Currently, I have three guys I answer to on a regular basis: the dog, the horse, and the beau. I’m crazy about each of them (for very different reasons, of course) and they each keep me constantly laughing (for mostly different reasons). Some are goofier than others, some have a lot hair, and two of them love having their ears scratched (I’ll let you guess which ones).
I had a little bit of an epiphany the other day when I walked into the horse’s stall – they all look at me the same way. It’s a very unmistakable “FEED ME” look. The “I KNOW YOU HAVE A COOKIE IN YOUR POCKET” gape. Call it what you wish – staring, begging, gazing deep into my eyes – I’m not sure there’s really any difference.
I’m still not sure how I feel about this.
All three of them are clearly STARVING at any given moment, and it seems like sometimes I’m the only thing keeping them from expiring from hunger. Some of the guys are more dramatic about this than others (I would get in big trouble if I told you who gets the most dramatic). But no matter whether the tactic is unrelenting staring (canine), biting the back of my sleeve (equine), or groaning about his constant state of insatiable hunger (again, I’ll let you guess), the accompanying look is undeniable. And the exact same.
Regardless, the feedings must continue.
Currently, the beau is happiest when this stir fry is on the menu. It started out as a last minute, scrap together dinner that’s emerged into one of our favorites. It’s by no means an authentic pad thai, but its sweet and sour mixture of textures is definitely a close cousin. If you’ve never had pad thai before, find a thai joint near you right this very minute and go. It has all the makings of the perfect dish – chewy noodles, crunchy vegetables, crispy fried eggs, salty peanuts, all drizzled with a sweet sauce and topped off with a fresh squeeze of lime. It’s really quite amazing.
Pad thai is kind of like the American Burger – hundreds of iterations and interpretations, ranging from high class to street food. They say it’s the unofficial dish of Seattle, probably because the only thing to rival coffee shops in ubiquitousness here is thai joints. Nothing beats your favorite neighborhood takeout’s pad thai, but this dish is a good alternative. And it comes together in about the same time it takes to call in delivery. The best part is that it doesn’t use any of the authentic (read: hard to find and never in my pantry) asian ingredients. There’s a very good chance you’ll have almost everything on hand, or can source the missing ingredients from your favorite grocery store’s ethnic aisle.
While the authentic versions are fairly consistent, this recipe is totally flexible. You could easily make this vegetarian, or even vegan and it wouldn’t miss a beat. It’s one of those great “clean out the fridge” dishes that tastes good no matter what you throw in it – use whatever vegetables and/or meat you like and have.
And what a coincidence. Two eyeballs are staring at me right this very second. This time there’s the slightest whimpering, too. (In an effort to keep the beau, I’m going to rat out the dog on this one.) Perhaps you also get this look from time to time. If it’s human, feed it this. You’ll at least get a few minutes relief. Enjoy!
Pad Thai-ish Stir Fry
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Time to prepare: 30 minutes
Serves: 4 (humans)
1 8-oz package pad thai rice noodles
1 chicken breast, cut into bite size pieces
2 tablespoons soy sauce (separated)
4 large cloves garlic, chopped
4 1/2 tablespoons sugar
4 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
4 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sriracha chili sauce (more or less to taste)
1/2 teaspoon creamy peanut butter
coconut or canola oil for stir frying
3 eggs, beaten with a pinch of salt
4 cups chopped assorted fresh veggies – bell peppers, carrots, zucchini, yellow squash, sugar snap peas all work well
1/2 small onion, sliced
mung bean sprouts
fresh lime juice
red pepper flakes
In a small bowl, toss the chicken with 1 tablespoon soy sauce and a large pinch of chopped garlic and set aside to marinade.
Soak the noodles in warm water for 30 minutes, or until pliable. (They won’t be soft enough to eat yet though.)
In a small bowl, mix the sugar, fish sauce, rice wine vinegar, sriracha, and peanut butter. Stir to dissolve all the ingredients.
Heat a large skillet (preferably cast iron or stainless steel) over very high heat. Add a drizzle of canola or coconut oil, and add the egg, stirring constantly to cook. Keep stirring so it breaks up into smaller pieces. Remove the egg and reserve on a plate.
Add a little more oil if necessary, and add the chicken mixture, and stir fry until just cooked through. Remove and reserve with the egg.
Add a little more oil if necessary, and add the onion, garlic, a dash of pepper flakes (to taste), 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and cook until the onions are soft.
Drain the noodles and add them to the pan with the onion mixture. Stir fry the noodles for a few minutes to brown them slightly.
Add the sugar/fish sauce/vinegar sauce mixture, and cook, stirring occasionally until the noodles reach your desired doneness (2-5 minutes).
Add the chicken, egg, and vegetables back into the skillet, and toss to coat and heat through.
Drizzle the juice from 1/2 lime over the dish, and toss gently. Adjust the seasoning with soy sauce, sriracha, and lime.
Serve, topped with a small handful of mung beans and 1/2 tablespoon chopped peanuts on each serving. Garnish with a slice of lime.
True stir frying is over obscenely high heat – much higher than anything the vast majority of home ranges will reach. In theory, the heat is so high that you need to keep moving the food around so it doesn’t burn. In home applications, even on the highest setting, you won’t need constant stirring. In fact, you want some caramelization on your food – that crunchy browning is what makes it taste delicious. So do stir frequently, but also give your food a chance to brown a bit. Use the heaviest pan you have, and don’t use a non-stick surface. They aren’t intended for use over high heat, and they inhibit the browning that we’re looking for here. Additionally, a wok may not be your best bet – a pan with a larger cooking surface will help you achieve more browning; a wok at “home” temperatures will steam the majority of your food since it’s crowded and most of the food is pushed up on the sides.
This is one of those recipes that comes together really fast once it gets going. Make sure you have all your components prepped and ready to go before you start (mise en place).
If you don’t have fresh veggies, a bag of frozen stir fry vegetables works great. Either add them to the pan frozen and warm through, or pre-heat via steaming, microwaving or boiling, then just add at the end.
Chicken may be substituted for fried tofu, shrimp, or beef. You want about 8-10 ounces of protein.
When cooking your vegetables, anticipate how long they will need to cook and either add them to the pan in stages, starting with the ones that need the longest. Alternatively, you may par cook the vegetables to your likeness ahead of time by steaming, boiling or microwaving them separately.
Pad thai rice noodles are found in most grocery stores with the asian ingredients. You can substitute regular boiled linguini if you can’t find them. Just cook them a little under done, and let them finish cooking in the sauce.