Wolfgang Puck: Eat noodles for a happy new year

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— An old Asian tradition holds that eating long noodles helps ensure that you live a long - and presumably happy - life. With the Western world's New Year just a few days away, it seems to me a good idea to eat Eastern-style noodles as the year turns (and, of course, you can hang onto the recipe for the Chinese New Year, less than two months away!)

I recommend noodles not just out of superstition. A big bowl of them tossed with meat and vegetables makes a great casual dish to serve for your New Year's Eve dinner. It's quick and economical to prepare, beautiful to present, and fun and delicious to eat - a perfect celebration food.

I've had a long love affair with Chinese cooking. When I first came to America and found Chinese restaurants on almost every street, I couldn't get enough. The food tasted so different from anything I'd eaten growing up in Austria. The new seasonings and the fascinating ways to cook and combine even familiar ingredients excited me. When I'd finally settled in Los Angeles, I started playing around with Chinese and other Asian flavors and techniques, which eventually led to my Chinois restaurants in Santa Monica and Las Vegas.

Today's supermarkets make it incredibly easy to experiment with Asian cooking, too. Most have large sections devoted to Asian foods where you can find quality ingredients like soy sauce, rice wine, plum wine, and hoisin sauce - not to mention a range of noodles. Many towns and cities also have ethnic markets where Asian immigrants shop and where even a brief visit can feel like an exciting culinary adventure in another country.

My Mandarin Noodles with Sauteed Tenderloin and Vegetables will feel like a journey to China, too. And they're easy to make.

Start by quickly pan-searing the beef and vegetables. Feel free to substitute pork, lamb, chicken, shrimp, scallops, or tofu, adjusting the cooking time with the ingredient you choose. Then, add the vegetables, using whatever fresh, seasonal, and preferably organic assortment you like. Then add the sauce ingredients.

Finally, toss this mixture of protein and vegetables together with the noodles. I usually use Chinese egg noodles or, if they're unavailable, similarly shaped Italian linguine; both should be precooked al dente (tender but still slightly chewy) before you add them. You could also use Thai rice noodles, which are made from precooked rice and need only a brief soaking in water to make them ready.

Once the noodles have mingled with the sauce, you're ready to eat. Add a colorful and flavorful garnish, such as sliced scallions, chopped cilantro, or roasted peanuts, pine nuts, or cashews, and you're ready to start celebrating a prosperous and healthy new year!

Mandarin Noodles with Sauteed Tenderloin and Vegetables

Serves 4 to 6

4 ounces (125 g) dried Chinese egg noodles

1 tablespoon peanut oil or vegetable oil

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

6 ounces (185 g) tenderloin steak, cut into thin strips

6 ounces (185 g) fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps cut into quarters

1 ounce (30 g) fresh enoki mushrooms

4 ounces (125 g) carrots, asparagus, or other assorted vegetables, cut into thin julienne strips

3 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions

1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger

1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup (80 ml) plum wine

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2/3 cup (160 ml) good quality canned beef broth

2 tablespoons rice wine (or fresh lime juice)

8 to 10 endive leaves or other decorative salad greens, for serving

Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the Chinese egg noodles and cook them until al dente, tender but still chewy, following the manufacturer's instructions. Drain and set aside.

In a large skillet or wok over high heat, heat the oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the tenderloin strips and stir-fry them, stirring continuously with a wooden or metal spatula, until lightly seared on all sides, about 3 minutes. Add the shiitake and enoki mushrooms and the julienned vegetables, 1 tablespoon of the scallions, and the ginger and garlic and stir-fry for 3 minutes more. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove the meat and vegetables from the pan and set aside.

Add the plum wine and the cinnamon and deglaze the pan with a wooden spoon, stirring and scraping to dissolve the pan deposits. Boil until the liquid has reduced by half, about 1 minute. Add the broth and continue to boil until the liquid has thickened slightly, 2 to 3 minutes more. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Add the cooked noodles and the reserved meat and vegetables. Stir in the rice wine and cook briefly, just until heated through. Correct the seasonings, if necessary, with more salt and pepper to taste.

Arrange the endive leaves around the edges of a large platter. Spoon the steak, noodles, and sauce in the center and garnish with the remaining chopped scallions. Serve immediately.

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