Monday, November 17, 2008

Food Hacking

Since I've rejoined the bachelor life, I've started making a lot more of my own meals (partly for economic reasons, partly because I don't live as close to eating places now as I did before). Back when I first got engaged, I decided to learn how to cook, at least a little, and discovered I enjoyed it.

But what I do now, you couldn't really call cooking. I don't make things from scratch; I buy prepackaged ingredients, then "enhance" them. It's more like food hacking.

For instance, ramen. Back in college, I would buy a packet of ramen and fix it according to the instructions on the label. Bland and boring. But when I was in Korea, I noticed that they use ramen like the stone in stone soup. Cook the ramen, then add all kinds of things to it to make it more nutritious and more palatable.

So here's my current take on ramen, although I reserve the right to play with stuff with every new batch. I start with a basic package of ramen and sliced hot links or sausage or hot dogs (depending on how broke I am) for protein. But when I'm boiling the water, I add a splash of wine (usually dry sherry, though I've experimented with red as well) and a sprinkle of fresh rosemary (maybe a half-teaspoon or so). The ramen is so salty that this adds only the slightest undertone of flavor, but it makes the house smell wonderful. I boil the noodles and hot dogs, then stir in the flavor packet and take it to the bowl. Once it's in the bowl, I add shredded cheese and a splash of bitters (I could do this in the pot, but the cheese makes a sticky mess, and it's easier to only clean it out of one container).

I used to add egg, also, but I haven't bought eggs in a long time. I've got some frozen shrimp I could try, and I could add fresh vegetables, but that starts to sound too much like cooking. What I'm doing now is quick and convenient, but has more flavor and depth than simply eating what comes out of the pack. That's food hacking.

Any easy food hacks you'd like to share?

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