Spicy Sesame Peanut Noodles with Chicken - delicious Asian comfort food that's easy to make at home.
Fall is finally and convincingly here. Splashes of red and yellow leaves are dotting the landscape and becoming more dominant by the day. The temperature has dropped to where it's officially sweater weather. I love the change of landscape, weather and wardrobe.
Fall always feels exciting - a time for new beginnings. My newest beginning is an empty nest. It's just me, Eddie and our dog Baxter living at home now. We're adjusting to a dramatically quiet house that at times feels big and empty and at other times feels happily quiet and calm. One thing I miss terribly are the daily texts from my youngest son Paul asking what's for dinner. I know if I replied "Spicy Sesame Peanut Noodles," he would have texted back "awesome!!!!"
Spicy sesame peanut noodles are my idea of awesome too - tender noodles coated in creamy sesame peanut butter sauce, with lots of exciting flavors - spicy, sweet, salty and totally irresistible. Be warned: it's hard to resist having a second helping of these, even when you're full.
There are so many versions of sesame peanut noodles out on the web and beyond. Two of my longtime favorite recipes - both of which provided inspiration for this post - are Sesame Chicken and Asparagus Pasta from The New Basics Cookbook and Butterfly Noodles with Spicy Peanut Sauce from All Around The World Cookbook.
I combined some ingredients from these two amazing recipes and added a bunch of my own touches and tweaks. The result is a scrumptious one-bowl wonder, with noodles, creamy spicy sesame peanut butter sauce, shredded chicken, chopped carrots, scallions and cucumber. The whole thing takes about 30 minutes to put together, if you start with cooked chicken.
Here's how the recipe goes: Shred the chicken. Boil, rinse and drain the pasta.
Mix all the sauce ingredients in your blender or food processor.
Add veggies. Sesame peanut sauce is rich and creamy so it's great to contrast that with something crisp and crunchy and light. I decided to go with raw vegetables - carrots, scallions and cucumbers - for flavor, the crunch factor and for ease of preparation.
For the carrots I wanted little jeweled pieces to sparkle through the creamy noodles. I didn't want big chunks and I also didn't want fuzzy-edged grated carrots. So I came up with a new technique for cutting carrots that was just perfect. First I peeled the carrots into thin strips with a vegetable peeler (below left). Then I lined up all the strips and cut them crosswise (below right).
Carrots are great but you can add any vegetable that you like. Blanched broccoli, snow peas, or asparagus would work really well in this dish. Slivered spinach or arugula tossed in would be great too. Yes, I did say arugula. I experimented with one batch and loved it! Arugula's bright peppery bite was a great counterpart to the rich creamy noodles.
A traditional accompaniment to Asian sesame noodles is cucumber. I decided to add it to the top for more fresh crunch and color. To make cucumber matchsticks, use a hothouse cucumber, which is firm and has minimal seeds. Slice it crosswise into 2 or 3-inch pieces or however long you want your matchsticks to be. Stand each section up on its cut side and slice it into thin strips. Then lay the strips flat on your cutting board and sliced them, as thinly as you like, into matchsticks.
To finish the dish, toss the chicken, noodles and vegetables with the sauce and top with cucumber matchsticks and toasted sesame seeds.
I have to mention Baxter again because, after all, he's my only child still living at home. He's actually pretty old for a dog (11 years) but lately he seems to have miraculously grown 5 years younger overnight. He's so energized by the chilly fall mornings, he's prancing around like a puppy.
Another bonus for Baxter this time of year is that the squirrels are are more fun to chase than ever because they're so focused on foraging for winter, they take longer to notice when a big furry 85 pound golden doodle is moving in on them. Plus their cheek pouches are stuffed to the brim with heavy nuts and acorns so they're not as quick to scamper away and up a tree. It's all very exciting for Baxter and fun for me too.
I hope you are having a happy start to fall.
Here's the Spicy Sesame Peanut Noodles Recipe. You probably know by now how much I love hearing from you. If you cook this recipe I hope you'll come back to leave a start rating and a comment. I'd love to know what you think.