Guys. Good news. I fixed breakfast.
Guys. Good news. I fixed breakfast.
The foodie world goes a little nuts over ramps, so when I saw them at the farmer’s market I grabbed a bunch – just for me – to see what all the fuss was about. Ramps have an infamously short growing season – just three or four weeks – and they often get snatched up by chefs for seasonal specialties, but the market was flush with them on Saturday. It must have been a good season. The nice vendor insisted that I try them simply, sauteed with salt and pepper, and really enjoy the flavor. Of course, “simple” isn’t really something I do – but I tried to be restrained.
I used a beautiful post from Crepes of Wrath as my guide, which advised that I cook the ramps in brown butter, and added some toasted pine nuts for a bit of protein, fat and textural interest. They were great, but next time I would consider toasted walnuts instead, as the ramps definitely could have stood up to a more bitter flavor.
Ramps are a member of the allium family, which includes garlic and onions. The flavor is similar to a garlicky leek, but with a the lovely, delicate texture. Next time I might poach an egg over them or pile them on toast, but this was a perfect introduction to ramps, and just like that, I’m hooked.
Recipe inspired by Crepes of Wrath
Toast your nuts well in the oven, toaster oven, or in a dry, heavy skillet over medium heat, watching them carefully to make sure they don’t burn, about 8 minutes.
Wash ramps well in cold water, peel off any stringy bits, and trim the hairy tips. Cut into two-inch pieces.
Melt butter in a heavy skillet and let cook over medium low heat, swirling occasionally, until butter begins to smell nutty and divine and solids form at the bottom of the pan. Tilt the pan to one side to allow the butter to pool and check the color – you want a toasted golden-brown. In my cast iron skillet, already hot from toasting the pine nuts, this only took about 4 minutes.
Add ramps to pan, season generously with salt and pepper, and saute over medium heat until greens wilt and ends begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Toss pine nuts to heat and transfer to a plate. Correct seasoning if needed and scarf down in three minutes flat.
This dish is my goodbye to winter. It is a last hurrah for richness before we switch to freshness, for dark syrupy sauces before we switch to bright citrusy vinaigrettes, for meat before we switch to seafood. This dish is a long, leisurely labor of love, appropriate for a day when it is too cold to go outside. Given this year’s weather, I had to make my formal goodbye to winter in May.
I finally purchased a dutch oven this past fall, and the ability to braise up a big pot of flavor was a game changer. Most Sunday afternoons I hibernated inside,
watching netflix cleaning the apartment while flavors melded, collagen broke down, and meat tenderized. My kitchen became a sauna from the heat of the oven as I braised everything I could get my hands on: a classic beef burgignon, a bronzed chicken lemon stew, silky Moroccan eggplant and chickpeas, and a rich bolognese.
This is the best thing I made this winter, combining all my favorite things and favorite flavors: a slew of umami-rich Asian sauces, short ribs so tender they slip right off the bones, lo mein noodles you want to slurp right up, and of course a giant pile of vegetables and herbs – for balance.
The first time I made this dish I did something very foolish: I didn’t listen to my mother. I had heard her say many times that you have to make short ribs the day before. Chilling the sauce overnight allows you to scoop off the fat, and the flavors develop in the fridge to create a tastier dish. The ribs also get extra tender after being cooled and gently reheated. With such lessons in mind, naturally, I tried to make short ribs and eat them the same night. The sauce was so greasy that the fattiness overpowered the rich flavors of the sauce, creating a shockingly bland dish, and the short ribs hadn’t properly absorbed the sauce. This time I listened to my mother, and they were perfect.
Recipe inspired by Emeril Lagasse
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat short ribs generously with five spice powder, salt, and black pepper. Sear in a large, heavy, oven-safe pot over medium high heat, working in batches, until golden brown on all sides. Do not skimp on this step – that brown is your flavor. Remove to a plate. If necessary, drain some fat from the pot – you want about a tablespoon or two left. Do not clean pot.
Meanwhile, chop up your aromatics – ginger, garlic, and scallions. Reserve half the aromatics. Toss the rest in the same pot until fragrant, just a minute or two. Stir together soy sauce, hoisin, orange juice, white wine, and sugar. (No need to be too finicky about measurements here) Pour a bit of liquid into pot to deglaze, scraping up brown bits on bottom. Add the rest of the liquid, return the short ribs to the pot, and pour in any liquid accumulated on the short ribs’ plate. Add enough liquid (stock or water) to cover short ribs. Put on lid and put in oven.
Bake for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Remove the short ribs and braising liquid to separate containers and refrigerate overnight, or for at least a few hours. Scoop the fat off of the top of the braising liquid with a spoon and discard. Recombine short ribs and liquid in a pot and gently reheat over medium low heat, allowing the braising liquid to reduce if desired.
To serve: cook lo mein noodles in boiling water until barely al dente. Drain and immediately toss with sesame oil to prevent noodles from sticking.
In a large wok, toss remaining aromatics with two tablespoons of neutral oil over high heat. When fragrant (after a minute or two) add sliced mushrooms. Sear mushrooms until they are starting to brown and the liquid they release has been evaporated. Add carrots and stir-fry until they begin to soften. Add bok choy, season well with salt and pepper, and stir fry until leaves have just begun to wilt and turn bright green. Add noodles and toss to heat and combine, then remove from heat.
If desired, remove short ribs from bones. Serve over noodles and vegetables in bowls with a generous dousing of sauce. Garnish with lime, fresh herbs (I added cilantro), fish sauce, and/or chili oil as desired.