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
And now, in fairness to Sherbg, here's how it ought to have been made:
Chicken Noodle Salad with Peanut-Ginger Dressing