9/52 Thai Noodles with Cinnamon and Shrimp


It’s Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, and for Catholics it is also a day of fasting (limiting food intake) and abstinence (no red meat, poultry or alcohol). Our family is what I would call “Cathol-ish”. We are not regular churchgoers, haven’t been since the Extended Deployment and Two Manhattan Christmas of 2013 (a different story for another post), but we do make it on the major holidays. (When my husband was quizzing Peanut on fire safety for Cub Scouts, he asked “What’s something we do twice a year?”  Peanut answered enthusiastically “Go to church!” Survey says: Change smoke detector batteries. We gave him partial credit.) The boys go to vacation Bible school every summer and we say grace before dinner every night. We do aim to observe Lenten traditions every year to prepare for Easter (because Peeps and the Resurrection). We didn’t (and won’t) make it to mass today but I did call my husband at work and remind him he can’t eat the leftover Hemingway burger he took in for lunch and haven’t forgotten to abstain from meat myself (yet). That plus the shrimp for dinner (which I did not enjoy with a glass of wine) and the angst I’m having over what to give up is a significant step up from our standard religious effort, and isn’t that mindfulness ultimately the point of Lent? Now let’s get on to the food before this religion talk goes from endearingly honest to irreverently controversial.

Another Nigella recipe here. She writes her recipes with charming and vivid descriptions and anecdotes that make it impossible to not want to try them. This one has been on my radar for a while, but I was in danger of making this blog all about Nigella there for a bit. As it stands now, 3/9 recipes so far are from Simply Nigella. That’s still pretty heavy for a single publication but, dang, she’s just so amazing (I will admit as I transcribe these recipes, I find her comma usage excessive. She’s more than likely correct, but still)! If you want to just go ahead and buy the book, you’d be wise to do so. (I am not compensated for any product recommendations or reviews. I just like telling people what I think about stuff.)

The dish was a hit, and pretty quick to assemble (faster than 30 minutes in only ONE POT!) 7 thumbs up for this one from the family, Meatball offering a single thumb of dissent because he liked the sauce on the shrimp, but not the noodles. His approval of sauce in any form is a huge leap, though, so taking that into consideration, I’m willing to declare this a unanimous win. Peanut rated it 2,026 yums on a scale where pizza (his favorite meal) is 3,000 yums, and completely cleaned his plate while continually declaring how delicious it was. Full disclosure, cinnamon is the predominant flavor. If you don’t care for cinnamon or take issue with flavors you associate with “sweet” in savory dishes, this one’s not for you.

As always, the recipe follows with my notes boldface. 

Thai Noodles with Cinnamon and Shrimp (Serves 2)

I doubled this recipe to serve the four of us with 2 smaller servings of leftovers. Quantities below are the original recipe for two.

  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped “Roughly chopped” is my favorite preparation for garlic, which can become rather tedious when you get into directions like “minced”, “sliced”, and “finely chopped”.
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into fine matchsticks Easier than you would think, since most of the cutting goes with the grain of the ginger.
  • 1 star anise
  • 1/2 long or 1 short stick cinnamon, broken into shards

    Leafy celery stems. Easy to find if you know where to look!
  • 2-3 leafy stems at the top of 1 celery stalk, stems cut into short lengths, leaves roughly chopped The preface to the recipe explains that this is a geographically necessary substitute for Chinese celery. Buy leafier celery from the grocery and pull off the little branches with leaves on them, or use the leafy stalks near the heart.
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce I assume this is the same thing as Tamari. It’s what I used with dark soy sauce nowhere to be found (and by nowhere, I mean the one grocery I checked)
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper Normally, I would be a snob about this and insist it be freshly ground, but Nigella herself says to use the pre-ground stuff as that’s what the original chef used. Who am I to argue with authenticity?
  • 7 tablespoons cold water If you’re doubling, it’s 7 ounces.
  • 1 teaspoon chicken broth concentrate
  • 1 tablespoon ketjap manis, or 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce mixed with 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar I confess I didn’t even try to find ketjap manis. There is one grocery store in this county that even has a chance of carrying it, and it was just too far out of the way today. If you have an Asian market near you (lucky!), you’ll probably be able to get it. That said, if this is the only thing you’ll in which you’ll use it, why not use staple ingredients instead?
  • 10 raw shell-off jumbo shrimp, thawed if frozen I was at the warehouse store and the jumbo shrimp was farmed, the wild Gulf shrimp were large. I’m a source snob (sort of. I’ll happily shop at a big box store or the warehouse club but be picky about what I buy there) so I bought the wild shrimp and just weighed out a pound, which is four servings according to the package.
  • 3 ounces mung bean (glass) noodles or rice vermicelli, soaked and drained as per package instructions One package is 5.5 ounces and I learned my lesson on rice noodle quantity making the pho, so I used the slightly smaller amount.
  • fat pinch ground cinnamon I am guessing that two fat pinches is about 1/8 teaspoon.
  • fat pinch ground cloves Ditto.

On a high heat, heat the oil in a large wok. We do not own a wok. It’s a “would be nice to have” but having lived this long without one, I think we’ll continue to do so. We do have a deep, curve-sided saucepan that works well in a wok’s stead. You could use any skillet here, I think. Add the garlic, ginger, star anise, cinnamon, and the sliced leafy stems of celery, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Our “not a wok”

Stir in both soy sauces and leave to simmer for 30 seconds, then stir in the oyster sauce and ground pepper. I added the oyster sauce with the soy sauces because I got distracted. Mom problems. Still worked out.

