A Midnight Snack

Ever since high school, I’ve never been able to abandon my night owl tendencies. There’s something too difficult about finally giving up my day and acknowledging that it’s time to sleep. So I’m up, browsing my computer, reading a magazine until everyone’s gone to bed and it’s clear I’m probably the only person awake around the block.

Inevitably, once the clock starts hitting the very wee hours I start rummaging, hounding for a decent snack in the kitchen to satiate my grumbling stomach.

Lo and behold, tonight, it happened again. But this time, instead of settling for a piece of fruit or a bowl of cereal, my eyes landed upon a few stray cheesesticks sitting in my fridge. And as much as I could’ve, should’ve, gone for the apple right next to them, I couldn’t shake away the desire to make mozzarella sticks.

So I pulled out an egg, the panko and the flour, the bowls and a fork and got to work.

I took a generous spoonful of flour and panko and dumped them (neatly) onto a plate. I didn’t need much because I was only making a few mozzarella sticks.

Then I started drenching the cheese sticks into the egg (which I seasoned with salt and pepper), then into the flour, into the egg again and into the panko. I double coated the sticks to ensure they’d have a thick enough outer coat to encase the cheese.

                             

Now I was ready to fry. A good layer of oil on the pan, no need for too much, and I was set.

The cheese oozed out a little but I just let it crisp up and it became a nice chewy crust.

As the cheese sticks started to brown I thought I might as well take the remaining egg and cook it in the pan as well. I really didn’t have the heart to toss away something perfectly edible. Aren’t I resourceful?

                             

I served the cheese sticks with a couple slices of tomatoes (instead of marinara sauce) and a thin layer of fried egg. A simple snack that was quick, easy and delicious!

Hope you enjoyed!

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Warmth in a Bowl

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There’s always that one dish you know you can fall back on to fill your belly with comforting warmth and a round fullness. The kind that makes you lean back when you’re done slurping that last spoonful and let out a satisfied, happy sigh.

For me, that dish is the Nabeyaki Udon from a local Japanese restaurant called Umeya.

I’ve grown up eating those packaged versions of udon all my life and honestly, they aren’t that bad. But that flat broth and slightly too soft noodles lack a depth of flavor and chew that Umeya has never failed to deliver, God bless them.

Knowing my ever frugal mother had never indulged herself in anything fancier than the same lackluster packaged noodles I’d eaten in my childhood, I made it my mission to bring her to Umeya during my spring break. And that is what brought us to tonight’s dinner!

That happy hum that sung from my mom’s throat after the first sip of broth was all I needed to hear to know she approved. It was a sign that the endless praise I had heaped upon this dish during the car ride there had not fallen flat.

I always start with that first spoonful of broth that fills your mouth and dances on your tongue. That’s what hooks you in right away. Deep, earthy and flavorful, it warms your soul and wakes up your taste buds saying, “You’re about to eat something seriously yummy.”

Then I swiftly go in on the shrimp tempura whose batter underneath is soft from the hot soup but still crunchy on top. I have some of the crunchy bamboo slices and silky, chewy mushrooms. You can’t forget the huge egg in the middle and the fresh, soft scallions that simultaneously compliment and cut through the earthy broth.

Then come the noodles.

The noodles are my absolute favorite. Thick and chewy, with the right amount of elasticity udon noodles should have. It’s something that I’ve always mourned in previous subpar udon dishes. And that ricey flavor that develops as you keep chewing is heaven for a noodle fanatic.

After you eat through the first layer of udon, quickly going through delicious spoonfuls of noodle, broth and mushroom you discover a hidden treasure cove…of chicken! Hidden under the bed of tempura floatings and egg, are meaty chunks of juicy, dark chicken meat that are almost slightly sweet.

And all this comes in an earthen clay pot that keeps it piping hot the entire time you’re slurping away.

Can we just take another look at all its glory?

Yep, it’s official. I’m in love. This whole first post seems like a shameless propaganda essay Umeya paid me to write (one I would have gladly written), but I really just wanted to share this wonderful dish with you. If you happen to be in Creskill, NJ (Bergen County) and you’re searching for some good udon (or authentic Japanese food for that matter), you should really try it!

Umeya
156 Piermont Rd.
Cresskill, NJ
07628