Wednesday, January 27, 2010

An Exercise in Far Eastern Sensibilities

Torii GateI almost broke down and ordered Chinese food tonight. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's not as if I'm on some sort of deprivation kick (although I freely admit to being a colossal food snob), it's just that it kills me to spend good money on bad take out. Even when I'm in absolutely no mood to cook, digging into the junk draw for the menus piled at the bottom of all the detritus we collect is an act of last resort. But the hankering for something Asian remained. What was in the cupboards?
Pasta in all shapes and sizes, sesame seeds, soy sauce, even the dregs of some peanut butter. The chill chest held a sad looking piece of ginger from god knows where, and frozen chicken breasts. The mind reeled.
Double Happiness Chicken Asian Noodles - by Blog O. Food
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • ⅛ cup sesame seeds
  • ¼ cup peanut butter, I like chunky
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 2½ Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • ½ tsp hot sauce
  • 1 Tbsp light brown sugar
  • 8 oz Perciatelli* pasta
  • ½ Tbsp Asian sesame oil
  • ½ Tbsp peanut oil
  • 2 green onions, thinly julienned
  • ½ carrot, grated

*Long strands of pasta. Fatter versions of spaghetti that have a hollow center running the length of the noodle.

Toast sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat, tossing frequently, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Reserve a half-tablespoon of sesame seeds in a small bowl.
Along with the peanut butter, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, hot sauce and brown sugar, pour the remaining sesame seeds into the bowl of a food processor, set with a steel blade. Purée until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice.
With the machine running, drizzle in just enough hot water to form a creamy consistency to the sauce (a couple tablespoons). Set sauce aside.
Preheat the broiler on your oven, and place the broiler rack 6 inches away from the heat source. Heat the rack. Meanwhile, bring plenty of salted water to a boil in a heavy-bottomed stock pot.
Spray hot broiler rack with vegetable spray and set chicken breasts to broil until lightly browned on top, about 6 minutes. Carefully turn breasts with tongs and continue to broil until internal temperature reaches 160°, another 6-8 minutes. Transfer breasts to a cutting board, lightly tent and allow to rest. Shred chicken into bite-sized pieces.
While chicken rests, add noodles to boiling water and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water until cool to the touch. Drain thoroughly, then pour into a large mixing bowl. Toss noodles with sesame and peanut oils to evenly coat. Add chicken, green onions, carrot and peanut sauce and toss to combine. Divide among soup bowls and sprinkle each with reserved sesame seeds and a little extra green onion for color. Enjoy with an ice cold Chinese or Japanese beer, or warm sake.
Again with the rinsed noodles, I know, I know!!! I've made sesame noodles several times now, and if you don't rinse the starch off the noodles after cooking, the next day's lunch is more of a gummy peanut butter paste than a pleasant reminder of last night's dinner. Ordering take out would most definitely be justified then. Also, most recipes call for a whole tablespoon of sesame oil for tossing with the noodles. I always think the dish tastes slightly burnt that way, so I cut the sesame with a little peanut oil and get, I think, just the right amount of toasty sesame flavor. Two breasts and a half-pound of noodles ought to serve 4 people.
Well, I saved about twelve dollars in food and delivery charges and can still look myself in the mirror. That made me doubly happy. I'm not judging anyone who picks up the phone or heads to the drive-thru instead of facing the dilemma of what to put on the table. There just may be an easy, tasty, money-saving alternative. I'm just sayin'!
Thanks for taking the time - Blog O. Food

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