Friends, not to be obnoxious, but I consider myself somewhat culinarily enlightened. What I mean is, I love to experiment with new ingredients. No lie — I have bookoos of salt. Porcini, Maldon, Gray, Chardonnay-Smoked, Rosemary, Truffle, Hawaiian Red, Sicilian White. So much for not being obnoxious. It’s starting to sound like I’m a heroin dealer.
Anyway, I like to cook with weird stuff. But six months ago when my friend, co-worker, and serial blogger Carrie (Shop Small and Plate & Pattern) recommended that I try miso, I nodded, smiled politely, and hurriedly dismissed the very notion of such a thing. You see, Carrie is what I call VERY Vegetarian. She doesn’t eat fish — she doesn’t cheat and sneak a sausage ball during the holidays (sorry Jen). She even sometimes eats sauteed chard or broccoli for breakfast. So yes, I am ashamed, but I dismissed miso as a “vegetarian thing.”
For those of you who don’t know what miso is, let’s hear what The Holy Brain of the Internet has to say about it:
What the FUNGUS? Well that certainly didn’t sell me. But you know what did? Bon Appetit. The January issue featured an article extolling the flavor virtues of miso. That, combined with Carrie’s previous endorsement, convinced me to stroll into Whole Foods and purchase my forsaken ingredient. I stand before you (and Carrie) now completely humbled. I have sampled the tasty paste, and it is absolutely FANTASTIC! Savory, versatile, interesting. Let me share just a fraction of my Miso Mischief… For starters, here’s what the package looks like. It comes in several varieties, commonly white, yellow, and red, with white being the most mild and red the most flavor-packed. So of course I bought red.
Now bear in mind that, true to form, I did no research on miso recipes. I figured I’d just wing it. Up until this very moment, I had never actually SEEN miso with my own eyes, except in that cloudy soup at Japanese restaurants. So I opened her up and took a look…
Imagine my delight — upon prying open the lid, I discovered a sweet Miso Message. Apparently, Miso is interesting AND healthy. Awesome! So I went on and peeled off the seal to find…
Honestly, my first thought was, “Miso Soup? More like Miso Poop!” But having experienced the stuffing and dressing of a raw chicken, I know that food doesn’t always start out looking like a million bucks. I gave it a sniff. Sniff sniff…hmmm…fermenty? So I gave it a tiny taste. Smack smack smack….hmmm…soy-y, but not overly salty. A bigger taste…rich, savory…interesting.
My meal plan for that night was Asian, so I decided to do a miso soup and a miso vinaigrette for our steak salad. I basically started by sauteing ginger, onions, garlic, and carrots, then added beef broth, a star anise, and a dash of soy and rice vinegar. I cooked this for a while until the flavor developed, then added lo mein noodles. Once they were cooked, I added about a TBSP of miso. Why wait, you ask? Well, Miso is very sensitive, apparently. There’s a sternly toned warning on the label that says, “Do Not Boil Miso!” I was like, “Oh, arrigato!” Apparently the flavor is delicate and boiling it blows it to high hell. Good to know!
The next night, we were having salmon. I did a quick search on myrecipes.com and found this recipe for Miso Glazed Salmon, so I figured, “Why the hell not?”
It was super-easy, really fast, and delicious. I was just the right amount of savory. Good job, Miso!
I played around with a few other miso applications, including Miso Mayonnaise (couldn’t really taste it) and adding miso to my Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps recipe. [Note: They are Asian-flavored, not made with Asian Turkeys.] This was actually a huge success — miso provided the flavor impact of soy without the overwhelming saltiness. Anyhoo, I still have a half of a tub of miso to play with, so who knows what kind of mischief I’ll whip up next? If you’re looking for something new to play with, go grab some miso. It’s like having a little kitchen pokémon! Until next time, two things: 1. Carrie, please forgive me for dismissing your Miso Wisdom, and 2. Please remember — DO NOT BOIL MISO! 😉