Tag Archives: Asian

Cashew Chicken

5 May

Rats.

I think I just blew the ‘Blogger of the Year’ award with my 14-month hiatus. Sometimes, life just gets in the way. I find it a Herculean task to gather some quiet time for creative writing in our 2-bedroom apartment filled with a husband, 2 grown man-children, 2 cats and an endless selection of stuff that magically roams from its proper storage space to the couch, on to the dinner table and that one corner of the house where “it” will live for the next 3 months, before continuing its orbit to the ottoman… until such time I get tired of the mess and return “it” to its proper storage space… or – more often than not – vocalize my annoyance to the troops and demand order… PRONTO!  I have ideas that fill my head space, you know. They collect in that tiny little brain cavity next to the “What  am I cooking for dinner?” box and the “Oye. I need to do laundry!” bin of random thoughts. In order to materialize these thoughts onto proverbial paper, one needs time… or an alternate reality, whichever comes first. [note to the creator of said alternate reality: please give me curly hair and make me a size 8. Full stop.]

This concludes my paragraph on why I haven’t written on my blog. Also referred to as the ‘whiny paragraph’…

Recently, the man-children started their first full-time job. While this is certainly cause for celebration, it also brings another conundrum: housework is automatically deferred to yours truly, cause you now they are busy and tired… Pardon me while I take a deep, prolonged breath, y’all… I could launch into another darker paragraph, but I truly do love my men and I shall bear my cross passively until my next melt-down.

Yesterday was one of those days. I needed something quick, cheap and packed with flavor. I find that Asian stir-fry’s nearly always deliver on this trifecta that is every working servant-less (wo)man’s dream. (One has to be careful with assigning gender-rolls lately. Insert sarcasm here.) A wok helps, but you don’t need it and I find that I can easily adapt recipes to fit my cast-iron skillet or low Dutch oven. I know it’s not authentic. I know it’s not how it’s supposed to be. Please don’t email me. Please?

A long, long time ago… when I was single and traveling  from the kitchen to the hamper  the world… My friend & I backpacked Thailand. Drenched, tired from hopping tuk-tuk’s all day and starving, we quickly ran into this obscure little restaurant with faded turquoise walls, an Elvis poster and a coca-cola vending machine. The sky had opened and unleased a torrential downpour on us. The metal bistro table & chairs stuck to our clammy skin, but it felt good to get some relief from the excessive heat. Reading the menu was as adventures as our travel plans were. I had no idea what “Gai Pad Med Ma Muang” was, but I tell you, that cashew chicken was heaven on a plate.

 

 

CASHEW CHICKEN

For the chicken mixture:

– 1.5 lbs of boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces

– 0.5 cup of cassava flour or regular flour

– 1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips (julienned)

– 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced into thin strips (julienned)

– 1 medium-sized onion, sliced into thin strips *julienned)

– 1 cup of raw, unsalted cashew nuts

– 5 green onions, green parts sliced into chunks on the diagonal

– 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced or grated

– 1-2 dry red Thai chilies, thinly sliced (julienned)   *** if you do not like heat, leave these out  ***

– 1 cup of peanut oil (you can use any oil you like, but make sure it has a high heat tolerance)

Toss chicken pieces into the flour and coat each piece thoroughly, shaking off the excess.

In a wide heavy pan, add peanut oil and bring the oil & pan to high heat, over medium heat. You don’t want to burn the oil, you just want to give your pan enough time to get really hot. REALLY, ok? This a long-sleeves type dish, people.

Toss cashew nuts into the pan and fry in the hot oil for a couple of minutes until golden. Set aside on paper towels. Repeat with the Thai red chilies, if using, and set chilies aside when crisp and bright red.

Leave oil in the pan and fry chicken pieces until golden brown on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Pour off any excess peanut oil, but leave about 2 tbsp behind.

Throw all of the bell pepper slices and onion into pan, together with the minced garlic and ginger. Stir and sauté until the peppers are soft and onions translucent.

Add chicken pieces, cashews & Thai chilies back into pan and add a ladle (0.5 cup?) of the sauce below. You will not need all of the sauce, just add enough sauce to cover everything until you reach sauce-level you like.

Add green onions and sauté another minute or so.

Lastly turn off the heat and sprinkle green onions over the dish. Serve hot over a bowl of rice.

For the sauce (this makes a lot of sauce and you can some for later)

– 0.50 cup light soy sauce

– 0.25 cup dark soy sauce

– 0.25 oyster sauce

– 0.50 cup of chicken stock (or water)

– 1 tbsp of brown sugar

– salt, pepper to taste

– 1 clove of minced garlic

– 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated

Combine all ingredients and whisk. Set aside.

