So I may have mentioned that I wasn’t really cooking anymore. *blushing* Yes, the skin on my knuckles has grown back, my finger nails are long, and my tongue is not completely burned. It’s wonderful. Well, wonderful except that I’m not cooking anymore!
When I first ventured into the kitchen five or so years ago, the very first recipe that I made on my own, totally unprompted, was Lynne Rosetto Kasper’s Veggie Chow Mein. To this day, it’s one of my most beloved recipes. It’s unintimidating, is chock-fulla veggies, and has great asian flavors – my fave. So I’ve always had a special place in my heart for the NPR show host. Not to mention that she shares a first name with my wonderful Aunt (and #2 Seattle Palate fan).
On her weekend radio show, Lynne frequently entertains Christopher Kimball – another food stud close to my heart. (Oh I just laughed a little after writing that. Despite his culinary brawn, I’m not sure anyone’s every referred to the bow-tie-yielding Vermonter as a stud. I stand by my assertion though.) Anyway, a random caller phones in and lists three things in their refrigerator, and Lynne has to concoct a recipe using them and a handful of pantry items. Kimball then deems the recipe acceptable or not. It’s AWESOME. People call in with lists the likes of: anchovies, grapes, and cottage cheese. Lamb tongue, celery, and apple juice. You get the point. And most of the time, she pulls it off in her most elegant radio voice.
Well, this completely haphazard (and not dependably delicious) cooking roulette has been my M.O. lately. Instead of my usual meticulous menu-daydreaming and planning, I’ve been coming home, opening up the fridge and throwing whatever I can into a pan. The results have been mixed, and decidedly uninspiring. Subsequently, I’ve been drinking lots of wine with dinner.
So when Lynne’s weekly recipe arrived in my inbox last week, it caught my eye. It’s been parked there, staring me down every time I log in to check my mail. Daring me to tread lightly back into the kitchen – for real. Tonight I took the bait.
BABY, I’M BACK! Whoa! What a dinner! I ate one bite of these Sichuan Pork Noodles and all I could think about was my poor neglected Seattle Palate blog, and how I had to immediately put the chopsticks down, and crack open my laptop.
And you should try this recipe, too. I hope it has the same transformative effect on you. Lynne, if you’re reading, thanks. No, really, thanks. Tonight I had to crack open the box of band-aids because one of my knuckles fell prey to the microplane. But even worse, two nights ago the recipe roulette wheel landed on: tofu, spinach, and balsamic reduction. Somehow at the time it sounded like it would work. It did not.
Sichuan Pork Noodles
Click here to print this recipe.
Adapted from: Lynne Rosetto Kasper
Time to prepare: 25 minutes
1 pound course ground pork
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Asian chili-garlic sauce
1-1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup peanut butter
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon Salt
1 pound fresh Chinese noodles or linguine
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot.
Meanwhile, combine pork, 2 tablespoons vinegar, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and chili-garlic sauce in bowl, and mix to break up the pork and coat with the liquids.
In another bowl, whisk broth, peanut butter, oyster sauce, remaining vinegar, and remaining soy sauce. (If using chunky peanut butter, combine ingredients in a blender until smooth.)
Heat a non-stick large skillet over medium heat. Add pork mixture, turn to medium-high and cook until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Stir in ginger and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add broth mixture and simmer until slightly thickened, about 4 minutes.
Meanwhile, add salt and noodles to boiling water and cook until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water and drain noodles.
Add the noodles to the sauce and toss to combine, adding reserved pasta water as needed. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.
Use “natural” peanut-only peanut butter if you can. It doesn’t have all the sugar that JIFF and Peter Pan have. If you use regular peanut butter, you may need to add more vinegar, soy sauce, or chili sauce to cut the sweetness of the peanut butter. Either way, after the pork has fully cooked and the sauce has reduced, taste and adjust to your preference.
Chili sauce, rice wine vinegar, and oyster sauce can be found in most grocery stores in the international aisle. They keep in the fridge forever, so pick them up and you’ll be tempted to use them again.
Don’t skip the fresh cilantro. The savory sauce is rich, and the fresh herbs really counterbalance it with a fresh, bright flavor.
Double this recipe and reheat it tomorrow for lunch. If it’s a little dry, add a little leftover pasta water to loosen up the sauce a bit.