1) I am as nutty in my cooking choices as I am in travel destinations. Something will pop into my head: Jambalaya. Pad Thai. Moo Shoo chicken. Eggplant parmesagna. Anything is fair game. I’ll dive right into it as soon as possible. It’s crazy, I know. But it’s interesting. Pad thai has been on my mind as long as gnocchi has. I have not yet made gnocchi. This was pad thai’s day. Lucky winner.
2) I shop sales. If chicken is on sale, I eat chicken. If chicken is not on sale, beans and eggs become the featured protein in my meal. This week, fresh shrimp was on sale. What a find! I have fond memories of cooking shrimp with my grandmother. She is a masterful, 1950’s influenced housewife cook. Nothing is too complicated or time consuming or fattening for her. Together we made shrimp scampi every time I visited her in Texas. Even though I have never once made shrimp scampi on my own, the mere memory of preparing it in the kitchen at the age of eight was the boost of confidence I needed to take the plunge and purchase the on-sale shrimp ($3.99/lb! That’s almost as good as chicken!) Floating on this confidence alone, I merrily began browning my shrimp in butter. Everything tastes good in butter… or so I thought. Until I started wondering about those hard casings. I reached back into my dim memory and that important piece of information returned to me: the reason why shrimp scampi always seemed so time intensive was because shrimp needs to be both peeled and de-veined. Oh no! My grandmother and I had spent painstaking hours doing this, and I completely forgot the task! Fortunately, the fish counter had eradicated those pesky veins for me, and I merely had to strip the shrimp shells (and a large part of the butter) from the shrimp after cooking them. Small loss for a still-delicious product.
3) I love seasoning packets. Can you read that? “Make dinner deliciously easy.” Amen. As I was wandering the aisles of the not-Asian grocery store wondering, “how in the world will I make pad thai?” I found myself in the life-saving section for all people who want to make something different but lack the knowledge and foresight to look up a recipe before entering a grocery store: SEASONING PACKETS. Lo and behold, there was not one but two packets titled “Pad Thai”, so I had my choice. CAUTION: as an expert packet-seasoning chef, I will tell you these packets are s.a.l.t.y. I chose the one with less salt (only about 38% of my daily value). But remember, you’re not consuming it all at once. It is seasoning an entire dish. Still, I wish to be on the lower sodium side. You can always add more. Start by adding half packet and work your way up. Read the label. As you read the label, you’ll notice another cool trick: the packet has the recipe printed on the back. Genius!
My pad thai was pretty good, a combination of the sunbird phad thai seasoning shown above, and this recipe from allrecipes.com. I LOVED the shrimp. I also loved the noodles, which I let soak for 20-30 minutes before cooking according to package directions. Pad thai noodles are sold at your regular grocery store in a bag marked “Pad Thai Noodles.” I nearly kissed the shelves. The grocery store is made for people like me. I didn’t have fish sauce or white wine vinegar, so I added regular vinegar, omitted the fish sauce and hoped for the best. I forgot to buy green onions so I used regular ones, but green definitely would have been better. I also didn’t buy cilantro so that was replaced with basil, which I grow. The seasoning packet is a little spicy for me, so be sure you taste as you add, to make sure you don’t ruin a dish with too much heat. I ended up discarding about 1/4 of the packet and a tablespoon of peanut butter.
All in all, I would consider this first-time kitchen adventure a success. If any of you have delicious pad thai tricks or recipes, please send them my way. I look forward to trying it out again.