Stir Fry with Coconut-Peanut Sauce

Dear Friends:

Last week when the warm weather fooled us into thinking summer was almost here, I had an itch to cook something major on the grill. Not burgers, sausage or chicken breasts. I wanted to welcome grilling season with a hunk of meat the size of a VW Beetle.

I opened the massive chest freezer in the basement and hauled out the biggest thing I could find, a turkey bought as a spare last November when supermarkets were practically giving them away. Yes, I’m the kind of person who keeps a spare turkey on hand in case something happens to the main Thanksgiving turkey. I don’t know, maybe the dog will run off with it. This has never happened but anyway, you can never have too many turkeys.

I thawed the turkey for three days in the refrigerator and barbecued it over indirect heat until it was succulent and golden. We dined on the screened deck, sipping champagne and flipping shreds of meat to the dog. The next day we had turkey sandwiches for lunch and turkey enchiladas for dinner. The turkey now was barely half gone. I was making myself another turkey sandwich the following day when Tony wandered into the kitchen and groaned, “No more turkey.”

That was crazy talk, so I ignored him. I could eat turkey and cranberry sauce sandwiches every day for a month and not tire of them. That night we had turkey again, this time in a kick-butt peanut-noodle stir fry I created from provisions in the fridge and cupboard. The coconut-peanut sauce recipe is more or less from Asian noodle queen Nina Simonds. I changed a couple of ingredients and amounts. She uses it as a satay sauce, but it worked great as a stir-fry sauce punched up with garlic and ginger.

I loved, loved, loved this rich stir fry and Tony did, too. He didn’t even gripe about the turkey. I think he thought it was chicken.

PEANUT NOODLE STIR FRY WITH CHICKEN (OR TURKEY)

  • Peanut sauce (recipe follows)
  • 3.5 oz. 1/4-inch-wide rice noodles
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 2 cups cooked chicken or turkey in bite-sized pieces
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 shallot or 3 green onions, sliced
  • 1 green pepper, sliced in thin strips
  • 1 medium carrot, scrubbed and sliced into thin rounds
  • 2 tbsp. chili oil
  • 1/4 cup crushed dry-roasted peanuts

Make peanut sauce according to the recipe below and set aside. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, remove from heat and drop in noodles. Let stand  for 4 to 5 minutes, until noodles have softened but are still fairly firm (they will finish cooking later in the sauce). Drain and gloss  noodles with some vegetable to prevent them from sticking together. Set aside.

Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Stir half of the ginger and half of the garlic into the hot oil, pressing to extract the flavor. Add the cooked chicken or turkey and stir fry until the edges begin to crisp. Stir in soy sauce. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Heat 2 to 3 tablespoons more oil in the skillet and add remaining ginger and garlic. Add onion, green pepper and carrot and stir to coat with oil. Cover and cook until vegetables are al dente, about 5 minutes, stirring when necessary to prevent bottoms from burning. Stir in chili oil.

Return meat to the skillet and add noodles, turning with tongs to distribute evenly. Pour half of the sauce into over the stir fry and carefully stir to coat everything. Simmer a minute or two. Add about half of the remaining sauce and cook one to two minutes longer.  Mound on dinner plates and top with crushed peanuts. Makes 3 to 4 servings.

COCONUT-PEANUT SAUCE

  • 1 1/4 cups coconut milk, blended before measuring (just shake can)
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp. fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
  • 3 tbsp. sweet soy sauce (kekap manis) OR 3 tbsp. packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth. Leftover sauce will keep in the refrigerator for at least a week.

CROWN POINT PLANT SALE

Despite the cool weather it’s time to get think about planting the vegetable garden – preferably with organic heritage varieties. My favorite place to buy vegetable seedlings is the Crown Point Ecology Center’s annual plant sale, coming up this weekend at the farm at 3220 Ira Road in Bath. You’ll find a wide variety of unusual  hybrids and heritage plants, from 10 varieties of basil to Cipolinni onions to long, thin Chinese eggplant. If you want to make the authentic version of the green chili salsa recipe I ran last fall, this is the place to buy Nu Mex Joe E. Parker pepper plants.

Plants will be for sale in the barn from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.  Sunday. Master Gardeners will be on hand this year to answer questions, and Mari Keating of Food Not Lawns in Cleveland will speak at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. A word to the wise: Go early for the best selection.

More information, including a complete list of the vegetable and flower plants for sale, is on the farm’s website.

THE MAILBAG

From Harriet W.:
I thought it was only me who was finding it difficult to buy bone-in chicken.  My favorite chicken breast (bone-in, skin on) preparation method is just to rub with a bit of olive oil and season with some coarse salt.  Bake at 350 degrees (is there any other baking temp?) until done.  It’s always juicy and tender done this way.  I do buy free-range, organic chicken but I agree that bone-in add tons of flavor.  I add leftovers to tossed salad or make a sandwich for next day lunch.

Dear Harriet:

Organic free-range chicken is bound to taste great. Another big impact on flavor is whether the chicken has been “hard-chilled” for shipping or shipped on ice. The hard-chilled chicken (normal people would call it “frozen”) is a lot drier than chicken shipped on ice.

From George, Akron:
I enthusiastically second your preference for bone-in anything.  The boneless breasts of chicken trend, in particular, has long outworn its place in the world of cooking if, Iquestion, it ever had a place.  Not that you shouldn’t keep an eye on what you’recooking, but boneless chicken breasts, not to mention their outrageous price comparedto bone-in thighs or legs, or even wings, demand far more care than they deserve.  Giveme bone-in thighs for taste any day.

As an aside to chicken parts, I want to arrest restaurant owners who serve barbecuedchicken wings/legs/thighs for theft of our hard-earned money, for charging the againoutrageous prices for these items that they do.  Chicken parts are among the cheapestcuts of fowl/meat/seafood one can buy in the store.  I can buy a package of 8 to 10 legs orthighs for about $2.  I know there are the labor and markup costs.But c’mon, 50 cents ormore per?

One other thing, I attended the Ramp Festival in Peninsula (on that snowy Saturday a fewweeks back) and aside from one or two vendors selling fresh ramps, no one (particularlythe festival staff) knew where to buy them locally.  The irony of a group putting on anevent that seeks to draw attention to a particular product who doesn’t know where to tellattendees to purchase that product does not escape me, nor should it anyone else.Peninsula Ramp Festival organizers, are you listening?  So, then, it may be too late tobuy ramps, but if it isn’t, does anyone out there know where?

Dear George:A friend mentioned that she bought ramps at a local produce market but I didn’t pay attention because I hate the things (a ramp burger once festered overnight in my car, producing a revolting aroma that put me off the greens forever). If anyone has seen ramps for sale, please let me know.

From Mike, Akron:
Hi Jane. Regarding tamales, corn husks and annatto, I thought I’d use this as an excuse to promote my favorite Mexican destination in Akron — La Loma Supermarket on State Rte. 91 in the Ellet area of Akron. (Well, my second favorite Mexican destination, after El Ranchero Taqueria in North Hill.) La Loma has, by far, the best selection of Mexican specialty items in the area, including corn husks, masa and other tamale makings. They also have a full service meat counter, house-made chorizo, and fresh carnitas and barbacoa on Saturdays around noon. Plus there’s a taco truck in the parking lot that makes some unbeatable food. Here’s their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/LaLomaSupermarket

Thanks!

Dear Mike:Thank you, thank you. This store had slipped under my radar. It sounds wonderful.

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