Monday, May 14, 2012

Mindy Fox's Peanut Soba, Cabbage and Chicken Salad

This recipe was one of the many I found (and bookmarked) at Serious Eats in the past few weeks.   Until recently I read random reviews and taste tests at Serious Eats, but I never tried out their recipes.  Then I realized that they have some pretty awesome recipes.  Oops.  Take this recipe for instance.  I have never heard of Mindy Fox (and I still don't know who she is), but Serious Eats had two of her recipes on the site, both of which I was really excited to try in the future.  We just happened to get around to making this one first because we made asparagus for lunch yesterday and her other recipe on Serious Eats is for a raw asparagus salad.  That might be a little too much asparagus in one day for Alex.

The thing I liked most about this recipe is that it's hearty and filling, but still feels light because of the cabbage and radish salad.  The noodles get a little gummy once you toss them in the peanut sauce, but what do you expect when you use a peanut butter-based sauce?  Peanut butter is gummy by definition and the noodles are starchy, which just gums things up more.  We tried lightly oiling the cooking water for the noodles and then rinsed them well after cooking, but they still have the tendency to form one sticky noodle mass once you toss with the peanut sauce.  Luckily, I have no problem with sticky noodle masses provided that the flavors are good.  And once you toss the noodles with the cabbage salad the lime juice dressing from the cabbage helps to loosen things up a bit.  I guess my other complaint would be how complicated this salad is.  It takes two pots (or one if you cook the noodles in the same pot that the chicken poached in, which is what we did, but you still need to rinse the pot out/wash it between uses), a few mixing bowls, a mandoline (to shred the cabbage and to thinly slice the radishes), a knife, a mini food processor/blender, a colander and so on and so forth.  Because each element is made individually it doubles the amount of work.  However, keeping the cabbage-radish salad and the herbs separate from the noodles until the very end makes the dish feel fresher and lighter.  So I guess the sheer number of dirty dishes is something that you just have to accept and deal with if you want to make the salad.  In the end it is worth it, but it does make cleaning up something of a process. 

Recipe after the jump!

Mindy Fox's Peanut Soba, Cabbage and Chicken Salad
Available at Serious Eats

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 teaspoon (or more to taste) sambal, Sriracha, or other chili sauce
1 large clove garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 pound Savoy cabbage, shredded
3/4 cup radishes, thinly sliced by hand or on a mandoline
3/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2 1/2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons juice from 2 limes
3/4 pound soba noodles (or substitute another Asian-style noodle)
3 large scallions, julienned

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to boil. Add the chicken breasts to the pot, bring to a simmer, and cook for 6 minutes. Cover, turn off the heat, and allow to slowly poach until the chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes more. Remove, allow to cool, and thinly slice.

In the meantime, combine the peanut butter, soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, garlic, chile sauce and half the sesame oil in a blender or small food processor. Blend (or process) until smooth. If needed, add up to 1/2 cup water to achieve a loose texture for coating noodles.

In a large bowl, toss together the cabbage, radishes, most of the cilantro, the grapeseed oil, lime juice and the remaining sesame oil. Season to taste with salt.

Cook the noodles in abundant water until just al dente, then drain and rinse to remove excess starch. Dress with the peanut sauce and arrange in 4 shallow bowls.

Top the noodles with the cabbage salad, the remaining cilantro, the scallions, and the sliced chicken. Serve with more lime wedges if desired.

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