Saturday, January 7, 2012

Cashew Chicken

If you've been reading some of my latest posts, you'd notice that I've been on quite the Asian food kick lately. This post is no different. After buying a two pound can of cashews at Hannaford for eleven dollars, I figured I should use them to make some cashew chicken. I have never actually had cashew chicken from a Chinese place, and I must admit I have no idea what it should taste like. That said, I kind of like the way my recipe turned out. Since I have never made cashew chicken before, I borrowed and then changed the recipe for this dish to suit what I thought would work well.

In the picture you can see that the chicken got very dark from cooking. No, it wasn't overcooked. I recently got my first set of cast iron pans from my aunt for Christmas, and let me tell you they are just about the best cooking gift I have ever received. (Besides my Kitchenaid.) Using a cast iron pan while doing any type of Asian cooking is almost a must. The cast iron pan gets hotter and stays hotter than other pans, and in the end you will have more authentic looking and tasting food. More specifically, these types of pans will not only cook Asian food better, they will also cook most other high heat foods better too. The high heat enables you to sear and caramelize food without over cooking it.

Lastly, this recipe uses hoisin sauce which can easily be found at your store. Go to the Asian food aisle of your store and look around the prepared sauces section. This sauce is used in all sorts of Asian cooking, not just Chinese. It is a great sauce to have on hand. It makes a great barbecue sauce, condiment or in this case, a sauce additive.

Cashew Chicken:
1/2 pounds chicken thighs, deboned and skinned, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons mirin, chinese rice wine, dry sherry or dry white wine
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Vegetable or canola oil, as needed

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons honey or salt
1/2 cup cashews

Minced green onions
Sesame seeds, black, white or both

1. Combine ingredients for the marinade and add the chicken. Mix to coat then marinate chicken in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or up to a few hours.
2. Mix the ingredients for the sauce together except for the cashews.
3. In a large cast iron skillet, add enough oil to create a thin film and heat the pan over medium high heat.
4. Working in batches, sear each side of the chicken pieces and slightly under cook. Remove the chicken from the skillet and reserve.
5. Add a super thin film of oil to the skillet again, if needed. Add the cashews to this and slightly roast them over medium high heat, about 1 minute.
6. Add the sauce to the pan with the cashews and then add the cooked chicken. Let this cook until the sauce is reduced and thick, about 3 to 5 minutes.
7. Plate the cashew chicken and top with sesame seeds and minced green onions.

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