Ciao ragazzi! Primo, let Annalena tell you that she is gratified by the seemingly renewed interest in her musings. Absence certainly does seem to have made the heart grow fonder, as the "hits" on the two January entries have been rather large. Indeed, they are rivaling the "eating clean" entry on fish cookery, and while they will not ever catch the leader, which is braciole (who can figure), she is truly touched.
OK, enough sentimentality. Every year, Annalena and The Guyman give a New Year's Day party. Some choose to call it, and treat it, as a recovery party, others as a last fling before the rigors of January resolutions come in. Do not ask Annalena and The Guyman why they do it. The party, however, is always a big success, with much food cooked, and little left over. This year, of ten entries, prepared for from between 6-10 people, there was enough food left over for one large plate for the doorman. Hence, we continued our tradition of Chinese food for dinner on January 1.
Some of the dishes that appear on our table, are dishes we have eaten already, and others are new. Hence, in the first few weeks of the New Year, Annalena cooks the dishes that we have not eaten, a second time, so that we may try them. The beef stroganoff you have been reading about is one. This is another.
Regular readers of this blog know that Annalena is a very big fan of Ms. Nigella Lawson. To say that she loves her understates the case. To have access to Ms. Lawson's blog via facebook is a treat. And this recipe evolves therefrom.
Shortly after Thanksgiving, Ms Lawson posted a recipe for turkey leftovers. It was a cold salad of glass noodles in a sweet and spicy sauce, and turkey. Well, Annalena is not a big fan of turkey, but she is a fan of glass noodles, and has been for years.
Do you know glass noodles? They are Asian, and they are part of a family of noodles which include bean sprout noodles, glass noodles, and some others. They are fine, very long, and have a pearlescent white color about them, when dry (homework assignment: use pearlescent in a sentence today or tomorrow, without referring to teeth, or noodles). In her early years, Annalena became familiar with them at a Cuban Chinese restaurant, located near Christopher Street. All of those wonderfully handsome young men (and older men), in their leather jackets, and their tight jeans... with their moustaches somewhat covered in glass noodles. Ah, it was a sight.
Oh dear. She's digressing to her past again. OK, back to the present. The wonderful thing about glass noodles, or bean noodles, is that to "cook" them, you put them in cold, or warm water, and let them sit. Seriously, that is all. One thing you SHOULD do, unless your significant one finds noodles in your moustache to be hot, is to break them in half, or even thirds, as they are truly long. Cover them with plenty of water, regardless of how you are using them, and let them sit.
For this recipe, Annalena used about 8 ounces, which is a LOT of noodles. Please feel free to cut the quantity in half.
You will need a sauce as well, and that sauce calls for an ingredient you should have in your home: Asian fish sauce, or , in Vietnamese, which is the type you will almost always find, "nam pla." There are Thai, and Phillipino and Chinese versions available, and if you can find them, please feel free to use them.
It is interesting that many cultures do have a sauce based on old, almost rotted fish. In the earliest of Latin cookbooks, Apecius speaks of "garum." Do not read a recipe for garum unless your stomach is in good shape. Worchester sauce is based on anchovies (or was), and so on, and so forth. In any event, buy yourself a bottle of this, because you will want to make this again.
While the noodles are soaking, combine 4 cloves of peeled, minced garlic, and 4 crushed chillies. Ms Lawson seeds them. Annalena did not. Please be aware of your heat tolerance, and proceed as such. If you do not have the whole chillies, use some flakes, but again, adjust the recipe. Four chillies will give a good tablespoons or so of flakes. The milder pepper flakes will be fine at that quantity, but if you have a variety that says HOT, cut it back. Now combine this with four tablespoons of fresh, minced ginger, and 4 tablespoons of the fish sauce. Add the juice of one lime, or one sour lemon or sour orange. Finally, add a half cup of water, and 2 tablespoons of fine sugar. NOT confectioner's sugar, mind you. Look for something called "caster sugar," which is also called "baker's sugar." You may also wish to use turbinado, or raw sugar. Stir it all togther. Let it sit for a few minutes, and taste.
Good, isn't it? If you want more heat/garlic/ginger/acid/sweet, this is your sauce. Go and do it.
Let the sauce be for a few minutes, and cook a pound of medium , shelled shrimp in boiling salted water. It will take less than five minutes for them to "pink up." Annalena likes the medium sized shrimp, which are really the "small" shrimp of the shrimp world. Drain them. And now....
Take the noodles out of their water. Give them a good shake. Put them in a bowl, and add just about three quarters of your sauce. Stir it together. The noodles will actually soak up some of this sauce, but most of it will be "locked" in between the noodles, which are very fine. Put the shrimp on top of that, and pour the rest of the sauce over it.
WHEW! That was hard work, wasn't it? Uh, no. And again, you have what is essentially a fat free, filling, tasty dish, for at least two of you, perhaps as many as four.
You will start using this sauce with everything, even fruit. Indeed, if you wanted to add sliced mangoes to your salad, do not let Annalena get in your way. Or, if you want to combine green papaya and ground pork, or sausage, well, have at it, ragazzi.
Go forth. Get this one under control, because tomorrow, to paraphrase Ms. Rupaul "you better WORK"