Barley Miso Porridge, Soft Cheese, Vegetables

Aesthetically, this dish needs work, but I am extremely proud of how delicious it was. The flavors popped and worked brilliantly together. It was fresh, healthy and refined. Cooking from the NOMA cookbook is not an easy feat. NOMA in Copenhagen is the new “Best Restaurant in the World”. Rene Redzepi’s cuisine is fiercely local, and in Scandinavia local means sea buckthorn, spruce, dulse seaweed, bulrushes and whole bunch of other wild edibles. This recipe is by no means from that book, but it was inspired by a recipe from it. I already had the purple and yellow carrots on hand and was wondering how to best serve them in a vegetarian dish and while flipping through the Noma book, which focuses a lot on vegetables, I came across the recipe he calls “Vegetables from Lammefjorden, Sea Buckthorn and Gooseberries“. No sea buckthorn or gooseberries for me at this time. So, I stole the idea for the custardy fresh cheese combined with perfectly cooked vegetables (that are definitely not from Lammefjorden) and a brown butter-chicken glace sauce.

Here are the vegetables I used (Lots of washing, peeling and chopping…good vegetarian food is a lot of work):

Purple Carrots, peeled but left whole and bagged with butter, salt and a teaspoon or so of sugar. Cooked sous vide at 85C for about 1.5 hours.

Yellow Carrots, peeled but left whole and bagged with butter, salt and a couple of teaspoons of honey. Cooked sous vide at 85C for about 1.5 hours.

Leeks, cut into 2 inch rounds and oven-braised with butter, water and Oloroso sherry. Before serving they were seared over high heat.

Cabbage, cut into thin wedges and blanched in salty water then refreshed in an ice bath. Heated in beurre monte (butter/water emulsion) before serving.

Swiss chard, inner smaller leaves blanched in salty water then refreshed in an ice bath. Heated in beurre monte (butter/water emulsion) before serving.

The base for the dish is a porridge of sorts, but not a mushy gruel, rather its grains are distinct and the flavors are fresh and savory. This is based on Heston Blumenthal’s famous dish from the Fat Duck. He uses regular rolled oats and tosses them in a mixture of parsley butter. Auldo from “The Big Fat Undertaking” blog cooked and wrote about it here. I used barley because I love its texture and flavor. I also made my own parsley butter sauce that uses a good dose of umami-rich Miso to complement all the vegetables in the dish. The end result is fantastic and I will definitely be making this as a side dish or a starch for future meals. The recipe for it is posted at the end of this entry.

The fresh cheese is from the Noma recipe. It’s made from milk, cream, buttermilk and rennet. It’s allowed to set at a very low temperature until it resembles very soft tofu. To serve, it is just spooned on top of the porridge. The other component from the Noma recipe is the brown butter sauce. That’s made from reduced chicken stock, brown butter, balsamic vinegar, shallots and parsley.

 

Barley Porridge with Parsley-Miso Butter

Barley:

  • 1/2 Cup pearl barley
  • A 3 inch piece of leek, mostly from the greener part
  • Sprinkle of salt

Parlsey-Miso Butter:

  • About a half bunch chopped parlsey
  • 1/2 of a small shallot, chopped
  • 1 heaping tablespoon Shiro Miso (white or more like blond Miso)
  • Juice of half a lime
  • About 1/4 cup hot water
  • 4 Tablespoons melted butter

Put the barley in a pot with plenty of water and bring to a rolling boil. Drain the barley and put them back in the pot with the leek and salt and cover with about 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil and cover. cook on a gentle heat until tender, about 20-25 minutes. When done there should be very little or no water left. The barley should be tender but with a toothsome texture. If not, add a little more water and cook a bit longer.

Make the Parsley-Miso butter by pureeing everything together until as smooth as possible. Pass through a sieve if you want to but I did not.

Finish the porridge by mixing in the Parsley-Miso butter while the barley is very warm and serve it immediately. The barley can be made a day or two ahead of time. In that case heat it in the pot with a couple fo tablespoons of water before mixing in the parsley-Miso butter.

King Trumpet, Miso, Fried Tofu

I was picking up some ingredients for another dinner of Ramen the other day and stumbled on these awesome looking King Trumpet mushrooms. They looked fresh and plump, so I picked a few clusters up. The first thing that came to mind is to treat them as if they were the more prestigious Porcini or Matsutake mushrooms. When cooked like this these trumpets so resemble the texture of scallops and have an earthy mild flavor. I sliced each mushroom in half and slashed it in a corss-hatch pattern. These were then marinated in Ponzu sauce while I prepared the rest of the dish. Right before serving, I pan fried them in garlic flavored oil and re-seasoned with Ponzu.

The miso sauce was pretty simple. It consisted of soy milk, dashi (prepared following Cooking Issues method: 10g/L Kombu/water, circulated for 1 hr at 65C) white miso, pickled ginger and was set with a little Gellan F to give a good texture. It was very tasty and I could see a soup made from those ingredients and maybe garnished with mushrooms. I had seen in the Alinea cookbook a technique that makes a “sheet sauce”. Basically a sauce is gelled with gelatin or gellan and frozen. It is then cut into rectangles (or any other shape as appropriate) and then it is placed on top of the food at service. The sauce then comes to room temperature and coats the food item in an even layer. The effect is both functional (an even layer of sauce) and aesthetically beautiful. Here is a post of this technique by one of the chefs at Alinea on the Alinea-Mosaic site. You can also see a couple of examples on Alineaphile’s blog here and here. I wanted to give this technique a shot with this dish, but did not want to risk it completely not working. So I divided the sauce up into two. One got the freezing on acetate treatment and the other sat in a bowl in the fridge. I’m glad I did that. The sheet sauce kind of worked but it is not nearly as successful as I had hoped. I think it needed to be thicker to work better.

For the tofu, I made my own bean curd and cut it into cubes. I seasoned them with chinese 10-spice powder and breaded them (egg wash, flour, crumbs) with Panko bread crumbs before frying them till nice and crispy. I wanted to add some color to the dish and that’s where the orange sweet potato balls came in. I cooked them Sous Vide with a few tablespoons of pickled ginger juice. They tasted fantastic and looked really nice on the plate.

The rice is regular sushi rice seasoned with rice wine vinegar and sugar. Cooking it in more dashi as opposed to water gave it a deep and rich flavor. To make it into a cylinder I  extruded it through an oiled cannoli mold. The garnishes were soy bean sprouts (much more falvorful, substantial and have a better texture than mung bean sprouts I think) that were seasoned with rice wine vinegar and a touch of salt. The purple leaves are some sort of basil I think. They have a good sharp mint/basil flavor. I picked them up at the Asian grocery store as well and they had no label, but worked well in the dish and added a good color.

Here are a couple of shots of the dish plated with the “sheet sauce”. Notice how it kind of breaks a bit as opposed to staying intact and enveloping everything. I think a touch more gelling agent and making the sheet a bit thicker will help a lot. Overall this dish was fantastic, a really refined, delicious and wonderful looking vegetarian main course.