My Personal DJ Got Me Car Dancing

The food: gluten-free peanut noodles and tonkatsu-style chicken

The story:

This week my two sons returned to their respective universities for the academic year after spending a long hot summer with my husband E and me in Toronto. Their departure has made me feel about as euphoric as a chronic malcontent can feel, partly because, to paraphrase the great Comden & Green (from the great movie musical Singing in the Rain): at last I can stop cooking for them and write that novel.

Before they left, though, I bestirred myself to make the boys at least one more decent (and gluten-free) meal – peanut noodles with tonkatsu style chicken breasts, accompanied by some in-season green vegetables. The noodles look a little anemic in the pic shown above but they’re very tasty. And somewhat addictive (recipe below).

In the car on the way to Kingston (and Queen’s University), my son Michael played DJ. During the two-and-a-half-hour drive, he and I sang along with, and hand-clapped and car-danced to, catchy top 40 hits from such pop auteurs (flashes in the pan?) of the moment as Katy Perry, Sean Kingston and Nicky Minaj, Ke$ha, and B.o.B.

Michael left the CD behind in the car, so I listened to it alone on the equally long drive home to Toronto. I liked almost all of his musical selections, but Usher’s current hit “DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love” started me thinking about a theory I’ve been mulling over since seeing the 1997 video for Usher’s “You Make Me Wanna”: a theory that places Usher as the latest in the (small, select) line of popular entertainers who follow in the tradition of legendary song-and-dance man Fred Astaire.

Find that idea hard to swallow? Watch Usher perform in the video for “DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love” here. See him sing, well enough, and dance? Like he was born to. Then go make and eat some peanut noodles, think over my thesis and get back to me.

Gluten-Free Peanut Noodles with Tonkatsu Style Chicken

4 boneless chicken breast cutlets
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup gluten-free breadcrumbs

1 lb medium dried rice stick noodles
1/2 cup smooth unsweetened peanut butter
3 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
1/8 cup gluten-free tamari sauce
2 Tbsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. sesame oil
5 Tbsp. olive oil
5 Tbsp. water

about 4 cups raw green vegetables, such as chopped broccoli florets and topped and tailed green beans

For chicken:

1. Coat cutlets coated in beaten egg, then in gluten-free breadcrumbs.
2. Place on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet, drizzle with canola oil, and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or till golden brown on both sides. Turn if necessary partway through cooking.
3. Serve with store-bought tonkatsu sauce (often gluten-free, check the ingredients).

For the noodles:

1. Heat large pot of water to boiling on high heat.
2. Make sauce in large mixing bowl: mix peanut butter and vinegar together first until blended, then mix in remaining ingredients until the mixture is the consistency of a thick salad dressing.
3. Cook noodles in lpot of boiling water according to package directions, stirring often to separate. Add vegetables to pot when 2-3 minutes of cooking time remain.
4. Drain noodles and vegetables in colander. Rinse with warm water.
5. Add noodles and vegetables to mixing bowl, combine with sauce (using a pasta stirrer may help with the slightly unwieldy combining process). Add a little more vegetable oil and/or water if sauce is too thick to work with.
6. Optional garnishes: chopped green onions, chopped peanuts, chopped fresh coriander.
7. Serve at room temperature with tonkatsu style chicken.

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