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book review, recipe

All Grown Up + Grown-Up Ramen

There was a time before my blog, and before I became obsessed with Goodreads, that I kept track of what I read with a Google spreadsheet. It was pretty simple – title, author, notes, date finished and a Y/N column for whether or not I’d recommend it. That spreadsheet is my only memory of the last time I read a Jami Attenberg novel and my succinct reaction was “the ending was predictable; I cared about exactly zero of the characters.” Four years later, with her novel All Grown Up, I found myself having deja vu.

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Andrea is a thirty-nine-year-old single woman without children. She wanted to be an artist, but instead finds herself in an unfulfilling career so she can pay the rent. In New York City, that’s not remarkably unusual. What is remarkably unusual about Andrea is that she refuses to grow up, and the people around her think that’s perfectly alright.  

I didn’t find it predictable, though perhaps I should have – a 40-year-old woman who still acts like someone fresh out of college can’t be expected to grow up at that late stage – but I didn’t care about any of the characters. In the end, I found Andrea’s life and the novel on the whole quite sad, but on the plus side, Attenberg’s writing was lovely and made the less than 200 pages easy to get through.

In a transformation like the one I hoped Andrea would have, I turned a college classic into something a bit more put-together, a posh NYC favorite – Grown-up Ramen Noodles. I found a recipe from Fork Knife Swoon to go off of and set to work.  

To start, I began cooking a chicken breast seasoned with salt and pepper in a skillet with olive oil. Once the rounded side was browned – about 7 minutes – I flipped it over and cooked the other side for another 5 minutes or so. I transferred it to a small foil-lined baking sheet and placed it in my preheated 375-degree oven to finish cooking.

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While the chicken was cooking, I began my broth and set the water for my eggs to boil. In a medium saucepan, I heated some toasted sesame oil before adding minced garlic and ginger. I allowed those to cook for a few minutes until fragrant. Then, I added the soy sauce and rice cooking wine, stirring to combine. After another minute, I added the chicken broth, covered the pan and brought it all to a boil.

Once boiling, I turned down the heat and allowed it to simmer for 5 minutes. I added the dried mushrooms and let the broth continue to simmer. Meanwhile, I removed the chicken from the oven and set it aside. I also added the two eggs to the separate pan of boiling water and set a timer for 7 minutes.

I used this time to prep my scallions and seaweed, and once the chicken had rested, I cut it into slices.

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After 10 minutes, I removed the mushrooms and placed them in the waiting bowls. (If I had sliced them, I would’ve done so here. If I was making this again, I would slice the mushrooms into more bite-size pieces, as noted in the recipe below.) I also placed the eggs into an ice bath so they could cool before peeling.

I added the dried ramen noodles into the prepared ramen broth, discarding the flavoring packets that come with the noodles. (College memories!) You could cook the noodles in plain boiling water instead, but I have always preferred to make them in the broth/flavoring to impart some of that flavor on the noodles.

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Once the noodles are ready, carefully place them in each bowl and top with the broth. Carefully peel each egg, slice in half and place in the bowls on top of the noodles and mushrooms. Add the sliced chicken, scallions and seaweed. Serve and enjoy!

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Grown-Up Chicken Ramen

  • Servings: 2
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Ingredients

  • 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to season
  • 1 TBS unsalted butter, or olive oil
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 3 tsp fresh garlic, minced
  • 3 TBS low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 TBS rice cooking wine
  • 4 cups chicken stock or broth
  • ½ – 1 oz dried shitake mushrooms
  • 1-2 tsp sea salt, to taste
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup scallions, sliced
  • 2 (3 oz) packs dried ramen noodles
  • optional: roasted seaweed snacks, in ribbons, for serving

Directions

  1. Cook the chicken: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper. Melt the butter (or heat olive oil) in an oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken breast, round side down, and cook until golden brown and it releases easily from the pan, about 5-7 minutes. Flip the chicken over and cook for another 4-5 minutes, until golden.
  2. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast for 15-20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. (If you don’t have an oven-safe skillet, you may transfer the chicken to a small baking sheet lined with foil.) Remove from the oven, transfer the chicken to a plate and cover with foil until ready to serve.

