Whoah. That can prettty much describe how I felt about three minutes into cooking my first JO meal. He was serious when he suggested I read through the recipe first! This meal is listed in the 20 minute or less chapter and is described as something you’d order at a posh noodle-bar. 20 minutes? Technically, yes. A better description may be, 20 hectic, iron-chef style, sweat-inducing minutes.
To be fair to Jamie, if I would have done what he said and fully stocked my pantry first and read the recipe over (more than once), it would have most likely induced less sweat. I found my produce at the local stand (Windmill Farms) and my chicken & dry goods at Fresh & Easy.
I shopped for the items with both kids in tow. Both kids fell asleep on the way to the produce stand. Maxwell wakes up well from naps, but Dallas…oh, Dallas. If there is not a saying that goes, “Let sleeping 4 year olds lie,” there really should be. I prepared to wake him by picking up a burger at In & Out and crossed my fingers. As planned, Max woke up and was ready to go, while Dallas acted like I had slapped him awake with an iron glove. Why am I telling you this? I am hoping you’ll understand why I didn’t want to make the trek to a third store (Trader Joe’s) to pick up the required Chinese Five Spice or thin asparagus and baby corn.
Back to the kitchen…
First, the seed combo needs to be toasted. Why did I not know how EASY it is to toast nuts & seeds? It really brings out the flavor! I always thought it needed to be done in the oven, but apparently that is roasting, not toasting.
While the toasting happens, heat a large saucepan on high and pour in 4 cups (I learned that 4 cups = 1 quart) of chicken broth. Don’t comment on my lack of metric conversion knowledge, it’s a weakness, I know. The broth boils quickly and is truly where the magic of this recipe happens!
Before adding anything to the broth, I removed the seeds and cashews from my extra hot pan and tossed in some olive oil and chicken strips. The strips should have been doused in Five Spice, but…you know why they weren’t. Instead, I gave them a sprinkle of salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin and cinnamon. I then proceeded to overcook the suckers, just like Jamie warned me not to.
Back to the broth. Now that the chicken is on its way, I dropped some fresh ginger in the broth. JO never says just how to cut the ginger, he only calls for it to be the size of your thumb. A good note in his book might have mentioned smaller is better! The big chunks of ginger are a do not repeat for this recipe! Next, drop in a few small handful of veggies. In this house, we had frozen peas, green beans and corn, so that’s what went in. Soy sauce, lime juice and then the my favorite new food, RICE NOODLES!
The recipe offers the choice of vermicelli if you do not have rice noodles, but I am so glad Fresh & Easy had them! The package was a little over a dollar and I only needed a third of it. Rice noodles have the same texture as traditional pasta, but without the heft. They cook quickly, too!
Just as the chicken finishes cooking, or in my house overcooking, the meal is complete! I ladeled the noodles, veg and broth over a handful of spinach in my big, fat bowl. Laid the rubbery chicken on top, sprinkled with toasted poppy seeds, sesame seeds and cashews and chose to eat, rather than pass out!
What did I learn from this recipe? I learned that flavor enhanced broth is easy to make! I also conquered my fear of rice noodles! Most of all, I am more confident in the kitchen! I didn’t expect the last one. I am actually a little sad that my next JO recipe (Baked Camembert Pasta) is so easy!
- 1 tablespoon mixed seeds (pumpkin, poppy, sun flower)
- a small handful of raw cashew nuts
- 1 quart chicken broth, preferably organic
- 2 skinless chicken breast fillets, preferably free-range or organic
- 2 teaspoons five-spice powder
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- a thumb-sized piece of fresh root ginger
- olive oil
- ½ to 1 fresh red chili, to your taste
- 4 ounces rice sticks or vermicelli
- a handful of snow peas
- 6 thin asparagus spears or 4 regular-sized spears
- 6 fresh baby corn or ½ cup fresh corn kernels
- soy sauce
- juice of 1 lime
- a small handful of spinach leaves
- Put a medium frying pan or wok on a high heat and add the seeds and cashew nuts to it straight away, while it’s heating up. Put a large saucepan on a high heat. Fill the saucepan with the chicken broth, heat until very hot, and put a lid on it. Toss the seeds and nuts around until heated through nicely — this will take a couple of minutes. While this is happening, slice your chicken breasts lengthways into 3 pieces and put them into a bowl. Sprinkle the chicken with the five-spice powder and a good pinch of salt and pepper and stir. When the seeds and nuts are done, transfer them to a plate. Put the empty pan back on a high heat. Add a little olive oil to your hot pan with your slices of chicken and cook for 5 minutes, until golden, tossing and turning every now and again.
- While the chicken’s cooking, peel and finely slice your ginger and slice your chili. Take the lid off the pan with the chicken broth and add half the chili, all the ginger, your rice sticks (or vermicelli), snow peas, asparagus, and corn, with 2 tablespoons of soy sauce. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring. Halve the lime and squeeze in the juice. By the time the rice sticks (or vermicelli) and veggies are done, the chicken will be cooked. Take a piece of chicken out and slice it lengthways to check if it’s cooked all the way through — when done, remove all the chicken from the pan and slice each piece in half to expose the juicy chicken inside (please don’t be tempted to overcook it). To serve, divide the spinach leaves between your bowls and pour over the broth, rice sticks (or vermicelli), and vegetables. Divide the chicken pieces over and scatter with the toasted seeds, cashews, and remaining chili.