Monday, March 30, 2009

totless hot dish

I have no idea what a "hot dish" is. I assumed it was just, well, a hot dish. As opposed to a cold one. I guess growing up in the household that I did means that some of the really classic American foods are actually foreign foods to me. I've recently become somewhat fascinated with the casserole, partially because J-Cat has a certain fondness for stuff mixed with cream of mushroom soup and baked. I'd never had any of it before. Seriously. I've never had that green bean casserole with the crunchy onions. Ever.

So it was strange timing that I heard not once, but at least half a dozen times in recent weeks of this mystical concoction called the Tater Tot Casserole. Could it be? It sounded both magically delicious and sickening all at the same time. What exactly is it? I was surprised to find that it was made with turkey. I don't know why I was surprised, I just was. Anyway, it was some kind of mixture of turkey meat, cream of something soup, veggies, etc., topped, of course, with frozen tater tots. And I'll tell you, the idea of this dish haunted me for weeks. It sounded scary, yet, I was inexplicably drawn to it. Tater tots! How could that be bad?!

Well, in the least, it sounded pretty bad for you. So I was happily surprised to stumble on this recipe from The Kitchen Sink, which took the classic casserole of her Minnesotan youth and reimagined it as a completely fresh, fairly healthier version. It also informed me that they call these things "hot dish" out there. Who knew? (Probably a lot of people knew).

The result? YUM. Granted, I should probably make the classic to know what this is inspired by, but as a dish unto itself, it was extremely tasty and far less guilt-inducing than it could have been. We gobbled it up heartily. Recipe after the jump:

From The Kitchen Sink

2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, divided
4 medium potatoes, scrubbed and diced (1/4-inch dice)
kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
1 pound ground turkey (light or dark, or a mixture of the two)
1 1/2 cups leeks, trimmed and sliced thinly into half-moons
1 cup celery, sliced thinly into half-moons
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon herbs de Provence
2 cups chicken stock
2/3 cup milk
1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup finely shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Butter a large baking dish (a gratin dish or 9×13-inch pan) and set aside.

Toss diced potatoes in 1 tablespoon of the oil and some salt and pepper, spread on a baking sheet and roast for 40 minutes, turning halfway through. Reduce the oven heat to 350.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a heavy skillet or Dutch oven. Add the ground turkey, a small pinch of salt and pepper, and cook until the turkey is nearly cooked through. Add the leeks, celery, garlic, celery seed, herbs de Provence and a pinch of salt and pepper; saute for several minutes until softened.

Add 1/2 cup chicken stock to the pan. Place the flour in a small bowl, and whisk in the milk. Add milk mixture to pan, stirring constantly. Gradually add remaining chicken stock; cook 8 minutes or until mixture thickens.

Pour the turkey mixture into the buttered dish. Top with the roasted potatoes and grated parmesan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

easy weeknight dinner: baked sea scallops

Baking has become my favorite way to prepare seafood. Some years ago, I discovered Marcella Hazan's various baked fish recipes and wondered to myself why I ever bothered doing this any other way. Shoving your seafood in the oven in a lovely sea of butter or oil or whatever is tasty frees you up to concentrate on more important matters, like getting dessert ready.

So this simple recipe for baked sea scallops is scampi-inspired, easy, delicious, fairly healthy, and quick. Serve over some whole wheat orzo, rice, or with a simple salad. Recipe after the jump:


1 lb large dry sea scallops, patted dry with paper towels
4 tablespoons butter, melted
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, minced
3 pinches ground nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup bread crumbs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup chopped parsley
lemon wedges for garnish

Preheat oven to 425. Place scallops, melted butter, garlic, and shallots in a bowl. Season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Stir gently to combine. Transfer to a casserole dish. In a separate bowl, combine bread crumbs and olive oil. Sprinkle on top of scallops. Bake in preheated oven until crumbs are brown and scallops are done, about 11 to 14 minutes. Top with parsley, and serve with lemon wedges on the side.

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Monday, March 23, 2009

fresh baked clouds

I haven't had angel food cake in years and years. Because, truth be told, I never liked it. This may be because the only kind I've ever had is the store bought kind. I found them cloyingly sweet and not terribly interesting. So why did I bake one? Well, I always want to be fair when it comes to food opinions. It doesn't seem right that I should judge a cake based only on having sampled an inferior version. I figured if I was going to make an honest judgment, I should taste one of these guys fresh baked.