  3. Make the ramen broth: Heat the sesame oil in a large pot over medium heat, until shimmering. Add the garlic and ginger, and cook for a few minutes until softened. Add the soy sauce and rice wine, and stir to combine. Cook for another minute. Add the stock, cover, and bring to boil. Remove the lid, and let simmer uncovered for 5 minutes, then add the dried mushrooms. Simmer gently for another 10 minutes, and season with salt, to taste.
  4. Otherwise, take the mushrooms out of the broth using tongs, and carefully, slice them into thick bite-size slices on a cutting board. (For particularly large mushrooms, you may cut them in half before slicing.) Place in bowls for serving.

  5. Make the soft-boiled eggs: Fill a pot with enough water to cover the eggs, and bring to a boil. Gently lower the eggs (still cold from the fridge) into the boiling water, and let simmer for 7 minutes (for a slightly-runny yoke) or 8 minutes (for a soft, but set-up yoke).
  6. Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with ice water. When the timer finishes, transfer the eggs to the ice bath to stop the cooking process. Wait at least 5 minutes, or until cool enough to handle, then carefully peel away the shell and slice in half, lengthwise. Set aside until ready to serve.

  7. Assemble the ramen bowls: Meanwhile, chop the scallions and slice the seaweed snacks into ribbons (if using). Slice the chicken into thin pieces. Set aside. When the eggs are in the ice bath, add the ramen noodles to the broth. Cook for approximately 3 minutes, until soft, then divide the noodles into two large bowls, next to the mushrooms. Add the ramen broth, dividing evenly. Top each bowl with half of the sliced chicken breast, a soft boiled egg each, fresh scallions and the seaweed. Serve immediately.

Adapted from: Fork Knife Swoon

To save some time, or if you’re making this on a warm day like I was, substitute pre-made rotisserie chicken.


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book review, recipe

Dark Matter + Spanish Bean Stew with Chorizo

Usually when I finish a novel that I really enjoyed and think Scott would like it, I recommend he read it too. He tends to be more of a non-fiction reader, so I choose pretty carefully. Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter is one of those rare novels that Scott read first and then recommended to me.

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I love science fiction that grabs you from the start and has you rooting for something bigger (and usually stranger) than you ever imagined. This novel certainly fits the bill, and it’s one that everyone can relate to because, at its heart, it’s all about going home. After Jason Dessen is abducted, he finds himself in a situation he never would’ve imagined – one that calls into question all of the choices he has ever made.  

Since it’s a book that’s all about the plot, it’s hard to say too much without giving it away, so I won’t. It starts out simple but quickly gets complicated, pulling Jason into a twisty universe that will have you anxious to get to the end. If you loved The Martian (and I absolutely did!), you’ll love this.

Throughout Dark Matter, Jason is a bit untethered, guided only by his desperation to reunite with his family. His wife, Daniela, makes him a traditional Spanish dish once or twice a year that serves as a reminder of everything he’s missing. I didn’t have much to go on outside of “a bean stew made with an assortment of native legumes and meats. Chorizo, pancetta, black sausage.” So, I did some googling and found this recipe for a Hearty Spanish Bean Stew with Chorizo.

With some minor tweaks (but still no black/blood sausage, thank you very much), Scott and I were ready to enjoy some of Daniela’s stew. First, I heated some olive oil in a medium pot and add the chopped pancetta, cooking until just crisp. Then I added the onion and minced garlic, cooking for a few more minutes until lightly browned.

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I stirred in the spices before adding the browned andouille chunks, white beans with their liquid and chicken broth. The whole stew got a few generous stirs and then I let it come up to a simmer.

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Once it simmered for about 25 minutes, I added the browned (slightly crispy) chorizo and cooked the stew for another 5 minutes or so. I didn’t need any additional salt and pepper, but check here and season as needed. I served it as The Dessens prefer it, with grated cheddar, chopped cilantro and a generous dollop of sour cream. A nice glass of Spanish red wine completed the meal.

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Hearty Spanish Bean Stew with Chorizo

  • Servings: 6-8
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Adapted From: Whole Foods

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ pound pancetta, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon paprika, preferably Spanish
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1½ andouille sausage links, cut into chunks and then browned
  • 3 16-oz cans white beans, with their liquid
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4-5 oz. ground chorizo, cooked through until browned
  • Grated sharp cheddar, sour cream, cilantro (optional)

Directions

  1. Heat oil and pancetta in a medium pot over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until pancetta is just crisp. Add garlic and onions and cook until lightly browned.
  2. Stir in paprika, thyme, salt and pepper, then add andouille, beans/liquid and chicken broth. Simmer gently for 20 to 25 minutes.
  3. Add chorizo and cook for 5 minutes more.
  4. Season with salt and pepper and serve with desired toppings. Grated cheddar cheese, sour cream and cilantro recommended.

