a home cook with notions & an appetite
One of my favorite episodes of No Reservations was his feature on the last day of Ferran Adria’s El Bulli in Costa Brava. For years, books featuring the cutting-edge cuisine were available, but these were not dishes that home cooks would typically have the materials, skill or equipment to reproduce in the kitchen. Imagine my delight, though, when Ferran Adria published The Family Meal last year. In terms of “Family Meal,” the title refers not only to the ability to reproduce these meals at home (for one’s family), but to the family-meal served at El Bulli for the staff (one of the vignettes on the No Reservations episode was devoted to the meal). I knew this could be done.
This will also be a tale of my habit of declaring recipes with long inactive times casually “easy with just some simple planning,” a mostly-true-but-not-exempt-from-murphy’s-law endeavor.
Ferran’s book (it’s family, we’re completely on a first-name basis), breaks his meals into 2, 6, 20 and 75-serving ingredient lists. I recall one Amazon reviewer complaining about this because they could have just done the math themselves, but he explains this very simply in the beginning. Meals for 20 and 75 are served family-style instead of individually plated and preserving the flavors and ratios at that quantity mean that it’s not as straight-forward as multiplying servings for 6 by 12.5. Besides, who are you going to believe? Random internet complainer or Ferran Adria?
Here’s where I was going with all of this – the ingredients to serve 6:
I often hear about how “hard” cooking sounds when a step involves 12-hour lead time. I am perplexed by this. Since I get up early to have coffee – hey! about 12 hours before I’ll be cooking dinner – a five-minute pre-prep that just sits for the next 12 hours means nothing. Even if one doesn’t get up early to have coffee, the evening before is still a great time to prep the mushrooms:
This is it. The shiitakes go into cold water for 12 hours. At the end of 12 hours, I cut off the stems and sliced the caps. This was just before cooking for me, but since I’ll be cooking these in a pan later (spoiler!), I could have put these in water the evening before and drained them the next morning. I could have either sliced them first or sliced them in the evening after refrigerating them. See how easy this is? I’m not sure when or where as a society we decided pre-planning, pre-prepping or anything that took more than 15 minutes was some sort of Herculean effort in cooking. I just know this thought-process is now why we sell things like pre-cooked, sliced chicken breast as a time-saving prep ingredient at the grocery store.
Anywaywho, noodles need to be cooked and prepped. Prepped? This simply means that I cook them until al-dente and then plunge them into a bowl of salted ice water to stop all cooking:
This gives me plenty of time to dice my ginger, finely slice and chop my bacon and slice my green onions:
Feeling industrious, I also mix the sauce by mixing the oyster sauce, soy sauce, sherry and sesame oil in a bowl with a whisk (no, this is not a low-sodium meal):
With everything prepped, the meal comes together very quickly. Olive oil and bacon fry until golden over medium-high heat. Once bacon is golden, ginger and mushrooms are added and stir-fried for 2 minutes. Scallions are then added. Because I assumed that I could buy bean sprouts the same day I was prepping my shiitakes, the lack of bean sprouts at the grocery store on the way home (and Chinese egg noodles), this step is skipped and I add the sauce and noodles to the pan, stirring for roughly five minutes until everything was coated. I topped this with a little shichimi togarashi (aka “the red stuff in the jar at the sushi place”) once on a plate:
My version really could have used the bean sprouts for the crunch and to cut through the saltiness of the dish. Don’t get me wrong, this was delicious, it was just very rich without the sprouts. The spaghetti was a fine, fine vehicle.