Monday, October 18, 2010

Two Things I Like About You, Part Two

Isn't it great when you make something that everyone likes?  It is like Thanksgiving dinner.  Kids coming to the table with smiles, looking forward to the meal.  Knowing they will get their fill, and like it too. 

If you are like me, you make at least 6 dinners a week.  That is 6 times a week  that someone asks you, "What's for dinner?"  Six times a week there is the opportunity to surprise and delight or see faces filled with dread.  Not everyone is going to like every meal, so I harden myself to the disgusted faces.  However, it does sometimes get to me.  Disappointment, annoyance, even anger, based on the day and the effort I put into the meal.  I am a realist, don't get me wrong.  I know that I can't please everyone all the time.  But boy, would I like to!!

Dan Dan Noodles are one of those great meals that my whole family loves.  It took a couple makings, but now it is one of my shining stars.  This is the meal Tim asks me to make for his birthday.  This is the one that we get cravings for.  This one is a winner.

This one also has ground pork.

I know, I know, no quadraped eating! First with the bacon and now with the ground pork!  Traitor!!

Seriously, though,  I am not backsliding.  This is one meal that I made before the 4-footed ban and never had the heart to tinker with.  Other meals of its kind I replaced the beef or pork with ground turkey and got on with my life.  Dan Dan is just too good.  I love it.  I am not changing it.  There it is.  You will agree.  I know you will.

Savory, salty, peanut buttery goodness on whole wheat pasta (the second thing to love about this meal!).  It is just plain yummy.  It is one of those meals were you want to eat more, but you also want to save some for leftovers (which you will hide in the far recesses of the fridge so that your husband won't take it to work).  As long as you are careful with the cracked red pepper, your kids will love it, too. Toothsome is what this meal is.

Dan Dan Noodles are better than Thanksgiving, also, in that they only take about 30 minutes to make.  What could be better than that?  So there you have it.  Two meals with two things I love.  A little pork and whole wheat pasta in a 30 minute package.  Wrapped on your virtual doorstep with a bow on top!  Happy dinner!

Dan Dan Noodles
*Serves 4 as a main course.

8 ounces ground pork
1 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Chinese rice cooking wine or dry sherry
ground pepper

¼ cup tablespoons soy sauce
¼ cup tablespoons oyster sauce
½ cup peanut butter
2 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 inch piece fresh ginger, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
6 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 tablespoons)
3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
13.5 ounces (one box) whole wheat linguine
3 medium scallions, sliced thin (about 1/3 cup)
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

2 cups bean sprouts (about 6 ounces)
1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns toasted in small dry skillet until fragrant, then ground

1. Combine pork, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, sherry, and pinch white pepper in small bowl; stir well with fork and set aside while preparing other ingredients. Whisk together oyster-flavored sauce, remaining soy sauce, peanut butter, vinegar, and pinch pepper in medium bowl. Whisk in chicken stock and set aside.

2. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large stockpot over high heat.

3. Meanwhile, heat 12-inch skillet over high heat until hot, about 2 minutes. Add veggie oil and swirl to coat pan bottom. Add pork and cook, scraping along pan bottom and breaking up pork into small pieces with wide metal or wooden spatula, until pork is in small well-browned bits, about 5 minutes. Stir in ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add peanut butter/chicken stock mixture; bring to boil, whisking to combine, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer to blend flavors, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Stir in sesame oil.

4. While sauce simmers, add noodles to boiling water and cook until tender (refer to package directions, but use them only as a guideline and be sure to taste for doneness). Drain noodles; divide noodles and combine with sauce. Sprinkle with scallions, bean sprouts, and ground Sichuan peppercorns, if using; serve immediately.

tooth·some adj \ˈtüth-səm\

1a: agreeable, attractive
1b: sexually attractive
2: of palatable flavor and pleasing texture : delicious
— tooth·some·ly adverb
— tooth·some·ness noun

Ok, I have to admit that I am a shocked! I am shocked and a bit offended. I thought that toothsome generally meant a savory yummy thing that you can't stop eating. Good thing I looked it up! Who knew it was up there with Honey and Sweetie-pie. Comparing women to food ? I am pretty sure I have a strong opinion on this, I just can recall what it is at the moment. I'll get back to you on it. By definition we can still call the meal toothsome. However, you will have to try try the recipe to help me come up with a better word.

Some of the ingredients you will need for this recipe.  I buy the local brand "fresh ground pork."

It is important to really BROWN the pork.  Not just grey, but brown little bits are what you want.

The sauce initially will be separate, but it will come together while it simmers.

Mix in the peanut oil and green onions at the end.  Yummy!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Two Things I Like About You, Part One

In my own little world, bacon doesn't come from something that walks on 4 legs. It doesn't lives in pens and it isn't pumped full of hormones to make it so darn tasty.  It is its own separate entity, living out its free-range, fully organic, free-trade, kissed-and-hugged every day life.  It has equality of sexes, full voting rights, universal health care, free first-rate education and generous PTO.  Slaughtering is voluntary, humane, fully anesthetized, with last rights and hymns of choice.  It is the fabulous lifestyle of the bacon that makes it so good.  I'm sure of it.

Bacon, really, is magic.

The Italians were the first to figure this out. Eaten on it's own, awesomely indulgent. But combined with just a few simple ingredients and you have an amazing meal.  A hearty, savory, filling meal. 

We Americans have grown stale to the magic of bacon, I think, due to its overuse.  We put bacon in and on everything! It's fatty goodness draws us in and sells.  Over-the-top taste at bargain prices.  It is all too much.

However, scaled back to the simplest of ingredients, the bare minimum of indulgence, it can be the shining 'star of the show' in a fairly healthy family meal.  This recipe (surprise) came from the Cooks Illustrated International Recipes Cookbook, and originally calls for pancetta.  While, it must be one amazing meal with pancetta, I don't regularly have pancetta in my fridge.  What I do have is H.E.B. Thick-Cut Bacon (a Texas grocery store brand), so that is what I use.

What I love about this recipe is that I almost always have the ingredients on hand.  It is so quick and easy to make, and with the addition of Whole Grain Pasta (the second thing I like about this meal), what is not to love? 

Notice, there is no garlic in this recipe.  I didn't even know there was an Italian recipe without garlic!  It does have a whole onion, though. I am not a huge fan of onion, but it works in this recipe.  So, give it a try, even if you are pretty onion phobic!

Pasta with Tomatoes, Bacon and Onion (Pasta all'Amatriciana)
*serves 4 with leftovers

6oz thick-sliced bacon, cut into 1/4 wide strips
1 medium onion, minced
1/8-1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 (28oz) can whole tomatoes, tomatoes diced and juices reserved
1 box whole grain pasta, linguine or thick spaghetti
1 oz pecorino-romano cheese, with more for serving

Bring water to boil for pasta

Meanwhile, heat large skillet over medium heat and add bacon.  Cook until crisp, removing bacon to paper towel-lined plate.  Discard all but 4tbl of fat in the skillet (adding olive oil to supplement).

Add onion and 1/4 tsp salt to the pan and cook slowly over medium heat until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in tomatoes and their juice and simmer until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.  Set aside and cover to keep warm.

Stir pasta and 1tbl salt into boiling water and cook until al dente.  RESERVE 1 CUP PASTA WATER, then drain.  Add pasta and 1/3 cup pasta water, cooked bacon and cheese to sauce and stir to combine. Add additional pasta water to pasta as needed to loosen sauce.

Serve with additional cheese.