Cashew Chicken

I've always enjoyed Chinese food, and lately I've been interested in experimenting with Chinese dishes. I'm also very interested in Thai food; the very little exposure I've had to it has left me inspired. I also understand that China is a big place with many subcultures and cooking styles, and I want to learn the techniques and the flavors of the major styles. I want to be as confident with Asian ingredients and flavors as I am with basil and oregano and chili powder and cumin.


This recipe comes from a fellow food blogger that I only just discovered a couple days ago through Foodbuzz (sort of like Facebook for Foodies). The Brown Eyed Baker can be found at http://www.browneyedbaker.com/ and she's so much better at food presentation and photography than me.

The foundation of the dish starts with a simple concoction of dry sherry or cooking wine (I used apple juice because I don't consume alcohol in any form), a couple of teaspoons of minced ginger, a bit of coarse salt and a teaspoon and a half of cornstarch.

A pound and a half of chicken, cut into about 1 inch pieces gets tossed in the ginger sauce. While the recipe calls for chicken breast I used chicken thighs, mainly because that's what I had on-hand. I normally buy boneless-skinless chicken breast, but something urged me to give thigh meat a try. I like it okay; it's quite a bit fattier than breast meat, but it's also very flavorful and tender. I think I'll stick to breast meat from now on though. Place chicken in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

While the chicken was in the fridge I got my rice going, washed the dishes, and did the very little prep work required to make this cashew chicken. What we have here are green onions chopped and separated into green and white portions. The white part of the onions will be stir-fried and the green will be a garnish. Carrots and garlic make of the rest of the chopping, and some cashew pieces. Carrots aren't in the original recipe, but I wanted to make sure Lily got some vegetables tonight, so I improvised.

The finishing sauce is made from chicken broth, soy sauce, rice vinegar (not rice wine vinegar), sugar, and a couple of teaspoons of cornstarch.

While Brown Eyed Baker uses a skillet in her recipe, I like to break out my wok when I get a chance. Heat wok, heat oil, begin cooking half the chicken.

With chicken I like to make sure it's cooked through, even if I know it's going back in the heat later on. In this case there's a light brown sear that will add to the deliciousness later on. Cover this with foil, and repeat process with the other half of the chicken.

I learned a trick back in the 80's when I was like 10 and Wok With Yan on the USA network amused me. When stir-frying, cut vegetables on the diagonal because more surface area on the vegetable pieces will be exposed to more heat and will cook faster. When using a wok you want to cook faster so your vegetables stay crisp as they cook. You also want to start with the vegetables that take the longest to cook through because they'll be in the heat for the most time.

2/3 C cashews to join the carrots. I think cashews are my favorite nut.

In go the green onions.

2 cloves of minced garlic. Take a moment and savor the smell of this.

Add your chicken back in along with any of the juices that accumulated on the plate. Give your wok a minute to come back up to heat from all of the extra mass added to the pan (probably best not to turn the temp up as you may burn your food).

Whisk your chicken broth finishing sauce to incorporate the cornstarch that accumulated at the bottom and pour it in.

Your wok may cool again at this point, but it'll bounce back again without having to turn up the heat.

Within just a minute or two the sauce will reduce by about half. At this point you can take the wok off the heat and let the remainder simmer while you get ready to plate.

I was  a little skeptical about how good this was going to be as I was making it because of the chicken broth and soy based sauce. I've made stir fries with such a sauce before and they usually come out edible but rather boring. Within the first couple of bites I thought this version of cashew chicken easily compared to PF Chang's, which is quite good, but I think they use heavy amounts of oyster sauce or something. The ginger / juice and salt marinade the chicken soaked in for a half hour really gave a nice punch of flavor in the end. It made the chicken stand out as the star of the dish, and the sharp sweetness of the onions and the nuttiness and crunchiness of the cashews compliment it perfectly.

Brown Eyed Baker makes my presentation and photography look like amateur hour, wouldn't you agree? But it inspires me to do better.

1 comment:

  1. I am not normally a fan of chicken thigh; I'm a breast girl all the way. I was pleasantly surprised at how yum this was. :D
    Thanks honey!

    ReplyDelete