Sunday, May 9, 2021

Chicken Miso Ramen

One of the things I've missed during the pandemic is going out for ramen. Near where I work in downtown D.C., there are several very good ramen restaurants, and near the Atlantic Plumbing movie theatre where we used to go to see movies, was another one--all three (Daikaya, Bantam King and Haikan) owned by the same group. Of the three, Bantam King, which specializes in chicken-based ramen, is my favorite. I've had many meals there with friends and colleagues and look forward to (hopefully soon) being able to eat there again.

Until then, I've been making ramen at home. This is my ode to Bantam King's chicken ramen. The recipe here is for a miso rendition (spicy or not), but if you substituted soy sauce for the miso, you could instead have a very decent shoyu version. 

Fresh ramen noodles are what makes this dish truly special. The Nona Lim brand available at Whole Foods are quite good. Each box is two servings, so you'll want two boxes for this recipe, since it makes 4 servings total. If you can't find fresh noodles though, substitute dried ones--they will be good too.

Chicken Miso Ramen
Inspired by chicken ramen at Bantam King

Chicken miso broth:

1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 1/2 lb. chicken wings (with bones and skin on)
2 shallots, peeled and diced
6 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 inches ginger root, peeled and coarsely minced
8 cups chicken stock and/or broth
2-4 tbsp. red miso (may also use other types of miso)
Gochujang chili paste (optional, if you like spicy ramen)

Ramen bowl:

1 tbsp. vegetable oil
8 oz. shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, cut into strips
1 cup frozen fire-roasted corn (may use standard frozen corn)

Fresh ramen noodles (follow package directions to use one serving per person, may substitute dried ramen if fresh not available, but strongly recommend taking the time to look for fresh ramen)
Nori sheet, cut into about 4 x 8 inches
1 bunch of scallions, white and green parts chopped

Make the broth:

1. Heat 1 tbsp. vegetable oil in a dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat. Add chicken wings and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

2. Stir in the shallots, garlic and ginger, and continue cooking a few more minutes, stirring occasionally, until the garlic and shallots are fragrant.

3. Add the chicken stock/broth, stir the pot to make sure nothing is stuck to the bottom, increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Cover pot, reduce heat to a simmer, and simmer for about 3 hours. Remove the chicken wings and transfer to a plate to cool. Strain the broth by removing large pieces with a spider strainer (this will leave some little bits behind--if you prefer a finer strain, pour the broth through a fine-mesh sieve). Stir in the miso (I recommend starting with 2 tablespoons, then tasting to see if its salty enough for you, adding more as desired). If you like spicy broth, stir in the gochujang chili paste (note: you can always stir it in after apportioning the broth for each bowl, if some people like spicy and others don't--personally, I love it).

Make the ramen and assemble:

1. Once the chicken has cooled, pull off the skin (and discard) and remove the best meat from the wings, being sure not to include any gristle. Set aside the meat until ready to serve and discard the bones and gristle.

2. Heat 1 tbsp. vegetable oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally until lightly browned. Remove from the pan and add the frozen corn, cooking, stirring occasionally, until the corn is heated through. Set aside.

3. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook the ramen according to package directions. Err on the side of undercooking just a bit so the noodles will be a little chewy.

4. Assemble the bowls: Add a serving of ramen to a large bowl. Nestle a sheet of nori next to it. Pour in about 1 1/2 cups (or more/less as desired) of broth--enough so that the noodles are covered. Top with chicken, mushrooms, corn and scallions.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Updated Quick Black Bean Soup

This is an updated version of the recipe I posted 6 years ago. I’ve made enough changes to it that I wanted to share it again, as I like this version better. This is such a wonderful weeknight soup—it really does come together quickly. And it’s very satisfying.

The most noticeable change is that I now puree some of the soup. This makes it thicker, and I really like the texture. Since I don’t want the meat pureed, I now heat the kielbasa separately, tossing it in toward the end after some of the soup has been pureed. I’ve also added red bell pepper, which makes it a little sweeter. Most recently, I diced the kielbasa, instead of just slicing it into coins like I normally do. Another win! I thought the coins were always too large in comparison to the other ingredients.

I like this spicy, but not too spicy. I once tried making this with a full teaspoon of chipotle chili powder, and I thought it was too hot. Most recently, I used a half teaspoon—and then added just a little bit more (maybe 1/8 tsp more), and it was perfect.

