Soba Noodles with Miso Butter, Chicken, and Cabbage

This recipe came out of a desire to cook something quick and tasty, and also use up all of my sad fridge vegetables (TM). We’ve been getting Oddbox, a service that sends surplus or weirdly shaped vegetables for cheap, which is great, but then we have to figure out what to do with everything.

The heat wave finally broke this weekend, which means I finally felt like cooking again for the first time in a long time. I had wanted to make a kind of cold peanut noodle soba edamame chicken bowl thing when it was hot, but it was literally too hot to even think about turning on the stove. We boiled water once for pasta and as soon as it was done we had to fill the pot with cold water to stop it heating up the entire kitchen.

I don’t know about you guys, but I feel like cold soba noodles with a sweetish peanut sauce is both delicious and extremely obvious, by this point. I never tend to worry too much about food trends (“Quiche is so 80’s!”? whatever, Gladys, quiche is delicious.) But you do tend to get bored.

So: Miso.

I feel a little weird about putting this recipe out, though, because while I did develop it from an NYTimes recipe that’s basically just “Japanese-inspired” chicken noodle soup, and a Serious Eats recipe that doesn’t mention Japan at all, I basically made it up.

So I don’t want to tell you it’s Japanese, because it’s not. But it uses Japanese flavors – it’s not like miso’s a trend. Or peanut noodles, for that matter. But then it also uses Vietnamese flavors. And American flavors (boneless skinless chicken breast). But I’m not going to say Asian-inspired because that is insane, because Asia is a… continent.

Plus, acting like using miso is new is just… not the case. But it does use miso in a way I haven’t before – I usually just stir it into soup, but this recipe mushes it with butter and then uses that to coat the noodles, which both deepens the soba’s natural buckwheaty flavor in the same way you’d use brown butter in your baked goods, and also is just salty and umami and delicious, with the butter helping the miso to spread and coat evenly.

Is there a limit to the different times and ways I will give you a recipe for Chicken and Pasta? No. But this I found to be deeply refreshing.

The miso butter noodles are salty and nutty and buttery, and the chicken is tender and aromatic, and the vegetables are fresh and crisp and sweet, and then there’s some crunch from the sesame seeds. It’s very good, is what I’m saying.

Also, lots of these recipes will have you sear the chicken and then cook everything separately. The thing I love about this is that it all cooks in one pot, unless you forget about bringing up the butter to room temperature like I did and have to melt it on the stove. Don’t be like me.

It’s also poached boneless skinless chicken breast, which is what Weight Watchers nightmares are made of. But even though the idea of boiled boneless chicken is a culinary nightmare, I genuinely think poached chicken gets a bad rap. Poached anything isn’t sexy right now, but put it in a plastic bag and it becomes sous vide and then it’s Very Sexy. What a bunch of nonsense.

Whatever. In Defense of Poached Chicken: it’s only flavorless if you don’t add any flavors to it. It’s also cooked with no added fats at all, so there. But poaching it in aromatic liquid makes it flavorful and delicate, tender and juicy, and you don’t have to sear anything. And it only takes 10 minutes. Also, it leaves you with a beautifully infused light broth to cook everything else in.

Soba Noodles with Miso Butter, Chicken, and Cabbage

Halfway from this Serious Eats thing, and also kind of from this NYTimes thing.

You can use any leafy green you want to, here, but cabbage is perfect because it’s crunchy and tender and sweet. In fact, just use cabbage. Forget I said anything. I had a big old Savoy cabbage going bad in the fridge, which was good because its delicate leaves wilt quickly when you chop them and steam them. Napa cabbage would also cook quickly. You can use regular cabbage too, but make sure you cook it for a little longer because it has a bit more Heft than the other varieties.

Also, put whatever raw vegetables you want to on top at the end. Carrots and scallions are good and sweet. I’m sure peppers would be good, but I hate them so much. Edamame! Snap peas. Bean sprouts. Go nuts.

Ingredients:

For the miso butter:

1 tbsp miso (any color. For a milder flavor, use white. I used brown rice miso because it’s what I had and I’m very hardcore.)

4 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature (it’s a Katie Recipe. Of course there’s butter.)

For the soba noodles:

A packet of soba noodles

For the chicken:

4 cups (1000 ml) water from the tap

1 onion, peeled and halved

3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

3 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp chopped fresh ginger (you don’t have to chop this small, just peel a thumb-size piece and smash it if you have a root. I had a bunch of pre-chopped stuff in a jar, so that’s what I did.)

1 star anise pod (I know this is shmancy, but it’s really good. If you don’t have one, try fennel seeds, or a cinnamon stick, or just a bunch of black peppercorns. Something aromatic and spicy.)

3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (1 lb)

To finish (garnish? Vegetables? Gubbins. Extra stuff that’s mandatory.)

A giant honking napa/savoy/whatever cabbage.

1 carrot, grated on the big side of your box grater

2-3 scallions, the white/light green parts, chopped

Sesame seeds, to serve.

Could you do hot sauce? Lime juice? Sure, but I don’t think it needs it.

Method:

  1. Take the butter out to get it to room temperature; measure miso into a big mixing bowl, set aside.
  2. Measure 4 cups cold water into wide, deep pan (dutch oven, casserole. Something you can toss stuff in) and set on high heat to come to a boil. Make sure the water’s deep enough to cover your chicken breasts (1-2 inches).
  3. Add garlic, ginger, onion, soy sauce, and star anise to water as it heats.
  4. When it’s boiling, turn down to a simmer and add chicken.
  5. Poach chicken breasts for 10ish minutes until fully cooked and juices run clear.
  6. While this happens, prep the cabbage: Take big cabbage head and chop in half (carefully) with a big knife. Take each half and chop in half again, lengthwise (hot dog style). Take each quarter and dig the knife in at an angle toward the cutting board, just above the heart. Make a diagonal incision toward the bottom of the cabbage (like one side of a triangle) to get the heart out, and discard it. Chop the rest of the cabbage crossways in thin slices (like a loaf of bread), put all the leaf shreds in a big bowl of cold water and zhuzh around to wash, then rinse, and put in a fresh bowl of cold water to hang out until you need them.
  7. When chicken is cooked, remove to a plate to cool.
  8. Remove onion, garlic, star anise, and ginger from poaching broth with a slotted spoon, and discard.
  9. Add packet of soba noodles to boiling broth and cook according to package instructions, minus a minute (they’ll be sitting around a little, so you don’t want to overcook them.)
  10. While soba is cooking, mush miso and soft butter together into a homogenous paste. (If you forgot to warm the butter up, like me, melt it on the stove or in the microwave and let cool, then whisk into miso. It won’t emulsify or even really come together, but it’s fine.)
  11. When the soba is cooked, remove from broth and add immediately to miso butter, tossing to coat. Set aside.
  12. Pile shredded cabbage on top of remainder of boiling broth and toss with tongs to wilt – cook until bright yellow-green and just tender. (If it’s not going down, put the lid on and let it steam in its own juices for awhile.)
  13. Turn the heat off under the cabbage, shred the cooled chicken with forks or your hands, peel your carrots, chop your scallions.
  14. Time to plate: Coil soba noodles on the bottom of a wide bowl, pile on shredded chicken and cabbage (and some of the cooking liquid if you want a brothier experience), then add grated carrot and chopped scallions. Top with sesame seeds, toss and enjoy! All of the flavor’s going to be in the soba, so make sure you get noodles in every bite.

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