And really, angel food cakes have a lot going for them. They are virtually fat-free, but not in some freaky way, it's just the way they are. They are very easy to make. They go with just about anything. And in the end, you end up with a dozen egg yolks left over to find something to make with, and that really shouldn't be too hard.

So, the verdict? It's a win. It's true, it was not fair to assume that I knew anything about an angel food cake's potential until I tasted a fresh one. It is truly like eating a delicious, sweet cloud. The texture is sort of crazy, yet addictive. I just ate mine with some fresh raspberries, but if I had had any cream around, that would have been a big win. Recipe after the jump:

From Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook

1 1/2 cups egg whites, room temperature (about 12 large eggs worth)
1 tbsp warm water
1 1/2 cups superfine sugar, separated
1 cup cake flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with the rack set in the middle. Sift together the flour and 3/4 cup of sugar, then set aside. With an electric mixer, beat together the egg whites and warm water on low until starting to foam. Add the salt, cream of tartar, and vanilla and beat on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 3 minutes. With mixer running, gradually add remaining 3/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Raise speed to high, and beat until peaks are stiff and glossy (but not dry), about 2 minutes more.

Sift flour mixture over egg-white mixture in six parts, gently folding in each addition with a rubber spatula.

Gently pour batter into a 10-inch ungreased tube pan. Run a knife through the batter to release any air bubbles, and smooth with an offset spatula. Bake until cake is golden brown and springs back when touched, 35 to 40 minutes.

Invert pan on a wire rack, and let cake cool about 1 hour. Carefully run a paring knife around side of cake to loosen, then unmold onto the wire rack.

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

happy national corndog day!

Oh, what a glorious day. A celebration of processed meat, nitrates, cornmeal and sticks. It is an oft underrated gustatory delight, severely underrepresented in this region of the county. For those of you in our neck of the woods, there is a free corndog party at the bar next door. HOMEMADE CORNDOGS, three different types of batter. Can you resist? I think not.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

five ingredients or maybe one more: potato leek soup

Hey, I can do five ingredients or less, too. Take this delicious, creamy, hearty potato leek soup. Potatoes, leeks, shallots, butter, chicken stock, cream...damn. That's six. Of course, you could leave out the cream and not only meet the 5 ingredient requirement, but also feel a little bit better about eating giant troughs of this soup. I put it in because I'm weak, and it's goooood.

This is also an exceedingly simple little meal, impressive as a starter but filling enough for a lunch with a hunk of crusty bread. If you are serving it to company, you can even make it hours ahead of time, serve it cold, and call it vichyssoise. That should impress them. Recipe after the jump:


3 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, rinsed well and chopped
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 lbs medium wax potatoes, such as Yukon gold, peeled and diced
2 tbsp butter
4 cups chicken stock, or vegetable stock
1/2 cup heavy cream, or more to taste
salt and pepper, to taste

In a large stockpot, melt butter over medium heat. Add the leeks and shallots and saute until translucent. Add the potatoes and toss to combine. Pour of the chicken stock, bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook until potatoes are very tender, about 20 minutes depending on the size of your dice. Using an immersion mixer, blend the soup to an even creamy consistency. Add the cream and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

introducing claire! well, her food anyway

So remember last week when I wrote about how indulgent my days on set were? Well here is a good example of just what kind of indulgence was going on. This delicious Duck Breast with Citrus Port Cherry Sauce is the creation of our newest star, the lovely Claire Robinson. Claire is hosting a new show called 5 Ingredient Fix, premiering on Saturday April 4 at 9:30 AM. I have no qualms about plugging the heck out of this show, because I LOVE CLAIRE. And, I love her food. Yes, this gorgeous duck breast has only five ingredients. Total. Seriously.

On top of all that goodness, I ended up with almost 8 ounces of duck fat stored away, just waiting to roast some potatoes. Hells yeah.

Crispy and juicy and rich meat. Sweet and tart and layered sauce. How can you go wrong? This is just one of Claire's recipes that I've made so far, and I'll be posting more in the days to come. Recipe after the jump:


2 whole duck breasts, separated into 4 breast halves
1 shallot, minced
½ cup pitted cherries (frozen defrosted are fine)
¼ cup ruby port wine
1 tsp orange zest
½ cup fresh orange juice

Score the duck skin and fat in a diamond pattern, then season with salt and pepper. Please skin side down in a large hot skillet and sear until golden brown over medium heat. Flip and sear the other side 3 minutes. Transfer duck to a baking dish and place in a preheated 400 degree oven for 12 minutes.

