Cashew Chicken

Making a stir-fry doesn’t need to be a complicated process.  Decide what you want in the stir-fry and prepare those items by cutting them into bite sized pieces.  Determine the type of sauce you would like and have it ready.  You can use a bottled sauce from the store or a homemade sauce or you can say the heck with it and skip the sauce all together.  Choose appropriately sized serving platters or bowls and keep them close at hand. 

Most of my stir-fry dishes are accompanied by steamed rice.  The method I use for making steamed rice takes about an hour, which may seem strange for “20 minute rice” but it has two advantages.  First, and most importantly, the rice comes out nice and fluffy every time.  And second, an hour gives me plenty of time to prepare the vegetables and meat and enough time to finish the stir-fry. 

For the rice:

Add 1 cup of white rice to a strainer or colander.  Rinse the rice under cold water from the kitchen faucet and swish the rice around by hand for several seconds.  This removes some of the starch from the rice.  Add the rice to a 4 quart pot and cover the rice with water.  2 cups of water should do the trick.  Cover the pot and let it sit for 15 minutes, without heat.  Turn the heat on and bring the water to a boil.  Remove the lid and stir the rice with a fork and cover the pot again.  Turn the heat down to the lowest possible setting.  Let the rice simmer at low heat for about 10 minutes.  Turn off the heat.  Don’t open the lid until you are ready to eat.  Allow the rice to steam for at least 30 minutes.  I like to let it steam for 40 minutes.  When you are ready to serve, remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork.  Turn it out to a serving bowl.

Cashew Chicken Ingredients:

2 Tbs cooking oil

2 chicken breasts (cut into bite sized pieces)

½ onion (diced)

2 bell peppers (diced)

3 Tbs thinly sliced ginger

1 cup cashew nuts

2 green onions (diced)

Marinade:

2 Tbs baking soda

2 Tbs corn starch

1 tsp rice wine vinegar

Sauce:

1 Tbs oyster sauce

1 ½ tsp soy sauce

1/3 cup water

¼ tsp white ground pepper

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp rice wine vinegar

½ tsp sesame oil

Sauce Thickener:

1 Tbs cornstarch

1 Tbs water

A splash of soy sauce

Directions:

Marinate the chicken in the baking soda for about 15 minutes.  Rinse the chicken to remove the baking soda and pat the chicken dry with paper towels.  Marinate the chicken with the cornstarch and vinegar for 15 minutes.  This two-step marinade will allow the sauce to adhere to the chicken.

Prepare the sauce and the sauce thickener and set aside.

Once all of the items for the stir-fry have been prepped, heat the wok and add a tablespoon of cooking oil.

Add the chicken.  Stir-fry until the chicken is solid white and firm.  Remove the chicken to a bowl. 

Add the onions, bell pepper and ginger.  Stir-fry briefly.  Do not overcook the vegetables. 

Dump the chicken back into the wok and mix with the vegetables.  Continue to stir until the chicken is fully cooked.  Add the sauce and continue stirring. 

Move some of the vegetables and chicken away from the center of the wok and take a look at the sauce.  If it looks thin, you might want to add the sauce thickener.  I almost always add a thickener.  You can shove everything away from the center and add the thickener to the sauce and whisk until the sauce thickens but I find that it is easier, in the long run, to remove everything from the wok except the sauce and then add the thickener and whisk.  Then, return everything to the wok and add the cashews.  Stir again and turn everything out onto a serving platter or serving bowl.

Serve with steamed rice and stir-fried broccoli.

Chinese Stir Fry (or, How to Clean the Refrigerator)

I recently returned from a 3-day, mini vacation and while I was away, my thoughts turned to all of things in my refrigerator that would need to be used when I returned home.  I wasn’t preoccupied with those thoughts but, being the frugal person that I am, I imagined what I could do with the food that would likely be on the verge of spoiling when I returned.

Sure enough, upon my return, I opened the refrigerator to inspect the various vegetables and other odds and ends.   As I expected, the bell peppers were on their last legs.  The celery and green onions were going limp.  The red onion was holding on strong and the carrots were just fine, so no worries there.  And then, I remembered the unopened package of beef that I had left in the meat drawer.  I knew that it had been in the refrigerator for several days.  The solution was obvious.  A beef stir fry was the perfect remedy.

This was a meal made out of necessity and practicality but each of the components combined quite nicely and the quick stir fry allowed some items, that were past their prime, a chance to shine.

Ingredients for the stir fry:

3 cloves of garlic

2 Tbs thinly sliced ginger

2 Tbs canola oil

1 pound, thinly sliced beef

2 carrots

1 green bell pepper

1 red bell pepper

1 medium sized red onion

2 celery stalks

3 scallions

3 cups uncooked white rice

Ingredients for the marinade:

3 Tbs dark soy sauce

1 Tbs soy sauce

1 Tbs sambal (chili garlic sauce)

Ingredients for the sauce:

½ tsp sesame oil

1 clove garlic, minced

2 Tbs brown sugar

2 Tbs Hoisin sauce

1 Tbs honey

2 Tbs white vinegar

1 tsp hot sauce (your choice)

1 Tbs soy sauce

1 Tbs cornstarch

1 Tbs water

Directions:

Remove some of the starch from the rice by rinsing and scrubbing the rice by hand in a colander.  Put the rice in a large pot and cover with water.  Allow the rice to soak for 30 minutes. 

While the rice is soaking, marinate the beef and prepare a mise en place.

The beef that I used was a packaged roast that had already been thinly sliced.  It was marketed to be used for carne asada but, since it was not seasoned, it was suitable for my purpose. 

Slice the beef into ribbons and allow it to marinate for about 30 minutes.    

Peel, slice and chop the vegetables as you like.  Reserve some chopped scallion tips for the garnish. 

Preparing this mise en place took about 45 minutes.  I wasn’t rushed because I knew that the rice would take about an hour, from start to finish.

Cook the rice according to the directions on the package.  In this case, as I mentioned earlier, I soaked the rice for 30 minutes and then I cooked and steamed the rice for 20 minutes. I allowed the rice to steam for 10 additional minutes before fluffing with a fork.

I made the stir fry, while the rice finished steaming. 

Add the cooking oil to a hot wok.  Season the wok with ginger and garlic for one minute and then remove the ginger and garlic. 

Introduce the vegetables, starting with the ones that will take the longest to cook.  In this case,  I started with the carrots, followed by the bell peppers, red onion, celery and scallions.  Remove the vegetables to a bowl when they have softened but before they go limp.

Add a splash of oil to the wok and stir fry the beef.  The beef will cook within a matter of a few minutes.  Remove the beef to the bowl containing the cooked vegetables.

Add the sauce to the wok and stir until thickened.  Add the beef and vegetables back to the wok and stir to incorporate the sauce.  Turn out the stir fry to a serving dish and top with scallions.