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Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Sesame Noodles, or An Ideal Way To Use Up Leftover Chicken, Vol. 1

Coarse (sea or Kosher) salt
1 lb egg spaghetti or Chinese egg noodles (regular spaghetti will do, and whole wheat spaghetti is an interesting variation...after all, this is not meant to be an authentic Asian dish. My choices, in order, would be the Chinese noodles followed by the whole-wheat spaghetti.)
½ T toasted sesame oil
1½ T peanut oil
1 garlic clove, peeled
1" fresh ginger, ditto
½ c smooth peanut butter (go all natural, if possible...Costco makes a good one) at room temperature, this is key
¼ c soy sauce (I like San-J reduced sodium, and not because of the reduced sodium)
2 T dark brown sugar (light brown will be okay, I guess)
1 T rice vinegar ¾ t red pepper flakes (sriracha or chili-garlic paste will work)
¼ c hot -- not boiling -- water 1 small cucumber (I like Kirby) halved lengthwise and sliced
1 c shredded or cubed cooked chicken (ideal use for leftover chicken)
6 scallions (white and green parts), sliced as thinly as you patience permits, diagonally.
¼ c plain roasted peanuts, crushed (crushed cashews will also work, as will any variant of sesame seed if you're not in a crushing mood)
OPTIONAL - A bit of julienned carrot or red bell pepper would not go amiss.

Put a large pot of water to boil over high heat. When it boils, salt it generously (I eyeball a healthy palmful), add the pasta you're using, and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. REMEMBER the cooking times will be materially shorted if you're using fresh egg anything. Drain and rinse under cold running water, until the noodles are room temperature. You do NOT want to sauce up hot needles, because they will absorb all the sauce, and you will end up with a very pasty/gummy/cemented-together result. The idea is for the sauce to cling to, not be absorbed by, the pasta.

Put the pasta in a large bowl and toss with the peanut & sesame oils. (You CAN go straight sesame oil, but it is VERY strong. I like a 3:1 ratio of peanut : do whatever.) In a blender (or small food processor) put the garlic and ginger with the blade spinning then add the peanut butter, soy sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, and red pepper. Process until smooth, then -- with the machine running --slowly add the hot water. (You may NOT have to add all the water, you just want the sauce to be the right thickness to cling to the pasta.) Toss the pasta with peanut sauce, cucumber, chicken, white and light green scallions, and garnish with the dark green parts of the scallions and the peanuts.


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