Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Noodle Love

How many different noodles can I make? Oh, let me count the ways....

Sure, there are the Italian varieties, but I only count them as one. Then there's lo mein, chow fun, dumplings, egg noodles, flower and water noodles, and of course there's all of the different mac 'n' cheeses. But what about the Japanese buckwheat noodle, soba? What about yakisoba??

Though the popular dish yakisoba doesn't actually mean that it contains soba noodles, referring instead to a sauce that is like a sweet, thickened Worchestershire sauce, I realized that if I combined the two I could come up with something special.

Buckwheat is actually of no relation to wheat, nor does it contain any gluten like wheat does, but in order to help the dough stay together I did end up adding some traditional flour, but on the underside of a 2 to 1 ratio.

The sauce stayed relatively true to tradition by combining soy sauce, rice vinegar and Worchestershire sauce, but while most recipies call for mirin - a sweet rice wine - I used a common dry, white grape wine that I sweetened with local buckwheat honey, which gives the sauce a unique and distinct flavor.

All yakisoba dishes tend to have the some of the same types of ingredients that you would find in, say, generic fried rice, like mushrooms, frozen peas or cabbage, so to stay true to those ingredients I went with shitaki mushrooms, julienned snow pea pods and chopped local, organic swiss chard.

While I could have added a protein directly to the noodles to make it much easier on myself, I felt that a separate fillet on top like wild Coho salmon would play an integral correlation to the Worchestershire base of the sauce, and since I didn't use the mirin wine, I felt that reducing mirin into a syrup to brush the roasted portion of salmon like a glaze would really tie the dish together.

Now that we're officially into spring I'm starting to see some of those season specific vegetables become available, like spring onions and garlic, fava beans, English peas and rhubarb.

That's right - the ingredient most commonly used in desserts like pies is actually a vegetable. And not a fruit that most consider a vegetable like bell peppers or even tomatoes, but a sour, how-did-they-ever-figure-out-how-to-cook-this-as-a-dessert vegetable. Luckily sometime, somewhere someone realized that it went very well with strawberries, thus leaving us with an iconic pairing.

Even though I have yet to use rhubarb in one of my main dishes, I do find that it does make tasty cocktails, especially chopped up to infuse some rum, where its natural sweetness helps breakdown the sour and bitterness of the vegetable.

To fulfill the other half of the pairing I simmered whole strawberries in water until they create a syrup that I helped sweeten with some of the buckwheat honey to bridge the two specials together and create an underlying flavor that gives a little more dynamic to the drink.

To help lighten the drink I implemented one of my favorite new techniques: the champagne float. It gives the bubbles that club soda would without diluting the flavor or alcohol content... hehehe!

With Love,