Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pan Fried Noodles with chicken and veggies

Pan fried noodles with chicken and veggies

Our home is a testament to where we've been; the $5 Ikea mirror, the (arguably) artsty items picked up on trips around the world, the couch purchased for $75 at a second hand store that almost didn't fit into the back of the Duke's now-donated-to-charity chariot.  The essence of what makes our house our home is, of course, the memories.

But not in the kitchen.  The greatness of the kitchen lies not in the memories but in the possibilities.  We can be dynamic, beautiful, interesting people in the kitchen.  We can always try something new and fresh in the kitchen.  Honestly, when was the last time you said to yourself, "I think I'll reupholster the armchair in the living room, just to try something different tonight?"  Ok, that actually sounds like fun, but when was the last time you actually did it?  In the kitchen, however, we become adventurous, even if the only reason we add soy sauce to the sloppy joes is because we forgot to pick up Worcester sauce at the grocery store.  If it works out (and it does, my friends, it does!), soy sauce suddenly has a whole new life, and is added to your "Go-To Guys".

Meet my Go-To Guys:
Back Row: Lemon juice, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, pre-minced garlic, Fish sauce
Front Row: Balsamic Vinegar, Sriracha, soy sauce, sesame oil
In addition to the obvious basil and butter, there are quite a few staples in my kitchen-- these are the things I feel like I'm short a limb if we run out of them.  I know some of them might look a little new, (I know there was no fish sauce in my house growing up) but try them out anyway.  Heck, I don't even like fish generally speaking, but the sauce has a nice salty flavor that adds a nice undertone to whatever it goes in.  These are my background players, the ones who make a dish what it really is, the versatile ingredients that can be matched and married into countless flavor combinations to compliment whatever else I've got on hand.  I won't go so far as to call them friends, but they do talk to me, even if I don't use them all at once.  When I don't know what I'm making for dinner, I just pull them out of their respective homes, and ask them.  Last night I called and they answered, "Stir fry.  But instead of over rice, try pan fried noodles." In this case, balsamic and lemon juice were the only ones left out and put back in the cupboard to play another day.

What can I say, my "Go To Guys" get it done.

The noodles I used are recommended by just about anyone who makes Asian cuisine for a living.  The brand isn't so important as the type: the dehydrated noodles do much better than the "fresh" ones you might find in your produce section or refrigerator case, which, in my humble opinion, can come out a tad gummy.  And they're cheaper-- usually about the same price as a pound of pasta.  Check your "Asian" section of your grocery store (or even better yet, a local Asian market- they're usually even less there!!).  If they're not available where you live, I suppose some kind of linguine might work, but won't be as sticky.  (Please note, when I say egg noodles, I don't mean the big, flat, short egg noodles famous for pairing with stroganoff, I mean soba noodles.)  A note about cooking the noodles:  The noodles will probably instruct to cook for 2 min in boiling water.  I'd cook about 1:30 seconds, because we will finish them off later.  Also, when they say boiling, they mean exactly from the time the noodles hit the boiling water, not from when the water becomes boiling again after they're in the pot.  Short story: set your timer for 1:30 seconds, carefully put noodles in the boiling water, then hit start. Don't go anywhere, don't do anything, DO NOT OVER COOK these noodles, they become a sad mushy mess, and no one likes that.  No one!

As for the chicken and veggies-- no need to get anything special, just use the veggies/protein you have on hand (which is what I've done for the recipe below).  Just make sure you are cooking the veggies in the right order (the longest to cook goes into the pan first etc...). 

Pan Fried Noodles with Chicken and Veggies
This made enough for the Loving Duke and I for dinner, with enough leftovers for one lunch.  If you're not as hungry, feel free to use one package of noodles.

2 packages dehydrated egg or soba noodles
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
3 Tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil

Chicken and veggies
2 Chicken breasts, cut into cubes then smashed with mallot or side of knife.
3 cloves of garlic, minced (or 3 Tablespoons pre-chopped garlic)
1/2 small onion, shredded/minced
5-6 leaves basil, confettied
1/4 lb carrots, chopped into bite sized pieces
2 bell peppers, cut into strips (different colors is prettier, but I only had red)
1 small head broccoli (or broccolini) cut down into bite sized pieces.
1T sesame oil (or more to taste)
1T fish sauce (or more to taste)
2 small squirts Sriracha for heat 
Soy sauce to taste 
sesame seeds and cilantro (or more basil) for garnish

Preparation Instructions
In a large saucepan, add enough water to cover the noodles and bring to a boil. Add the noodles, stirring to separate. Cook until the noodles are al dente - tender, but still firm. (About 30 seconds less than the package recomends.) Drain thoroughly. Rinse with cold water, drain again, and toss with the sesame oil.

In a heavy frying pan or a wok, heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium-high to high heat. Add the noodles. Quickly spread them out to the edges of the pan, and then let them cook, without stirring, until they are browned on the bottom (5 - 8 minutes).