Updated Quick Black Bean Soup

4 servings


  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced (recommend using a large one)
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • Seasoned salt, to taste
  • 13 oz. turkey kielbasa (may use pork, ham or omit altogether), diced
  • 2 14-oz. cans black beans, drained and rinsed (may use 1 28-oz. can)
  • ½ tsp. chipotle chili powder (I use a heaping ½ tsp.—use more or less depending on desired heat level)
  • 1 tbsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp. ground cumin
  • 2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 quart (4 cups) low-sodium chicken broth (may use vegetable broth)
  • 1 tbsp. light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. dry sherry
  • Sour cream or shredded cheese (optional)


1. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions, bell pepper and garlic. Season with salt and sauté until the onions have softened and are starting to brown, about 8-10 minutes.

2. Heat a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the diced kielbasa and cook, stirring occasionally until it starts to lightly brown (last time I did this, it was too juicy to brown, but that was fine, as it’s already cooked, so it just needs to be heated).

3. To the soup pot, add the black beans, chili powder, oregano, cumin, smoked paprika, bay leaf, chicken broth, brown sugar and sherry. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10-12 minutes.

4. Partially puree the soup: Remove about half the soup (about 3 cups) and either 1) transfer to a blender or food processor and puree, or 2) transfer to an appropriate container and puree with an immersion blender. 

5. Add the kielbasa and pureed portion of the soup to the soup pot and stir to combine. Taste, adjust seasoning and serve (if desired topped with a dollop of sour cream or a sprinkle of shredded cheese).

Monday, January 18, 2021

Chicken Noodle Soup with Homemade Broth

Every Thanksgiving I read stories from food writers urging home cooks to save their leftover turkey carcasses to make homemade soup broth. Every year, after carefully picking the meat of my turkey breast bones, I dutifully put the carcass in a ziplock freezer bag and stick it in the freezer with the best of intentions.

And those best intentions generally lead me to discover said carcass in May or June, wanting more room for something else in the freezer, and tossing it into the trash. Sorry rich turkey broth--not that year.

So this winter, I was determined to actually use my turkey carcass. And I did. And the results were awesome. And not so time-consuming (especially in pandemic times when I'm home basically always--okay not just basically, like literally always).

Making the broth was not complicated. I added the turkey bones to a cast-iron Dutch oven with 8 cups of low-sodium chicken broth seasoned with some dried herbs, brought the mixture to a boil and simmered for about an hour. Then I discarded the carcass, strained out any remaining solids with my spider strainer, and allowed the mixture to cool before transferring to a container to store in fridge until the next day when I would be using it for chicken noodle soup.

And the chicken noodle soup was dynamite good! The broth was fantastic. I went with a very simple recipe, but it was absolutely delicious. 

If you're not up for making homemade broth, you could still make this with 8 cups of good chicken broth (something that's a little better seasoned than the low-sodium broth I used to start with). Or if you don't have your turkey carcass, you could find a good recipe online for homemade broth. I like to make mine with chicken wings sometimes. 

Chicken Noodle Soup with Homemade Broth

Note: The soup should have 8 cups total of broth in it. Although I used 8 cups of store-bought chicken broth to make my soup broth, evaporation and the carcass soaking some up left me with 6 cups of homemade broth. So I added 2 additional cups of store-bought broth for the soup to have 8 cups total.

Broth (makes about 6 cups of broth):

  • Leftover turkey carcass (I use turkey breast bones)
  • 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp. dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil (divided)
  • 1/2 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut or pounded to 1/2-inch thickness
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • Seasoned salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 yellow onion (about 200g)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced (about 175g)
  • 2 celery stalks, diced (about 100g)
  • Homemade broth from above (about 6 cups)
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (use enough so that the homemade broth and the added broth total 8 cups)
  • 8 oz. dried egg noodles
Make the broth:
  1. Add the turkey carcass, 8 cups chicken broth, thyme and bay leaves to a Dutch oven or other large pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for an hour. 
  2. Discard the turkey carcass, strain out any remaining solids and allow the broth to cool. Store in the fridge for up to a few days until ready to use (or freeze).
Make the soup:
  1. Heat 1 tbsp. vegetable oil over medium-high heat in large frying pan or skillet. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and season with garlic powder, seasoned salt and pepper. After the chicken has browned on one side (about 5-6 minutes), flip over and brown the other side. Continue cooking until the chicken is cooked through (165-170 degrees F). Turn off the heat and remove chicken from pan.
  2. While the pan is still hot, add 1 cup of chicken broth to deglaze the pan. Save this mixture.
  3. When the chicken has cooled a bit, transfer to a cutting board and chop into a fine dice.
  4. Heat 1 tbsp. vegetable oil in a Dutch oven or other large pot. Add the onion, carrot, and celery, season to taste with salt and pepper, and sauté until lightly browned, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The vegetables should brown and some may stick to the bottom.
  5. Add 1 cup of broth to the pot, and stir to deglaze the bottom of the pot, scraping a bit with a wooden spoon. Add the deglazing liquid from the pan the chicken was cooked in, the 6 cups of homemade broth, the diced cooked chicken. Increase heat and bring to a boil.
  6. Add the noodles, and reduce heat to medium. Cook about 8-10 minutes until the noodles are cooked through. Adjust seasoning and serve in shallow bowls (to allow the soup to cool off quicker). 

