When Jazz Cooking Goes Amiss - Ellen's Tastes Blog at Allrecipes.com - 307437

Ellen's Tastes

When Jazz Cooking Goes Amiss 
Jul. 28, 2013 8:13 am 
Updated: Aug. 2, 2013 5:31 pm
After years of being the master of my kitchen, I've created some masterpieces and bailed out some potential disasters. With that kind of history, I confess I've become all-too-confident in my skills as a cook and this became all-too-obvious over the last two days, when a recipe nearly got the better of me. 

To be fair, the original recipe is absolutely fine (http://allrecipes.com/recipe/chicken-noodle-salad-with-peanut-ginger-dressing/detail.aspx). In fact, I owe its contributor (Sherbg) an apology for messing with it. But mess I did. 

First, I read through the reviews, and learned most reviewers recommended doubling the peanut-ginger dressing. No problem: when one of the ingredients is peanut butter, I'm happy to double. It turned out I tripled, but more on that later. 

Things were moving along very nicely until I couldn't find the fresh ginger root ... which I'd put in my shopping cart but  — despite an archeological dig through my 'fridge — I swear it wasn't there. Fresh ginger is one of those ingredients you really can't substitute, but I was desperate: powdered ginger it was. I used Tamari rather than Soy Sauce (personal preference), and I added Toasted Sesame Oil because I love the stuff. I wanted a vegetarian dish, so I didn't include the chicken. Otherwise, I followed the recipe as written.

Once the dressing was done I took a taste, fully expecting to swoon. No go on the swooning though: it was much, much, MUCH too salty. Unfortunately, I'd read in several reviews that others had also found the dressing too salty, and thus began my efforts to desalinize. First, I did what I always do when things are too salty: I dropped in some sliced potatoes, and set the dressing in the 'fridge for several hours. That didn't help a bit. Then I tried adding more brown sugar. That helped a little but not enough. So I added more chicken broth, and some water, and that seemed to do it. 

One of my other changes was to use soba noodles, rather than linguini. I'd bought two packages of soba noodles because ... well, there's no excuse ...  the recipe calls for one pound of linguini, so I bought one pound of soba noodles. The concept of volume had escaped me. And thus, when the noodles were cooked and added to the dressing, I barely had enough dressing to cover it all. So I stirred and I stirred and eventually each one of those soba noodles had some dressing on it.

By now, I'd tasted and re-tasted so often, I'd long since passed the point of a discerning palate. I placed the salad in the 'fridge and told my husband he was free to roam. Meanwhile, while searching for a bottle of wine, I came across the aforementioned fresh ginger, tucked neatly away in the 'fridge. 

Several hours later, hubby asked if I was really done with the pasta salad and I said yes, to which he said (kindly and gently) "it's really bland". Bland??? How did THAT happen?? 

Now that a glass of wine had restored my taste buds, I went to taste the salad again. Hubby was right: there was almost no flavor to it. I toyed with tossing it out, but opted to give it a night in the 'fridge. Maybe it'd be better in the morning. 

The next morning, breakfast was a forkful of the Asian Pasta Salad, which had now become my nemesis. As feared, it was no more flavorful than it had been the night before. So I did what any crazed cook might do: I made a third batch of the dressing, this time following the recipe exactly (including fresh ginger) although I still added a bit of Toasted Sesame Oil. This time when I tasted it, the level of salt was perfect! (Was it really the missing fresh ginger, or the Tamari vs. Soy Sauce that made it so salty the first time around? I don't know the answer to that, do you?)

I poured the new batch of dressing on an incredibly large bowl of bland Asian Pasta Salad and stirred. The taste was great but now there was so much dressing that every forkful oozed and dripped. Not good. It clearly needed draining. I let it sit while gravity did it's part and soon the top of the bowl had a pasta salad that looked and tasted fabulous. I skimmed that part off into a serving bowl and put the rest in a colander. It was so gloppy I ran water over it, then stirred and pressed to force the extra moisture away from the pasta and into the kitchen sink. It took close to an hour for the colander batch to be edible. Meanwhile, the serving bowl batch still looked good.

This dish was made for a pot luck we were having at our house. The salad was a hit, although I noticed excess dressing as our guests dug deeper into the bowl. One of my guests asked how I made it, and I told her I had to wrestle it to the ground, which had the advantage of being true. What I didn't tell her is that I started the fight. Had I followed the recipe — instead of being so sure of my edits — I'd have avoided the duel in the first place!

In the end, this dish is worth it: it's delicious and ought to be an easy dish to make. Besides including the fresh ginger I'd recommend letting it sit over night before making any changes. Sometimes things have a way of sorting themselves out if we just let them.

