Monthly Archives: November 2011

Sibling #7 Claims the Family Favorite: Beef Fried Noodles

Oliver, or sibling number seven, was my first “baby”. His wasn’t the first live birth I saw, (that distinction belongs to Elaine—sibling #6 for those keeping track at home) but one’s level of awareness is far more acute at twelve than it is at ten. Oliver wasn’t weaned yet when mom found out that she was pregnant with #8, so Oli was booted from mom’s bed & came to stay with me in my Harry Potter-esque room under the stairs. I would wake up every couple of hours to give him a bottle, sing lullabies, and rock him back to sleep in the 2sq. feet of available standing room.

By the time Oliver was a toddler the kitchen was my well-established domain. He would often patter in, stare up at me with his big brown eyes and beg for lumps of brown sugar (the closest thing we had to candy). I could never refuse. I’d sneak him into the pantry where the massive 50lb. sacks of dark brown sugar were stored & together we’d dig out a few choice lumps. Back in the kitchen I’d set him on the countertop & listen to him giggle as he sucked on one and played with the others in his chubby little hands. Once or twice I even slipped him a taste of whatever wine I was cooking with. He’d pucker his little face, smack his lips and ask for more. Don’t judge. I was fourteen.

I’d like to think that our kitchen escapades had something to do with Oli’s current love of food and comfort around the stove, but the more likely driving force is his veracious appetite. Like most male 18-year olds Oliver eats like an unbridled horse after a race.

My sisters (my usual accomplices in the kitchen) & I figured out early that fried noodles are a perfect meal to whip up when you’re short on time & surrounded by ravenous teenagers. It’s a “kitchen-sink” type dish—as in “throw in everything but”. Honestly we could pull everything out of our fridge, cut it up uniformly, boil some noodles, throw together a good sauce & 15min later the hoards would be chowing down on a delicious meal.

Occasionally, if Oli’s hungry enough, he’ll pause from figuring out his current favorite song on the piano or texting his multiple lady friends & cook up his own wicked version of fried noodles… sometimes, if you’re lucky, he’ll even share.

Serves 2

8 oz. spaghetti *Cooks note I
½ lb. skirt steak
Black pepper
5 shiitake mushrooms
2 carrots
2 celery ribs
2 handfuls of Chinese greens (bok choy, tat soi, Chinese broccoli)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled & minced
2 tsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. oyster sauce
¼ tsp. sugar
1½ tsp. sesame oil
½ tsp. chili garlic sauce (optional)
2 scallions, thinly sliced

  • Place a large pot of water on the stove to boil. Season generously with salt.
  • Slice the beef, against the grain, into thin strips. *Cooks note II. Season with ½ tsp. salt and freshly ground black pepper. Set aside while you prep the other ingredients
  • Slice the mushroom caps. Julienne (thin long sticks) the carrots and celery. Slice the Chinese greens lengthwise.
  • Heat a skillet and 2 tsp. of neutral oil over high heat. When the oil is lightly smoking throw in the carrots, celery & a pinch of salt. Stir-fry for 1 minute. Remove.
  • Add the shiitake caps to the pan. Season with a pinch of salt. Cook for 1 min. Remove.
  • Add 2 tsp. neutral oil to the pan. Immediately add the minced garlic and ginger. As soon as it becomes fragrant (you don’t want any color) add the beef to the pan. Let the beef sear gently for a few seconds before adding 1 tsp. soy sauce, 1 tsp. oyster sauce, ¼ tsp. sugar & 1tsp. sesame oil to the skillet (and the chili garlic sauce if desired). Turn the heat to high & cook for 30 seconds. Remove & set aside until the noodles are finished cooking
  • Once the water comes to a boil add the noodles. Cook until al dente. Drain.
  • Return the skillet to stove. Turn the heat to medium-high. Add whatever Chinese greens you’ve chosen plus a splash of chicken stock or water. Cook for 30 seconds-1minute, stirring frequently. Add the cooked carrots, celery, shiitakes & beef. Stir. Add the remaining 1 tsp. of soy sauce and 1 tsp. oyster sauce. Add the noodles. Stir-fry over medium-high heat. (If the noodles begin to stick to the skillet add a little chicken stock or water)
  • Cook stirring frequently for 2-3 minutes. Finish with a final drizzle of sesame oil. Divide between two plates. Top with sliced scallions (and Sriracha for those who want extra heat)

Cooks Note I: The recipe calls for spaghetti because that’s most likely the type of noodles everyone has on hand. Sometimes I’ll use an Asian egg noodles or rice noodles but most of the time I just use good ol’ spaghetti.

