Dec 7, 2009

The Anti-Comfort Food

As soon as I typed it, I realized that the title for this posting would convey the wrong meaning, but I'll keep it and try to explain.

Here's the deal: Thanksgiving always sends me through a cyclical mental process of comfort food desire and then comfort food phobia. Approaching Thanksgiving, like anyone, I start salivating just thinking about the traditional meal - the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes... that uni-colored amalgam of protein and carbs commonly smothered in a blanket of gravy. When the table is set, I go at it. No holding back. One rule - eat until you can't eat anymore. And since both my family and Elizabeth's spend Thanksgiving in Kansas City, somehow I do this for both lunch and dinner on the same day.

I skip breakfast in the morning to save room for lunch. After gorging at lunch, a quick few games of ping pong in my grandpa's basement loosen up some room at the top of my GI tract and suddenly I need pie.

A quick stop back at the house to walk our dog and prep the brussels sprouts for "T2", and off we go again.

Something about drinking a glass of wine while we linger in the kitchen and take in the smells of thanksgiving dinner must boost my metabolism, because only a few short hours after feeling like I would never eat again, I think I'm ravenous and load up another plate. Down the hatch!

The next morning I awake, like the rest of the world, from the depths of an unfathomable food coma and my whacked out food equilibrium is positively screaming for the opposite of comfort food. The anti-comfort food. For me, that means things like crisp vegetables, an abundance of spice (thai chili-spice, not cinnamon-spice) and umami. I want flavors I did not grow up eating. I want Asian food!

Here's one of my favorite Asian recipes from Food and Wine, which we made shortly after our Thanksgiving binge. Whip out the chopsticks to work out your dexterity and top this delicious, salty plate with as much spicy sambal oelek as you can stand. You'll feel like you really worked for this meal, which is a nice change from the previous day's gluttonous display.

Chicken Stir-Fry with Asparagus and Cashews

1/2 cup raw cashews
1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth
1 pound asparagus, sliced on the diagonal, 1 inch thick
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup chopped basil
1/4 cup chopped chives
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350°. Spread the cashews in a pie plate and toast in the oven for about 8 minutes, until they are nicely browned and fragrant. Let cool.
In a medium bowl, toss the chicken with 1 tablespoon of the fish sauce. In a wok or large skillet, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the chicken in an even layer and cook over high heat, turning once, until browned and just cooked throughout, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a clean bowl.
Pour the chicken stock into the wok and bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits. Add the asparagus slices, cover and cook over moderate heat until they are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the asparagus to the bowl along with the chicken.
Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of fish sauce to the wok along with the oyster sauce, lime juice and cayenne pepper. Simmer until the sauce is reduced to 1/3 cup, about 2 minutes. Return the chicken pieces and sliced asparagus to the wok and toss to heat through. Remove the wok from the heat and stir in the cashews, basil and chives. Season the stir-fry with black pepper and serve right away (my note: ...with enough sambal on top to push you out of your comfort zone).

Steamed rice.

One Serving 369 cal, 17 gm fat, 2.8 gm sat fat, 9 gm carb, 2.4 gm fiber.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.


abruce said...

This sounds delicious! I agree about Thanksgiving food. While its traditional decadence is great, Jared and I always crave a huge salad full of fresh vegetables!

Jmeg said...

i was craving chinese post thanksgiving too. looks like a good recipe to try!

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