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.
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Weekly Winner: Just in time for Chinese New Year – minus the pig :-(

Teriyaki meatballsI’d like to think I had this all planned out.  That I knew that yesterday was the Chinese New Year and that, traditionally, one ate noodles, mushrooms, and greens for luck, health and prosperity.  I mean, in theory I knew all this… I just didn’t realize that yesterday was actually the Chinese New Year AND that it was the year of the pig!  I do love me some pig!  As luck would have it, I had planned this dish for dinner anyway.  Had I really thought it all out, the meatballs would have obviously been made from pork.

This recipe from Cook’s Country for Teriyaki Meatballs caught my eye.  When I realized they were chicken meatballs, I almost didn’t read any further.  To me, chicken meatballs are usually a sad excuse for a ball of meat.  Bland, dry, not worth the effort of rolling out.  But right away they explained that these were different.  They figured out a way to pack flavor, structure and moisture into these little gems.  Yes, they did!  The homemade teriyaki sauce was also a revelation — not gloppy and sickeningly sweet like a lot of bottled versions.  Just thick enough to glaze the tender, tasty meatballs.

I decided to serve them on Udon noodles which I get frozen from my favorite Asian market, but obviously these would be awesome on rice, on other noodles, or simply served with toothpicks as appetizers.

Teriyaki Meatballs

Makes 40 bite-sized meatballs

Ingredients:

For the meatballs:

6 oz shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and chopped coarse

1-1/2  cups chopped green cabbage

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

Salt & pepper

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger

1 pound ground chicken

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

4 scallions, minced

3 Tbsp. minced fresh cilantro (I used parsley)

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil

For the sauce:

1 Tbsp. cornstarch

1 Tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar

1/2 cup mirin

1/3 cup water

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 scallions, green parts only, sliced thin on the bias

1 Tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted

Procedure:

  1. For the meatballs:  Adjust oven rack to the upper-meddle position and heat oven to 400F.  Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray evenly with vegetable oil spray.  Combine mushrooms and cabbage in food processor and pulse until chopped into 1/4 inch pieces, about 8-10 pulses.
  2. Heat vegetable oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add mushroom mixture and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes.  Add garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Transfer to large bowl.
  3. For the sauce:  Wipe now-empty skillet clean with paper towels. Whisk cornstarch and vinegar in small bowl until combined; set aside. Bring mirin, water, soy sauce, and sugar to boil over high heat. Whisk in cornstarch slurry, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until thickened, about 1 minute. Remove pan from heat; transfer 3 tablespoons teriyaki sauce to mushroom mixture.  Let mushroom mixture cool completely, about 15 minutes. Cover skillet and set remaining sauce aside.
  4. Add chicken, panko, scallions, cilantro, parsley, egg, sesame oil, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper to cooled mushroom mixture and mix with your hands until thoroughly combined.  Divide chicken mixture into 40 portions, about 1 tablespoon each.  Roll between your wet hands to form 1-1/4 inch balls and space evenly on prepared sheet in 8 rows of 5.  Cover lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
  5. Uncover sheet and bake until meatballs are firm and bottoms are lightly browned, 15-20 minutes, rotating pan halfway through cooking.  Rewarm sauce over medium-low heat.  Add meatballs to skillet and toss to coat with sauce. Sprinkle with scallions and sesame seeds and serve.

 

 

 

Weekly Winner: Changing Up Beef Stew – Chinese-Style

beef stewI’m not a huge fan of typical beef stew.  Cubes of beef with veggies in a broth is just not that exciting to me.  Pot roast is a bit better … succulent beef that falls apart or shreds at the lightest touch… better but not perfect.  Spicy shredded beef on noodles (and not just any noodles, but toothsome, slippery Udon noodles) – now you’re talking beef perfection!!!

Slow-Cooker Chinese Beef Stew with Noodles might just become my new favorite comfort food.  This is fancy enough for company but also perfect for cozying up on the couch in your jammies with.  To top it all off, it’s made in the slow cooker!  Hands-off comfort food.  You just can’t beat that!  I got this winner from Food Network Magazine.  It couldn’t be easier to prepare or tastier to eat.   I did change up the recipe one little bit:  it called for watercress as it’s “greenery”.  Hubby doesn’t care for watercress and I already had a combination of spinach and arugula so I used that.

