At this time of year, deep winter, James and I like to dine fireside. With the cold air and dark setting in early, meals by the hearth bring added pleasure to dinner.
Roasts, stews, soups, ragu's, and other warm and hearty dishes are prepared in our kitchen when the temperatures drop. Winter cooking is different than summer cooking due to choice of available fresh ingredients and that the meals we cook often require stocks. Stocks are a big part of meals this time of year. Summer cooking is more reliant on what our vegetable garden provides.
There are times in January and February that we need a step back from winter meals. So comes the time to prepare something that speaks more of summer dining. James might shovel a path out to the Weber and grill a butterflied leg of lamb and vegetables, rotisserie a chicken, or throw some ribs on the hot coals. A picnic meal, by the fireplace is a favoritedeparture from winter fare around mid-February.
Tonight, in keeping with our summer menu in winter we will make a 'street noodle' dish called DanDan Noodles. I am not sure why this feels like a summer dish to me , but it always does. We serve it in bowls. On the side we usually have a refreshing cold salad of cucumbers in a light vinaigrette or a simple arugula salad. Sometimes we serve grilled chicken with it, but tonight James will saute a chicken breast and serve that cut into thin slices over the top of the noodles.
noodles in a spicy or not so spicy peanut sauce
This recipe has been adapted over the years in our kitchen, from a recipe that we first read in John Thorne's, The Outlaw Cook.
1 pound of Chinese noodles ( dry spaghetti can be used)
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
3 cloves garlic minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger minced
4 tablespoons soy sauce ( preferably low sodium)
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1-2 teaspoons cayenne hot sauce ( depending on your heat index)
1/4 teaspoon chili powder or paste(optional)
*1/2 cup chicken broth /low sodium ( a vegetable broth can be substituted)
*additional broth may be needed
In a food processor add the peanut butter, then with the machine running add the garlic and ginger. Then add sesame oil, soy sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, peanut oil, hot sauce, and chili powder ( a bit a chili paste works as well). I prefer not to add additional hot sauce at this
point, but it can be put out as a condiment for those who like additional heat. Blend this all together, then add the broth a little at a time until the mixture is saucy and smooth.
In the meantime, cook the noodles. Check package for cooking time, it will vary depending on the noodle used. Fresh Chinese noodles cook more quickly than dry spaghetti. Once the water is boiling add salt. Cook noodles and drain.( Note: If you use a dry pasta save some of the pasta water before draining). Transfer the drained, cooked noodles into a large warm bowl and pour in some of the DanDan peanut sauce, toss to coat. ( if needed: a little of the saved pasta water can be added, or some additional broth to make it silkier).
I like to serve this in individual bowls. Add a portion of the sauce coated noodles to the bowl and top with a little more of the sauce. If you like, sprinkle on some chopped green onions or some chopped peppers & chilis and don't forget to put out the hot sauce for those who like it spicy!
This dish can be prepared in a slightly different manner. Once the noodles are cooked, and this is especially true for fresh Chinese noodles, drain them and rinse them in cool water. Shake off as much water as possible before adding the sauce.