Thursday, September 17, 2009


Isn't that a great word? I've always loved it and I've felt a bit off schedule ever since we had a blissful Labor Day weekend with very dear friends. That reunion weekend was just meant to happen and came together so easily. For three days, all seemed very right with the world.

That means there was alot of good food, too. I have some great recipes to share with you soon for sure. And really, no gathering with these friends is complete until someone has a face smeared with melty chocolate and marshmallow. I bet you are shocked and amazed that The Boss took right to that. It was time to pass that baton.
But we've been back home for some time and I realize now that it doesn't take much to get me off kilter these days--ignore just one load of laundry and it's a slippery slope I tell ya! Getting back into the kitchen and to our old standbys helps set our well oiled machine (ha!) of a household back on track.

So, back to our regularly scheduled program.

Back when Hank and I used to eat out a lot a more than we have in the past three years, we discovered this little Chinese place in a strip mall-ish type shopping plaza one day. It turned out this place had the best sesame noodles we've ever consumed. They were so flavorful and married perfectly with crisp cucumbers, carrot, shredded chicken and a noodle with a good chew to it. Better than I've ever had in any Chinatown on either coast. We were mad about these noodles. We wouldn't order them anywhere else. Until they closed. We were forced to search again! Imagine our depression. When we'd see them on the menu somewhere Hank would ask "Should we try them?" and I'd say, "Don't do it, we'll just be disappointed." He always did anyway and yeah, we were always disappointed..

Magically, my favorite geeky cooking magazine, Cooks Illustrated, came to the rescue just months later! Great sesame noodles were no longer out of reach. This recipe is almost as good if you ask me. Hank claims it's better, but that's what a good husband always says! These noodles were known to my book club as crack noodles so if that doesn't say something, I don't know what does. I'll have to test my knitters next.

Sesame Noodles with Chicken
Cooks Illustrated October 2004 issue

This is not really a dish that can be put together far in advance because the noodles will soak up too much sauce and dry out. So, if you want to do this ahead, do each component separately and combine the noodles, vegetables, and sauce right before serving. There are a few ways to cut down on time and steps in the recipe. Notably, using a rotissierie chicken and purchasing sesame seeds that are already toasted.

I've found the key to this dish is the right ratio of noodle to sauce. If you are using dried chinese noodles or dried spaghetti noodles, make sure you use 12 oz of dried noodles, NOT an entire pound. I guarantee that you will be disappointed if you add more noodle. Trust me, I've been there.

Don't be scared by the detail of the recipe, it's Cooks Illustrated, they like lots of details, cause cooking nerds like lots of details!

¼ cup sesame seeds
¼ cup chunky peanut butter
2 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed (about 2 teaspoons)
1 piece (1-inch) fresh ginger, grated or minced (about 1 tablespoon)
5 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon hot sauce (I use Sriacha)
2 tablespoons lightly packed light brown sugar
Hot water
3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (1½ pounds), trimmed of excess fat
1 tablespoon salt
1 pound fresh Chinese egg noodles or 12 ounces dried spaghetti (I use dried Chinese noodles, they are usually yellowish in color and square-easily found in an Asian market)
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
4 scallions, sliced thin on diagonal
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated on large holes of box grater (about 2/3 cup)

1. Toast the sesame seeds in a medium skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until golden and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Reserve 1 tablespoon sesame seeds in a small bowl. In a blender or food processor, puree the remaining 3 tablespoons sesame seeds, peanut butter, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, hot sauce, and sugar until smooth, about 30 seconds. With the machine running, add hot water 1 tablespoon at a time until the sauce has the consistency of heavy cream, about 5 tablespoons; set the mixture aside (it can be left in the blender jar or food processor workbowl).

2. Bring 6 quarts water to a boil in a stockpot over high heat. Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to 6 inches from the broiler element; heat the broiler. Spray the broiler pan top with vegetable cooking spray; place the chicken breasts on top and broil the chicken until lightly browned, 4 to 8 minutes. Using tongs, flip the chicken over and continue to broil until the thickest part is no longer pink when cut into and registers about 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest 5 minutes. Using 2 forks, shred the chicken into bite-size pieces and set aside. Add the salt and noodles to the boiling water; boil the noodles until tender, about 4 minutes for fresh and 10 minutes for dried. Drain, then rinse with cold running tap water until cool to the touch; drain again. In a large bowl, toss the noodles with the sesame oil until evenly coated.

Add the shredded chicken, scallions, carrot, and sauce; toss to combine. Divide among individual bowls, sprinkle each bowl with a portion of reserved sesame seeds, and serve.

Serves 4 to 6


Amanda said...

Sounds and looks delish! But with our recent peanut allergy confirmation I don't think this is one i will try at home :o( It would surly torture EJ to not be included in eating the noodles!

jen said...

Yes...please do test your knitters!