Drain the excess fat off of the skillet and reserve. Add shallots to pan and sauté until translucent. Add the orange juice, port, zest and cherries. Scrape the fond from the skillet. Allow sauce to come to a boil, then lower to a simmer until reduced, about 5 minutes. Serve the duck breast thinly sliced with the sauce spooned over the top.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

carbo load: rosemary bread

One of the things I love about bread is that it is so incredibly versatile. Take a basic bread recipe and add whatever you like and it will transform into something else entirely. I had a bunch of beautiful rosemary that I wanted to use this weekend, and it popped into my head that I would love a nice simple rosemary bread to dip into some of the good Tuscan extra virgin olive oil.

I also love how the aroma intoxicates the air. Yeast is one of my favorite perfumes. This recipe really couldn't be easier. It is a bread making basic, with minimal work and maximal satisfaction.

The crust is very soft for this one, so if you prefer it a little crispy, try brushing with an egg wash at the end, instead of the olive oil. It is also great toasted on the second day. Recipe after the jump:


1 tablespoon yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup warm water
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt, plus additional for sprinkling
4 tablespoons rosemary, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, separated

Combine yeast, sugar, and warm water in a large mixing bowl and allow to rest until foamy. Add in 1 TBSP olive oil, salt, and 2 cups of flour. Stir to combine, then add 3 TBSP of the rosemary. Knead for about 10 minutes by hand until smooth and elastic, adding up to 1/2 cup additional flour if the dough is too sticky. Shape dough into a ball and place into an oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover with a towel and allow to rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until doubled in size.

Punch down dough, then separate in half. Shape each half into a small football shaped loaf and place on a greased baking sheet. Sprinkle the top with the remaining rosemary. Cover with the towel and allow to rise another 1 hour, until doubled.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake loaves for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and brush with remaining one tbsp of olive oil, then lightly sprinkle with salt. Allow to cool before slicing.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

little old me?

Leah says she wants to know six random things about me. Other than the fact that I'm obsessed with food? This is pressure, I feel like I have to come up with six somewhat obscure things that people don't already know about me. But I'm an open book!

But before I start, I have to tag six other people to tell us six random things about themselves. I'm not sure six people read this blog...but I'll go with:

Beth & Rick


1. I rarely drink alcohol. It's not because I don't like it, it's because I have severe Asian curse and it's both extremely uncomfortable to drink, and extremely embarrassing. Just a small amount makes me turn bright red from head to toe, instantly causes congestion in both my head and chest, makes me feel uncomfortably warm, and kills my taste buds and appetite. I can rarely drink to the point of fun drunk because I feel bad long before I can get there. As a result, I've only gotten stomach sick from drinking twice in my life - once at the Russian Vodka Room, and once at Del Posto. At least I do it up right when I do it. Feel sorry for me. Seriously.

2. It is not unusual for me to go an entire winter weekend without leaving the house.

3. I have known J-Cat for 17 years. We dated for about 4 months in high school. Neither of us, however, remembers exactly how we met, or how we broke up (except that it was his fault). This time around, we remember everything.

4. I love getting my hair done or messed with or generally just played with, yet I hardly ever get around to getting a haircut. The one I got a couple of weeks ago was the first one I had in over 9 months, and it showed.

5. I still hate practicing violin, so watching J-Cat practice mandolin every day makes me feel really guilty.

6. I much prefer shopping on the internet than in person. Actually, I hate shopping for pretty much anything in person.

And a bonus fact: that list of six things took me far too long to come up with.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

where have i been?

It was like a perfect storm of circumstances preventing me from cooking this week. One reason was the endless delicious, filling, utterly unhealthy foods that I was constantly surrounded by on the set of a brand new show, which I will be telling you all about shortly. I was coming home every evening too overindulged to cook actual meals. Then a weekend trip up to Flushing Chinatown to binge at the Roosevelt Mall Food Court ended up backfiring when I woke up Sunday morning - my cooking day - sick as a dog. There really is nothing more cruel for an obsessive foodie to cope with than food poisoning. Back to set on Monday for more food food food, and a magical Fette Sau BBQ feast for last night's wrap party. Today, it's back to the regular routine, and day one of my attempt to at least somewhat cleanse myself from a week of constant gluttony and/or illness.

