Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cooking Efficiency: Coffee Maker Peanut Noodles

My go to quick food is a dish my friend Caroline refers to as “Peanut Noodles.”  Usually when I make it, it involves sautéing vegetables in ginger, marinating chicken, and making a big bowl of noodles smothered in peanut butter and soy sauce. It looks fancy enough that I have made it for small dinner parties, but is so easy I can leave off the chicken and make a single serving in under 15 minutes.  The most memorable prep was a batch I made for my friends as a late night drunk food to help balance a night of too much whiskey. 

I often bragged that I could make it entirely using nothing but a coffee maker.  That way, if I was staying in a hotel and wanted a home cooked meal, if there was at least a four-cup coffee maker I could make a gourmet meal. 

My boyfriend, who was a traveling actor and to whom I pitched this idea, didn’t believe me.  Till now, I’ve never had to try and so have never proven my claim.  Because I live in an efficiency without a kitchen, I figured now was a good time to test my hypothesis.  
When I make this as a meal, there are ingredient add-ons like grated ginger, garlic salt, red pepper flakes, rice wine vinegar, etc.  However, for this demonstration, I went with things that are easily procured and so could be made in a hotel room with a coffee pot:
  • Vegetables = Grocery Store salad bar
  • Soy Sauce Packets = from a dining hall, leftover Chinese food order, or snagged while walking through a food court
  • Package of Ramen
  • Lime juice = you could just buy one lime or a squeeze bottle, but you may be able to just pick up lemon juice packets that are in fast-food restaurants
  • Peanut Butter which you could get from those single-serving containers used for putting in kids lunches

This would work much easier with a larger coffee maker, but still works in a small one.  Plus, while the water is running through the coffee maker, you can do prep work for other steps. 

Making Peanut Noodles in the Coffee Maker
Place vegetables in the coffee maker basket.  I put the vegetables that need more cook time (like broccoli and cauliflower) in the bottom and the ones that need less time (red peppers) on the top.  Put basket in coffee maker and then run four cups water through the coffee maker.  Once the water goes through, the vegetables will be steamed. Set aside.  
While the vegetables are “cooking,” mix 2 parts peanut butter to one part soy sauce in a bowl.  Add lime juice in a 1/2 portion.  In other words, the ratio is 2:1:½ of peanut butter, soy sauce, and acid.  Mix everything together with a fork, but sauce will be lumpy.  This will be smoothed out by adding the hot noodle water that comes out of the coffee pot after cooking the noodles.   
Put a new coffee filter in the basket and then empty the water that gathered in the coffee pot.  Rinse pot and fill with clean water.  In the coffee maker basket, add the ramen.  Again, if the basket is big, you will probably be able to place the ramen in whole.  If not, then break it up into smaller chunks.  Place basket in coffee maker.  You need to ultimately pass 6 cups of water over the noodles.  Since I have a 4 cup, I ran one batch of water through, got 2 cups clean water, and then ran that.  If you have to do two passes of water, then stir the ramen noodles in the coffee basket so the ones on the bottom that are more cooked can be at the top and the less cooked ones can be moved to the bottom.  
When the water is passed through the noodles, take a small splash of the hot noodle liquid and add a little to the peanut butter sauce.  The heat of the water will melt the peanut butter and help turn the mixture into a smoother sauce.  Add the vegetables and noodles, toss and enjoy. 
Your gourmet coffee maker isn’t just for gourmet coffee anymore.  Who knew.
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