Cooks Note II: Look closely at the beef, with skirt steak it should be fairly apparent which way the fibers are running… lay the steak down so the fibers are running horizontally, slice vertically. You are now cutting against the grain!

A Simple Dinner For A Busy Weeknight: Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Apple & Smoked Turkey & Cream of Cauliflower Soup.

I’m not a huge sandwich lover. I’ll take a bowl of noodles or rice over bread any day. Occasionally if I’m in a hurry I’ll grab one for lunch, but absolutely not for dinner. In my opinion bread and cold cuts just don’t meet the qualifications to be served as the final meal of the day. But last week at the end of a busy day I opened the refrigerator door and began cursing myself for not going grocery shopping. There were the usual residents: milk, cream, & cheese. I spotted a head of cauliflower, an apple in the bottom drawer & a lone smoked turkey leg (I had recently used the other limb to flavor a broth, but hadn’t gotten around to using this one yet). I then remembered that I also had a gorgeous loaf of fresh challah bread sitting on the kitchen counter. In my exhaustion the simplicity of throwing together a warm soup and buttery sandwich suddenly became a tantalizing dinner option.

The soup is one I’d made many times before: cream of cauliflower soup from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc At Home cookbook. It’s ridiculously simple & satisfying. My favorite part is the fact that there’s no need to strain the soup. Which means I don’t have to spend 10 agonizing minutes willing the thick soup though the tiny openings of a fine mesh sieve.

I wanted the sandwich to take the place of both the croutons and beet chips that Thomas Keller’s recipe calls for. I layered Havarti cheese, thin slices of apple and smoked turkey atop thickly sliced challah bread. The bread was smeared with whole grain mustard on the inside and a generous amount of Irish butter on the outside.

There wasn’t anything about the crunchy bread, gooey cheese & salty, smoky meat that I didn’t love. Finally, the tartness from the apple paired beautifully with the hint of curry in the velvety cauliflower soup. Perhaps a sandwich can be a satisfying dinner after all.

Soup Ingredients:
(adapted from Ad Hoc At Home)
1 head of cauliflower
3 Tbs. butter
½ medium onion, diced
1 small leek, sliced (white and light green parts only)
¼ tsp. curry powder
2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups water

  • Remove the leaves & core from the cauliflower. Cut the stem and florets into 1-inch sized pieces.
  • Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, leeks and curry powder. Cook, stirring frequently for 3 minutes. Add the cauliflower & 2 tsp. of salt
  • Cover with a cocked lid and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Increase the heat. Add the milk, cream and water. When the liquid comes to a hard simmer turn the heat down to medium and simmer gently for 30 minutes or until the cauliflower is very soft.
  • Remove from the heat. Blend the mixture in batches in a Vita-Mix or regular blender. Start on low and finish by blending on high for a few moments. Taste and adjust seasoning accordingly. *This soup is quite thick so feel free to add a touch more water if you prefer a thinner soup.
  • Drizzle with olive oil, & sprinkle a pinch of fleur de sel over the top right before serving 

Sandwich Ingredients:
Challah bread
Havarti or cheddar cheese
1 Fuji apple, peeled & thinly sliced
Smoked turkey breast, thinly sliced
Whole grain mustard

  • Spread the whole grain mustard on the insides of the bread. (Full disclosure: I add a touch of mayo to my sandwich as well… hubby prefers his sandwich not tarnished by Canada’s favorite condiment)
  • Layer with cheese, apple slices and smoked turkey
  • Close the sandwich and butter the outside.
  • Grill in a pan over medium high heat for 1-2 minutes per side.
  • Finish in a 350° toaster or oven. The sandwich is ready when the cheese is gooey and melted!