Sunday, October 24, 2010

Shrimp Pad Thai

Oh, well isn't this clever...
I'm going to miss this window, but pretty soon I'll be close enough to share my food with many of you! I'M EXCITED!
I love good Pad Thai. I love good Pad Thai ingredients. It's pretty much an amalgamation of MANY of my favorite foods in one convenient bowl. This is probably the fourth or fifth time I have made this specific recipe, with only a few minor changes, and I think it has been my best attempt yet. It isn't the most traditional Pad Thai, no tamarind- that may be the secret to that "authentic" taste and sweetness. When I first tasted the noodles without the toppings I was blown away by the spiciness- even though I knew what to expect. Maybe it was because it was hot from the pan. Don't worry if you're not a huge fan of intense Thai spices, after a few minutes of flavor mingling and once the egg had been added it magically cut the spicy-heat somewhat and made the sauce look downright luscious. The garnishes really bring out the flavor and personality of the of the whole dish.
Coated cast iron is amazing, nothing ever comes out wrong in this pot. I have made this dish in both this dutch oven and the nonstick deep dish frying pan you see below. The frying pan is way easier, but I love the dutch oven so much I just thought it was worth mentioning. Someday maybe I'll invest in a Le Creuset or two, but there is NOTHING wrong with this Lodge brand dutch oven. They even have decent colors. It's too big and heavy to store anywhere conveniently, but it's so attractive that I don't mind it living right on the back burners.
I did find that the outcome needed a little salt, so if you're not a huge fan of spiciness but want some additional flavor, why not try cutting down on the sriracha and adding a teaspoon or so more soy sauce? I think that would work if you're using the fish sauce too, even though it is slightly salty itself . I would NOT recommend having a small taste or taking a whiff of the stuff though. Keep in mind it's pressed fish juice. (EW.)

Pad Thai can be a little tricky, and the timing is definitely a balancing act (try doing it with a DSLR in one hand since your tri-pod mysteriously dissapeared... two years ago). I would highly recomend giving it a shot. It's totally BEAUTIFUL on the plate and it's a satisfying and decently healthy meal.

I also got a good review from some of my most honest critics so I feel pretty confident about this one!

Shrimp Pad Thai
a modified Martha Stewart Recipe

8 oz. rice stick noodles*
1/4 cup tomato based chili sauce- I used Sriracha (YUM)
1/4 cup lime juice- fresh is best but I used realime
3 tablespoons Fish Sauce (or 3 tablespoons of soy sauce & 1 tablespoon anchovy paste)
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 garlic cloves minced
1 lb peeled and deveined medium shrimp. I used tail-on
3 cups mung bean sprouts plus more for garnish
8 scallions cut in two inch strips and julienned
1 large egg, lightly beaten**

For Garnish:
1/3 cup chopped dry roasted peanuts
Pinch of red pepper flakes... if you're brave
Extra bean sprouts
1/4 cup fresh cilantro (DO NOT skimp on this)
lime wedges- if they're not very juicy just heat them up for 10-15 seconds

*I have also used mai fun rice noodles which are very thin- they worked just fine and can sometimes be a little easier to find than flat pad thai noodles. Annie Chun brand makes an 8 oz package and you can find her stuff at most large chains.
**I think this dish would be great with a little more egg- it would have more bits in it like fried rice. If you try that, let me know how it goes.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the noodles. Let the noodles soak for about 3 minutes, they should be soft but still under cooked. Drain the noodles and rinse them under cold water until they are cool.

In a small bowl whisk together the red chili sauce, fish sauce (or soy sauce & anchovy paste), and brown sugar. In a large non-stick skillet heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium high heat. Add the garlic and cook until they are fragrant and beginning to turn white- it should take about 30 seconds once the oil is warm enough. Add the shrimp (drain the juices if there are any in the bag) and toss frequently until they are opaque- about 3 minutes. Don't overcook them, they will have a chance to finish at the end, and overcooked shrimp is chewy and flavorless. Transfer the shrimp to a plate.

This is where the dance gets tricky & quick:
Return the skillet to medium high heat, add the two remaining tablespoons of oil. Add the noodles and chili sauce mixture and toss to coat thoroughly- about 1 minute. Add the sprouts, green onions, and shrimp. Pour in the egg and toss quickly to coat. Cook through- tossing constantly, about 2 minutes.

Add the garnishes if desired- and trust me, you desire them.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Carrot-Raisin Muffins and New Order

Alternate Title: N.K.O.T.Blogroll.
Dude. New Order in the fall just DOES it for me. So do warm spicy things like nutmeg and cinnamon- but that's everybody, right? I have been neglecting my urge to cook lately, but it's all been for very good reason. Once again, I am beyond lucky and I am in love with being alive.

So.... guess who's the new kid on the blog roll over at The Daring Kitchen? After a month waiting and approval period I have made the grade and I cant wait to join in on the monthly challenge with the rest of the Daring Cooks. It's a great way for me to stay accountable to keeping the blog going, and to try new things I would not normally cook. The Daring Kitchen was co-founded by the blogger who inspired me stop reading and start blogging. She is a goddess in the kitchen and I am honored to be cooking with the likes of her and the other talented members of The Daring Kitchen. She lured me in with this, and my roommate at the time (who also inspired me with her culinary cunning) proceeded to teach me how to make caramel. I've never looked back.

Have you ever taken a good look at nutmeg? (Or seen it whole for that matter?) It's just one of those surprisingly beautiful things.
The raisins (even though I don't always enjoy them) add to the sweetness of these muffins. Since they are intended for breakfast they are more spicy and fragrant than sweet- which is good if you're like me and sugar crashes you out in about ten minutes. Also, the texture on these babies comes out perfect. That little extra effort with sifting is so worthwhile. I know I've been doing a lot of carrot things lately but I couldn't say no to a really cheap five pound bag. I'm hoping they freeze well.
Oh, and... no dairy :)

Carrot Raisin Muffins
makes 1 dozen muffins

1/2 cup raisins
1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup soy milk (or milk I suppose, if you want)
1/4 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups grated carrots

I grated the carrots and the nutmeg myself. The carrots are a little thin, but they end up looking lovely in the muffin and they taste awesome. Plus, getting your food pre-chopped in a bag can mean less tasty freshness.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. I used cupcake liners but feel free to just lightly grease a muffin tin and have at it.

Soak the raisins in a bowl of hot water for about ten minutes- just boil some water and pour them over the raisins. It plumps them and makes them nice and tender so they separate and mix well with the batter. Who wants to bite into a muffin to find a hard stale raisin?

In a large mixing bowl sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, and salt. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the milk, oil, and vanilla. Mix with a wooden spoon until just combined. It will be lumpy but I promise it will work itself out once the carrots and raisins are in there. Fold in the grated carrots. Drain the raisins and fold them in as well. Divide the batter evenly among the cups, about 3/4 full, and bake for 18-22 minutes. Let cool on a rack. Easy. Easy, easy.