Cooking Smitten Kitchen’s Cold Rice Noodles With Peanut-Lime Chicken

I’m not kidding when I say that Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for Cold Rice Noodles With Peanut-Lime Chicken is the best thing I’ve made in a long time. I was immediately drawn to the dish when I first saw her post it, but didn’t get around to actually making it until last night. That’s right, while most of these posts are about dishes I made the previous week, I loved this one so much that I had to move some things around so I could write about it today.

The only changes I made to the recipe was that I omitted the chilies from the dipping sauce and went with chicken breasts instead of thighs because that’s what we prefer. That’s it. I went exactly according to detail for the rest of it. Since there are so many different components to this dish, I decided to work on it throughout the day. I had some time around 2PM, so I hopped in the kitchen and put together the two sauces. For the peanut one, this was a simple matter of pouring the correct amounts of fish oil, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, peanut butter and lime juice in a blender along with some ginger. Hit a button and you wind up with a wonderful salty, citrucy peanut buttery sauce that I want to put on everything from sandwiches to ice cream.

The dipping sauce was even easier, especially because I didn’t include the chilies which would have required a bit of chopping. This was just a combination of brown sugar, fish oil, lime juice and garlic all whisked together. For the lime juice, I had bought a bunch of limes for mojitos and just decided to use them here. I found that you get about a tablespoon per lime half and used the juicer seen in the photo just to make sure I wasn’t going too crazy or coming up too short. I put both sauces in the fridge for later.

Some time later in the afternoon, I trimmed the fat from the chicken breasts and chopped them up. I realized after I did this that the recipe calls for just putting the chicken on the grill or in the broiler and then chopping later, but I like doing it this way because it gets the marinade on the maximum amount of chicken. I put the pieces in a baking dish and then mixed the marinade like the recipes says, covered that and put it in the fridge.

When it got to be my usual dinner making time of 5PM, I was really set. All I had to do at that point was broil the chicken, pick and chop mint, basil and chives from our herb garden and cut them up, then cut up the cucumber and carrots and prepare the rice noodles. The kind I got said to just cover the noodles in boiling water, so I filled my hot pot, let it get all the way to boiling and then covered the package’s contents with the steaming water in a Dutch oven. Ten minutes later, I drained the noodles and sprayed them down with cool water. For the chicken, I covered a baking sheet with foil, then spooned the chicken pieces onto it and broiled for about four minutes. At that point, I pulled the pan out, flipped the meat and put it back in for 4 or 5 minutes to finish off.

And that’s it, really. You set all the components out kind of like a taco bar so your diners can add whatever they want in whatever amounts they like. This is the kind of meal you see judges go crazy about on something like Chopped because it’s just so amazingly layered. The chicken is perfectly limey and peanuty, you’ve got the saltyness and sweetness of the dipping sauces and marinades playing off of each other. Then there’s the subtle flavor and crunch of the carrots and cukes. All of that is wonder and then you get a bit of the basil or mint in there and you’re in a whole different plane of awesomeness. I can not recommend a recipe more highly than I do this one. Everyone should make it because everyone needs these flavors dancing on their tongues.

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Bonus Food Pic: The Pulled Porktato At Billy Joe’s Ribworks

To celebrate Father’s Day, my wife, daughter, inlaws and I walked around the Newburgh waterfront to figure out what we wanted to eat. After looking at all the displayed menus we, not surprisingly ended up at Billy Joe’s Ribworks. I wasn’t as hungry as I usually am when we go there (I tend to take it easy and not eat too much in preparation), so I decided to try something I’ve always had my eye on but never ordered: the Pulled Porktato.

According to the menu, this particular spud sports “Pulled Pork, Baked Beans, Coleslaw and Melted Cheddar Cheese” and come with sides of butter and sour cream. Oh man, this was good. I don’t know about you guys, but I am a big fan of baked potatoes with all kinds of ingredients on them. This love stems from my time working at The Bagel Place in Toledo for many many years. We had several different kinds of baked potatoes for sale with toppings like beef tips, gravy, cheese sauce, broccoli, bacon, mushrooms, chives and plenty of others. As an employee we had to pay for sandwich meat, but potatoes were free, so I would often eat those and eventually got pretty creative with toppings.

So, this meal reminded me of those fun days working at a bagel shop back home with my friends, but also that a huge stuffed baked potato acts as a perfectly good and filling meal. Heck, I even took some home with me!

Cooking Chicken Salad Veronique & Tomato Feta Pasta Salad

Like I said before, it was over 90 degrees last week and I was desperately looking for dinners that would not blast heat throughout the house. I came across a pair of Ina Garten recipes for Chicken Salad Veronique and Tomato Feta Pasta Salad that looked cool and both featured elements I could make earlier in the day and use during dinner. It was supposed to be an easy, relaxed dinner spread out over the whole day, but I wound up needing to make mayonnaise, so things got a little hotter than expected.

