Saturday, January 24, 2009

Cashew Chicken Two Ways

I made Indian food for dinner tonight, by which I mean that I spent all afternoon making Indian food and we ate it for a late dinner this evening. I really like Indian food so I don't mind spending a lot of time on it. I usually make a big meal with a curry or two, rice, dal, and accompaniments, then either freeze the leftovers or eat them for the next few days (sometimes both!).

This recipe for curried chicken with cashews is from one of my favorite cookbooks: "The Complete Asian Cookbook" by Charmaine Solomon. The book has recipes from 15 different countries, although I mostly use it for the Indian recipes. We really love the "gravy" in the curried chicken and you don't need too many special ingredients to make it. You could make your own curry powder, but I adore the Madras brand that comes in a can so I don't bother. Likewise, you can make your own garam masala, but they sell it at our local Indian market, and I saw several brands at Whole Foods today so you should be able to find that in a store, too. I always have whole-milk yogurt in my fridge - I eat it for breakfast, use it in baking, and put it on baked potatoes and burritos instead of sour cream - so for me, this recipe is a "pantry-staple."

I don't have quite so many uses for raw cashews, though. So, I decided to post this Chinese-style cashew chicken recipe (from Everyday Food magazine) as well. In contrast to the curry, it's a quickly-put-together dish for a fast weeknight dinner. Yeah, you do need to have hoisin sauce on hand, but hoisin sauce is another thing that's just so yummy that I think it's worth giving up the fridge space. So, if you can squeeze a jar of hoisin sauce in your refrigerator, tins of curry powder and garam masala in your cupboard, and a bag of raw cashews on the shelf (or in the freezer, if you need to store them longer than a couple of months), you'll get a lot of good eating in return.

Curried Chicken with Cashews (Kaju Murgh Kari)
adapted from: The Complete Asian Cookbook, by Charmaine Solomon

6 Servings

1 3 1/2-lb chicken, cut into pieces (or ~ 3 lb assorted legs, thighs, and breast pieces)
3 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter) or oil
2 large onions, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
3 tablespoons curry powder (I like Madras brand)
1 teaspoon chili powder, optional
3 teaspoons salt (I use ~ 1 teaspoon)
3 ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped (or 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander or mint leaves, plus additional for garnish
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 cup plain yogurt (preferably whole-milk yogurt)
4 oz raw cashews, finely ground (use a food processor or blender, or chop very fine with a knife)

1. Cut chicken into serving pieces. For curry, the pieces should not be large so separate the drumsticks from thighs, wings from breasts, and cut the whole breast into four pieces.

2. Heat the ghee or oil in a large saucepan and gently fry the onion, garlic and ginger over low heat until soft and golden. Stir occasionally. This will take a long time - maybe 45 minutes. (I sometimes do this step earlier in the afternoon, and leave the cooked onions in the pan at room temp until I'm ready to finish cooking the dish).

3. Add the curry powder and chili powder and stir for 1 minute. Add the salt, tomatoes, chopped herbs, stir with a wooden spoon and cook to a pulp (or just bring to a simmer).

4. Add the legs and thigh pieces to the pan and stir well to coat with the spice mixture. Cover the pan and simmer over low heat for ~15 minutes. Uncover the pan and add the breast pieces, if you are using them. Stir again, cover the pan and cook for another ~30 minutes. Stir once or twice during cooking to make sure that the chicken does not stick to the pan.

5. Uncover the pan and sprinkle on the garam masala. Add the yogurt and stir to combine. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

6. Add the ground cashews, stir well and let the dish heat through. Garnish with additional chopped coriander or mint. Serve with rice, naan or other Indian breads.

Cashew chicken
From Everyday Food magazine

1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
8 scallions, white and green parts separated, each cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
¾ cup raw cashews, toasted
White rice for serving

1. In a medium bowl, toss chicken with cornstarch until chicken is coated. Season with ¾ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper

2. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Cook half the chicken, tossing often, until browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

3. Add the remaining oil and chicken to skillet along with the garlic and white parts of scallions. Cook, tossing often, until chicken is browned, about 3 minutes. Return first batch of chicken to pan. Add vinegar; cook until evaporated, about 30 seconds.

4. Add hoisin sauce and ¼ cup water. Cook, tossing, until chicken is cooked through, about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in scallion greens and cashews. Serve immediately over white rice, if desired.

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