So my first cleansing meal was found in last week's NY Times dining section, part of Martha Rose Shulman's Recipes for Health series. This Buckwheat Pasta with Kale was sort of a head scratcher when I first read it. Soba noodles, kale, leeks...and cheese? It didn't seem to make complete sense to me, unless you tell yourself to think of the soba as pasta, and not as an Asian noodle. What's the difference, after all? And I was pleasantly surprised by this dish. The real star for me was actually the leeks, sauteed until buttery and sweet, and a lovely pair to the fresh, mild kale. The parmesan cheese complemented the sweet leeks wonderfully. I would say, however, that the choice of fontina cheese threw me off a bit. I think that a cheese as strong as fontina didn't quite work for this dish, overpowering the sweetness of the leeks and the nuttiness of the soba. For my - ahem - second bowlful, I left out the fontina and went with a touch more parmesan, and found that balance much more suitable. Recipe after the jump:

From Martha Rose Shulman's Recipes for Health series

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (or omit butter and use 2 tablespoons olive oil)
2 large leeks, white and light green parts only, cut in half lengthwise, then sliced and cleaned
4 fresh sage leaves, cut in thin slivers
Salt, preferably kosher salt, to taste
3/4 pound kale, stemmed, washed thoroughly, and cut crosswise in strips
Freshly ground pepper
2 ounces Parmesan, grated (1/2 cup)
2 ounces fontina or Gruyère cheese, cut in 1/4 inch dice
3/4 pound buckwheat pasta (pizzoccheri or soba) or whole wheat fettuccine

1. Begin heating a large pot of water. Meanwhile, heat the butter and oil in a large, heavy nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add the leeks and sage, and cook, stirring often, until the leeks begin to soften, about three minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and fresh pepper, and continue to cook, stirring often, until the leeks are tender, about five minutes. Remove from the heat.

2. When the water comes to a boil, add a generous spoonful of salt and the kale. Boil for four minutes, until tender but still bright. Using a slotted spoon or a skimmer, transfer to the pan with the leeks and stir together. Keep warm over low heat.

3. Bring the water back to a boil, and add the pasta. Cook al dente (soba will cook quickly, usually in under five minutes, while pizzoccheri and whole wheat fettuccine will take longer). When the pasta is al dente, add 1/2 cup of the cooking water to the pan with the kale and leeks, then drain the pasta and toss in the pan or in a warm pasta bowl with the leeks, kale and the cheeses. Serve at once.

Yield: Serves four to six

Advance preparation: You can make the dish through step 2 several hours ahead. Remove from the heat, then reheat when you cook the pasta.

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Friday, March 06, 2009

take-out takedown: gai pad krapow

One of my favorite lazy night take-out meals is the classic Thai dish Gai Pad Krapow, a chicken and basil stir-fry. My one complaint about my neighborhood Thai restaurants, however, is that this dish always seems to be swimming in grease. It doesn't stop us from eating it, but I was pretty thrilled to stumble upon a recipe for the dish recently on Serious Eats. It was far simpler than I even realized, and made at home I could completely control how greasy it got. Even better, the Serious Eats version threw in some extra added green with the string beans, so it could truly become a one-pan meal.

J-Cat exclaimed that it tasted really authentic to him, then got a mouthful of chili pepper and didn't say anything else for a while. Recipe after the jump:

Adapted from Serious Eats

Ideally, this dish should be made with holy basil, which is not to be confused with sweet basil or even the purple-stemmed Thai basil. You'll know it by its scalloped edges and clove-like aroma, but you may have a hard time tracking it down. Regular sweet basil tastes just as good in this dish, if not quite so "authentic."

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Chilis, finely chopped (use 2-3 serrano peppers for a very mild heat; 2-3 bird's eye chilis for a medium heat)
1 large shallot, finely sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed, chopped in 1-inch lengths
1 pound ground chicken
4 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 bunch basil, leaves only

To serve:
Boiled rice
Fried eggs, 1 per person (optional)
Nam pla prik (recipe follows) or fresh lime wedges

1. Heat the oil over high heat in a wok or large frying pan. When you can see waves forming in the hot oil, add the chilis, shallots, and garlic and stir-fry until golden, about 30 seconds.

