Warm Weather Comfort Dish

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Since when do we only need comfort in the winter?

Matzo ball soup, macaroni and cheese, roast chicken and mashed potatoes all provide a much-needed culinary hug, but they are better served in cold weather.

But what about those of us who are feeling a little wobbly in August?

I started thinking about this recently when I spotted a headline touting a summer comfort food. It featured pork, so it was a non-starter for the Exponent, but I started to play around with the idea. As I marinated the concept, I mentally listed a few must-haves: hearty without being heavy, simple to prepare, a “comfort carb” component and a good leftover.

I came up with a simple chicken dish, sort of a deconstructed lo mein, which used one pot, looked pretty, made a lot and reheated well. I used a combination of green and wax beans and sliced carrots for my veggies, but anything would work: broccoli, cauliflower, peas, greens, summer squash — just be sure to cook them to a tender crisp and not mush.

By cooking everything sequentially in the same pot and setting it aside as each step was complete, I kept the mess to a minimum and had an efficient, streamlined assembly at mealtime. Here’s what I did:

Summer Comfort Chicken with Noodles and Veggies | MEAT

Serves six

Vegetables:

3 cups assorted vegetables cut into bite-sized pieces

Pinch salt

1 cup water

Place the vegetables in a pan with the salt and water; bring them to a boil.

Cover and simmer a few minutes until crisp tender.

Drain and set aside.

Noodles and Sauce

Note: if you are unable to find Chinese egg noodles with cooking instructions on the package, you can use any fresh or dried pasta cooked according to the package.

Noodles:

2 packages fresh Chinese egg noodles

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 cup water

Sauce:

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced

½ cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1 teaspoon honey

Sriracha or hot sauce to taste

cup chopped fresh cilantro

Mix the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, hot sauce (if using) and cilantro in a small bowl and set aside.

In a pan, heat the oil and add the noodles, breaking them up with tongs or chopsticks.

Add the water and stir until the noodles are separated and cooked, about three minutes. Drain and set aside.

Chicken and Marinade | MEAT

pounds boneless chicken breasts, sliced thinly on diagonal into bite-sized pieces

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

¼ cup soy sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon sugar

A few drops of Sriracha or your favorite hot sauce, if desired

For sautéing: 2 tablespoons canola oil

For garnish: sprigs of cilantro

In a large Ziploc bag or Tupperware container, place all the marinade ingredients and shake until well blended and the chicken is thoroughly coated.

Marinate the chicken in the refrigerator several hours to overnight. Thirty minutes before cooking, bring it to room temperature.

Heat two tablespoons of oil in a pan and dump the chicken with marinade into the oil. Using tongs, flatten the pieces of chicken, turning and rotating them frequently until fully cooked, about six minutes total.

When cooked, push the chicken to one side of the pan. Add the noodles to the center of the pan and the cooked vegetables alongside the noodles, creating three distinct sections.

Pour the sauce over the noodles and vegetables, garnish with additional cilantro and serve.