Sunday, July 1, 2012

Sesame Chicken and Asparagus Pasta

8 oz linguine 3 cloves garlic, minced 1 Tbs red wine vinegar 1 Tbs brown sugar 6 Tbs chunky peanut butter (¼ c. plus 2 T.) ¼ cup soy sauce scant ¼ cup sesame oil ½ – 1 Tbs hot chili oil (depending on how hot your chili oil is. I add the whole Tb.) 2 ½ boneless and skinless cooked chicken breast halves 5 Tbs sesame seeds, toasted ¾ lb to 1 lb thin asparagus, trimmed 3 scallions, white bulb and 3 inches green, cut into 2-inch julienne 1 small cucumber, halved, seeded, and cut into 1/4 inch dice Cook chicken. (Many options here – put frozen breasts in microwave at 50% power, or boil in water, or cook for a few hours in the crockpot with a cup of water…) Trim asparagus; set aside. *see note below Toast sesame seeds, set aside. (Two options: toast in the microwave, stirring every minute or so, or toast in a dry skillet on medium, stirring frequently. They are done when they turn brown. Takes 5-10 minutes.) Cut scallions and cucumber as directed in ingredients. Set aside. Prepare sauce: Place the garlic, vinegar, brown sugar, peanut butter, and soy sauce in a food processor. Process for 1 minute. With the motor running, slowly add the sesame and hot chili oils through the feed tube, and process until well blended. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the linguine, and cook at a rolling boil until just tender. Drain, rinse under cold water, drain again, and set aside in a large mixing bowl. Shred the chicken into 2-inch julienne, and toss with the linguine. Add the sauce and 4 Tbs of the sesame seeds, and toss to coat well. Cut the asparagus on the diagonal into 1-inch lengths. Blanch in a saucepan of boiling water for 2-5 minutes, depending on the thickness of your asparagus. They will be done when you can easily insert a thin-bladed knife or skewer into them. Drain, rinse under cold water, and pat dry. **see note below Place the linguine and chicken in a large flat serving bowl, and arrange the asparagus on top. Sprinkle with the scallions, cucumber, and remaining 1 Tbs sesame seeds. Number Of Servings:6 * Trimming the asparagus – This is a very important step. Snap the ends off by bending the bottoms until they snap. They will snap off above the white part, and some of the green will snap off too. This is the safest way to trim asparagus. It seems like you are wasting a lot of asparagus, but don’t be deceived! When I was new at cooking I tried cutting off just the white part, or just 1 inch off the bottoms, and would live to regret it! The bottom part of asparagus spears are very fibrous. If you don’t cut enough off the bottom, you will feel like you are trying to chew on a piece of bamboo. It’s horrible. My trusty cookbook by Mark Bittman says, “Snap off the bottom of each stalk; they will usually separate naturally right where the woody part ends.” Take it from the pro. **Also, I combine the steps of blanching the asparagus and cooking the linguine. 4-5 minutes before linguine is done, I add the asparagus. Then I drain it all when the asparagus is done. I drain the noodles and asparagus once, then add the sauce, chicken, and some sesame seeds and toss. Then I add the scallions, cucumber and remaining sesame seeds on top and lightly toss a bit. I’ve learned to combine steps to make this a faster recipe.

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