Cashew Chicken from Martha Stewart
We all know the saying “The quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”. This can also be a fairly speedy route to the female heart as well. Staying in and making your date dinner (or making it together) rates high on the romance scale. You get to show off your creativity and appreciation for nuance & details, even if it’s a simple dish. No different from putting an outfit together. That’s what this series is about. She or he will be left impressed, and you won’t need the skills of Wolfgang Puck.
- Familiar Ingredients: vegetable oil, garlic, scallions, chicken, cashews, white rice
- Not So Familiar Ingredients: hoisin sauce, cornstarch, rice vinegar
- Number of Pans/Pots you’ll need to make this dish: medium bowl to mixed the cubed chicken with cornstarch, large nonstick or cast iron skillet
Sometimes the best food is the simplest. This is a quick and easy recipe that requires minimal prep and time to cook. Yet it still has some complex flavor, thanks to the hoisin sauce. If you’ve never tried hoisin, you’re in for a treat. It’s sweet, spice laden, and heavy on the umami. Some cheap hoisin’s can get pretty junky, but you can easily find high quality versions that don’t use any weird chemicals or MSG to enhance flavor. I used Edward & Sons Premier Japan Hoisin, an organic, gluten free option. I picked it up at my local Fred Meyer, but I’m sure they’d have something similar at Whole Foods or any natural foods store.
The recipe recommends pairing this dish with white rice. I’d go with jasmine. Or, if you’re living the low-carb lifestyle, try cauliflower rice. Just be warned, cauliflower is cruciferous, and cruciferous veggies can cause gas. That’s the last thing you want on a date. It’s pretty darn delicious though, so if you and your date are cauliflower fans, and like each other enough to not be offended by olfactory assaults, give it a try.
This recipe was originally sourced from Everyday Food: Great Food Fast. It’s such a useful cookbook, with fast and easy recipes. I’d recommend it to anyone. And now, some words of advice to help you prepare this dish successfully:
Chicken – The easiest way to cube the raw chicken is to cut it into 3 strips lengthwise, then cut into 1 inch chunks. Also, the recipe calls for it to be browned in batches, but I just threw it all in the pan and added the garlic & scallions after about 5 minutes. I broke the rules Martha. Don’t give me the stink eye!
Toasted Cashews – This is super easy to do. Just heat an oven to 350º. Spread the raw cashews on a baking sheet, and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes. Don’t forget about them though, they’ll burn quickly once they start to brown.
Try not to eat them all before adding to the dish.
Scallions – Just a fancy term for green onions. The recipe calls for the white part of the stalk to be separated from the green. A good rule of thumb is to consider anything below the point where the green shoots fork up to be the white part of the stalk. If it’s hollow, consider it the green. How do you like that explanation Martha?
Rice vinegar – Find this in the Asian foods section of your local grocer. Don’t substitute a heavier, dark vinegar in this dish, it wouldn’t work. In a pinch you could probably use distilled white vinegar, and coconut vinegar would definitely work here.
Cornstarch – This ingredient helps the chicken brown, which also adds a different flavor element. It also thickens the sauce a little. You could skip it if you had to, but if you have cornstarch, use it.
Final Note: This is definitely a dish to pair with an easy drinking white wine. A dry riesling would be good, and if you decide to add any spice, then off-dry (slightly sweet) would work. If you want to make a pre-dinner cocktail, this “Pink Grapefruit, Ginger, and Lemongrass Sake Cocktail” might be a good way to kick things off.