Add the water, followed by the chicken broth concentrate and the ketjap manis (or the mixture of dark soy sauce with dark brown sugar), stir until everything’s well combined, and bring to a boil. It will boil almost instantly so have the shrimp ready.

Now add the shrimp, immersing them in the liquid. Simmer until the shrimp are cooked through. My shrimp being smaller, this didn’t take long at all. 4 minutes, maybe? 

Finally, add the drained noodles and stir well – I find a couple of pasta forks, one in each hand, best for this – so that everything is combined, and most of the dark liquid is absorbed. If we have pasta forks, we call them something else. I used a pair of tongs and they worked well for both stirring the noodles and serving the dish. Add the pinches of ground cinnamon and cloves, stir again, and if you’re not serving straight from the wok, decant into a serving bowl and sprinkle with the reserved chopped celery leaves. Save yourself (or in my case your spouse) some cleanup and serve it right from the pan. Also, if you’re serving children, pick out the bits of cinnamon and start anise left behind. It’s tree bark and not very tasty, and I’m not sure how well the body digests it. 

Cool leftovers, then cover and refrigerate within 2 hours of making. Will keep for up to 2 days. Delicious cold. I can’t verify how these taste cold but I have a hard time imagining them being anything short of delicious.


5/52 Chicken Fricassee with Apples

fullsizeoutput_295cI’d love to have some tender anecdote about cooking comfort food and the season, but ultimately this dish made the cut this week because we already had most of the ingredients. I did buy apples specifically for this because ours are Honeycrisps as big as Meatball’s head, and I found a great deal on the chicken (it was a day from expiring and 50% off) so I didn’t thaw what we already had. I also had to buy cider, but the boys go crazy for it so I got to be the favorite parent for about 45 seconds.

Why did I buy apples when we already had them? Size matters.

If you happen to be a member of Cook’s Country dot com, the original recipe is here . We get the magazine (this one is in the February/March 2017 issue) but do not subscribe to the website, so I’m having to do some extra legwork here. You’re welcome. (It’s a fantastic publication, by the way, with tried and tested recipes that are impressive yet accessible.)

Chicken Fricassee with Apples

Serves 4 (or more)

  • 4 (6-8 ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed If you can find chicken breasts this small, go for it. The four breasts in the package I bought totaled 3.5 pounds, so the dish ended up serving far more than the recipe states.
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour Or more. Giant chicken.
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 Fuji, Gala, or Braeburn apples, cored and each cut into sixteen 1/2 inch thick wedges 16 wedges. Don’t worry about the thickness, it will come out right.
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup apple cider I’m quite annoyed that the smallest container of cider is a half gallon, but, happy kids.
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream Now is not the time to be virtuous. It’s an ounce of cream per serving at the most, if you’re using Dolly Parton chicken, even less.
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives Yeah, this didn’t happen. You know how I feel about herbal garnishes. 

Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Spread flour in a shallow dish. Dredge chicken in flour to coat, shaking to remove excess; transfer to plate and set aside. I didn’t change this step except I needed more flour for the freakishly large chicken breasts. I don’t see why you couldn’t just shake it all together in a gallon bag, though. Fewer dishes!

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. I didn’t realize until I was putting the pan away after making this whole thing and washing it that I used a 10 inch skillet. Aside from having to brown the apples and chicken in batches, everything worked out perfectly well. Season apples with salt and pepper. Cook apples, cut sides down, until browned, about 5 minutes per side, moving and redistributing apples as needed for even browning. Transfer to second plate, set aside. Cut sides down seems pretty self-evident to me here. How else would you brown sliced apples? Anyone? Also, use BUTTER. REAL BUTTER. Related to this, every apple I eat from now on must be browned in butter. If you taste one before the rest of the dish is done, try to save a few for the family. They are that good.

I would have happily eaten these alone for dinner.

Melt remaining tablespoon butter in now-empty skillet over medium heat. Add chicken and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes per side. Return chicken to plate. Yes, it’s okay to put the browned chicken back on the raw chicken plate. It freaked me out, too, but you’re going to cook the chicken through in the sauce later.

Add onion, thyme, 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper to now-empty skillet and cook over medium heat until onion is softened and browned, 5-7 minutes. This recipe really likes to point out that after you take the food out of the skillet, it is now empty. Push the onions around a bit to pick up and bits in the bottom of the pan.

Add cider and broth and bring mixture to a boil. Return chicken to skillet (which is presently NOT empty). Reduce heat to medium low, cover, and simmer until chicken registers 160 degrees, 8-12 minutes. IF you have 6-8 ounce chicken pieces. I let mine go 15 and two of them needed about 20 minutes.fullsizeoutput_295b

Transfer the chicken to platter and tent with aluminum foil. NOW is the time for a
clean vessel for the chicken. 
Add cream and apples to skillet. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Cook until sauce has thickened slightly, about 2 minutes. Stir in vinegar and any accumulated juices. Season with salt and pepper to taste. I didn’t feel the need to add any salt, but a few grinds of pepper went in. Spoon sauce and apples over chicken and sprinkle with chives. Or don’t. Serve.

I served this over Spaetzle, German egg noodles. Over them for the grown-ups, anyway. The boys had their usual deconstructed dinners. 6 thumbs up for this one, the boys thought the apples were weird. The recipe with 3+ pounds of breast meat made 4 adult dinners, 4 kid dinners, and a lunch.