Friday, July 3, 2020

Instant Pot Barbecue "Baked" Beans

Instant Pot Barbecue Baked Beans

Oh, how I love barbecue. And how I love a smoky, spicy-sweet side of beans to go with it.

Just in time for the 4th of July, here's my new favorite recipe for barbecue "baked" beans--"baked" because they aren't really, since I made them in the Instant Pot.

There are lots of recipes for "barbecue beans" or "baked beans"--not really sure what the difference is I put both in the name of this dish.

I've made this dish twice, and while it was good both times, the adjustments I made for the second time were a definite improvement. I didn't have any molasses on hand the first time, so I used 1/4 cup of maple syrup (the real kind). This worked fine, but I missed that deep sweetness the molasses adds. I also used Stubbs's Sweet Honey & Spice flavor barbecue sauce the first time, which I didn't like nearly as much as the Stubb's Hickory Bourbon I used for the second batch (for the record, my favorite variety of Stubb's barbecue sauce is Sweet Heat--so amazing).

In looking at ingredient lists of other recipes to develop this dish, the one I leaned on the most was "The Best Barbecue Beans Recipe" by Joshua Bousel for Serious Eats. The accompanying photos were exactly what I wanted my beans to look like, and I liked the combination of sweet ingredients (honey, brown sugar and molasses). I made quite a few changes, but it's worth checking out.

That Serious Eats recipe goes the more traditional route of soaking the beans first and baking them in the oven, so expect an overnight soak and about 6-7 hours of cooking time. By comparison, my recipe takes a little over 2 hours--not exactly "instant" but with no soaking or oven time, it's great for whipping up "baked" beans the day before (or even day-of) you want to enjoy them without heating up your kitchen on a hot day or having to remember to soak those beans.

Instant Pot Barbecue "Baked" Beans

Ingredients for cooking the beans:
1 lb. dried pinto beans (may use other similarly sized dried beans), rinsed and examined to remove any small stones
10 cups water
1/2 tsp. salt

Ingredients for cooking the dish:
1/2 lb. bacon, cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch wide strips
1 1/2 cup diced (about 1 large) yellow or sweet onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4 cup barbecue sauce (I recommend Stubb's Hickory Bourbon)
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tbsp. mustard (any will do, I used a grainy Dijon)
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2/3 cup brown sugar (I used light, but would've used dark if I had it)
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup molasses
2 cups low sodium chicken broth

Cook the beans:

1. Combine dried beans, water and salt in an Instant Pot. Lock the lid and set to cook under high pressure for 25 minutes. When cooking time is up, allow pressure to release naturally, which takes about 10-12 minutes. Total time for this step is 50-60 minutes.

2. When pressure is fully released, unlock the lid, drain the beans and set aside in the fridge until ready to use.

Cook the dish:

1. Using the Instant Pot sauté mode, cook the bacon until browned and crisp. Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon. Remove excess bacon fat, leaving about 2 tbsp. in the pot (I used a couple paper towels to soak it up).

2. Add the onion and garlic to the pot. Sauté until softened and lightly browned, about 8-10 minutes. Turn off the Instant Pot.

3. Into the pot with the cooked vegetables, add the cooked bacon, cooked beans, barbecue sauce, ketchup, mustard, vinegar, brown sugar, honey, molasses and chicken broth (in other words, all of the remaining ingredients). Stir to combine. Lock the lid and set to cook under high pressure for 15 minutes. When cooking time is up, allow pressure to release naturally, about 10-15 minutes (vent any remaining pressure after 15 minutes). Total time for this step is 40-45 minutes.

4. Unlock the lid and stir the mixture. If a thicker texture is desired, use Sauté mode (normal setting) to evaporate some of the moisture and thicken the beans--about 10 minutes is just right for me. Allow to cool and either eat or transfer to a container with a lid to store in the fridge.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Restaurant: Muchas Gracias (Washington, D.C.)

