The appeal of this recipe to me? It’s one of those “Ten-Minute Mains,” where I only need to boil one pot of water to have a complete meal. The recipe is from the December 2006 issue of Gourmet. I did halve the recipe, which provided a deep bowl of noodles for each of us.

07-02-10_asiannoodles.jpgNow it calls for “chicken tenders,” and I’m not even sure what that means, exactly. So I cut up a half pound of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, and these worked great. Using frozen broccoli is super-easy. Do use the requested udon noodles (rather than regular spaghetti). The bite and taste of these thick wheat or whole-wheat Japanese noodles are essential to this recipe.

And now for the bottled sauces. Once you have these tucked into the back of your fridge, you’ll be able to make these kinds of noodle dishes often. There’s the oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, and Chinese chile garlic paste. I also keep a bottle of toasted sesame oil in my refrigerator (to keep it from going rancid). It’s a powerfully tasty oil for drizzling or dipping (not for high-heat cooking). I only need to let it reach room temperature before I use it, because as an oil it tends to solidify in the refrigerator. Try putting the cold bottle on the stove top as you’re boiling the water. As for the sesame seeds, don’t you keep a small container of them in your freezer? I do. They’re so cheap and easy to get in any good spice store. Buy some and keep them.

So the resulting bowls of noodles were silky and flavored with all those great Chinese sauces. You realize, then, how the magic of what we’ve come to know as “Chinese food” is really all about the sauces. So take out those chopsticks and enjoy…

RECIPE: a very impressive way to make a quick and satisfying dinner
how long does it take to chop some scallions?
hearty udon noodles meet spiced broth and chicken

My next recipe challenges will be “Halibut alla Diavola” along with “Lemon-Parsley Couscous,” both from the February 2007 issue of Cuisine At Home. Come back on Wednesday, March 7, to see my results. I’ll reprint the recipes here:

Makes 4 fillets; Total time: 45 minutes

4 halibut or sea bass fillets (4 oz. each)
salt and pepper
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup onion, sliced
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted, halved
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 cups Roma tomatoes, quartered and seeded
3 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. sugar
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup brandy
lemon wedges

Season fish with salt and pepper, then dredge one side of fillets in flour.

Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high. Add fish, floured-side down, and sauté 3 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer fillets to a plate; reduce heat to medium.

Add onion, olives, and garlic; sauté 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and next four ingredients, then deglaze with wine and brandy. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until thickened, 15 minutes. Lightly mash tomatoes with a spoon to break them up.

Arrange fillets on top of tomato mixture, browned side up. Cover with a tight-fitting lid, and simmer another 5 - 7 minutes, or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.

Serve with lemon wedges and lemon-parsley couscous.

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Makes 4 cups; Total time: 10 minutes

1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 cups plain dry couscous
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp. lemon zest, minced
salt to taste

Bring first three ingredients to a boil in a saucepan. Remove from heat; stir in couscous, parsley, and zest. Cover and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork, then season with salt.