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I think it’s safe to say there’s never more of a need than right now for quick and easy dinners—meals that can materialize from the pantry and be prepped as you go. Here’s one to add to your arsenal:
It comes from Chrissy Teigen’s Cravings and starts with a pot of salted water. You bring it to a boil, drop in a chicken breast, cover the pot, remove it from the heat, and let it stand for about 15 minutes.
While the breast poaches away, you prep everything else, which amounts to slicing scallions and stirring together a sauce. This one has big sesame flavor thanks to tahini and sesame oil, a kick thanks to chili oil and cayenne, and a nice bite thanks to vinegar and soy sauce. It’s slightly thick and creamy, and tastes balanced, the heat and acidity tempered by a small amount of honey.
By the time you’ve finished whisking together the sauce, the breast, which emerges perfectly cooked, is ready to be shredded. At this point, you return the water to a boil, and cook the pasta in a now lightly seasoned broth. While the pasta cooks, slice the scallions, set the table, do the dishes, tidy the kitchen, check your email—really, you’ll find yourself twiddling your thumbs. This may be unsettling, but try to embrace it—there are worse problems to have this time of year.
A few notes:
- The temperature: Sesame noodles are classically a cold dish, which is how these are intended to be served, but they can be served warm, too, which I prefer on these frigid, snowy evenings. If you like chilled noodles, however, simply rinse the pasta under cold water after draining it.
- The add-ins: Sesame noodles also typically consist of little more than noodles, sauce, and scallions, but I’ve found greens to be a nice addition—they don’t get lost in the sauce, both flavor- and texture-wise. Here, I’ve piled torn Swiss chard leaves into a colander, then drained the pasta right over them, which wilts them ever so slightly, making them more receptive to the sesame dressing, which gets caught in the creases of their ruffled surfaces. Other vegetables, such as thinly sliced carrots or sweet potatoes, or shredded cabbage or romaine, would be nice additions here, too.
Chicken breasts vs. thighs: I typically prefer dark meat, but here, I love the breast, which emerges from the poaching liquid so tender and juicy. Breasts are easier to shred into long strands than dark meat, too, and pulled meat (as opposed to cubed) tangles better with the noodles.
The noodles: Be sure to use a noodle that will stand up to the sauce. Fettuccine and linguini work particularly well. I’ve had less success with lo mein and soba noodles, which are less forgiving when not handled properly—they easily clump and turn to mush.
The chili oil: This is the one ingredient you may have to shop around for, but know you can make your own. Simply heat a cup of grapeseed, canola, or other neutral oil with a quarter cup of crushed red pepper flakes over low heat until the oil just begins to fizzle. Remove pan from heat. Let flakes steep for 24 hours. Strain into a clean jar. Keep on hand for months.
- 8 ounces boneless skinless chicken breast
- 8 ounces dried fettuccine
- 6 ounces Swiss chard, leaves removed from stems, torn into small pieces
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1/4 cup peanut oil
- 1/4 cup well-stirred tahini
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons chili oil
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 6 scallions, thinly sliced
- Kosher salt
Tell us: What sort of easy dinners do you gravitate towards this time of year?