You know that feeling as you prep for a party. You're asked to bring something to a potluck. You are not given direction as to what genre your food should fit into. You're not even given an idea of the dress code! So aside from the perilous wardrobe challenge, now you have to decide on a crowd-pleasing dish to bring. Oh, and no pressure, they all know you're an amateur chef!!! (Pant, pant.) My point is that your goal in this endeavor is to create something that everyone eats, which is tough. There's NOTHING worse than collecting your dish and spoon at the end of the evening and finding that YOUR food was rejected and you take some home! AARGH!!!
There are no secret dishes that will always find their way into the hearts of strangers, and I took some real chances with this one. For instance, I could have discovered that everyone had a shellfish allergy. Or, it could have been that no one really cared for mushrooms. (I'm not sure I trust people who don't "get" mushrooms, but that's another blog post.) And the worst of all? This could have been a room full of people with a gluten intolerance. (That blog post will really take up some space!)
Lucky for me, or for the guests if you look at it from the perspective of satisfaction, this salad seemed to be an overwhelming success.
There are a few flavor cues here I want to talk about. Because flavor cues, (isn't that an awesome term?) end up giving you some solid direction for the whole dish. If you're looking for Asian, or spicy, or crunchy, or sweet, you can build upon those ideals. In my case, I wanted a bright, spicy salad. Thai flavors are so fun and blend with most other foods.
And can I just say what a miracle food ramen noodles are. Curly, sturdy, thin, versatile and affordable! Yeah!!! They're so cheap you don't even have to keep the flavor packet! (But I do. They're great for salad dressings!)
And don't be afraid of herbs. This one combines basil and mint and both completely complemented the dish.
I talked about mushrooms and you may wonder why I added them. First of all, you find a LOT of mushrooms in Asian cooking. Their umami flavor is perfect against the spicy notes. And the texture is fun in your mouth alongside the peppers and cukes. What made them great was sauteing them in butter along with a plethora of Asian spices, and then adding it to the cold salad. Yeah, looks gorgeous, too!
So here's the happy news: The serving bowl was totally empty at the end of the party. (Phew, reputation intact!)
More good news? It was really easy to make. And the best news of all? You can make it, too. The recipe is below!
RECIPE: Thai Shrimp Cold Noodle Salad with Mushrooms and Mint
Serves 8-10 / Click here for a printable version.
1 lb frozen cooked shrimp, peeled, deveined
2 C sliced baby bella mushrooms
1 red pepper sliced into thin, 2” strips
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced
2 scallions, sliced up into the green
1 small jalapeno
2 packages of ramen noodles
2 T butter
1 t Penzys® Sate seasoning*
4 T oil
1 t sesame oil
¼ C rice wine vinegar
2 T soy sauce
1 T white sugar
1 t kosher salt
½ t black pepper
1 T grated fresh ginger
About 5 large leaves of basil cut chiffonade
1 T fresh mint cut chiffonade
Thaw shrimp, remove tails if needed, pat dry, add to bowl. Add the red pepper, cucumbers, scallions, mint and jalapeno. Bring 8 C water to boil in a large pan, cook the two packets of ramen noodles for three minutes, until al dente…about 3 minutes. DO NOT ADD the seasoning. You only want the noodles. Drain, drizzle with about 1 T oil and toss. You can use a knive and cut them a bit so that they’re easier to blend. I took large, sweeping cuts so that each noodle on average was about 4 inches long. Then add to the shrimp mixture. In a large saucepan, melt 2 T butter in hot pan and add the mushrooms, letting them sear and brown. Add the Sate seasoning. Remove and add to the shrimp mixture.
In a small bowl combine 3 T oil, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, salt, pepper, grated ginger and whisk well to combine. Taste and add more salt if needed. Pour over the shrimp mixture and blend very well. Chill until ready to serve. At the LAST minute, toss with the fresh cut basil!
*Can add other Asian or Thai seasoning blends of your choice. Or you can use one of the seasoning packets from the ramen.
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Meet the Cook...
My name is Camine Pappas and I love to create beautiful and delicious food that anyone can make. My signature style centers around a love for combining things in a way you might not expect as I work to find a hidden combination of colors, textures and flavors from the things that are in my pantry and/or easy to obtain.