Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cooking Play date Inspiration: Pad Thai

Clearly, things have been busy around here.  I just realized that I hadn’t written about one of the big highlights from our Thanksgiving trip to visit family in Virginia.  We have never travelled cross-country over the “busiest travel holiday of the year” before, and to be honest, I wasn’t not looking forward to the journey.  Most likely, my reluctance was from years of watching fear mongering news stations showing hordes of people stranded in airports,  but perhaps it was just because I like to stay cozy during the holidays and nest at home.   Fortunately, my concerns were ungrounded and we had a nice time.
Highlights from the trip included spending time with family, visiting the beautiful campus of the University of Virginia, and spending time at the Smithsonian.  Another high point was an impromptu cooking lesson by Caro, my sister-in-law, who recently befriended a Thai woman in her neighborhood.   The two of them found a common love in the kitchen and started weekly cooking sessions, with Caro sharing tips for baked goods from Germany, where she was raised, and her neighbor sharing family recipes from Thailand.
The evening after Thanksgiving, she taught me to make Pad Thai, along with some strategies I never knew about.
If you have ever tried making Thai rice noodles and didn’t pay close enough attention to the directions on the package, you may have boiled them….and them immediately regretted not paying more attention!  Instead, the ideal way to prepare these “rice sticks” is to soak them in very warm water until just al dente (firm in the middle).  Otherwise, you will end up with a sticky mess…(yes, I am speaking from experience!).  Don’t worry – they will finish cooking in the work when you are assembling the dish.

One of the biggest keys to successful Pad Thai, I learned, is to have all of your ingredients ready before you begin, and then to add them in a particular order, based on how quickly they take to cook.  You wouldn’t want to add shrimp to your hot wok too early, for example, or you would have little rubbery bits in your finished dish.
If you are cooking with kids, they love to crush the peanuts with a rolling pin.  Just be sure to squeeze out the air before they start rolling or else you might pop the zip top bag.  If you love your Cuisinart as much as I do, you might be tempted to crush your nuts in there – but beware – if you let them stay in one whir of the blade too long, you may end up with peanut butter!

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