Whew! What a week it's been--crazy weather, a broken arm scare (she's ok, thank goodness) too much going on! TGIF has never been more appropriate!! So now that all that's out of the way, let's get to what makes Fridays around here so much fun (at least for me--I hope it is for you too!) Famous Fridays! Since Chinese New Year is next week, I thought this would be a great oppportunity to share a really amazing Asian cookbook by Peter Meehan, Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes. If cooking Asian food at home is slightly intimidating, this is the book for you. It's filled with easy recipes specifically designed for the home cook and relatively accessible ingredients. Everything I've made from the book so far has been flat-out fantastic and this Jap Chae, or warm Chinese-style vegetable pasta salad is no exception. I've made it twice and each time it's been instantly slurped up!
When I was a little girl my mom went through a home-made Chinese food phase. My dad would drive into Chinatown in downtown Manhattan to get her the authentic ingredients she needed and she'd spend a Saturday prepping, chopping, stir-frying in the wok, dodging little kids' toys on the kitchen floor... It was a lot of work and most of the recipes were fairly complicated but in general the food was stellar, although I do remember one meal actually getting flushed down the toilet by my dad, much to our shrieks of delight! The conceit of Lucky Peach though is that the recipes are actually designed to be simple--there's no frying, velveting or sub-recipes with lots of extra intricate steps involved. The directions are clear and concise with lots of helpful hints and there's a great pantry guide to Asian food at the beginning that explains ingredients you might not be familiar with. If you're interested in learning how to make basic Asian dishes, this is the book for you!
And if you love Asian noodle dishes, this is the recipe to try. It's easy and addictively delicious. You start by boiling lo mein or cellophane noodles. I've used both and my home judges prefer the lo mein noodles, but each are great.
Then you cook up a variety of veggies until they're a wonderful caramelized mass and toss them with the noodles and other goodies like soy sauce, sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds.
This is Chinese comfort food at it's best--slightly chewy noodles, softened vegetables all coated in a mild sesame/soy dressing. Each bite is the perfect combination of flavors and textures. So instead of running out or waiting for the delivery guy, make it Chinese take-in tonight! I promise, you'll love it! And the overwhelming deliciousness of it will likely give you the courage to get a bit more ambitious and tackle something else from Lucky Peach like dumplings or Kung Pao Shrimp! Have a great weekend everybody, enjoy the Super Bowl and I'll be back with some great Valentine treats as we navigate the tricky waters of love together! (And with that crazy imagery, I think it's high time I stop writing--have a good one!!)
Lucky Peach's Jap Chae-Famous Fridays
Makes about 6-8 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
10 ounces wide lo mein noodles or cellohane noodles (I've made it both ways and it's great either way)
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
2 red bell peppers, seeded and thinly sliced
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
2 carrots, peeled and julienned
6 ounces shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
8 ounces baby bella mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 bunches scallions, thinly sliced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup mirin
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1. Fill a large bowl with water and ice and set aside. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add the noodles and cook according to the package directions. Drain the noodles then immediately plunge into the ice bath to stop them from cooking any more. Drain again and transfer to a large bowl. If you use the cellophane noodles, cut them into smaller strands with a pair of kitchen scissors.
2. In a large skillet heat the grapeseed oil over medium heat. Add the onions and pepper and cook for about 5-7 minutes, until the veggies have softened but are still sort of crunchy. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add in carrots, mushrooms, scallions and garlic and cook for about 10 minutes longer, until the veggies are soft and sort of caramelized. Pour in the mirin and use a spoon or spatula to deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom to loosen any bits that have stuck. When the liquid has almost entirely evaporated, add the vegetables to the bowl of noodles. Stir in the soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil and sesame seeds and toss well to combine.
3. Serve immediately or let sit at room temperature for a few hours to allow the flavors to meld together.
4. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.
Note: Recipe adapted from Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes by Peter Meehan. I doubled the amount of mushrooms and carrots and swapped out the cellophane noodles for wide lo mein noodles.