Weekly Winner: Solitary Stir-Fried Noodles

stir fry udonI’m flying solo this week which means I usually fall back on old favorites or make something that I know my hubby doesn’t care for.  But this past week I came across this super simple noodle dish, Better-Than-Takeout Stir-Fried Udon, in Bon Appetit which has two of my favorite components:  Pork and big, fat chewy udon noodles. I had to try it.

I thought the cabbage was a strange add in this and honestly, I was very close to subbing in coleslaw mix rather than the big pieces of cabbage called for.  I’m really glad I didn’t.  Those big pieces were such a pleasant surprise.  The other surprise was how incredibly quickly this comes together since you use instant udon.  Leftovers, by the way… are fabulous the next day!

Better-Than-Takeout Stir-Fired Udon

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 4 cups very coarsely chopped green cabbage (from about ¼ medium head)
  • 2 7-ounce packages instant udon noodles, flavor packets discarded
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 8 ounces ground pork
  • 5 scallions, white and pale-green parts coarsely chopped, dark-green parts thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ⅓ cup mirin
  • ⅓ cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, plus more for serving

Procedure:

  1. Heat 1 Tbsp vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high.  Cook cabbage, tossing often, until edges are browned, about 4 minutes.  Reduce heat to low and continue to cook, tossing often, until thickest parts of cabbage are tender, about 4 minutes longer. Remove from heat, set aside.
  2. Place noodles in a large heatproof bowl and cover with 6 cups boiling water.  Let sit then drain.  Transfer noodles back to bowl and toss with sesame oil.  Add reserved cabbage and wipe out skillet.
  3. Heat remaining 1 Tbsp vegetable oil in skillet over medium-high and add pork, breaking up and spreading across surface of pan with a spatula or tongs.  Cook pork, undisturbed, until underside is browned, about 3 minutes  Break up meat into smaller pieces and continue to cook, tossing, just until meat is cooked through and no longer pink, about 1 minute.
  4. Add chopped scallions (the white and pale green parts), ginger and red pepper flakes and cook, tossing often until scallions are softened and inside of skillet starts to brown, about 1 minute.
  5. Add noodle mixture, mirin, and soy sauce and cook, tossing constantly and scraping up browned bits, until noodles are coated in sauce, about 45 seconds. Remove from heat and mix in sliced scallions (the dark green parts) and 1 Tbsp sesame seeds.
  6. Divide noodles among bowls and top with more sesame seeds.

Weekly Winner: A Healthy Hack and Veggie Fix Combined

buffalo cauliflowerFirst things first:  I am in no way saying that this recipe will trick you into thinking your tucking into a big basket of buffalo wings.  It won’t.  However, if like me, you are trying to lighten things and find more virtuous versions of your cold weather comfort foods, this does the trick.  At least it did for me.

I am a huge fan of cauliflower and all the ways you can transform it.  To me it’s a great “blank canvas” to take on different flavors and textures.  It can be pureed to thicken soups, it can be roasted to crunchy, golden deliciousness, and it can be minced up to mimic rice or couscous.  Now, apparently it can be “buffalo-ized” as well.  Buffalo Cauliflower Salad comes from Eating Well Magazine and has all the “requirements” of buffalo wings (OK, except for the actual “wing”).  It has the crunchy carrots and celery, the tangy blue cheese and the nice spicy kick of the buffalo sauce.  And you’re eating a salad!

Buffalo Cauliflower Salad

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups 1-inch cauliflower florets (1 medium head)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon salt, divided
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ⅓ cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives and/or dill
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon hot sauce, such as Frank’s RedHot
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 8 cups chopped romaine lettuce
  • ½ cup julienned carrots
  • ½ cup sliced celery
  • ¼ cup sliced red onion
  • ⅓ cup crumbled blue cheese

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Toss cauliflower with oil and ⅛ teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast the cauliflower until it is starting to soften and brown on the bottom, about 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk buttermilk, mayonnaise, herbs, garlic powder, pepper and the remaining ⅛ teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Set aside.
  4. Combine hot sauce, butter and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Add the roasted cauliflower and toss. Return the cauliflower to the baking sheet and drizzle with the sauce left in the bowl. Roast until the sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes more. Stir to coat the cauliflower completely.
  5. Add lettuce, carrot, celery and onion to the dressing in the large bowl; toss to coat. Serve the salad topped with the Buffalo cauliflower and blue cheese.

Weekly Winner: One-Pan Peanut-Poultry-Potato ‘Palooza!

peanut chile chickenPeanut butter and chicken are like that unlikely paired odd couple you know.  “What do they see in each other?”  “How does that work? They’re nothing alike”.  Perhaps the answer is as easy as: They simply bring out the best or unexpected in each other.  Such is the case with Crispy Peanut-Chile Chicken with Sweet Potatoes.  While you maybe wouldn’t automatically think to combine spicy chiles, chicken, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and peanuts….once you do, you will understand the magic.

This unexpected recipe comes from Fine Cooking Magazine.  It comes together fairly quickly and easily –everything cooks in the same pan (easy cleanup!) so is quite doable for a weekday meal but also different enough and presents nice enough for a company dish.

Crispy Peanut-Chile Chicken with Sweet Potatoes

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter, creamy or chunky
  • 2 Thai bird chiles, minced (keep the seeds from one of them)
  • 5 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • 8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
  • 1 large onion, chopped (about 2-1/3 cups)
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 large sweet potatoes (about 6 cups), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 2 lb.)
  • 7 oz. cherry tomatoes (about 1 cup)
  • 2 oz. (1/2 cup) shelled roasted, salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Procedure:

  • Thoroughly combine the peanut butter, chiles, 3 Tbs. of the oil, the lemon juice, 2 tsp. of the garlic, and 3/4 tsp. salt in a gallon-size zip-top bag. Lightly sprinkle the chicken thighs with salt, and then add to the marinade. Refrigerate for 1 hour, massaging every 15 minutes.
  • Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 375°F. Heat the remaining 2 Tbs. of the oil in a large ovenproof skillet, preferably cast iron, on medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion, the remaining garlic, 2 Tbs. cilantro, and 1/2 tsp. salt, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens and the garlic is fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the sweet potatoes. Cover the pan, and cook until the sweet potatoes just start to soften, stirring once, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat.
  • Remove the lid from the skillet, and add the tomatoes. Remove the chicken from the marinade, and place smooth side up over the tomatoes, spooning marinade on top of each. Scatter the peanuts over the chicken, and then transfer the skillet to the oven. Cook until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F, about 30 minutes.
  • Heat the broiler on high, then cook until the top of the chicken and the peanuts turn light golden, 1 to 2 minutes, watching closely so that it doesn’t burn. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before serving, sprinkled with the remaining cilantro.