Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Penn Dutch Style Gourmet Ramen Noodles! - Roasted Chicken & Stewed Vegetables

     The Basics Of Penn Dutch Style Cooking
     Sometimes a craving strikes for something plain and simple.  Days when finances are depleted and the outlook is dismal does really have a way of causing stress to build up.  When apples turn into lemons, that is the time that comfort is needed the most.  
     There is one cuisine in America that spells comfort no matter what.  Anybody that has traveled through Pennsylvania Dutch Country in Pennsylvania knows what I am talking about.  Those that live there know nothing else and they are not tempted to stray from the style of food they like. 

     I happen to know a whole bunch about Penn Dutch cooking, because I was born in Penn Dutch Country.  Half of my family ate Penn Dutch style food every meal.  
     Low temperature roasting, boiling and slow simmering is just about all that involved with basic Penn Dutch cooking.  The use of herbs and spices are minimal and for the most part salt and pepper is used across the board.  Some mild tasting herbs that are native to Northern Europe are used in Penn Dutch cooking, but only enough is added to create a delicate flavor.  
     Selecting the freshest basic food staples is the key to good Penn Dutch cooking.  No canned food or pre-manufactured products are needed.  About the only pre-made food item that is commonly purchased is Penn Dutch style egg noodles or items needed for candy making.  Penn Dutch candy makers are world famous!

     There is a minimum of waste in Penn Dutch cooking, because the contents remain in the pot, till the food finishes simmering.  There is no fancy cooking techniques that waste bits of food.  
     Butter and lard from local farms are used in Penn Dutch cooking.  Oil of any kind is not really a local farm product.  At the most, plain vegetable oil might be used to make a salad dressing.  Of course the favorite salad greens are plain old white cabbage or iceberg lettuce.   
     Plain old fashioned flour and water slurry is used to thicken soups, stews and gravies.  Slow roasting is always favored over pan frying.  Boiled meats are common in this cuisine and the broth is always saved for later use.  
     Beef is rarely eaten and fish is looked upon as being exotic.  Eggs, dairy products, chicken, turkey, ham and pork are the main protein staples in Penn Dutch cuisine.  
     Penn Dutch Country is also Pennsylvania mushroom farming country and white cave mushrooms are the top choice.  There are several mild tasting wild mushrooms that some Penn Dutch local incorporate in their cooking.  Oyster Mushrooms and Hen Of The Woods are two such varieties.   
     Basic mirepoix vegetables, corn, leafy greens, green beans and squash are the usual vegetable choices.  Apples, pears, cherries and white grapes make up the bulk of local fruit choices.  Any exotic fruits and vegetables that are grown on local Penn Dutch farms are sold for top dollar to outside markets.  The plain simple fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables from local farms are what the locals prefer in Penn Dutch Country.
     Based upon this brief overview of Penn Dutch cooking, somebody that has never cooked this cuisine before, should be able to grasp what this simple Penn Dutch farm country cooking style is all about.  The key things to keep in mind are simple flavors, comfort and hearty portions that curb hunger for a long time.  

     Penn Dutch Style Gourmet Ramen Noodles?
     Why not!  Ramen noodles are college student survival food.  Anybody that has had to scrape pennies together for a meal during hard times will fondly remember how ramen noodles saved the day.  There are plenty of us Penn Dutch folk in college and sometimes the simple comfort of farm country cooking from back home really helps to set the mind at ease.  
     Basic Penn Dutch cooking is some thrifty low budget food.  Today's Penn Dutch style ramen noodle entrée only cost about 45¢ to make!  Paying 12¢ for the ramen noodles and 28¢ for a chicken thigh was a steep price to pay, but somehow I was able to manage the expense!  
     Honestly, today's recipe is a good satisfying cheap meal that fills the belly for a long time.  The ultimate college student low cost ramen noodle survival meal has to be today's Penn Dutch style recipe!  

     *This entire recipe yields 1 hearty large portion serving!

     Roast Chicken Thigh:
     Chicken thighs are a thrifty price meat, so they are always a good choice for a gourmet ramen noodle recipe.  Chicken thighs have more flavor than breast meat and chicken thight stay moist when roasted. 
     Most budget minded people, like college students, use a small mini oven for baking.  This saves on the electric bill.  
     There is a cheaper alternative.  Gas stoves can run at a much lower cost.  I have a gas range, so firing up the big oven only costs pennies.   
     Those that only have a big electric oven should always plan to do a few baking projects while the oven is hot.  This strategy saves money and it puts less stress on the environment in the long run!
     Lightly brush a small roasting pan with melted unsalted butter. 
     Place 1 large chicken thigh on the pan.
     Drizzle a little bit of melted unsalted butter over the chicken.
     Lightly season with sea salt and black pepper.
     Slow roast the chicken thigh in a 325ºF oven, till it is fully cooked and it becomes a light golden color.  
     Keep the roasted chicken thigh warm on a stove top.
     Penn Dutch Style Stewed Vegetables:
     Step 1:  Place 2 1/2 cups of light chicken broth in a sauce pot. 
     Bring the broth to a gentle boil.
     Step 2:  Add 1 cup of a mix of these vegetables:
     - Large bite size sliced carrot
     - Large bite size sliced celery
     - Large diced onion 
     Add 1 1/4 cups of large diced cabbage.
     Add 5 or 6 large bite size pieces of russet potato.  (Not peeling the potato provides more nutritional value.)
     Add 1 small laurel leaf.
     Step 3:  Bring the liquid back to a boil.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Simmer till the vegetables are almost fully cooked.
     Step 5:  Add 1 small pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 small pinch of rubbed sage.
     Add 2 pinches of chopped fresh dill weed.  (optional) 
     Add 1/3 cup of whole milk while stirring.
     Step 6:  Mix 2 to 3 tablespoons of bread flour with cold water in a cup to make a slurry. 
     Add just enough of the slurry, while stirring, to thicken the broth to a medium thin consistency.
     Step 7:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce, till the vegetables are tender and the stew gravy is a medium consistency.
     Step 8:  Remove the laurel leaf.
     Keep the vegetable stew warm over very low heat.  Add a splash of water if it gets too thick. 

     Buttered Ramen Noodles:
     Many people are concerned about health issues related to ramen noodles.  Most of this has to do with the coating on the dried noodles.  
     Chefs like myself never use the flavoring packet that comes with the noodles and it gets tossed in the garbage where it belongs.  This takes care of one health issue!
     Asian cooks boil ramen noodles and drain the water off of the noodles.  This gets rid of the coating on the noodles.  Health issue #2 resolved!  
     The ramen noodles can be shocked in ice water, so they gain a chewy texture, but that is not necessary for today's recipe.
     Step 1:  Boil 1 portion of ramen noodles, till they are tender.
     Drain the water off the noodles.  
     Step 2:  Place the hot ramen noodles in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 teaspoons of softened unsalted butter.
     Add 1 small pinch of sea salt.
     Toss the ingredients together. 
     Keep the noodles warm on a stove top. 
     Penn Dutch Style Gourmet Ramen Noodles! - Roasted Chicken & Stewed Vegetables:
     Ladle the vegetable stew into a wide shallow soup bowl.
     Mound the buttered ramen noodles in the center of the bowl.
     Spoon some of the stew gravy over the noodles.
     Place the roasted chicken thigh on the noodles.
     Garnish with a dill weed sprig.  (optional) 

     Gentle tasting, hearty and satisfying!  

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