07 September 2012

Ten years...

Sunday, September 2nd marked 10 years since I saw my dad. It was such a bittersweet day for me, full of ups and downs. It's bizarre to think of how much he's missed. My 7 year old nephew and 2 year old niece... man, he'd of loved Dylan's sense of humor and Addie would be giving him a run for his money, and that's saying something. Cesar joked on Sunday that he would probably be teasing them with a rolled up newspaper like he did my cats.

When my sister and I talked about what to do on Sunday, we joked about doing Stan things, like buying the kids a kitten to torture my brother-in-law. In the end, we had lunch at one of his favorite spots, The Roadhouse and I celebrated him with his favorite side, the sweet potato.

I wonder if I'll make it through one of these September 2nds without tears. I wonder if I'll stop feeling hurt about those closest to me not checking in or sending a kind word on that day or even this time of year. I wonder what it's like to still have your dad...

05 September 2012

Pad Thai...

I've been on an Asian food kick lately. I've always been intimidated when I think about making any kind of Asian inspired food. But, I've found some very simple recipes that have inspired me to give it a try. I love Thai food and I'm always searching for good (to me) Pad Thai. Some of the local restaurants do okay, but some of them taste like ketchup. I have never been to Thailand, but I feel fairly confident when I say I am pretty sure that's not a real Pad Thai. I would be curious to know what constitutes a real Pad Thai.

After a Google search, I settled on this recipe (which I adapted), mostly because I was very curious about the tamarind paste (which I easily found at the local Asian market).  I don't have a wok so I used my cast iron skillet, knowing I could safely get it very hot and that worked well. I am now convinced this will be a regular dinner in the rotation. And did I mention how amazing it is as a leftover?

Prep Time: 15 minutes, Cook Time: 12 minutes, Total Time: 27 minutes Yield: Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups raw chicken breast, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • Marinade for Chicken: 1 tsp. cornstarch dissolved in 3 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 13 oz. package of Thai rice noodles, linguine-width
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Chili flakes, to taste
  • vegetable oil for stir-frying
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 3 cups fresh bean sprouts
  • wedges of lime
  • 3 spring (green) onions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh coriander/cilantro
  • 1/3 cup crushed or roughly chopped peanuts (or other nuts, such as cashews)
PAD THAI SAUCE:
  • 1-1/2 Tbsp. tamarind paste (Author recommends dissolving in 1/4 cup warm water - I didn't do this, I think the sauce would be too runny)
  • 4 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • 1 tsp. or more dried crushed chili or cayenne, to taste
  • 6 Tbsp. brown sugar

Preparation:

  1. Place chicken slices in a small bowl. Stir together the marinade and pour over chicken. Stir well and set aside. I let this marinate for about 5 hours, but even 30 minutes would be good.
  2. Bring a large pot of pot to a boil and remove from heat. Dunk in your rice noodles. Allow noodles to soak while you prepare the other ingredients. Note: you will be frying the noodles later, so you don't want to over-soften them now. Noodles are ready to be drained when they are soft enough to be eaten, but are still firm and a little "crunchy". This only took about 10 minutes, maybe less. Keep tasting them. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
  3. Make the Pad Thai Sauce by combining the sauce ingredients together in a cup. Stir well to dissolve the tamarind paste and brown sugar. Set aside. 
  4. Warm up a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add 1-2 Tbsp. oil plus garlic and chili flakes, if using. Stir-fry until fragrant (30 seconds).
  5. Add chicken together with the marinade. Stir-fry 30 seconds to 1 minute. When wok/pan becomes dry, add a little chicken stock, 1-2 Tbsp. at a time, to keep the chicken frying nicely. Continue stir-frying in this way until the chicken is cooked (5-8 minutes).
  6. Add the noodles, and pour the Pad Thai sauce over. Using two spatulas, wooden spoons, or other utensils, immediately stir-fry the noodles. Use a gentle "lift and turn" method (like tossing a salad) to prevent noodles from breaking. Stir-fry in this way 1-2 minutes. If you find your wok/frying pan too dry, push noodles aside and add a little more oil to the bottom (but no more broth, or the noodles will become soggy).
  7. Add the bean sprouts. Continue "tossing" 1 more minute, or until noodles are cooked. Noodles are done to perfection when they are no longer "hard" or crunchy, but chewy-sticky wonderful!
  8. Taste-test for seasoning, adding more fish sauce until desired flavor is reached. Toss well to incorporate.
  9. Lift noodles onto a serving plate. Top with generous amounts of fresh coriander, spring onion, and crushed/chopped nuts. Add fresh lime wedges.