One to Watch

The Artist has been recently featured on Saatchi as “One to Watch”!  Check out a short write up and some awesome photos of him in his studio here: http://canvas.saatchiart.com/art/one-to-watch/steve-byrnes

He was also on the cover of Art Voices, you can go to their website to see where the magazine circulates.  You can also check out The Artist’s website: http://www.stevebyrnes.org

I just wanted to do a little shameless bragging, I am so proud of him.  He works so hard and continues to follow his dreams, no matter what.  I advocate for taking a little risk in life….you think you can’t afford to move?  You can.  You think you can’t go back to school?  You can.  You think you can’t get a different job?  You can.  And so on, you get the idea.  If you want something- do it.  You only get one life, don’t waste it being only half-happy, or not happy at all.  There is always a way to achieve your goals.  To quote Jan from The Office, “there will always be a million reasons to NOT do something”.

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Better Than Takeout Homemade Chicken Pad Thai.

A great opportunity has come up for the Artist and his painting career (it’s not official, so I am going to wait to tell you about until it is!), and I am so excited for him!  When I heard, I was so excited I was literally jumping up and down like a toddler, I couldn’t contain myself.  I couldn’t sleep that night either, I just lay awake thinking about it all, and how proud of him I am.  Now, you know me, I have never in my life had trouble sleeping.  I can fall asleep and stay asleep in just about any conditions.  So as I lay there in my first ever insomnia experience, I was thinking about how this is a perfect example of how excited I felt- so excited I couldn’t sleep.  It was a first.  Even as a child on Christmas Eve, I went to sleep no problem!  Just when I think I know exactly what love is, and that I couldn’t possibly love the Artist any more, I fall even deeper in love with him.  Being this excited, proud, and happy for him, for something that will change his career and have nothing to do with me, is truly a selfless feeling.  Being that happy for something that has nothing to do with yourself.  And I know the Artist is even more excited about it, he has worked incredibly hard for this for many years.  And because he more then deserves it and has worked so hard, when I thought about if something happened and this opportunity didn’t work out, the hypothetical disappointment he would experience would just break my heart in two.  I don’t think I could stand seeing him being disappointed.  We have been married for almost 4 years now, and somehow, we fall deeper in love with each year.  If that isn’t true love, I don’t know what is ❤

So now onto the main topic of my post….haha.

The Artist has been making pad thais at home for awhile now, trying to master something similar to takeout.  The main problems that have been occurring include; the rice noodles are extremely sticky and are even worse the next day as leftovers, there isn’t a coating” of sauce on everything, it seems to get all soaked up, and the flavour just isn’t the same as takeout.  But he has cracked it- and has figured out solutions to all of these problems, creating THE most delicious pad thai at home.  He is the main chef, and I am the helper 😉  I don’t have exact measurements for the following, because we made a larger batch of it and constantly were adjusting it to our taste.  So be sure to taste often.  Very often.

First things first- most restaurants use a tamarind sauce for the pad thai, and this is usually in the description of the dish in the menu.  This is the key, well, one of them.  We have used both a liquid form of tamarind concentrate in a jar, and the kind that is like a sort of squishy brick.  In the end, the brick is best.  But be sure to boil it in a little water first to soften it up, and even though it says seedless, there are little “bits” everywhere.  So once the tamarind is all separated, use a fine sieve to strain out the bits and collect the tamarind “water” or juice or whatever you want to call it, in a bowl.  A lot of online recipes do not even include tamarind at all, but if you want a restaurant copy-cat version, tamarind is the way to go.

The next important thing to remember is that there needs to be sweet, sour, and salty flavours, with some spice.  Like I said, I don’t have the exact measurements because we added the ingredients to taste.  Most recipes we found said to have equal parts of each flavour component (except spice), but we didn’t necessarily do that, again, it was all to taste (the Artist was tasting the sauce every few seconds and after each ingredient was added to adjust it).  We used chili powder, but mostly red chili flakes for the spice portion, as this is the most easily adjustable flavour you can change after it is on your plate, so we just added a little at first.  All the other ingredients won’t work really once the dish is plated, so be sure to taste as you go!  I added extra chili flakes and a pinch of cayenne pepper to my plate.  We didn’t do equal amount of the sweet, sour and salty, because that is a lot of salt.  For the salt, we used a bit of fish sauce, and a bit of soy sauce.  For the sour, the tamarind you prepared as above.  And for the sweet, brown and/or white sugar.  Since that is a lot of sugar, another reason we didn’t do equal amounts.  And we both like our pad thai on a bit of the sour side, but by all means, add more sweet or salty to suit your taste.  We also added a little garlic powder in there too, and a little extra water.

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For the rice noodles, don’t get a noodle that is too broad or thick, and not use anything else other then rice noodles.  Soak them in warm-hot water until they are pliable, but not mushy.  They will seem like extremely al dante, and seem not ready to eat, but they will soften up in the pan with the sauce and stuff.  Do not boil them.  That is how we got those super sticky noodles I was talking about above.  I think we soaked ours for 30-40 minutes to get the right texture.  The first time the sauce was perfected, the noodles were still a little too firm, so we soaked them a bit longer.

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For the protein, we like chicken, but shrimp of tofu could be used too.  Cut raw chicken breast into relatively thin slices, and saute in a pan with a little oil and some of the sauce, and a little water.  Add a clove of freshly pressed (or smashed and sliced) garlic.

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When the chicken is cooked, add some noodles, and more sauce.  Note: in your pan, make only 1 serving at a time.  This is another key part so the dish, it needs lots of space or it will get sticky and just not turn out.  If it is sticking, add more oil to the pan.  This come together quickly at this point, so doing 1 serving at a time isn’t too bad, and with just the 2 of us, there isn’t any waiting or in-between time.  Even if there were more people to serve, it will be worth the wait to do it only 1 serving at a time.  When it is almost done, push it to the side of the pan and add an egg, scramble it up, and then combine it altogether.  After the first dish is plated, I chopped up some green onions and peanuts, the Artist made the next serving and we garnished with each.  Another good topper is mung beans.  Another important thing to remember is to not over cook this.  When the noodles, chicken, egg, and sauce are all in the pan, if it is over cooking, you will notice it getting sticky and maybe smoking a little because the sugar is getting caramelized or burned.  You don’t want that “gummy” texture to start at all, so plate it promptly.

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I personally prefer loads of peanuts on my dish, and the Artist loves to have his with a fresh lime wedge to squeeze over it right before he eats.  You can also add the green onions into the pan in the last minute or 2 of cooking, which we like to do.

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This seems like a hassle, and it kind of is, haha.  It can be time consuming, and it has taken us many, many tries to get it to the taste we want.  So you might need to try a few times and adjust as necessary.  But if you make a large batch of the sauce, you can store it in the fridge for later use.  The sauce is the most time consuming part, everything else comes together in good time.  So we found that making a big batch of sauce to keep in the fridge works well for a homemade chicken pad thai dinner in about 30 minutes.

Good luck.