An Oldie But a Goodie

August 14, 2013

Dear Friends, 

As you read this I’m frolicking on beach, working up an appetite for some Chesapeake blue  crabs. Tony, I and the dog are taking a rare vacation. Before I left, I came across a newsletter I wrote in March 2005, just after I met Tony. I think you’ll like the recipe and reading about our first date:

My hip female doctor calls it love food. It’s the first meal you make for a new love.

“I’m making luuuv food tonight,” she told me once during a checkup. We went over the menu while she took my blood pressure and pulse. I think she was serving bouillabaisse. The man was history within six months. (It takes that long to tell if a guy’s crazy, she contends). At least he had a good dinner.

Last week, I made love food. It was grilled chicken with a spicy orange Asian sauce, topped with a daikon-jicama slaw and strewn with fresh-chopped cilantro and toasted pine nuts, all resting on a bed of deep-fried rice sticks. Yeah, I went for it.

The meal was actually simple to make, though. I lit the charcoal fire at 10 p.m. and the meal was on the table 30 minutes later. The best part was exploding the noodles in hot oil. I love to drop thin rice noodles in oil and watch them puff up like one of those black fireworks capsules that turns into a fat charcoal-like snake on the Fourth of July.

When you’re making love food, you don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. So I grated, mixed and chopped everything in advance. The slaw was marinating in a sesame-orange dressing in a baggie. The pine nuts were toasted, the cilantro was chopped and the charcoal was glowing when he walked in the door. Within 10 minutes, the sizzling chicken was lounging on a plate against a pile of puffy noodles, ready for a few showy finishing touches.

No matter what happens, at least I had a good meal.

GRILLED CHICKEN IN SPICY ORANGE SAUCE

Marinade:

  • 1 tsp. grated orange zest
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 2 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp. sesame oil
  • 2 tsp. Asian chili sauce
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Slaw:

  • 1 2-inch chunk daikon radish
  • 1 2-inch chunk jicama
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 Tbsp. orange juice
  • 1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 1/8 tsp. sesame oil

Everything else:

  • 2 oz. (or about 2 handfuls) thin rice noodles, uncooked
  • Vegetable oil
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • 1 Tbsp. toasted pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Build a charcoal fire in a grill. Combine marinade ingredients and spoon half of mixture over the chicken in a shallow bowl. Set aside.

Grate the radish and jicama in a food processor or on a box grater. Combine remaining slaw ingredients and pour over grated vegetables in a zipper-lock bag. Set aside.

Gently pull and shape rice noodles into two flat disks. Heat about 1/2-inch of oil in a medium skillet over high heat. When the oil just begins to smoke, drop in one disk. As soon as the noodles expand (within seconds), remove from skillet and drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining noodles. Set aside.

Remove chicken from marinade, discard marinade, and grill chicken over charcoal for about 7 to 10 minutes, until cooked through but still tender. Place a disk of noodles on each plate. Lean chicken against the noodles (give him two pieces if he’s hungry; otherwise divide chicken evenly between the two plates). Spoon reserved marinade over chicken. Top each portion with a nest of slaw. Shower with pine nuts and cilantro. Makes 2 servings. 

 
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