Muchas Gracias Washington, D.C.

It's been over 3 years since I've posted a story on Cook In / Dine Out. I've been thinking of restarting it--not as frequently as before, but occasionally writing about new recipes, old favorites and of course, restaurants. With COVID-19 having shut all restaurant dining in, it's going to be really more like "Cook In / Dine In" for the time being.

Thankfully, a lot of great restaurants are offering food for pick-up or delivery, a good reason to continue to support your favorite neighborhood spots, as they need that support now more than ever. We have continued to order from our favorite neighborhood places--Buck's Fishing and Camping and Comet Ping Pong--pretty much every weekend. Yes, we miss our wonderful servers, but having one of those amazing wood-grilled burgers or a Stanley pizza is such a comfort. We are glad they are still open for business and hope they stay that way.

Amazingly, the owners behind our two favorite local hangouts have gone and done something that seems absolutely bonkers: they've opened a new restaurant. Yes, there is a new member of the Forest Hills dining family. And it's pretty incredible.

To set the stage, I must remind you that Chris and I love Mexican food. I mean, it's one of the reasons we typically plan a long weekend in Texas each year. While there, we seek out really good Mexican (and barbecue, another favorite) since, unfortunately, really good but inexpensive Mexican isn't as prevalent in D.C. as we'd like, especially in our neck of the woods. Sure, Poca Madre is divine, but that's neither inexpensive nor convenient to where we live.

Chips with guacamole and salsas
Enter Muchas Gracias, a pop-up taqueria that opened in the former Besta Pizza space next door to Buck's. For a minute, it was called Buckaroos, in a nod to its sibling neighbor. But Muchas Gracias is perfectly named, since that's exactly how I feel about having this absolutely incredible tacos+ restaurant in my neighborhood.

The menu is fairly short, and tacos are the star. As I've checked out the site during the last week, the offerings seem to change a little bit (carnitas was not available the night I ordered), but the short list includes favorites like chicken tinga verde--succulent pieces of chicken stewed with vegetables--and skirt steak fajitas, which smartly side-step the typical sautéed onions and peppers to provide only tender morsels of perfectly grilled steak enriched with a side of honey-chipotle butter and complemented with a scattering of fresh cucumbers. Although we haven't tried it yet, roasted mushrooms and chiles sound like a tasty alternative for those wanting a non-meat choice.

Our favorite taco, the best taco we've ever eaten from a D.C. restaurant, is the short rib birria. Wow wow wow is this good eats. Chef Christian Irabién, an Oyamel alum, has crafted something truly special here, braising short ribs and serving them in red mole broth with pickled onion and preserved cherries (which taste so much like Luxardo maraschino cherries that I'm wondering if that's in fact what they are). Every bite is tender and tasty, with enough spice to keep it interesting and just a hint of sweetness from the cherries. I could eat this taco everyday (it could be a problem having this just blocks from home).

Muchas Gracias Family taco night
Family taco night

For dinner, I definitely recommend getting the "family taco night." It comes with your choice of filling, freshly made corn tortillas (a little smaller than usual and smacking of true homemade goodness), chips, salsa verde, salsa chipotle (absolutely incredible), red beans (amazing), garlic rice, and pickles (tasty but careful with those pickled jalapeños--they've got quite the kick). You also get some peanuts and grasshoppers to snack on beforehand and a decadent slice of tres leches cake garnished with whipped cream and strawberries for dessert. The night we got it, they even threw in a kale Caesar salad with Buck's garlicky Caesar dressing and large croutons. Because it's so hard to choose just one filling, I recommend you add at least one or two others. Toss in some extra tortillas and you have lunch or dinner covered for the next day too.

Because I couldn't help myself, I also ordered a side of guacamole and some extra chips (which we enjoyed with mezcal margaritas I made before dinner). The guacamole is exactly as it should be, bursting with fresh avocados and topped with a few toasted pepitas and a sprinkle of queso fresco. And the chips are really good too, crisp with true corn flavor just the way good tortilla chips should be. So many other things call to me from the menu: I really hope to try their carnitas sometime soon, and I'm curious about their queso dip, including the vegan cashew "queso." Although they don't seem to offer it right now, the online menu shows they also make crispy brussels sprouts with black garlic and smoked jalapeños. Doesn't that sound good?!

Given the times, Muchas Gracias is open right now from 4 to 8:45 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday for pickup (call to order) or online delivery via Caviar or Door Dash. Although this is billed as a pop-up, I hope it sticks around and becomes permanent. I couldn't be happier to have this down the street.