I usually do this in a large mason jar and give a good shake. Whisking is so overrated. Also, I can then place the jar in my fridge for another stir-fry later on. I find that it generally keeps fresh in the fridge for 7-10 days.

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Punjabi Fish Curry

20 Jan

Lately, the Farklepants household seems to run on kryptonite. I get up before sunrise and crash-land sometime around 10:17P, which also happens to be about the time Mr. Farklepants’ intellectual algorithms start peaking and he attempts to engage me in conversation. When we’re both home, he can usually tell by the blank glassy-eyed expression on my face if intellectual conversation is going to be successful or not, but since we’re both super busy lately, we find ourselves tangled up in a text- and/or phone relationship. Mostly, by the time he breaks away from his project and phones to whisper a sweet little something in my ear, I’m already a sleeping sloth. And by the time I’m perky and full of life, he’s snoring peacefully next to me. We’re like 2 ships passing in the night, really, and there’s been many a time in which I’ve contemplated blowing his fog horn staying in bed next to him rather than getting up to go to work.

And speaking of working, I committed myself to a temporary weekend job on top of my regular full-time job for the next THREE months, which means I’m pretty much working nonstop. Sans weekends. It’s a blessing as well as a curse. On the upside, my bills will finally get paid down a bit. On the downside, mundane stuff like laundry barely gets done. And bi-weekly blogging?! Oh please, Fuhgitabboutit. Okay?

I’m only into week 3 of running this insane schedule, and I’m already having improper fantasies about having time to myself. To do nothing. Especially now that I have a gift certificate for a ‘deluxe’ 75-min pedicure burning a hole in my pocket, which my sister-in-law extraordinaire sent me a month ago. As an ironic twist of nature, I inherited my mother’s pesky affliction Teutonic sense of responsibility, and vegetating in a cushiony massage chair for longer than 10 min when there is [this much] stuff to do, seems like a capital sin… punishable by eternal hell fire. And have I told you yet that I spent my entire youth in a Catholic “school for girls”?

Also on the wickedly fun agenda last weekend, was the fact that – when I finally did manage to venture near the couch with the crazy idea of ‘relaxing’ – I stepped on something sharp in our carpet and cut my toe. Only, I didn’t actually know I ‘cut’ my toe until it bled all over our white fabric ottoman. Yeah. I’m convinced it’s karma’s way of telling me that our living room desperately needs vacuuming. POOF! There goes that pedicure fantasy…

Oh, and dinner! Yes, dinner. Always dinner. I figured that if I am to survive this crazy schedule, I need to stick with quick dinner ideas and one-pot meals. Curry is exactly that. It’s delicious, and it doesn’t need to be a labor of love with these easy tricks I’ve scooped up along my culinary path.

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PUNJABI FISH CURRY
(A blend of Internet’s best)
For the curry base:
– 2 12-15oz cans of coconut milk
– 1 cup of water, as needed
– a 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
– 3-4 cloves of garlic, pressed
– 1 large onion, diced
– spice paste (see below)
– olive oil, as needed
– pomegranate seeds, for garnish

For the spice paste: (*)
– 2 Tbsp of Garam Masala, Punjab style
– 2 Tbsp of sweet curry powder
– 1 Tbsp of hot curry powder (like Maharaja powder)
– 2 Tbsp of red chili paste (or 1 for milder curries)
– 1.5 tsp of ground cumin
(*) I usually buy my spices from “Penzeys Spices”. You can order online here or order from “Surfas Culinary District” by clicking the orange flash link on the right side of this page.

For the veggies & fish: (*)
– 2 lbs of assorted firm fleshed fish like salmon, tilapia, pollock… whichever combination you like, but try to pick sustainable species.
– 1 lbs of shrimp, shelled & deveined
– 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
– 1 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
– 1 package of fresh baby spinach leaves
(*) feel free to use whichever vegetables you like best. Likewise for the choice of fish as well

Debone, rinse and slice fish into large chunks. Set aside.
Peel & devein the shrimp, and set aside with the sliced chunks of fish.

Mix all the spices together and make a paste together with the lime juice, pressed garlic, grated ginger and red chili paste. Use a bit of water if too dry.

In a large, heavy pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat and sauté diced onions and sliced bell peppers until beginning to soften and their liquid is cooked down. Add all of the spice paste and cook for a few minutes until fragrant and well blended.

Add both cans of coconut milk and bring to a boil. Reduce down to a thick, sauce-like consistency. If too thick, add some water. Consequently, if too thin, add some almond meal.

Add baby spinach and let it wilt down in the curry sauce. Add shrimp and fish, give it a quick stir and cover the pan. Cook – without stirring – for a few minutes until the fish & shrimp are cooked through. Serve over rice and sprinkle some pomegranate seeds over the top for color.

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