I had nothing but time last Thursday night to dream up something for dinner. Andy was traveling, the girls were out at their various sporting pursuits until after 7:30, and both were getting rides home from friends, so it was me, an end-of-the-week fridge, and a luxurious sixty minutes to work with. I opened the refrigerator door.
How, I asked myself, as I always do, HOW did we drop all that cash at Trader Joe’s on Sunday and end up with a completely barren kitchen only days later? In these cases, I wonder whether it wouldn’t've been wiser to spend the bucks on that pretty spring scarf I’ve been ogling, instead of on the grass-fed beef — at least the scarf would still be here. A wave of total resignation washed over me.
We ended up going out to dinner, girls in shin guards and practice jerseys. But I didn’t feel good about it. We pretty much always go out on Friday or Saturday, so as we were all mauling the spider roll, I told them This is our night out, ok? Tomorrow, dinner at home.
Tomorrow came. Same fridge. Same sixty minutes. Yet this time, it was like I was wearing my magic weekend goggles or something. Three stray chicken thighs from the freezer, a hunk of ginger, half a bag of soba noodles in the pantry, and David Tanis’s column lodged somewhere in my consciousness. It was like Christmas Day. Nothing but bounty. Where were all of you characters 24 hours ago?
Thai Chicken Noodle Soup
3 or 4 chicken thighs, salted and peppered (but breasts are fine, too)
2 tablespoons oil (preferably neutral, but olive oil is fine, too)
1/2 onion, finely minced
2 garlic cloves, halved
1-inch fresh ginger, peeled, minced
1/4 teaspoon Thai curry paste
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
handful soba or udon noodles (to taste)
whatever vegetables you’ve got, chopped (I used carrots and broccoli, but you can also use snow peas, greens, bok choy, peppers)
1 tablespoon white miso (optional)
1/2 cup coconut milk (light or regular)
fresh squeeze of lime and cilantro for garnish (I only had chives, but wished I had cilantro)
In a medium pot over medium-high heat, brown chicken in olive oil, about 3 minutes a side. (Chicken does not have to be cooked through.) Remove from pot, turn heat to medium-low, add onion, garlic and ginger. Cook until soft. Remove garlic halves and smush in Thai curry paste until blended.
Chop or pull apart chicken, then add it back to the pot along with broth. Simmer until chicken is cooked through. Add noodles then vegetables in shifts (with firmer ones, like carrots, going in earlier than tender ones, like greens) and cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Whisk in miso and coconut milk. Serve topped with lime and cilantro.