Here I was, with two requests for my recipe for the Cashew Chicken that I mentioned in my Sunday list, happy to share the recipe but too lazy to look for it and then type it out, when I opened Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. The random page offered this prompt:
Write about a meal you love.
Okay, then! I’ll admit, right off, that – though I know I followed this recipe from a book, originally – I cannot find the recipe. I have made it often, over the years, and altered the amounts based on how many people I was serving. Everything is approximate.
Plan to have about three cups of rice cooked and ready to serve with this dish. I have a rice cooker, which gives me one less thing to worry about when I’m in the middle of stir-frying.
As with any Chinese cooking, do all the dicing and cutting up ahead of time. It also helps to have your thickening ingredients already mixed up, the chicken broth measured out, and any cans and packages opened and drained.
- Two whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts. It’s helpful, in cutting them up, if they are partially frozen. Cut them lengthwise into strips, then cut each strip into 1″ pieces
- One package of mushrooms, cleaned, stem ends trimmed, sliced
- One box of frozen pea pods (you know, like the Green Giant sized freezer box). You can use fresh if you’re up to cleaning, stringing and blanching them. It seems like the frozen are more predictably fresh, and a lot easier.
- One can (just the flattish, tuna fish sized can) of bamboo shoots, drained.
- One bunch of green onions. Clean them, then slice the white part into narrow slices, the green part into wider slices. Don’t use the dark dry part of the greens, but the tender lighter parts. If you are up for it, you can make several cuts down from one end of the green parts (which are kind of tubular, like a short straw) almost but not all of the way through, so that they open up like a flower when they are heated. I never do this.
- One cup of chicken broth
- One quarter cup of soy sauce, combined with two teaspoons of corn starch, for thickening
- One cup of cashews
- Peanut oil, or another bland, flavorless oil for frying
Assemble all ingredients, all sliced up and ready to go.
Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat (A wok definitely needs high heat, especially over an electric burner. If you use a skillet or a flat bottomed wok, or if you have a gas burner, a little less heat may be better. You don’t want things to burn, but cooking quickly is key) and add about a tablespoon of oil.
Add the cashews and cook, stirring constantly, until they are just toasted. Remove them and set aside.
You may need another bit of oil in the pan at this time.
Toss in the chicken and cook, stirring constantly, until it is white.
Add the mushrooms and continue stirring for another minute or two.
Stir in the pea pods, bamboo shoots and chicken broth. Cover. You may need to lower the heat slightly at this point. Simmer about 10 minutes.
Add the soy sauce/cornstarch mixture to thicken the broth. As soon as it thickens, you’re done. Scatter the green onions over the other ingredients. Remove to a serving dish, then scatter the cashews on top.
Serve over rice.
I used to try to double or triple this recipe, but things take longer to get hot/cook, and the results aren’t as good because things steam rather than fry. From my friend Huey Chu, I learned the Chinese way, which is to add another dish. That is rarely an issue in my household. This will serve four to six people, depending on appetites. I’d count on plenty for four. Once, I had a dozen people for dinner. I made Cashew Chicken, Stir-Fried Beef with Broccoli, and Sweet and Sour Pork. Amazingly, everything got done in a timely fashion and tasted delicious. I will never try that again!