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book review, recipe

The Nix + Norwegian Fish Stew

With my ambitious yearly goal to read between 48 and 52 books (depending on the year), I don’t usually take the time to read books that are longer than 500 pages. Too many times I have found myself slogging through a book I didn’t particularly enjoy just to get through it and move on to the next. I thought The Nix would be one of those books, but I’m glad I was wrong.

The Nix Book Cover

Nathan Hill’s lengthy debut novel – coming in at 628 pages – was suggested as the latest selection for one of my book clubs. We even gave ourselves extra time to read it, meeting again after 2 months instead of the usual 1-ish, which really just gave me more time to stall. Luckily, a well-placed work trip to California gave me ample time to catch up and fully dive in to a book I really enjoyed.

The Nix is all over the place – but in a good way. Hill takes you from 2011 to 1988 to 1968 and back again. You’ll see the world from the eyes of both minor and major characters, and while the reasons aren’t always clear, it definitely comes together at the end.

In 2011, Faye finds herself in a bit of a predicament – one that lands her all over the news and opens up a long-lost connection to her son Samuel, who she abandoned decades earlier. For reasons even he is still trying to figure out, Samuel begins to explore his mother’s past to uncover the truth. On her own journey, Faye sets out to face the haunting folktales of her youth.

What Samuel finds is not only surprising, but life-changing, too. Later, on a trip to her family’s native Norway, Faye also learns about her father’s past, which she confronts over a hot bowl of fish stew and some crusty bread.

I found a recipe on Saveur’s website for Fiskesuppe, or a Norwegian Cod Vegetable Chowder, similar to the one Faye eats during her illuminating trip. It made the perfect meal for a cold fall evening, hearty and delicious. But, full disclosure, my apartment smelled like fish stew for days!

There are a lot of vegetables in this stew, so I suggest you start by prepping them all. I sorted them into two bowls so that they would be easy to add to the pot at the right time.

Heat the butter over medium-high heat until melted. The recipe calls for 6 tablespoons, but I would recommend 4 (or half of a stick). When cooking down the vegetables, the amount of butter was just a bit more than you needed, and trust me, it will make for more appetizing-looking leftovers. Add your first bowl of vegetables (garlic, celery, onions, peppers and leeks) and season with salt and pepper.

After those cook for about 8-10 minutes, or until soft, add your second bowl of vegetables (carrots, parsnips, celery root and potatoes) along with the milk, cream and fish stock – I was only able to find seafood stock at the grocery store – and Worcestershire sauce. Stir and bring to a boil.

Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and cook for about 25 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. While the stew was cooking here, I prepped my cod, cutting it into bite-size pieces (mine were probably closer to an inch, rather than the recommended 2-inches). I also used this time to chop my fresh herbs.

After 25 minutes, add the cod and cook for an additional 6-8 minutes or until it’s cooked through. Remove from the heat and stir in lemon juice (I used a half lemon, but check the flavor and add more to taste), dill and parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

As in The Nix, I served it with some crusty bread.

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Norwegian Cod and Root Vegetable Chowder (Fiskesuppe)

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Print


From: Saveur.com

Ingredients

  • 6 TBS unsalted butter [I recommend 4 TBS]
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped [I minced mine]
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 small leek, sliced ¼” thick
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced ¼” thick
  • 1 large parsnip, peeled and chopped
  • 1 small celeriac, peeled and chopped
  • 4 medium new potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 3 cups fish stock
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1½ TBS Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 lb. boneless, skinless cod fillet, cut into 2″ pieces [or bite-size]
  • ⅓ cup dill, chopped, plus more for garnish
  • ¼ cup parsley leaves, chopped
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
  • Juice of ½ – 1 lemon
  • Crusty bread, for serving

Directions

Heat butter in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic, celery, onions, peppers, and leeks, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until soft, 8-10 minutes. Add carrots, parsnips, celeriac, potatoes, stock, milk, cream, and Worcestershire; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes. Add cod, and continue to cook, stirring gently, until fish is cooked through, 6-8 minutes. Stir in dill, parsley, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Serve with bread.

This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here.