Tag Archives: one pot

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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General Tsao’s Chicken

7 Sep

Who is this General Tsao and did he own a cast iron skillet?! A quick Wikipedia search tells me that while the Hunan province man existed, it appears the Qing Dynasty general actually had little or no connection to the sweet & sour deliciousness named after him. It remains a mystery if he owned a cast iron skillet, but with cast iron being a Chinese invention from the 5th Century BC, I’m thinking “yes”.

I confess that I’ve never been a big fan of Chinese take-out. Not because I think the fate of all feral dogs & cats has anything to do with it, even though my mom would argue the mathematical uncertainty of this, but rather because it lacks bacon it tends to be so syrupy sweet. A factor that directly contributes to the Farklepants’ stepkids’ burning love for Chinese take-out.

Fueled by cocky contempt for cheap take-out, I figured that whatever Panda Express can do, I can do better. There’s no shortage of recipes online, so I blended the best of all and added Sriracha my own touch to please my palate. And since I’m preoccupied with the health of my family, I also added a good amount of veggies, because, you know, I’m an evil person “green” is a color my adopted brood’s diet is challenged by.

Feel free to substitute the bell peppers and/or sugar snap peas with any other vegetable(s) you like… or leave them out altogether and garner a deep respect from the entire male juvenile population in the USA. On that note, you can use this sauce on pretty much anything you want to give an Asian flavor, grill with it, marinate with it or simply suck it with a straw.

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GENERAL TSAO’S CHICKEN
(Loosely based on a vast collection of Pinterest recipes)
For the sauce:
– 1/2 cup of chicken stock
– 2 Tbsp of soy sauce
– 2 Tbsp of rice vinegar
– 4 Tbsp of Hoisin sauce (*)
– 4 tsp of Sriracha sauce (this dish is pretty spicy. Add less for moderate or mild heat)
– 4 tsp of sesame oil
– 5 Tbsp of honey or sugar
(*) You can find Hoisin sauce in the Asian section of your supermarket. Kikkoman is the brand I used and the most commonly sold.

For the stirfry:
– 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
– 1/2 cup of corn meal (*)
– 1/2 of all-purpose flour
– 1 large red bell pepper, chopped into strips
– 2 good handfuls of sugar snap peas or snow peas
– 2 bunches of scallions, chopped
– 6 garlic cloves, minced
– 3 tsp of fresh ginger, grated (approx. 3-inch piece)
– peanut oil or lard for frying the chicken cubes
(*) You can also just use flour if you can’t find corn meal. I find that a flour/corn meal mixture gives extra crunch, but it’s not a “must”.

Combine all the sauce ingredients in a jar and give it a good shake. You should have about 1.5 cups worth, but a bit more or less is not a problem.

Slice all veggies and set aside. Grate garlic and ginger, and set aside.

Rinse & dry chicken breast completely. Slice chicken into bite-size pieces, approx. the size of a walnut. Salt & pepper the chicken pieces.
Combine corn meal & flour, and coat chicken pieces liberally. Make sure all pieces are bone-dry, as otherwise they won’t brown properly.

In a cast iron skillet or heavy pot, heat peanut oil (or lard) to 350F and fry the chicken pieces until they are golden brown and crisp. You only need to go about 1/2 inch deep with oil, and for me, that was about 1 cup of lard in my 12-inch cast iron skillet.
I fried my chicken in 3 batches. Each batch only takes a few minutes, so it went pretty quickly. They should be slightly crunchy on the outside. They may not be cooked entirely trough at this stage, but don’t worry, as they’ll cook through later on when we combine everything.

Take fried chicken pieces out of the pan, and set on a paper towel lined plate to absorb some of the excess fat.

Drain all but 1-2 Tbsp of the fat, place hot pan back over medium heat and add all of the bell pepper & sugar snap peas and sauté for a few minutes until ‘just’ beginning to soften. I like the crunchy texture of slightly under-cooked vegetables, but you can sauté them all the way to “done” if this is your preference.

Add grated garlic & ginger, half of the scallions & chicken pieces back into the pan, and pour sauce over the top. Simmer over medium-low heat until sauce reduces, thickens & coats chicken evenly. This only takes about 10-15 min or so.

When ready, add remaining scallions and serve hot over steamed white or brown rice.

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