'Lucky Peach': An Irreverent Look At Cooking
'Lucky Peach': An Irreverent Look At Cooking
Lucky Peach Issue 1
Paperback, 176 pages |purchase
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Next time you swing by the magazine stand, you might come across something called Lucky Peach. It's a food magazine. But don't expect "20 simple dinners you can make in 20 minutes." Instead, there's poetry, fiction and chefs swearing at each other.
Co-editor Peter Meehan founded the magazine with New York noodle impresario David Chang. He tells weekends on All Things Considered guest host David Greene he knew it would be a risky venture.
"I think it's one of those things where you're standing in a room, and you're like, 'Let's make a new food magazine.' And that's a terrible idea. The world does not need a new food magazine," he says. "But if it's such a bad idea that you can do a good version of it, then that's a cool challenge."
Meehan says the first issue of Lucky Peach is devoted to ramen — the beloved Japanese noodle soup — because of co-founder David Chang's background with noodle restaurants. Also, he says, because of the importance of ramen in Japanese culture.
"There are people who spend every weekend, you know, going and finding new bowls, experiencing new ramen that is there around Japan," he says. Japanese supermarket checkout lanes often boast four or five magazines devoted entirely to ramen.
And what's in the bowl is worlds away from the fried and dried dorm-room meal that many of us remember. Meehan says the true dish is so complex, he once wrote a recipe that stretched to 30 pages in order to explain everything that goes into a bowl of ramen, from the specific kind of noodles to the multilayered broth.
A proper bowl of ramen is a real culinary experience. "You're gonna slurp those noodles, you're not chewing them, you're not cutting them up, you're trying to inhale them like a human noodle vacuum, and they should slurp in a pleasing way," Meehan says.
"And then that broth that they're served in, it should dress the noodles, it should coat the noodles, it should flavor the noodles," he adds. "It seems like the simplest thing for a bowl of noodle soup to do, but when you're in front of a bowl and that's happening ... you're most of the way there."
Excerpt: Instant Ramen Fideos
The whole exercise of creating these instant-ramen recipes was about working with ingredients that we wouldn't normally cook with at Momofuku. So when I was thinking of what to do with instant ramen, I thought, "Well, what wouldn't we normally do? What's the wrong way to make this dish?"
That's why fideos came to mind. Fideos are dried noodles cooked in a way that people almost never cook them: like risotto or paella, in a shallow pan, with a small amount of liquid over low heat. The technique imparts the noodles with a particular and very distinctive texture, and soaks them in the flavors of whatever they're cooked with.
Of course, instant ramen is already cooked, so we're not taking advantage of the technique that makes fideos so unique, just stealing its name and the Spanish flavors that make it delicious: chorizo, pimentón, aioli, lots of shellfish juice. That combination would make shoelaces taste good, so there's no reason it wouldn't work with instant ramen.
Note: When I made this for the Lucky Peach video shoot — it was only the second time — I plopped a gross dollop of aioli on the finished dish, and it made me feel like a total hack. So I am hereby officially not recommending that as a technique or garnish. (But it tasted reaalllly good.)
MAKES 2 SERVINGS
1 T olive oil
1/4 lb (a heaping 1/2 C) Spanish chorizo, coarsely chopped
1 dozen littleneck clams, cleaned
1/2 lb mussels, cleaned (To clean shellfish, Soak mussels and clams in a large quantity of very cold, lightly salted water for half an hour to allow the shellfish to purge any silt. Then drain them, rinse well, and debeard the mussels, if needed.)
1 package instant ramen, broken up by hand
1/2 C hot water or chicken stock
1/4 t pimenton
1/4 C aioli (To make your own aioli, start by placing an egg yolk, the juice of half a lemon, a dash of Dijon mustard, and two cloves of minced garlic in a food processor. Slowly purée in 400 grams (a little more than 1 3/4 cups) of grapeseed oil, salt, and pepper. Making fresh aioli seems a little silly for this dish, though, so if I were you, I'd just stir a couple cloves of really finely minced garlic into a 1/4 cup of mayonnaise and call it a day.)
2 scallions, thinly sliced
Add the olive oil to a ripping-hot 12-inch skillet over high heat. Add the chorizo, tossing it every 30 seconds or so, until it has browned a bit — no more than 2 minutes if your pan is hot enough.
Add the clams to the pan. After another minute or so, add the mussels, crushed noodles, and hot chicken stock. Stir occasionally. Once the mussel and clam shells are slightly open — shouldn't take more than another 2 to 4 minutes — the dish is ready.
Serve in the pan. Scatter the pimentón, scallions, and a totally-'80s drizzle of aioli on top.
Excerpted from Lucky Peach, Issue 1 - Ramen. Copyright Lucky Peach/McSweeney's 2011. Reprinted with permission of McSweeney's.