Monday, October 24, 2011

Homemade Chinese Takeout: Cashew Chicken

One of my absolute favorite meals that I've been making recently is cashew chicken. It tastes remarkably like the stuff you get in the little white box from that takeout Chinese joint but I have the added satisfaction of knowing exactly how much oil goes into it and how much sugar (if any). I control the sodium, the kinds and amounts of vegetables, and the type of chicken used. And I usually pair it with quinoa mixed with rice, for added protein. Seriously, you can't tell the difference between the homemade stuff and what you'd get in a restaurant and that it's so easy to make is even better. Plus it's fast, great for nights where I'll spend an hour plus at the gym.

I also love the versatility. Ideally I like to keep it as close to "Chinese take out" as possible which means veggies like bok choy, shitakes, lemongrass, etc... but when I don't have those on hand I'll make do with whatever greens I have: spinach and brussel sprouts work great, any of the dark leafy greens that are so great for you, squash, zucchini, eggplant. I use low sodium tamari and will replace the granulated sugar for the sauce with brown sugar or honey. For oil I use 1/2 a Tbl for the veggies and 1/2 a Tbl for the meat and once I've cooked the veggies I'll let them drain on a paper towel while I cook the meat.
Cashew Chicken
1 chicken breast- cut into 1" cubes
1 1/2 tsp. corn starch
1 Tbl. vegetable oil
2 Tbl. low sodium soy sauce
2 Tbl. Chinese cooking wine- (found in Asian aisle at Whole Foods) or dry sherry
2 tsp. honey- or sugar
1 c. roasted cashews
1/2 tsp ginger powder
1 medium onion- sliced thin
1 large clove of garlic- minced
1/2 tsp sliced lemongrass
1/2 lb. bok choy
1 c. sliced shitakes

1. Dissolve 1/2 tsp. cornstarch with 1 Tbl soy sauce. Put cubed chicken in a small zip lock bag or bowl and add the soy sauce mixture. Marinate for 30 minutes up to 8 hours*. In a wok or large pan toast the cashews for a few minutes until browned, but don't let burn. Remove when done and set aside.

2. Put pan to medium high and add 1 Tbl. oil. Once hot add in the onions. After 2-3 minutes, add the shitakes, garlic, lemongrass and bok choy. Let brown, stirring frequently. In a seperate bowl, combine the remaining soy sauce, remaining cornstarch, chinese cooking wine and honey and stir well until combined.

3. Once vegetables are browned remove and drain on a paper towel. Add in remaining oil and the marinated cubed chicken breast. Let brown  for 5-7 minutes (depending on the size of the cubes they should cook up pretty quickly, but you should test one if they don't look quite done).

4. Add the vegetables back in and add in the sauce. Toss together and let the sauce reduce a little, but the cornstarch should help it thicken up pretty quickly. Serve over rice, quinoa or both.

*If I have time I'll do this before I go to work but more often than not will marinate before I go to the gym, so it gets 1 1/2 hrs at least. But I have also throw it together before prepping the veggies with good success.

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