Wednesday, May 27, 2009
A few weeks ago I caught the end of the Rachael Ray Show. She was making "Take Out at Home" Cashew Chicken. I immediately thought, "why not?" We've ordered Cashew Chicken a number of times from our local strip mall Chinese joint. It's my father-in-law's favorite take-out dish. I've been sitting on the notion that I was going to make Cashew Chicken in my own kitchen until the right moment. Well, that moment has arrived! My in-laws are in the car as I type this, heading to our home for the weekend to watch our children while my husband and I and another couple leave for a wedding in Washington D.C. They aren't going to make it in time for dinner, but I know they'll appreciate the leftovers.
After reading Rachael Ray's recipe, I decided it wasn't quite what I was looking for. It was an Orange Cashew Chicken. Something I'd like to try later, but not what I wanted for tonight. I wanted to replicate, if possibly improve upon the dish we pick up from the place on the corner. So, the search began for the perfect Cashew Chicken recipe. I utilized the Food Blog Search found in the sidebar of my blog. That is how I found Rasa Malaysia blog with her fabulous pictures and authentic recipes for Asian cuisine. Boy am I glad I did. This blog offers many opportunities to create your favorite take out dishes at home or if you're feeling adventurous, to try some wonderful food outside of your comfort zone.
This first step was new to me. According to Rasa Malaysia, baking soda is the secret weapon used by many Chinese restaurants and chefs to make beef, chicken, or pork tender. I believe that she used the word "silky". I'd never thought of it that way, but it's a good description. You know what I'm talking about, right? I've pondered that silky texture when eating Chinese take out before. Now I know the secret. The recommendation was 1 teaspoon per 10 oz. of chicken. I ended up tripling the recipe, so that's 3 teaspoons. I stirred it up with my chicken and let it sit about 15-20 minutes.
You want to rinse off the baking soda so that none of it remains on the chicken. Drain and blot dry.
Then I marinated the chicken a second time in cornstarch and rice vinegar for another 15-20 minutes. The recipe called for rice wine, but my local grocery didn't have any in stock.
While the chicken marinated, I readied my vegetables for stir fry. The original recipe calls for green pepper, onion, ginger and cashews. I really like mushrooms in mine so I threw some of those in there. I also had some green onions on their way out, so I removed all of the slimy stuff and chopped them up too.
I also mixed up the sauce. You'll need oyster sauce, soy sauce, water, white pepper powder (I only had regular pepper), sugar, rice wine, sesame oil, and salt to taste.
Heat oil in a wok or skillet and stir fry the chicken until white or half done.
Remove the chicken from the skillet and keep warm.
Now add a little more oil to your wok or skillet and throw in the onion, pepper, ginger and green onion. Stir-fry until you smell the peppery aroma from the green peppers.
I added the mushroom in and stir fried for a minute longer.
Add the chicken back in.
And the cashews for a couple of quick stirs.
Then add in the sauce and and stir until the chicken meat is cooked completely and coated with the sauce. I'll make a confession here: I added in a couple of tablespoons of cornstarch mixed with water at the end. I can't help it. I like that gravy-like consistency in my take out food. Shame on me!
That's it. Serve it up over hot, steamed rice. I'm pretty proud of myself. This was really good. Better than take out and less greasy too! I'll have to try making my own take out more often. Of course, then it's not take out, is it? It's cooking at home, chopping, stirring, and dirty dishes. Okay, so I haven't completely written off take out.
Cashew Chicken from Rasa Malaysia
1 boneless & skinless chicken breast, about 10 oz. (cut into small cubes)
1/2 cup cashew nuts
1 small green bell pepper, about 4 oz. (cut into small square pieces)
5 slices ginger
1/4 onion (cut into small square pieces)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon corn starch
1/2 teaspoon rice wine
1/2 tablespoon oyster sauce
3/4 teaspoon soy sauce
3 tablespoons water
3 dashes white pepper powder
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon rice wine
1/8 teaspoon sesame oil
Salt to taste
Marinate the chicken meat with the baking soda for 15-20 minutes and then rinse the chicken thoroughly. (Please make sure that the chicken is properly rinsed clean of the baking soda.)
Pat the chicken meat dry with paper towels and then marinate with the rest of the ingredients for 15 minutes.
Mix the sauce together and set aside.
Heat up a wok with 1 tablespoon of cooking oil and stir-fry the chicken meat until the color turns white or half-cooked. Dish out and set aside.
Add another 1 tablespoon of cooking oil into the wok and add in the ginger slices, bell peppers and onions.
Stir-fry until you smell the peppery aroma from the green peppers and add the chicken meat back in.
Add in the cashew nuts and do a few quick stirs.
Add in the sauce and stir continuously until the chicken meat is cooked and well coated with the sauce. Add salt to taste, dish out and serve the Cashew Chicken hot with steamed white rice.
* I tripled this and added mushrooms and green onions to the stir fry. I also added a couple of tablespoons of cornstarch + 2 tablespoons of water at the end.