Peanut Noodles with Chicken & Celery

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Driving to pick up Phoebe from her part-time preschool the other day, a gusting wind sent dry leaves skittering across the road. The light had this rusty tint to it, and despite the recent heat wave it hit me that it’s truly Fall. That, and the Halloween decorations that have gone up all around town. Phoebe loves “spookies” so much that this year I caved and brought her to a local party store to pick up some of our own. We draped probably very un-environmentally friendly fake spider webs across a few of our bushes (well, I draped them—Phoebe was interested in pulling them apart until they ripped), then plopped some fuzzy black tarantulas on top. One large spider adorns our front fence, several homemade ghosts dance in the wind on our porch, and a few pumpkins sit proudly on the steps.

Since most of my energy is going into growing one human and entertaining another, I didn’t have a chance to make our costumes this year. Phoebe went back and forth on what she wanted to be for a long time, but finally settled last week and I placed an order right away. If you see a small pink dinosaur accompanied by one large gold and one large blue dinosaur on Halloween night, feel free to say hello.

I love the end of a season; it heralds the welcome beginning of a new one, and no transition is as clear to me as summer to fall. The sunlight changes, the mornings become cool and sharp, gardens begin their hunkering-down process in time for winter; the dirt smells alive. Holidays line up in quick succession, and family time is in abundance. The seasonal change is always welcome in regards to the food we make and eat—stews and long roasts are on the agenda; anything warm is welcome. Enter: these peanut noodles. This is one of those meals that warms you from the inside out and (bonus!) it’s pretty kid-friendly, if that’s of interest to you. The noodles are super flavorful from the peanut butter, and the crunch from the peanuts and celery are ultra satisfying. It’s also very quick to make, which is particularly helpful when darkness sweeps in early (like it does in the fall). Drizzle sriracha or chili crunch on top to make things fiery and extra warming, but that’s completely optional.

Peanut Noodles with Chicken & Celery

Serves 4-5 | adapted from Molly Baz’s recipe in Cook This Book

1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
3 tbsp honey

1 lb ground chicken (or pork)
1 tsp kosher salt
6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
one 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled

1 lb fresh linguini or similar fresh pasta (go with dried spaghetti if that’s all you can get)
4 ribs celery, washed and sliced on the bias into 1/8-inch pieces
1/2 cup roasted salted peanuts, roughly chopped

sriracha or chili crunch, for drizzling (optional)

In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup peanut butter, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup rice vinegar, and 3 tbsp honey until smooth, then set aside.

Set a large pot of water to boil and salt the water with a handful of kosher salt. When the water boils, add your fresh pasta and cook according to the package instructions. When it’s al dente, reserve 1 cup of pasta water and then drain the pasta in a large sieve, rinsing and tossing every now and then with cold water while you wait for everything else to be ready.

While the water heats up, make the chicken. In a large cast-iron pan or dutch oven, heat a few tbsp of olive oil until shimmering hot. Add the ground chicken in an even layer, sprinkle with 1 tsp kosher salt, and cook, undisturbed, for 3-5 minutes so that one side gets nice and browned. Break up the chicken into bite-sized pieces with a spatula, stir, and flip. Keep cooking until relatively browned and no longer pink.

While the chicken cooks, thinly slice all 6 garlic cloves and finely mince or grate the ginger. When the chicken is nearly cooked, stir in the garlic and ginger and cook for a couple minutes, or until nice and fragrant. Remove the pot from the heat until the pasta is done.

When both the chicken and pasta are cooked, set the dutch oven back over medium heat and add the pasta, 1/2 cup pasta water, and peanut mixture to the chicken. Stir to coat, cooking just until the sauce loosely coats the noodles and chicken—it will thicken as it cools. Add more pasta water at any time if things look too dry.

Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the sliced celery and chopped peanuts. Serve hot, with hot sauce or chili crunch for drizzling on top (optional). Tuck a few healthy celery leaves into your noodles if you’d like. Enjoy!

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