July 21, 2010
A Tangle of Noodles
Sometimes I think I should rename this blog "The Improvisational Kitchen". I don't have much in the way of fancy gadgets and my selection of cooking pots and pans is short and sweet. Also, mostly small. Meaning that making large sautees or cooking for a crowd takes some creativity. No food processor here, just a blender that sometimes works double duty. No stand mixer. I do have an ancient hand mixer, but for all intents and purposes it has one speed, and that's high, and I only use it to make whipped cream or occasionally cream butter and sugar. There's a teeny tiny toaster that fits smaller sized sandwich bread and bagels and that's about it. But I'm not complaining, really, it's about all my kitchen can handle anyway. Just sometimes cooking and baking turns into an exercise of improv.
So the other night when I was making this chow mein, I sat staring for a bit. 3/4 of a pound of noodles plus all these add ins is a hefty amount and I was seriously perplexed as to how this was going to go down. Aside from making it in a stockpot, which would be just plain weird, I didn't think I had a pan large enough to accommodate the recipe's size. And then I remember that we have stuffed away at an odd angle into the very last space we had in our cabinets for storage a very well seasoned and previously well loved wok - perfect! So I chopped chopped away, prepping all the ingredients, because this recipe like most stir-fry type dishes are heavy on the chopping prep work, happy that I wouldn't have to awkwardly cook in several not-quite-right pans. Nevermind that my cheap apartment stove is wimpy when it come to providing heat - but it's gas! - and so what if the cooking takes a bit longer. These noodles are everything Chinese take-out is not. They're fresh, light, not in the least bit greasy and really packed with the vegetables. I like the lots of veggies part.
And can somebody please tell me what it is about Chinese food that makes it taste so much better when it's leftovers? Eaten straight from the take out box, cold, fridge door still open. I don't even particularly like Chinese (or rather, American style Chinese) food, but I like it so much more as leftovers, especially the noodles.
Chicken Chow Mein
Adapted from Cooking Light
The key to this recipe is getting the prep work done before you start cooking anything. Once the cooking starts, it moves rapidly and it's better to have all your ingredients next to you ready to toss in than to stress yourself out over time constraints. I grouped the carrots, peas and celery in one prep bowl. The chicken and 1 tablespoon soy sauce in another. Mushrooms and garlic in a third. And the sauce in a final bowl. The recipe indicates 4 total servings, but I feel like it's closer to 6, especially if you serve it with a vegetable side dish.
4 - 6 servings
1 cup matchstick-cut carrots
1 cup snow peas, trimmed
2 stalks of celery, thinly sliced on a deep angle
12 oz dry chow mein noodles
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil, divided
1/2 pound chicken breast tenders, sliced into thin strips
3 tablespoons soy sauce, divided
3/4 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup sliced green onions
Cook carrots, snow peas, celery and noodles in boiling water 3 minutes; drain and set aside
Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet (or wok) over medium-high heat. Add chicken and 1 tablespoon soy sauce to pan; stir-fry 3 minutes. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm.
Combine remaining 2 tablespoons soy sauce, chicken broth, oyster sauce, grated ginger, and pepper flakes, stirring well. Heat remaining 1 teaspoon oil over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and garlic to pan; stir-fry for 3 minutes. Add broth mixture, and cook for 1 minute, bringing the sauce to just under a boil. Add noodle mixture and chicken to pan; cook 1 minute, tossing to combine. The sauce should soak up into the noodles within this time. Sprinkle with green onions and serve.