Welcome back to Dirty Work, our new series of dispatches from the MUNCHIES Garden. We're inviting chefs, bartenders, and personalities in the world of food and drink to explore our edible playground and make whatever the hell inspires them with our rooftop produce. The results: MUNCHIES Garden recipes for you, dear reader.
Ramen season is in full effect, and chef Marcus Samuelsson doesn't want you to settle for the cheap bodega stuff any longer.
The Ethiopian-born Swede is something of a modern Renaissance man, from award-winning chef to restaurateur and author. At the age of 23, he received a three-star rating from the New York Times while he was executive chef at the legendary Aquavit. He was the youngest chef to achieve that at the time.
Today, he's widely known for his Harlem spot, Red Rooster, where he interprets American comfort food with a dash of his Swedish and African roots. In 2012, he opened Ginny's Supper Club in Harlem, American Table Cafe and Bar at Lincoln Center, and American Table Brasserie and Bar in Stockholm. And as if he wasn't busy enough that year, he published his memoir, Yes, Chef.
So it was no surprise that Samuelsson was bursting with ideas when we asked him to swing by the MUNCHIES Garden for some winter comfort food inspiration. "The MUNCHIES garden is like an oasis in the middle of old industrial Brooklyn. There are tons of different herbs and vegetables you don't normally see growing in the city, and it's large enough to feel like an escape," He explained as he smiled in excitement.
But rather than gravitating towards one ingredient, he harvested many. "I was inspired by the Japanese Eggplant and the Harukai turnips as I've been cooking with a lot of Asian flavors lately and could envision them well in a steaming bowl of ramen. It was one of the first real cloudy and chilly mornings, so that really sounded perfect to me. I also picked a ton of herbs, from thyme and rosemary to bay leaves and sage, and took some great squash and a few ground cherries."
After gathering his bounty from the rooftop, Samuelsson headed back to Red Rooster and got to work.
"The dish is modeled after traditional ramen, with the egg, broth, greens, and noodles, but I like to make it richer and more exciting. Inspired in part by a recent trip to LA and my favorite neighborhood of K-Town, I brought honey and chili flavors into the dish, which remind me a lot of Korean BBQ and give it a slightly sweet profile. I love how the eggplant and turnips brought an earthiness to the dish that made this seriously warming, comforting, and delicious."
All great ramen is judged on its broth, and Samuelsson knows how to create a deliciously comforting stock. To build the base, he placed dried shitakes, fresh scallions, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, miso, and handashi in a pot and let it simmer for 20 minutes. He then turned off the heat added an umami flavor bomb combination of kombu, bonito flakes, yuzu, and soy sauce and allowed it to steep for another 20 minutes before straining.
While letting that infuse, he roasted the turnips with miso and roasted the eggplants until the flesh was fork tender, and pureed it with a blend of garlic, ginger, gouchujang, and scallions.
To assemble the dish, he placed freshly cooked noodles, the broth, a dollop of roasted eggplant, and the miso-roasted turnips in a bowl. But since everything is better with a side of fried chicken, Samuelsson served the hearty dish with Red Rooster's tender cornmeal-fried chicken, because YOLO. And with it, perhaps he unlocked the secret to good ramen: "dipping the fried chicken skin in the broth is encouraged!"