"Perhaps the most impressive of all the cookbook blogs are the three devoted to the 2004 edition of Gourmet magazine's "The Gourmet Cookbook" -- all 5¼ pounds and 1,300-odd recipes of it. Befitting this culinary Everest, all three writers are overachievers in their professional lives."

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--Ruth Reichl, Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, June 8 2008, comment on "Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream".

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Udon Noodle Salad with Grilled Chicken and Asian Dressing & Lentils and Curried Rice with Friend Onions

These tough economic times have had me taking a closer look at what's hanging around in my pantry. I have the standard stuff--cornmeal, lentils, tuna fish--but I also have a preponderance of Japanese ingredients, thanks to a Yankee Swap present I received a few years back. Soba noodles, udon noodles, nori, bonito flakes, and a Japanese cookbook that I flip through from time to time.

A perfect opportunity to explore a cuisine that I enjoy eating but don't have that much experience cooking--and Gourmet helpfully provides a recipe that involves one of my pantry ingredients: Udon Noodle Salad with Grilled Chicken and Asian Dressing.

I don't think I've ever eaten udon noodles before--the notes describe them as soft and slightly chewy and that's about right--they are incredibly satisfying to eat. This recipe has you combine three things--the boiled, cooled noodles, marinated, grilled chicken breast, and a cilantro/parsley vinaigrette. It's actually pretty straightforward--the only issue I really had with it is that the recipe needs a little clarification.

For example, it has you combining stock, cilantro springs, parsley etc in a blender, to puree until smooth. This is what it looked like after pureeing:

which resembles something you might find in an unkempt aquarium. This is easy to fix--don't say "cilantro sprigs", say "chopped cilantro".

The other moment of hesitation for me was what to do with the vinaigrette (there was a lot of it). Are the noodles supposed to sit in the vinaigrette like soup? Or are they supposed to be just lightly coated and then drain the vinaigrette off? I ended up letting the leftovers hang out in the same bowl as the vinaigrette, which ended up being a mistake--the noodles break down and lose that lovely chewy consistency by the next day.

These small niggly things aside, I would make this dish again in a minute, especially for a fun summer dinner. The flavors are bright, and it's easy to put together.


Lentils were another thing I had floating around in my pantry, and it was pretty easy to find a recipe would put them to good use. Lentils and Curried Rice with Fried Onions is based on an Indian dish called khichri (explain the notes) and the fried onions are not what you're thinking of--no batter, just simple sliced onions fried in vegetable oil until they're brown and crispy.

This is another recipe that has you making components separately and combining them to delicious effect. The lentils are boiled and drained, the onions are fried and salted, and the rice is cooked with lots a curry powder and a little bit of cayenne.

The lentils and the rice are tossed together with some chopped parsley, and onions top off the show. I should say, the onions that didn't go into my mouth topped off the show--it is very hard to resist crispy salted things hanging about on the counter.

This makes a lot and we had great leftovers for days. It's worth noting that the onions don't retain their lovely crispy nature in the refrigerator but that's ok. If you're struggling with mid-winter food blahs this might be just the thing to spice up your dinner plate.


Gluten-Free recipe in this post: Lentils and Curried Rice with Fried Onions

1 comment:

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