It started out well, though. I tossed four chicken breasts covered in olive oil, salt and pepper in to the oven and let cook for 40 minutes like the recipe suggests. When that was done, I let the chicken cool and then put it in the refrigerator until I needed it later. When it got closer to dinner time, I got to work on the rest of the salad which only really needed some cut up grapes and celery tossed in a bowl with the chopped chicken and mixed with mayo and tarragon from the herb garden.

Then I realized I didn’t have any mayo, but did have all the things I needed to make it again and decided to do that. I started out trying to make a half batch because we don’t really eat that much mayonnaise in our house, but I think I screwed up the ratios and had to then make closer to a full batch. This was a bit of a mess and I had to do it twice and busted out the electric whisk, something I’ve never used before, but it got the job done. In went the homemade mayo, out came chicken salad.

While I was sweating bullets mixing this at first by hand, a pot of water was boiling on the stove for the Tomato Feta Pasta Salad. This helped add an extra side to the menu, but also use up some of the pasta we got for Lu’s birthday party after my wife and the inlaws went shopping at BJ’s. Anyway, aside from the boiling pasta water, this was easy peasy to put together. Make pasta, throw a bunch of stuff for the dressing in a food processor, cut up some veggies and you’re done. I accidentally put some of the cheese into the processor, so the dressing came out kind of chunky instead of smooth, so I had to really mix it more, but it turned out really tasty.

I enjoyed both of these dishes and will definitely make them again. The chicken salad reminded me of the kind my mom used to make, especially with the grapes and celery, so it not only tasted good but also had a nice memory to it. Definitely give these recipes a shot if you don’t want to heat your house up too much this summer or want to take an easy dish to a cook out with friends.

Cooking Fantastic Taco Casserole

Last week wound up being super hot so I wanted to try and make dinners that wouldn’t heat up the house too much. I also decided to cook things at different times of the day than normal to try and avoid all that heat all at once. I stumbled across this recipe for Fantastic Taco Casserole on Food.com and while it still involved cooking with a 375 degree oven, it didn’t take too long. I also cooked the ground beef in the taco seasoning around noon while my daughter ate lunch. I just let it cool down and eventually popped it in the fridge and got it out later on when constructing the casserole.

The only big change I made to the recipe was using garbanzo beans instead of refried beans. I thought I had the latter in my pantry, but only had the former and decided to just go with it. How’d that work out? Gimme a paragraph and I’ll let you know.

So, you basically just put tortilla chips on the bottom of an oven safe bowl. You then mix the beans with half the cheese and a cup of salsa. Since I didn’t use refried, there was no cooking involved right there. Anyway, you basically just layer everything in the dish and then pop it in the oven. While that’s in there, I cut up the tomatoes and those went on top when it came out. Boom, you’re done. And you know what? It was great.

I loved how the chips got a little mushy and turned into an actual salty crust that I dug. Everything else is pure taco, but in a bowl and you don’t have to set up a whole huge spread just to make tacos. Don’t get me wrong, I like making tacos, but this is about a billion times earlier. Oh, and the garbanzo beans? I really liked them. My wife noted that using them actually kept the dish a little lighter than it would have been with the refried variety. I think she nailed it. While you get the added protein of a bean, it’s not the thick gooey kind you get with refried beans. And, hey, it only took a little bit of time and not a lot of heat, so I’m very cool with it.

Sixth Anniversary Dinner At Cotton In Manchester, NH

To celebrate our sixth wedding anniversary (which was actually yesterday, but we went out on Saturday), my lovely wife did a bunch of research about nice restaurants around her parents’ house in New Hampshire. We decided on a place called Cotton in Manchester which was a wonderful restaurant and got big huge thumbs up from both of us. We decided to skip appetizers, but did go with some drinks. I had a couple Cherry Old Fashioneds which had Red Stag by Jim Beam Black Cherry Bourbon with muddled, sugar, orange slice, cherry and a dash of bitters. Man, that was a tasty drink that I would love to have again and again.

For dinner, I went with Wood Grilled Native All-Natural Jumbo Sea Scallops. I’m a big fan of scallops and usually only get them when we go somewhere in the summer near the ocean in New England and those are always fried. Don’t get me wrong, I dig fried scallops, but it’s such an awesome food that sometimes you just want to eat the thing and not the breading. Cotton’s jump scallops were super tasty and wonderful. When I saw there were only five on the plate, I was a little bummed, but then I started cutting them up and realized this was the perfect amount of food, especially when included with the applewood smoked bacon, sweet potato corn hash and honey chipotle aioli. Man, that hash was fantastic. The sweetness of the sweet potatoes bounced perfectly off the saltiness of the bacon, the slight heat of the aioli and the crispness of the corn.

I can not recommend this place enough. We dropped a good amount of money because it was our anniversary. Had this just been a regular date, though, there were plenty of other options that still looked awesome and probably tasted the same. I would love to eat at Cotton again. And again. And again. By the way, sorry about the bad picture, I felt weird snapping even this one and just did it on the quick.