Flip over and brown the other side. Remove to a plate. Keep warm while preparing the rest of the food.

In the same pan used for the noodles (don't wash it, just keep going), add some more oil, and let it heat up on medium heat.  Add the garlic, onion and basil and cook briefly-- 30 seconds.  Then add the chicken and let that brown up and cook through.  When the chicken is fully cooked, remove from pan, put with noodles to keep warm.  Add in a little water to the pan, just to deglaze it, and add your veggies, starting with the carrots.  (Make sure to keep a little liquid in the bottom of the pan at all times, you dont want all the water to boil off and burn the good stuff in it!)  Let them steam/fry up for about 4 min, then add the bell peppers let them cook for another two minutes, and finally the broccoli pieces, cooking for another 4 minutes.  At this point, add the rest of the seasonings, oils and sauces, stir it all up, and make sure all the veggies are the appropriate tenderness for your liking.  Add back in the chicken mixture and the noodles.  Remove from heat.  Use tongs to mix everything together, and top with chopped cilantro and sesame seeds as garnish if desired.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Spaghetti with Bacon, Artichokes and Leeks

Spaghetti with Bacon, Artichokes and Leeks
Today was a busy day, as many days are.  Clean up, play with baby, work for a little bit, then run errands all afternoon into the evening.  As such, I was less than inclined to stop at the store for those last minute additions we need for dinner than I might otherwise be.

So, reaching into my pantry, fridge, and mental recipe box of stuff I'd like to attempt cooking, I settled on a compromise of two recipes I found on Ree Drummand's website.  ( is just plain awesome.  As in awe inspiring.  As in I am "in awe" of how she runs the website, works on cookbooks, posts recipes everyday, as well as info about farming, gardening, homeschooling, and being a mom of four.  She's pretty much my blogging world hero, and I highly recommend you check out her page.)  At any rate, she had two recipes, Spaghetti with Artichoke Hearts and Tomatos and Pasta with Pancetta and Leeks, both of which looked delicious, so I kinda stole from one and added to the other to fit my pantry's needs.  I've given you the link to the original recipes, since she really deserves the credit for this one, but posted the recipe the way I made it below.

I loved the leek in the recipe but not everyone in my house feels the same way, so if you, like me, are cooking for a Serial Leek Hater, you could use just plain onion, finely chopped in place of the leek.  Also, the recipe calls for freshly grated Parmesan.  I almost never carry that, because, lets be honest, I'm trying to be frugal. We used the kind that comes out of the cardboard can, and that works just fine (although I'm sure it would be even more amazing fresh).  If you're using the stuff from a can you should add some time to let it melt, since the preservatives tend to keep it more in grated form (I'm opting not to think about what that means for me...).  Also, regarding the cheese, the original recipe called for one whole cup.  I thought that it was a little too parmesean-ish, so I've reduced it.  Feel free to start with a little, and add more as you'd like.  Its hard to imagine a reality where there is too much cheese, but it exists.  And its a sad, gooey place where you can no longer taste the artichokes or the garlic, and you wish you could just take it back.  But you can't, my friends, you can't.  So start with a 1/2 cup, and add as you go.  Better to be careful than sorry.

Spaghetti with Bacon, Artichokes, and Leeks
If you're one of those odd people who don't just keep bacon in your freezer, or you'd rather go vegetarian, then I suppose you could just use a little butter and olive oil to saute up the leeks/onions and garlic.


  • 1/2 lb of Bacon or Pancetta
  • 3 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 2 leeks sliced into coins or ½ of a medium Onion, Finely Diced
  • 1 can Artichoke Hearts (14.5 Oz. Quartered Or Whole) Drained AND squeezed
  • 1/2 can crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 cup milk (cream if you have it)
  • ½ cups Chicken Broth (More As Needed)
  • Salt And Pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound spaghetti (we like whole wheat)
  • 1/2 cup + more to taste Parmesan Cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons Fresh basil (or Other Herbs) Chopped

Preparation Instructions

Cook spaghetti till al dente. Drain and set aside, reserving some of the pasta water for later, in case you need it.

**Start with a big pan, everything is going to end up in the pan, even the pasta!**

Chop up bacon, and render it in a pan, removing the bacon bits to a paper towel and removing most of the bacon fat from the pan. Add onions or leeks and garlic and saute for 2 to 3 minutes.

Add artichoke hearts and tomatoes. Stir and cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Stir in milk and chicken broth, add the bacon back in. Add salt and pepper to taste (do not undersalt!) Cook over low heat until heated through, then turn off heat. 

Sprinkle Parmesan into big pan, and stir into sauce, to let it melt a bit.  Add pasta to the pan, and add basil. 
 Toss lightly to combine and coat; add a tiny bit of reserved pasta water if sauce seems too thick.

Yum yum!