And now, in fairness to Sherbg, here's how it ought to have been made:

Chicken Noodle Salad with Peanut-Ginger Dressing

  • Dressing
  • 1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Asian garlic-chili sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger root
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons low-sodium chicken broth
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • Salad
  • 1 (16 ounce) package uncooked linguine pasta
  • 3 1/2 cups cooked chicken, cut into strips
  • 1 cup julienne-sliced carrot
  • 6 green onions, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips
  • 1 celery rib, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped roasted peanuts, for garnish

To make the dressing, place the peanut butter, soy sauce, rice vinegar, chili-garlic sauce, brown sugar, ginger, red pepper flakes, and 3 tablespoons of chicken broth together in a blender or bowl of a food processer. Blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Thin the dressing to your taste by adding more chicken broth or water.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the linguine and cook until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and place pasta into a large mixing bowl.

Add the chicken, carrots, green onions, red pepper, celery, and cilantro to the bowl with the linguine. Pour the dressing over the noodle-chicken mixture and toss until mixture is evenly coated. Divide the salad among eight serving plates, and sprinkle peanuts over each serving.

Jul. 28, 2013 10:13 am
I think we all have had similar fiascos. They keep us humble, LOL. It is nice to "see" you, I hope all is well with you.
Jul. 28, 2013 3:18 pm
All is well, and thanks for asking ;) You're quite right about the humble bit!
Jul. 29, 2013 8:05 am
This sounds like a great recipe. I have been humbled more than a time or two. My last comeuppance involved a loaf of bread. At least it was not for a potluck! Glad to see you here and blogging again.
Jul. 29, 2013 8:07 am
Jul. 29, 2013 8:08 am
I want to tell you that your personal recipe, above is perfect! I love it, thank you.
Jul. 29, 2013 2:45 pm
ellenmoriah.....been there, done that and DON'T want the tshirt. Thanks for the giggle at your expense :)
Jul. 30, 2013 8:45 am
Nice to hear I'm not alone in my misadventures. Also very glad, Nana, that you've found the Tomatoes, Basil, Garlic, and Brie dish ... isn't it ideal for summer gatherings? It was my first thought for the potluck, but I swapped it out for an Asian flair and (trust me) I regretted that decision more than once, despite the fact that, in the end, all was well ;)
Jul. 30, 2013 8:57 pm
You are sooo not alone on this one. I tweak recipes a lot, which is why I rarely review them because it's not fair to the recipe submitter. I confess that I would have tossed the whole darn batch out. Kudos to you for persevering!
Jul. 31, 2013 5:43 am
Good morning! It's good that you are doing well! ... Your "adventure" with this salad seems much too familiar. Right now, my wife isn't home to witness many of the failures of her "crazed chemist becoming a cook". Thank you for this amusing account and for this recipe.
Aug. 1, 2013 2:57 am
ellenmoriah, I'm sitting with my laptop, alone in the dark, giggling out loud with your story! Thanks for sharing a piece of yourself, along with the "corrected" recipe.
Click to Change your Profile Picture

Living In
Concord, New Hampshire, USA

Member Since
Dec. 2004

Cooking Level

Cooking Interests
Baking, Slow Cooking, Asian, Mexican, Indian, Mediterranean, Healthy, Gourmet

Photography, Reading Books, Music, Painting/Drawing, Wine Tasting

Subscribe Today!

In Season

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Chocolate Chip Cookies

Have you made a batch lately? They're everybody's favorite.

Spring Salads
Spring Salads

Freshening up the salad menu for spring has never been so delicious.

Subscribe Today! Only $7.99
Subscribe Today! Only $7.99

Delicious recipes, party ideas, and cooking tips! Get a year of Allrecipes magazine for $7.99!

About Me
I've loved cooking since I was a kid, and still have my first (very battered) cookbook. Other than cooking, I adore interior design, writing, and playing bridge. Oh... and tasting new wines (or old favorites).
My favorite things to cook
As I've grown older, my tastes and philosophy have changed. I now use organic ingredients whenever I can, and I prefer using unprocessed ingredients.
My favorite family cooking traditions
Well, my mother (bless her) had 8 people to feed, so she made foods that were easy to prepare. My favorites were her baked ribs with barbecue sauce; english muffins topped with cheese, tomato, and bacon, and then broiled; and spaghetti noodles with tomato soup and cheddar cheese stirred in. I wouldn't make these dishes today, but they're full of fond memories.
My cooking triumphs
Adding orange juice to diced tomato sauce • Adding Cointreau to fresh fruit salads or a chocolate sauce • Adding tequila and bittersweet chocolate to chili • "poaching" salmon in orange juice, sprinkled with Old Bay and tarragon • adding cidar vinegar and soy sauce to vegetable soups • adding fresh mint to steamed red potatoes • knowing how to bail out a botched dish (example: over-steamed broccoli mashed with bleu or swiss cheese isn't nearly as bad as over-steamed broccoli on it's own).
My cooking tragedies
Over-steaming broccoli and most any other veggie... and a lasagna that was so loaded with oregano, no one could eat it.
Argentina  |  Australia & New Zealand  |  Brazil  |  Canada  |  China  |  France  |  Germany  |  India  |  Italy  |  Japan  |  Korea  |  Mexico

Netherlands  |  Poland  |  Quebec  |  Russia  |  SE Asia  |  United Kingdom & Ireland  |  United States