Friday, March 8, 2013
Asian Noodles Take a Trip to Italy
My wife is out town. I'm home alone and hungry. Since I work at the house, my usual routine is to write during the day and have dinner with my wife when she gets home from her office. Cooking our dinner gives shape to my day, since I plan the meal in the morning and do the prep when I'm taking breaks during the day.
Having dinner together is a fun part of the day. Over a meal with a salad, main course and a couple of side dishes, we have time to catch up.
Now I have to contemplate dinner for one and that's not as much fun.
Having grown up eating instant ramen, a cup of noodles is always the way to go when hunger strikes. But I'm a bit hesitant to go that route because of the high salt content and the predominance of chemical additives in the soup base. Happily, shopping at Asian markets, it's easy to see that ramen is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to easy-to-make noodles.
I like the dish so much, when my wife comes home, I'll make a bowl for her.
Asian Noodles, Italian Style
Use raw meat and poultry or leftovers from another meal. For stock, home made is preferable to avoid the excessive amounts of sodium in canned versions. The dish can easily be made vegetarian by omitting the meat and poultry. Other vegetables can be added or substituted for the ones I used and, if you like heat, dust the braise with cayenne or a scattering of pepper flakes.
2 pounds uncooked deboned chicken, pork shoulder or top sirloin, washed, pat dried and thin sliced or use 1 1/2 pounds cooked chicken, pork or beef
1 medium yellow onion, washed, ends removed, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled, root ends removed, finely chopped
6 shiitake mushrooms, washed, stems trimmed to remove dirt, thin sliced
2 carrots, washed, ends removed, peeled, cut into rounds
2 cups broccoli crowns, washed, sliced into florets
4 cups kale leaves, washed, stems removed or spinach leaves, washed, roughly chopped
2 cups stock, chicken, beef, pork or vegetarian, preferably home made
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 to 1 pound of Asian noodles
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons sweet butter (optional)
Heat a large pot with water. Bring to a boil. Unlike Italian pasta, Asian noodles do not require adding salt or oil to the water. Wait to add the noodles until the braise is finished because the drained noodles will congeal quickly.
In a large saucepan or chefs pan, heat the olive oil. Add the onions, garlic and shiitake mushrooms and sauté until lightly browned. If using uncooked chicken or meat, add now and cook until lightly browned.
Add the broccoli and kale and sauté until wilted. If using cooked chicken or meat, add along with the carrots and stock. Simmer 10 minutes until the carrots are tender.
Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt, pepper and (optional) the sweet butter. Reduce liquid to half by cooking another 5 minutes. Lower the flame.
Add the noodles to the boiling water and stir well using tongs or chop sticks to separate the noodles. Read directions for cooking time. Before draining, taste a noodle and confirm doneness. Drain.
Add the noodles to the braise and toss well to coat with the sauce.
Serve hot in bowls with chop sticks or on plates with forks and large spoons.