Post #494 It Was What Was For Dinner . . .

July 26, 2016 at 12:28 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post #494 It Was What Was For Dinner . . .

Last night, dinner was surprisingly good.  Not that being good was a surprise.  Heck, I’m a cook and I know how to put things together.  Like any home cook, I have a standard repertoire, a list of recipes that are tried and true and can be counted on to please us all.  [I should start compiling that list for a series of posts, what an idea!]  I worked the morning shift yesterday, but wasn’t feeling very well.  The heat was getting to all of us, and I left work a little early with a head ache and not up to my usual 100%.  I’d already texted Partner/Spouse to take out some chicken because my plan was to make a “standard” recipe, Baked Sesame Chicken.

What I had in mind was soaking the chicken in brine for an hour or so.  After dipping in an egg wash, I was going to roll it in seasoned panko bread crumbs then press it into a pile of sesame seeds.  I was going to gently bake it at 300 degrees until it was cooked, creating a delicious crunchy crust with the nutty flavor of roasted sesame.  My plan was to serve it with a chilled pasta salad cuz it was so hot outside.

I’ve made this before and it’s really good, and really easy to make.  It tastes like you’ve been cooking for hours and it always impresses the eaters.

But there’s always a however, right?

However, that’s not what happened.

I got home and the chicken was in the sink thawing out.  It was a two and a half pound package of chicken thighs.  We love chicken thighs.  They’re moist and tasty.  They cook quickly.  They’re full of iron, about 75% of the amount you get from red meat.  And they tend to be on the inexpensive side as chicken cuts go.  We like ’em bone-in, skin on, boneless, or skinless.  Pretty much any way they come.

So, jump to another thought here, but I promise they’ll tie together soon.  Ever heard of PF Chang’s or Pei Wei?  They’re a really good chain of Chinese food.  Pei Wei is the “fast food” version of PF Chang’s sit down dining experience.  They have basically the same menu.  We haven’t been in a while since we haven’t been near one, so we constantly look around to see if we can find a way to recreate our favorite recipes from them.  One of our favorite recipes is Lettuce Wraps.

Lettuce Wraps

In case you can’t tell, that’s ground chicken in a savory sauce with chopped green onion on top of crispy rice noodle all in a couple of leaves of iceberg lettuce.  You fold it up any way you choose and cram it in your mouth.  You get the warm savory chicken against the crunch of the noodles and the chilled moist lettuce and it’s wonderful.

Several weeks ago, Partner/Spouse found this:

lettuce wrap sauce

It labelled “Sauce for Lettuce Wraps” so he bought it.  This company makes other sauces too.  Their Sauce for Orange Chicken is killer.  And they also have a Sauce for Beef and Broccoli that we’re going to try soon.

So when I got home, I started the water boiling for the pasta salad.  I originally was going to make a simple fettucine in a butter sauce with garlic.  Would pair well with the Baked Sesame Chicken I’d been planning.  As I was gathering ingredients, Partner Spouse said, “You know, there’s a package of Lettuce Wrap sauce if you want to use it.”

Faster than a speeding bullet, my whole menu changed.  I no longer had to brine the chicken since I wasn’t going to bake it.  I checked to see what fresh veggies I had for the pasta salad, and changed the pasta I’d be cooking.

So I boiled up some rigatoni.  In case you don’t immediately know that that is, picture elbow macaroni about three times its normal size, then add ridges, then cut it in half lengthways.


For pasta salad, you don’t want any starch left on the pasta and you want the pasta to stop cooking immediately so you rinse it under cool water until it’s cool to the touch.  Then let it drain for several minutes, shaking the colander several times to make sure the pasta is as dry as possible.  I’ve known some people who then put the pasta in a towel and shake it around, but I think that’s going a bit to far.  I mean, really, how much harm can a few drops of water do?

So I put the pasta in a bowl and added 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Remember that balsamic glaze I wrote about a few weeks ago?  A tablespoon went into the pasta along with about a tablespoon of regular balsamic with raspberry.  I added about a quarter cup of grated fresh parmesan, a quarter cup of sunflower seeds, a half cup of chopped green onion, three slice radishes, and half a pound of fresh asparagus cut into one inch pieces.  I tossed every together to coat well and set in the fridge to chill.

Then I sat down with a glass of wine and my Kindle.

When it came time to make dinner cuz both our stomachs were audibly growling, I took a large skillet and heated a tablespoon of oil to shimmering stage.  I wanted it hot to flash fry the chicken on the first touch.  I cut the chicken thighs into one inch pieces.  I put all the chicken into the pan and after the first flash fry, when the oil temp was reduced, I stirred the chicken to get a gook sear on all sides.

When you’re cooking any protein, the cooking process will release a lot of juices.  Those juices combine with the oil to produce steam and aid in cooking.  I didn’t want any of those juices, but I wanted the flavor since I’d added some sesame seeds, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, and chili powder (VERY small amount.)  So I let the pan juices reduce, stirring occasionally until the pan was almost but not quite dry.  Then I added this:

lettuce wrap sauce

I stirred it around to coat every single piece of chicken, then turned the heat off.  I pulled the pasta out of the fridge, stirred it a bit to loosen it and distribute the dressing evenly, and set salad tongs nearby.  Then I put the chicken into a serving bowl, sprinkled with sesame seed over the top, and retrieved a fresh serving spoon after I dropped the first one I’d taken out of the drawer.

I wish I’d taken a picture.  It was so good!  Totally not like what I’d planned, but so much more so better.  Not a piece of lettuce in sight for a wrap, but a delicious chicken sauce along side a tangy sweet salad.  So yum.


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