The Creative Cooking Crew’s challenge for this month was a virtual mystery basket and, like the popular program “Chopped”, we had to use the items in the basket along with whatever we wanted from our own pantries to complete a “creative” dish.
The basket ingredients were: green apple, bacon, vinegar and nut butter. I immediately thought of some kind of Pad Thai-based dish. Predictable? Perhaps, because of nut sauces in Asian cuisine. But, I generally decide what to make for the challenge by whatever comes to mind first — and what I want to eat!
Plus, I’m an experienced Thai cook having once attended a half-day cookery school in Chiang Mai where we made Pad Thai and Tom Yum Soup. (And, where, I apparently turned into Flat Stanley.↑)
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I love the monthly Creative Cooking Challenges! They metaphorically take me to a places I’ve never been and sometimes they take me on a walk down memory lane, like this one. Whatever the case, one thing I know for sure is that at least one night a month I’m going to eat something totally unexpected and generally out-of-the-norm.
Bacon + Shrimp Pad Thai Salad with Chili-Nut Butter Dressing and Pickled Apple Slaw
Bacon was rendered in a skillet till crispy and set aside; meanwhile, marinated shrimp were quick-fried in the bacon fat, then removed and chopped. I also toasted slivered almonds in the same pan after the oil was drained.
Granny Smith Green Apple was julienned with a little red bell pepper, carrot, and baby cucumber for a slaw topping and dressed with pureed apple, rice wine vinegar, red chili flakes, and a dash of sesame oil.
Almond Nut Butter was the base of the dressing for the rice noodles and was thinned out and seasoned with fresh lime juice, sriracha, and rice vinegar.
Rice wine vinegar was used with fish sauce, garlic and a kefir leaf as the marinade for shrimp. It was also used in the dressings for both the slaw and nut butter sauce.
Other non-basket ingredients used in the dish: chopped shrimp, garlic, scallions, cilantro, slivered almonds, chopped omelet, mirin, fish sauce, soy sauce, pad thai rice noodles, cucumbers, carrot, red bell pepper, red chili flakes, sriracha, sesame oil, lime juice.
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And like that other TV show “The Taste”, it was the PERFECT BITE … sweet and sour, fatty, salty, acidic and fresh. The apple slaw dressed with rice wine vinegar was so refreshing and created the right counterpoint to the salty bacon and fatty nut butter. The scallion and cilantro gave it freshness (with a bite). And don’t forget there was egg, shrimp, noodles, toasted almonds and nut butter dressing in that bite too. Nom Nom!
Side Note 1: Most bloggers will tell you that when you cook for both blogging and dinner, plating and photography are often rushed by appetite. I forgot to add the Thai-like radish and scallion garnishes I had chilling in the fridge.
Side Note 2: Those of you who know me from the early days of blogging may remember that I created and hosted 3 annual rounds of A Culinary Tour Around the World (see 3 links under Travel tab above). Here’s the link for the post I did on our virtual stop in Thailand in February 2011, along with a photo from my actual trip in 2007.
Please come back on March 27 when I will host the Mystery Basket round-up. Can’t wait to see what everyone did! Imagine the possibilities …
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