Cooking Grilled Pork Chops N Peaches

Thanks to the mysterious Good Housekeeping subscription I have (no idea where it came from), I’ve got a numb of torn out recipes I want to try that I keep in a big blue binder. The most recent one I tried was called Grilled Pork Chops N Peaches and it turned out pretty darn good. The only changes I made to the recipe were skipping the cilantro because my wife hates it and using cast iron grill pans on the stove instead of an outdoor grill.

Whipping up the marinade and peach sauce were both as easy as throwing a bunch of stuff into a food processor. That was followed by first grilling the peaches and then the chops on the pans, neither of which was particularly difficult, though I will say that I’m still not quite used to grilling fruit just yet. Some of the pieces turned out great while others less so. Anyway, at the end of the day, we wound up with some tangy, tasty chops made all the better by the sauce. I’d recommend giving this one a shot, even if, like me, you’re not a grill master.

Pizza Party: Prima’s Shrimp Scampi & The Cowboy SomethingOrOther

Last weekend, my inlaws came into town which usually means a trip to a local pizza joint. This time we headed over to Prima’s in Cornwall one of the best places around. We decided on ordering a pair of pies, the one on the left is Shrimp Scampi and the one on the right is…well, I don’t quite remember. It’s a new one on their menu and my wife and I both think it has “cowboy” in the name. I’ve never had shrimp scampi because I don’t really like shrimp, but it’s a testament to Prima’s that I really dug this pizza. I’ll assume it’s an exemplary version of scampi and say that it’s worth a try. The unnamed cowboy pizza was a beast of fantastic-ness featuring barbecue chicken, bacon and a drizzling of ranch dressing. This is the kind of pizza that was created just for me, I’m convinced, though I could have actually done with a little more ranch as the given amount was a bit lost in the other strong flavors.

Cooking Smitten Kitchen’s Buttermilk Roast Chicken With Steamed Broccoli

I’m a big fan of the cooking blog Smitten Kitchen. She’s from nearby New York, so we have pretty much the same seasons meaning that when tomatoes are fresh for her, they’re fresh for me too. I also just dig her recipes and have cooked a number of them both for the blog and just for food. Recently she’s been doing a lot of baking stuff, which I don’t really care about, but I am excited to check out her cookbook when it comes out. I’m also a huge fan of her blog’s name, clever is clever and clever is good.

I went back a bunch of pages a few weeks ago and finally came across this recipe for Buttermilk Roast Chicken. All you really do for this recipe is mix the brine ingredients together, put the chicken in there and then cook in the stove. I think I should have used the broiler from the beginning, but just used the stove which wound up taking longer. I let it sit for a few hours and then we ate.

I’m not sure how much I enjoyed this recipe. I might have goofed something up along the way, but the flavor was a little weak and the texture a little…off? Not quite rubbery, not quite chewy, just off. However, the baby really seemed to like it, so it can’t be all that bad.

Fiddlestix Bonus Food Pics: Cheesey Steak Sandwich & Cowboy Cakes

Hey, check it out, two more food pics from Fiddlestix, I’m sure you’re leaning back in your seat shocked. But, hey, when you find an awesome place to eat with variety, why go anywhere else? Above you can see a steak sandwich I got that was wonderful and slathered in portabello mushrooms, caramelized onions and cheddar cheese sauce.

We also went to the ‘Stix for Father’s Day breakfast and I got the Cowboy Cakes again. Man, this is a tasty breakfast that actually makes me want to get pancakes, something that doesn’t often happen. The way the peppers are cooked inside with some kind of awesome mystery spice or herb really mixed up into something amazing. I want to eat these every day.

Seriously, if you live anywhere near Cornwall, New York GO TO FIDDLESTIX. If it’s a weekend, you might see me there, I’m the one trying to quickly snap a picture of my food before diving in fork first.

Cooking Guy Fieri’s Bacon & Tomato Pasta

Three years ago, I made Guy Fieri’s Baclon and Tomato Pasta. I know this because, I printed the recipe off from Food Network’s website and kept the paper. I don’t remember anything about that first attempt, but considering this is a pasta recipe that also involves bacon, I understand why I chose it in the first place. For this week’s menu, I decided to flip through the ol’ recipe binder, saw this one and gave it another shot.

It’s a really simple recipe, which I like. I stayed true to the recipe though I was a little short on basil because our herb garden isn’t replenishing itself as much as I’d like. Anyway, I got the water boiling and then did a bunch of chopping so I’d only have to put the right things in the pan at the right time. This made things super easy, kind of like when I cook in the wok.

You can scope out the recipe yourself to see all the steps. Like I said, it’s an easy one and it yielded a pretty tasty meal. I wish I had cooked the bacon just a little longer to get it crispier. I didn’t realize it beforehand, but going with thick cut meant it didn’t cook nearly as fast and took pretty long even to get as crispy as it did, which wasn’t a lot. I like how the red wine works in there, though I think next time I might use more tomatoes. I would like this recipe even better if it was a bit saucier. Still, I devoured it that night for dinner and again as leftovers the next day, so it’s not like I can say I didn’t like it.