Cooking with Beer: Stillwater extra dry sake style saison ramen

By Mindy Heisler-Johnson.

If ever you want to fall into an internet rabbit hole google the origin of ramen.

Seriously. Where as most often I think up the food I want to cook and then work beer(s) into the recipe this time a beer wandered across my path that inspired an idea for a dish. Of course I’ve eaten ramen plenty of times, grocery store weirdness and real stuff from a restaurant with real food in it, but I had never made it. Step 1 in any recipe creation is research where it came from. So, the backstory of ramen is conflicted. And it is entirely possible that some version that I have eaten, though not that grocery store weirdness, was authentic-ish. But one thing that everyone does seem to agree on is that it involves noodles, broth and a lot of delicious garnishes. I can totally work with that. And we aren’t going to even talk about the 10 for $1 grocery store madness, I was 20 once, too, but I chose to forget.

This was surprisingly fast to come together and the Stillwater Sake Style Saison was the perfect replacement for mirin, which is what I would have ordinarily used making something like this. The dryness made sure it wasn’t overly sweet, the subtle notes of sake there but not all in your face and the little bit of citrus notes brighten things up a bit, which I love. I made the stock the weekend before and had it cold in my fridge ready to go. This makes a generous 4 servings but can be easily adjusted to make more or less. Play with your toppings, too. Roasted Pork Belly would be amazing, duck breast or confit, even shrimp; this dish is flexible! I also liked to add different veggies, sliced snap peas, bell pepper, more mushrooms, daikon – it’s really all about whatever you & your people like.

The Stock/Broth

In the interest of time this can be made with boxed stock, though I prefer to make the stock for a richer broth. Most stocks use just bone, I prefer to make it for this with the whole thighs for what the skin and cartilage bring to the party. When the chicken is cooked I remove it, let it cool, shred it up and add it back to the strained stock, the little bits of melt-in-your-mouth chicken are delicious in there! It can also be saved to use for another dish on another night if you prefer your broth unadorned with more chicken.

  • 8 Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • 1 Big spanish onion, rough chop
  • 2-3 carrots, rough chop
  • 2-3 celery stalks, rough chop
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed & chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 Allspice berries (found in the spice section of your grocery store)
  • 1 Tbsp herbs de provence or dried thyme
  • Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp chicken base*

Heat a stock pot over medium high heat, add a few Tbsp of oil to get hot. Season the chicken thighs with salt & pepper and lightly sear in batches to start to render the fat. As they are done let set them aside for later. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and saute until the onion starts to get soft. Add the garlic and herbs, season with salt & pepper and saute until the garlic starts to smell sweet. Add the thighs back in and cover with 1.5 gallons of water. Bring to a simmer and let it slowly reduce by half, 2-3 hours, to 3 quarts of liquid. When it’s done fish out the thighs and set the aside to cool – they can be picked and shredded and put back into the strained stock or save them for tacos or something. Strain the stock and reserve the liquid, toss the shrapnel. The stock can be cooled at this point or move along to the next steps.

*Note on the soup base – they have it at the grocery store. In a little jar, most definitely in The Strip at Wholeys. This is a super ‘secret’ of a lot of chefs. The paste kinds, Minor’s in a name brand off the top of my head, can be pricey, but they are most definitely worth every penny when it comes to adding flavor to things. Boullion and the powdered ones? Nope. I’ll sort it out with salt and spices, thank you very much.*

The Soup

Using the stock you just made or 4 qts of already prepared this is going to be the broth for your ramen. All of the vegetable cuts are covered in the recipe instructions for pretty!

  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 medium sweet onion
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 3 ribs celery
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed & minced
  • 1lbs knob fresh ginger, grated
  • 8oz Shittake mushrooms, stemmed
  • 16oz Stillwater Extra Dry Sake Style Saison
  • 4oz good soy sauce•1 tsp fish sauce (optional)
  • 4 qts chicken stock (your own, or boxed)
  • Kosher Salt & Black Pepper

Veggie Prep

Do it all before you get started. It’s easier that way.

  • Sweet Onion – remove top and bottom, cut in half top to bottom and remove skin. Lay the flat side down on the board and cut left to right into a thin, fine strips, less than ¼”.
  • Carrots – peel and cut the carrots in half lengthwise. Lay flat side down on the board and cut on a bias (45° angle) into thin strips, less than ¼”.
  • Celery – Trim the celery stalks, lay flat side down and slice into thin arches, less than ¼”.
  • Shittake Mushrooms – remove the stems and julienne.Heat your soup pot up over medium high heat. Add the butter and sesame oil and heat until the butter is melted. Add the onion and sweat over medium heat until they are soft—3-4 minutes. Add the carrot and celery and sweat until they are tender and the onion starts to smell sweet—2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until the garlic loses the harsh aroma, 2-3 minutes. Add the mushroom and saute until tender, 3-4 minutes. Deglaze with the beer and reduce by half. Add the soy & fish sauce and stock and bring to a simmer. Reduce gently for 45-60 minutes, letting the flavors marry, to around two quarts. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed with salt & pepper and chicken base if needed.

The Garnishes

All of this can be happening while all that up there is happening.

  • Ramen Noodles – cook enough for four portions according to package directions. Portion out into four bowls.
  • Soft Boiled Egg – place four cold eggs from the fridge into a pot of simmering water for seven minutes. Remove to an ice bath to stop the cooking process until cool enough to handle. Peel and reserve. Cut in half prior to serving.
  • Sliced Scallion – trim and clean scallions, thinly bias slice to go right on top raw. One per bowl.
  • Sauteed Skin-On Chicken Breast – portion can be a whole or half breast per person depending on your crowd. Season skin on chicken breasts with salt and pepper and saute over medium high heat until the skin is crisp and the chicken is cooked through—if they are particularly thick they can be finished in the oven. Let them rest covered with foil until you are ready to serve. They get sliced and laid on top of the noodles.
  • Wilted Greens – my preference is baby spinach. I rough chop a big pinch per bowl. It wilts when it is covered with the hot broth.
  • Minced Jalapeno – for the brave – minced fresh jalapeno.
  • Bean Sprouts – straight from the fridge to your ramen!

Arrange the noodles in a big soup bowl. Place the sliced chicken breast on top center and the remaining garnishes around it. Top with a generous pour of broth. Serve with a spoon. a great selection of seasonal craft beer on tap. Especially the local brews.On the trail or in the woods, we’re here for your post ride…refreshments.Made fresh everyday, be sure to try the one with peanut butter. Really!Made fresh everyday, be sure to try the one with peanut butter. Really!north park boathouse • historic southsideotbbicyclecafe.com

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