Muchas Gracias, 5029 Connecticut Ave., NW, (202)-244-5000.


Buck's Fishing and Camping

Comet Ping Pong

Monday, February 27, 2017

Spicy Chicken Quesadillas with Avocado Yogurt

Spicy Chicken Quesadillas with Avocado Yogurt

Regular readers have probably noticed by now that I'm not posting on my blog much anymore. I've decided to put Cook In / Dine Out in semi-retirement after 5 tasty years. I will still post occasionally, but I won't be as active either here or in social media.

That said, I do plan to post new recipes on occasion if I have something really good, and I think these chicken quesadillas qualify. I love the spicy-sweet flavor of chipotles-in-adobo here. The first time I only used one, but it wasn't spicy enough for me. How much chipotle to use will be a matter of how hot you want it. I'd call this a "medium" heat level.

Spicy Chicken Quesadillas with Avocado Yogurt

Serves 2 as entree or 4 as a starter (easily doubles too)


2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 lb. boneless-skinless chicken breast (recommend cutlets or tenders)
1 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
Seasoned salt, to taste
1/2 large sweet onion, slivered
2 chipotles-in-adobo, minced with some of the sauce
Juice from 1/2 lime
6 small (fajita size) flour tortillas
4 oz. monterey jack cheese, shredded and divided into 6 equal portions
Avocado yogurt (see below)
Cilantro leaves

1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, season with cumin, oregano, garlic powder and seasoned salt, and sautéed until browned and cooked through, about 10-12 minutes, turning over at the halfway point. Remove the chicken from the pan. After the chicken has rested a couple minutes, chop it into 1/2-inch chunks.

2. Add the onion to the hot pan and sauté, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 8-10 minutes. Stir in the minced chipotles and the chopped chicken. Squeeze the half lime over the mixture to deglaze the pan. Turn off the heat.

3. Heat a 10-inch frying pan over medium heat. Place a tortilla in the pan, then sprinkle evenly with a portion of cheese. Spoon about 3/4 cup of chicken mixture on top of the cheese, spreading it in an even layer, then sprinkle another portion of cheese evenly on top before topping with a second tortilla. Cook for 90 seconds until the bottom tortilla is lightly browned, flip (recommend using a wide spatula) and cook for another minute. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into fourths. Repeat two more times with the remaining ingredients to make 3 whole quesadillas (or 12 fourths when cut). Garnish with avocado-yogurt and cilantro leaves.

Avocado Yogurt

1 ripe hass avocado, peeled and pit discarded, flesh cut into fourths
1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
Juice from 1/2 lime

In a tall container, combine the avocado, yogurt and lime juice. Blend until smooth with an immersion blender (alternatively, combine the ingredients in a food processor or standard blender and pulse until smooth).

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Challah French Toast

There are a lot of ways to make French toast. The simplest, which I remember my mom doing when I was a kid, is to whisk egg and milk together, dip sandwich bread into it, and grill the bread in a pan. From there, you can get all kinds of elaborate. Personally, I find the recipes that call for a lot of eggs, sugar and cream to be too rich. That approach results in what's basically an egg custard held together with bread. I'm also not a fan of deep-frying French toast. It's just too much.

My approach below is adapted from America's Test Kitchen's recipe. For years, I made their recipe faithfully, although recently I've been changing it up a bit. I wanted a little more egg (they use only one), a little less flour, and cinnamon, which goes nicely with the vanilla and is just classic in my book. Although you can use any bread, challah bread works nicely. The sugar in this gives bread just a hint of crunch. I don't call for soaking the bread a long time--just briefly. I don't want a really dense French toast (plus, you'll probably use your batter up too fast with a long soak).

Challah French Toast
Adapted in part from a recipe by America's Test Kitchen

2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
1 cup milk, at room temperature (can use any kind, including skim)
2 tbsp. butter, melted but not hot
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tbsp. butter (not melted), divided
6 slices of challah bread, cut 3/4-inch thick
Warm maple syrup (optional)

1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat.

2. In a large shallow bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, butter and vanilla. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, salt and cinnamon. Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients to create a uniform batter.

3. Add half the unmelted butter to the hot skillet. Dip three pieces of bread (one at a time) into the batter, allow it to soak for a few seconds and wiping off any excess batter with your fingers. Place the dipped bread in the skillet and cook until lightly browned, about 2-3 minutes. Turn over and cook another minute to 90 seconds. Set aside on a platter, add the remaining butter to the skillet and repeat with the other three pieces of bread (this should use up almost all the batter).

4. Serve French toast with warm maple syrup.