I have a confession to make – I have a small chef crush on David Chang. Dave and I have a lot in common: he’s a Korean-American from Virginia with a ramen fetish and is a cook who loves all things porcine. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s world famous (in food circles) and owns 10 restaurants, one of which was awarded 2 Michelin stars. Chef Chang’s cookbook, Momofuku, is one of the few that I’ve read cover to cover, and I’ve even made the trek to New York City to eat his beloved ramen.
So I must have been living under a rock for the past year to have missed season 1 of The Mind of a Chef, which premiered on PBS in November of 2012. It’s a show about the inspirations, influences, and achievements of David Chang. Needless to say, I went on a Netflix binge and finished the whole season in a couple days.
In episode one, Dave won even more of my heart by making a beautiful plate of gnocchi from two packages of instant ramen noodles. I love the way this man thinks!
I had to try it. I followed Dave’s method for making the gnocchi and added sautéed peas, mushrooms, lemon zest, and parmesan cheese. The result was a soft, pan-fried pasta that was surprisingly good, especially considering it came from $0.29 packs of noodles. It tasted sophisticated with a hint of guilty pleasure you can only get from Top Ramen. I loved the juxtaposition of lowbrow and elegance, of Asian and Italian, of processed and homemade. It’s the kind of fun and creative dish that comes naturally to someone as brilliant as David Chang.
Large plastic freezer bag or pastry bag
2 packages of Instant ramen
1 2/3 cup milk
4 egg yolks (I made an egg white omelet the next day)
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
8 ounces of mushrooms sliced (any kind you like)
2/3 cup of peas
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Zest of ½ a lemon
1 cup parmesan cheese
Chopped parsley to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Bring milk to a simmer and remove from heat. Add the ramen noodles to the hot milk, breaking it into pieces so it is covered by the milk. Steep for 1 minute. The ramen with be still be hard - you do not want the noodles to soften. Drain the noodles reserving the milk.
In a food processor, add ramen and one cup of the reserved milk. Blend for about a minute. The mixture will still look lumpy. With the motor running, add one egg yolk at a time. Process until the dough looks thick and smooth.
Cut about ¼ - ½ inch from the corner of a large freezer bag (start small, you can always make the opening bigger). Fill the bag with the dough and place in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
While the dough chills, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add sliced mushrooms and 2 teaspoons salt and sauté until soft, about 8 – 10 minutes. Add peas (I used frozen peas straight from the freezer) and minced garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes more. Place the mushroom pea mixture in a bowl and set aside.
Grease a baking sheet with oil or butter (boiled gnocchi will be placed on this sheet). Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and pipe directly into water, cutting the dough with a knife once it’s about an inch long. Boil the gnocchi for about 60 seconds or until it raises to the top. Place boiled gnocchi on the oiled baking sheet. It is VERY important that you remove the gnocchi immediately after it floats. The dough is very soft and will disintegrate if it’s in the water too long. You will need to cook the dough in small batches to avoid overcooking the gnocchi.
Once all the gnocchi is cooked, place them in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile heat 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add half of the chilled gnocchi and fry until golden brown, about 10-12 minutes. Set aside. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon of oil and fry the rest of the gnocchi. It is important not to crowd the pan.
Add the reserved mushroom and pea mixture and the 1st batch of gnocchi back to the pan and heat through. Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and lemon zest. Plate the pasta and sprinkle with chopped parsley and top with parmesan cheese and freshly ground pepper.