Slow-Cooker Chinese Beef Stew with Noodles

Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 pounds beef chuck roast

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons hoisin sauce

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

2 teaspoons tomato paste

2 teaspoons chili-garlic sauce

1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger

1 pod star anise

1 9.5-ounce package dried udon noodles

1/2 bunch watercress, leaves picked (about 3 cups baby arugula and spinach combination)

Sliced scallions and balsamic vinegar, for topping

Procedure:

  1. Put the beef in a 6- to 8-quart slow cooker and season lightly with salt and pepper. Whisk the flour and 1/2 cup water in a small bowl until smooth, then whisk in the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, tomato paste, chili-garlic sauce and ginger. Pour into the slow cooker and turn the beef to coat. Add the star anise. Cover and cook on low until the beef is tender, 7 to 8 hours.
  2. Discard the star anise and transfer the meat to a plate. Shred into bite-size pieces, removing any large pieces of fat. Skim off any excess fat from the liquid in the slow cooker. Return the meat to the slow cooker and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook as the label directs; drain. Divide the noodles and beef stew among bowls. Top with the spinach/arugula, scallions and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

Weekly Winner: Stir(fry)ing up a Life-Changing Discovery

udon stir fryYou guys…. this is HUGE!  I recently discovered that frozen Asian noodles are … a thing!  I mean they exist!  And they’re awesome!!  Furthermore, a full-service Asian supermarket, H Mart, opened up in Chicago … right next door to a very good friend of mine.  Mind.  Blown.  This, friends… changes everything!!

I adore of any kind noodles (I’ve said it before and I’ll say in again), but if we’re talking about Asian noodles, without a doubt udon are my favorite.  I’ve noticed whenever I go to an Asian restaurant and order udon, they are absolutely divine. Chewy, thick, really something you can sink your teeth into.  However, when I try to recreate recipes at home with dried udon, I am always somewhat disappointed.  Frozen udon is the answer to my prayers!  Having stocked up on a ridiculously large quantity of them (they’re frozen!  they’ll keep forever!! they’re cheap!) I set out to find something to do with them.  Then I quickly remembered having pulled a recipe from Food Network Magazine for Stir-Fried Udon with Chicken and Vegetables, and off to work I went.

This is, perhaps, the most subtle dish I’ve ever made.  And by subtle, I definitely do not mean boring. There really are no standout flavors.  You can taste each ingredient and they are all bathed in a luscious, light, mushroom-broth-based sauce.  But winding its way through it all are those big, chewy, fabulous noodles.  Because the noodles cook up in minutes, this is a very quick, satisfying and tasty meal.  And while I suspect I’ll make this dish often, I now have a stash of amazing frozen noodles to experiment with.  I think it’s going to be a very “noodley” spring!

Stir-Fried Udon with Chicken and Vegetables

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 18 to 20 ounces fresh or frozen udon noodles
  • 1/4 cup mushroom broth
  • 2 tablespoons sake
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 8 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breasts, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/4 small head napa cabbage, chopped into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 carrot, thinly sliced on an angle
  • 3 scallions (white and green parts separated), thinly sliced
  • 1 cup snow peas, trimmed
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced

Procedure:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook as the label directs. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water, stirring the noodles with your hands. Set aside.

Mix the mushroom broth, sake, soy sauce, sugar and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper in a large liquid measuring cup; set aside. Heat a large nonstick skillet over high heat until very hot. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and heat until shimmering. Season the chicken lightly with salt and pepper; add to the skillet and cook until browned on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook until just cooked through, about 1 minute. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to the skillet, then add the cabbage, carrot and scallion whites. Cook, stirring, until the cabbage is wilted and the carrot is crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Add the snow peas and garlic and stir-fry until the garlic is golden, 1 to 2 more minutes. Add the noodles and stir-fry until dry and evenly combined, about 30 seconds.

Add the mushroom broth mixture and chicken to the skillet and cook, tossing, until the liquid is reduced and the noodles are coated, 1 to 2 more minutes; season with salt and pepper. Divide the noodles and vegetables among bowls and top with the scallion greens.