2. Add the green beans and stir-fry until cooked but still crunchy, 3 to 4 minutes.

3. Add the ground chicken, using a wooden spoon or spatula to break up the meat into small pieces. Stir-fry until chicken is cooked through.

4. Add the fish sauce and sugar to the pan, and stir to distribute. Taste, and add more fish sauce or sugar if desired.

5. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add the basil leaves and stir-fry until completely wilted. Remove from heat.

6. Serve with boiled rice, fried egg (optional), and nam pla prik or lime wedges.

NAM PLA PRIK (Chili Fish Sauce)


Fish sauce
Fresh lime juice
Chilis, finely chopped
Shallots, finely sliced

Mix fish sauce and lime juice to taste (a typical ratio is 3-4 parts fish sauce to 1 part lime juice) and pour over chilis and shallots. Consume immediately, or pour into a clean jar and store in refrigerator for up to two weeks.

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

recipe serendipity: pear-pecan quick bread

I love that kind of recipe serendipity that happens when you have a hankering for something but you're not quite sure what, then you start browsing around cooking blogs and stumble right onto a recipe for exactly what you want, and you have everything you need right in the house. That's what happened on Sunday when I was trying to decide what do with some nice pears and came upon this recipe for a pear pecan quick bread on the lovely blog The Kitchen Sink.

I love a quick bread not just because it's easy and, well, quick, but because it has this heartiness and warmth and aroma that really fills you up and wraps around you like a cozy blanket. It was quite perfect for the impending snow storm. J-Cat keeps referring to it as the zucchini bread without zucchini, which really makes no sense to me, but as long as that is a good thing in his mind I'm okay with it. And judging from the way he has been inhaling this bread, I'm pretty sure it's a good thing. Recipe after the jump:

From The Kitchen Sink

1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1 egg white
1 cup sugar
1 cup peeled, grated very, very ripe pear (about 2 large)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
1/2 cup peeled, diced pear

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a loaf pan; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, soda, powder, cinnamon, cardamom. In a small bowl, toss the pecans in about a tablespoon of the flour mixture; set aside.

In another large bowl, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, sugar, grated pear and vanilla. Stir the flour mixture into the pear mixture until just combined. Fold in the pecans and diced pear.

Pour the batter into the greased pan and bake for about 1 hour, until a tester inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

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Monday, March 02, 2009

sunday supper: aida's sausage lasagna

Boy, do I wish I had some of this with me right now. Why didn't I take any to work today? Through the snow and wind and bitter cold, all I want right now is something hot, gooey, cheesy, sausagey, saucey. This lasagna recipe, from the lovely Aida Mollenkamp, may not be technically authentic, but it is certainly just as tasty as the mess I made a while back. And it's a lot easier, mostly because it requires far fewer pots and pans.

I still managed to make a mess because I insist on building lasagnas too tall for the dish that I have, but in the end, no one cares, as long as it's yummy. Recipe after the jump:

Adapted from

For the sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
4 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings and crumbled
1/2 pound lean ground pork
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 (28-ounce) containers crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 medium dried bay leaves

For the lasagna:
1 (9-ounce) box no-boil lasagna noodles
24 ounces part skim ricotta cheese
1 pound part skim mozzarella cheese, low-moisture or fresh, thinly sliced
2 cups finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 2 ounces)

For the meat sauce: Heat oil in a Dutch oven or a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add onion and garlic, season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook until just softened. Add sausage and ground pork and stir to break up meat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until meat starts to color, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add wine and cook, scraping bottom of pan to incorporate browned bits, until the alcohol smell is cooked off. Add tomatoes, 1 tablespoon salt, basil, oregano, bay leaf, and season well with freshly ground black pepper. Stir until well mixed and tomatoes start to simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until flavors meld, at least 10 minutes and up to 1 hour.

For the lasagna: Heat oven to 375 degrees F and arrange rack in middle.

Spread 2 cups sauce in a thin layer over the bottom of a 13 by 9-inch baking dish. Layer 4 noodles over sauce, top with 2 cups sauce and spread it evenly over the noodles. Evenly dollop 1/4 of the ricotta across the sauce, top with 1/4 of the mozzarella, and sprinkle evenly with 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Cover with foil and bake until liquids are bubbling and noodles are beginning to soften, about 40 minutes.

Remove foil and continue baking until top is golden brown and noodles are completely tender, about 20 minutes more. Allow to rest 20 minutes before cutting.

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