Saturday, January 1, 2011

Sweet and Spicy Chinese Cashew Chicken

If you asked me about Chinese food, especially the fast food versions that a coworker disgustedly refers to as "hot garbage on a noodle," I'd most likely turn up my nose. But this Chinese-inspired chicken is nothing of the sort. My boyfriend would eat this every night if he could...and take the leftovers to work the next day. Perfect for a cold night, it's hot and spicy, but sweet and somehow comfortingly familiar in its flavors. Serves 2-3 hungry people.

Sweet and Spicy Chinese Cashew Chicken
  • 3 Chicken breasts, sliced into bite-sized pieces
  • Corn starch for dredging the chicken
  • Safflower oil for frying (or other vegetable oil that is good for high heat)
  • 1 stick butter
  • 10-12 small shallots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 red chilies, thinly sliced
  • 12 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 tbsp fresh ginger, chopped (or ½ tsp ground ginger)
  • 1 cup of chopped baby broccoli (bok choy or rapini work well, too)
  • 2 tbsp ground black pepper
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 16 green onions cut into 1 inch segments
  • Sriracha to taste
  • Short grain brown rice for serving

For Cashews:
  • 2 cups roasted unsalted cashews
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp melted butter

Toss chicken pieces in corn starch, shaking off the excess. Pour in enough oil to come up about a quarter inch in a large skillet and bring to a frying heat. Fry the chicken pieces in the oil, turning them as you go. Once they are golden all around, and have a thin crust, transfer to a paper towel.

Preheat oven to 350. Remove the oil and wipe down your pan before throwing in the butter. Once it has melted, add the shallots, chillies, garlic, ginger and sauté for about 10 minutes on low-medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the contents of the pan are shiny and totally soft. Add the broccoli and cook another 5 minutes until bright green. While you wait, throw cashews onto a sheet pan and toast in the oven for about 7 minutes. Mix butter, cayenne, brown sugar, and kosher salt in a bowl and toss the hot cashews in the mixture. Set aside.

When the vegetables are soft, add the soy sauce and the honey , stir, then stir in the crushed pepper and Sriracha. Warm the chicken in the sauce for about a minute, then add the green onions and cashews and stir through. Serve hot with steamed rice.

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