Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Cold Sesame - Noodles

I started making this in college, but it has all the pluses needed to keep it in regular rotation: it's cheap, nutritious, vegan(!), and carries well because it's best at room temperature. I'm not vegan or vegetarian myself, but I try eat somewhat sustainably: hence, lower on the food chain and, as the blog title suggests, seasonably and locally where possible. Added bonus: eating is cheaper, tastier, and better for you. Pretty good list of positives there.

This recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food magazine's Cold Sesame Noodle recipe, tweaked according to taste. Almost all the sauce ingredients come from the pantry, and you can augment the dish with pretty much whatever vegetables you have on hand.

Makes 6 servings.

1 pound very thin whole wheat spaghetti
1 red pepper
1 head broccoli
1/2 c. smooth peanut butter
1/4 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. rice vinegar
2 tblsp. sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 or 4 slices jarred jalapeno peppers, finely minced
1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, finely grated

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil (a chef-trained friend says: "It should taste like the ocean."). Cut the broccoli florets into bite-sized pieces; you can also peel the stem - this is the "heart" and is very tender. Cut the red pepper into thin strips (halved lengthwise) and set aside. When the water has reached a rolling boil drop in the broccoli for about 4 minutes - it should just turn bright green and still have some body when you bite into it. As soon as it's done, fish it out with a slotted spoon and drop the broccoli into a strainer or, better yet, a bowl of ice water. Return the water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the package directions.

The sauce is complicated: mix everything else together and set aside.

Reserving about 1/4 c. in a separate container, gently toss the pasta with tongs to distribute the sauce. Use the reserved sauce to dress the vegetables and combine to serve.

Note: If not serving immediately, you may need to loosen the reserved sauce with a teaspoon or so of water before adding to the vegetables. Allow to come to room temperature before serving.

Simple Roast Chicken

Since the first time I made this recipe, I have been in love with roasted chicken. It's simple, delicious and quick. Oh, and delicious. The below is after the recipe from Thomas Keller's introduction to his Bouchon cookbook, which is beautiful and has great classic bistro recipes.

The most important thing is trussing the chicken: my theory is that the reason this recipe keeps the chicken so juicy is that closing off the cavity by trussing and salting the heck out of the skin essentially traps all the juices in the chicken, so it sort of steams itself from the inside out.

1 3-4 pound chicken
kosher salt
fresh herbs (if desired)

cotton string (yarn is fine, or kitchen twine)
a high-walled ceramic or glass dish (3 inches or so - I think mine is technically a casserole)

Preheat the oven to 425.

Rinse the chicken and dry it thoroughly with paper towels both inside and out, then season the cavity with salt & pepper. If using herbs, place them in the cavity. Don't stuff with chicken with anything too bulky (read: onions, lemons - though peel might be ok), or this will alter the cooking.

Truss the chicken: put it on a board or in the roasting dish with the cavity facing you. Stretch out & cut a piece of cotton string as long as your arms held out to either side. Find the center of the string and put it just behind and slightly under the butt of the chicken. On each side, bring the string down between the wings and the body and then back under the wings so both ends are coming out behind. Make a half knot and give a pull. Bringing both ends forward again, this time between the legs and the body, make a half knot just under the end of the breast bone at the top of the cavity. Give a pull here - the breasts should sort of puff up as it gets squeezed together. Now bring the drumstick ends one over the other just under the end of the breastbone too, with the ends of the string under them - bring the strings up around the drumstick ankles and tie them in place with a regular knot. Cut off the ends of the string and adjust the bird as necessary - the idea is to close off the cavity as much as possible, so you can even nudge up the bottom of the cavity opening a little if that works. Tuck the wing ends behind and under the bird.

Rain kosher salt over the top of the bird; you want a reasonably even, visible coating. Put the chicken in the middle of the oven and bake for 50-55 minutes (or until juices run clear, but they will).

Remove the chicken from the oven and allow to rest for at for 15 minutes before carving and serving. This is important!! Resting helps the chicken gather up all juices from cooking - if you cut it right away it will be dry.

To hold: If you're not ready to serve, take the chicken out and reset the oven temperature to 200 (it's important to let the oven cool before putting the chicken back). Put the chicken (on a plate or in the roasting dish) back in the oven for up to 1 hour. I tried this randomly once and the chicken was still super juicy, and the skin didn't wilt.