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Out-of-the-Kitchen Asian Noodles

Mary Anne here. Ahh! It’s Labor Day! How is this possible? I feel like I only just wrote our Memorial Day menu. I knew the summer was swishing by in a seemingly endless downpour of rain, but to wake up this morning and realize that the last official weekend of summer is upon us – well it was a bit of a jolt!

In thinking about how I want to spend the weekend, one thing is for sure – the weather folks are promising us clear skies and if that’s true, I don’t plan to labor in the kitchen. My family gathers for most of these holidays and they come with their dogs, fiancés, and assorted pals and girlfriends – all with healthy appetites! Mariel is particularly partial to my Mango Salsa and both she and her brothers can’t get enough of my Guacamole, so I plan to make both ahead of time. Mariel’s fiancé is incredibly easy – frozen pizzas and burgers on the grill with some sautéed mushrooms and he’s totally satisfied.

Rather than slaving over a grill or hot stove while the summer sun is hitting our backyard, I decided that I would make my Asian Noodles and assorted treats for alfresco “grazing.” They take about 45 minutes to prepare (once the chicken is poached) and keep beautifully in the fridge for up to 5 days. And if you’re looking for vegetarian options, simply swap out the meat.

Whatever your plans are for the weekend, we wish you a memorable Labor Day, filled with love, laughter, and plenty of delicious food!

Mariel here with a quick note: I’m scrambling to meet deadlines pre-wedding (it’s two weeks away!), but I plan to add my Lazy Man’s Amatriciana Pasta recipe next week. It’s not authentic, but it’s tasty.

Out-of-the-Kitchen Asian Noodles
Serves 8, generously

Ingredients for the Dressing
1 cup canola oil – stock
2½ Tablespoons sesame oil – Asian stock
3 Tablespoons sesame seeds – stock
2/3 cup soy sauce – Asian stock
Hot chili oil, to taste – Asian stock

Ingredients for the Salad:
1 ½-2 (about 2 lbs.) whole chicken breasts, poached – $6.57
½ lb. smoked or honey ham, sliced thick at the deli counter and then cubed – $4.31
1 bunch scallions, white and green stems chopped – $0.69
1 large yellow pepper, seeded, cored, and diced – $0.44
1 large red pepper, seeded, cored, and diced – $0.44
¾ cup walnuts, coarsely chopped – stock
1 lb. thin spaghetti (I use whole wheat), cooked according to package directions for al dente -$1.49
1 8oz. can sliced water chestnuts, rinsed, drained and chopped 0.99
½ lb. snow peas – $2.99
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped – $0.75
salt and ground black pepper, to taste – stock
Grand Total Assuming Well-Stocked Pantry: $18.67
Total Per Entrée Serving
: $2.33

1. Prepare the chicken breasts the day or night before, if time allows. Rinse the chicken breasts under cold water. Place in a saucepan large enough to accommodate and cover with water. Bring to a boil (with a lid). Remove from the flame and allow the breasts to sit in the hot water until the meat is cool enough to handle. This takes at least 2 hours. Prick with a toothpick to test for “doneness.” The juices will run clear.

2. Shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces and refrigerate until ready to prepare the salad.

3. Prepare the spaghetti by bringing a large stockpot of water to a boil. Add a splash of olive oil. Cook the pasta until al dente and drain in a colander while running cold water over the noodles to prevent them from sticking.

4. Meanwhile, while the pasta is cooking, blanch the snow peas in a large pot of boiling water. Cook for 30 seconds until bright green. Quickly drain the peas in a colander and then refresh in an ice water bath. Pat dry and cut into thirds on the diagonal.

5. Chop the remaining vegetables and break up the walnuts. Dice the ham and chop the cilantro. Toss everything into your largest mixing bowl and don’t forget to add the chicken breasts that were poached ahead of time.

6. Prepare the dressing: Using a medium-size saucepan, combine the canola and sesame oils. Over medium flame, heat the oils. They’re hot when you can see the oil shimmer across its surface. Add the sesame seeds – stirring very frequently, cook the seeds until golden. Tip: You must watch this carefully. The seeds can go from gold to burnt in an instant so keep stirring. It only takes a few minutes until they’re done.

7. Remove the saucepan from the flame and add the soy sauce and a few hits of chili oil. Cool slightly and pour over the noodles. I use my hands to toss and coat the noodles. It’s messy, but it’s fun and very effective!

8. Serve at room temperature or cold.