So Jim got me the Momofuku cookbook. My sister had warned that it was un-cookable, an unfriendly and over-involved cookbook. Jim has been hot to eat at Noodle Bar for years and since he has not yet had the opportunity and with no trip to New York planned anytime soon he hopped over to the bookstore. He happened to open the cookbook to a page with recipes for refrigerator pickles and thought to himself ‘this is easy’. He brought it home, presented it to me as a gift and got excited about our new project together.
Our project began this week. I’ll start by saying David Chang makes Thomas Keller look like a complete amateur when it comes to the number of sub-recipes you must make to produce a dish. His bowl of ramen = 10 sub-recipes. Not joking. Not smiling either. And we purchased the noodles and the fish cake. So since I spent this week frantically putting in half of the work for the following items: appetizer, entree and dessert I am going to blog about it based on man labor hours. You will forgive me.
Mr. Chang and Ms. Tosi have also managed to create a ripple of emotions as well. We argued at the grocery store about ingredients while trying to translate Chinese based on bottle shape. Disappointment, frustration and good old fashioned anger when the sub-recipe for praline paste (followed to the letter!) seized the food processor. Joy, the smell of bacon, pig bones and chicken bubbling away for 6 hours. Bewilderment, the recipe for the Korean red dragon sauce brought, instead, the red dragon’s less attractive cousin, the Korean brown dragon sauce.
So, just to clarify, that’s 2 people + 5 days = 1 meal. We produced the rice cakes with red/brown dragon sauce, Chang’s legendary ramen and Tosi’s iconic cereal milk with chocolate hazelnut thing. The verdict? I feel like David Chang treated me like an over zealous intern. Was it good? Yes. Was it worth the effort? Hell no. As my friend Kasia, who has eaten at Noodle Bar, put it ‘Heck, you both could have eaten at there 3x for the same expense.’ And there you go. Some things are better left to other people.
While Mr. Chang won’t be figuratively bending me over any surfaces again anytime soon I would make an exception for Ms. Tosi and her cereal milk panna cotta. I found it to be a very special dish, really tasty, certainly something I have never had before and something I want to eat again. It took me two tries to make this thing successfully and I ended up having better success with recipe for dummies on the NYTimes website rather than the one in the cookbook. Now, I realize offering changes for such a thing is heresy but I am simply offering my opinion. Here it is: I would reduce the salt in the panna cotta, offer the addition of a little vanilla and please, don’t try to press the avocado puree through a sieve, it’s like putting a square peg in a round hole.
Cereal Milk Panna Cotta with Chocolate Hazelnut Thing and Avocado Puree - Serves 6
Cereal Milk Panna Cotta
6 cups corn flakes
3 cups milk
2 cups cream
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 packets gelatin powder
Pre-heat the oven to 300. Put the corn flakes on a baking sheet. Toast corn flakes in the oven for 15 minutes or until slightly golden. Combine the milk and cream in a large bowl, add the warm corn flakes and let steep for 45 minutes. Strain the corn flakes by pouring the mixture through a sieve and pressing on the corn flakes to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the corn flakes (or as Chang suggests, eat them). Add the vanilla, salt and sugar, microwave (yes, microwave) on half power for 1 1/2 minutes until the sugar has dissolved, stir to combine. Remove 1/4 cup of the custard batter and place in a bowl, sprinkle the gelatin on top and let it rest for 5 minutes. Once it has bloomed return it to the bowl and whisk it in until it has dissolved as well, this takes a while. Pour the custard into the 6 bowls (making sure the gelatin gets n to every ramekin or bowl) and allow it to set in the refrigerator over night. To serve top with avocado puree and a chunk of the chocolate hazelnut thing.
Chocolate Hazelnut Thing
1/4 cup praline paste
1/3 cup Nutella
1 tablespoon semi-sweet chocolate
1/2 teaspoon corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon neutral oil (they say grape seed, I used vegetable)
2 tablespoons caramelized cornflakes
Place everything in a bowl and microwave on 10 second intervals, stirring until completely melted and combined. Spread baking sheet with a silpat or waxed paper press the corn flakes in to the warm chocolate and place in the freezer to set. Once set break up into random chunks and store in the refrigerator. If making the caramelized corn flakes is the one step that takes you over the edge then I say skip it and just press in some regular old corn flakes.
Chang and Tosi say you can purchase this, I have never seen it, but I would advocate buying it, not making it. If you must make it, do not follow the instructions in the cookbook.
1/2 cup hazelnuts toasted
1/2 cup sugar
1 pinch kosher salt
Toast the hazelnuts then put them in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Remove and place in a bowl. Heat the sugar over medium-low heat. Once it starts to caramelize stir it to combine until it has fully turned to carmel. Combine with the hazelnuts, work quickly!
Caramelized Corn Flakes
3/4 cup corn flakes
3 tablespoons non-fat dry milk powder
1 tablespoon sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Place the corn flakes in a bowl and break up with your hands, crushing them about 8 times. Pre-heat the oven to 300. Toss the corn flakes with the remaining ingredients. Spread on a baking sheet lined with either a silpat or parchment paper. Place in the oven and bake for about 35 minutes or until golden brown. Store at room temperature.
1 ripe avocado, chilled for an hour
1 pinch sugar
1 pinch salt
Juice of 1/2 a small lemon
Combine the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Place in the refrigerator with plastic wrap covering and touching the puree until ready to use.