut the wine from the breast, cut the breast in half, cut through the knee to separate the thigh from the drumstick. Put in a large bowl toss with the vinaigrette, and serve hot.

Octo Vinaigrette

  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chopped peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped Pickled Chiles (page 68 of the cookbook) or 1 fresh Bird’s Eye-Chile, seeded and chopped (I used the Bird’s Eye)
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup of usukuchi (light soy sauce)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Combine the garlic, ginger, chile, vinegar, soy, grapeseed oil, sesame oil, sugar, and a few turns of black pepper in a lidded container and shake well. This will keep in the fridge for 4 to 5 days, and is good on everything except ostrich eggs, which is really the ostrich’s fault than the vinaigrette’s. (love him :) ).

Ginger Scallion Noodles (A must make!)

  • 2 1/2 cups thinly sliced scallions (greens and whites; from 1 to 2 large bunches)
  • 1/2  cup finely minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/2 cup finely minced peeled fresh garlic
  • 1/4 cup grapeseed or other neutral oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons usukuchi (light soy sauce)
  • 3/4 teaspoon sherry vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste

Mix together scallions, ginger, oil, soy, vinegar, and salt in a bowl. Taste and check for salt, adding more if needed. Though it’s best aftre 15 to 20 minutes of sitting, ginger scallion sauce is good from the minute it’s stirred together up to a day or two in the fridge. Use as directed, apply as needed.

Pork Butt (MAKE THIS RIGHT NOW)

  • 1 whole 8-to-10 pound bone-in Boston Pork Butt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup plus one tablespoon kosher salt
  • 7 tablespoons light brown sugar

1. Put the pork shoulder in a roasting pan, ideally one that hold it snugly. Mix together the granulated sugar and one cup of the salt in a bowl, then rub the mixture into the meat; discard any excess salt-and-sugar mixture.  Cover the pan with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for at least 6 hours, or overnight.

2. Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Remove the pork from the refrigerator and discard any juices that have accumulated. Put the pork in the oven and cook for 6 hours, basting with rendered fat and pan juices every hour. The pork should be tender and yielding at this point – it should offer almost no resistance to the blade of a knife and you should be able to easily pull meat of the shoulder with a fork. Depending on your schedule, you can serve the pork right away or let is rest and mellow out at room temperature for up to an hour.

3. When ready to serve…turn the oven to 500 degrees.

4. Stir together the remaining one tablespoon salt and brown sugar and rub the mixture all over the pork. Put it in the oven for 10 – 15 minutes, until the sugar has melted into a crisp, sweet crust. (Emily just drooled)

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