Recipe Test: Thai Cashew Chicken

Mardi Gras is one of those holidays that is a blessing and a curse. While all the other states are going back to their boring lives after New Years, the party is just getting started in Louisiana. Along with this new holiday season comes delicious delights like King Cake and crawfish. The streets are lined with parades and there’s always something fun to do. There’s also a nice added bonus of state pride that comes with the Carnival season. The feeling of being special and unique. Those are the blessings. Then you realize that you’ve promised your New Years Resolution that you wouldn’t eat cake anymore, crawfish becomes too damn expensive, the streets are closed down due to being full of people so you can’t get anywhere in the city and you don’t feel so special and unique anymore as you freeze your butt off in the cold and rain waiting for drunk idiots to pelt you in the face with plastic beads all the while your jeans are too tight because you ate too much King Cake and by the time you get home home all you want to do is shut the bedroom door, curl up in a ball and scream “LOUD NOISES!!”….you see what I mean? Not all that it’s cracked up to be. However I don’t think that at any point in my life will I ever get tired of this painful pleasure we call Carnival season. What can I say? We’re all masochists in Louisiana. Little known fact.

But because it is what we call “Mardi Gras Weekend” (Lundi Gras, Mardi Gras and the weekend leading up to it) my boyfriend and I have spent every night roaming the streets. NO not because I want to….are you crazy? I would MUCH rather be lying on the floor of my living room watching Anthony Bourdain reruns and terrorizing my cat with a laser pointer. Yes…that actually is what I do on Saturday nights. Is that not normal? Don’t judge me. Denan works in the media and so it is his God-given instruction to broadcast every single thing that happens in our city. So he gets out there every night from 5:00 in the evening until 10:00 at night with his coworker and they sit out on top of the roof of their station car (which is by the way a ginormous military grade hummer) and interview drunk people. Why I put myself through that kind of commotion you ask? Because I love my boyfriend. A lot. And that’s what nice girlfriends do. They act as moral support. So as I’ve spent the last few nights on top of a hummer freezing cold into the late hours of the night, you can imagine I haven’t been cooking much. My plan of attack is to basically eat really healthy for breakfast and lunch, and kind of…eat what we can find for dinner. Which basically means that if I have to eat one more piece of mediocre BBQ out of the back of someone’s pickup truck (mostly from frat boys and random tailgaters) I am going to cry. I MISS home cooked food. It’s amazing that once you really start to prepare all your own food and know exactly what goes into it, how other food can be kind of…less than awesome.

However there is one meal that I made before all of this ruckus started that I would like to share with you. As Denan put it, “all of your meals are top notch but this one is one of the best”. And I have to say I really did enjoy this meal as well. I find that all my favorite foods originate in Asia somewhere. I guess it’s just the mix of the sweet, the salty, the nutty and the fresh produce that is so tempting to me. I believe the recipe that I worked from said that this meal is from Thailand. Which makes sense because I am absolutely in love with Thai food. And the more I can learn to make it at home the better because it gets pretty pricy to eat it in a restaurant. So without further ado, I present to you the recipe for Thai Cashew Chicken.

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup fish sauce

1 1/2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – cut into thin strips

1 cup dry jasmine rice

2 cups water

1 tablespoon sesame oil

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1 small onion, quartered then sliced

3/4 cup water

3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

1 cup unsalted cashew nuts

DIRECTIONS:

1. In a resealable plastic bag, mix the soy sauce, fish sauce, hot pepper sauce, garlic, and ginger. Place the chicken in the bag, seal, and marinate at least 2 hours in the refrigerator.

2. In a medium saucepan, bring the jasmine rice and 2 cups water to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 20 minutes.

3. Heat the sesame oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar until dissolved. Stir in the onion, and cook about 5 minutes, until tender. Reserving the marinade mixture, place the chicken into the skillet, and cook about 10 minutes, until browned.

4. Stir the reserved marinade and 3/4 cup water into the skillet, and bring to a boil. Continue to cook and stir 10 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear. Thoroughly blend in the peanut butter. Serve over the jasmine rice with a sprinkling of cashews.

Now I have a few comments about this recipe, just some things that concerned me. First of all using rice is not low carb at all and I am aware of that. It’s not something that I like to over-indulge on, but when I do eat rice I try to buy types of rice that are more nutritious than bleached white rice which is terrible for you. Also for someone like me with PCOS that needs to watch my sugar and carbohydrate levels, buying the right kinds of carbs can be a lifesaver. I once heard that jasmine rice is more healthful than other rices and this is true but this is what you have to look for:

” Whole grain, or brown, jasmine rice retains the bran, or outer husk. Brown jasmine rice is more nutritious and higher in fiber than the white, water-milled version. White jasmine rice is a starchy, refined food and, as such, temporarily raises insulin and blood sugar levels. Therefore, a diet high in refined foods, such as white rice, may increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes.” -Livestrong.com (http://www.livestrong.com/article/406304-is-jasmine-rice-healthy/)

So the moral is that when buying jasmine rice, look for the whole grain kind. This is the kind that looks…well to me it looked “browner” or “darker” than normal rice. Jasmine rice is actually very delicious. It’s very aromatic and smells like…well..jasmine flowers. It’s really an interesting sensation.

Another thing that I noticed when cooking this dish is that the cashews REALLY bump up the calories in this recipe. So what I did was, instead of buying a big jar of cashews (which is pretty expensive) I went to the check out counter at Walmart and got one of the little snack packs of cashews, crushed them up in the pack and sprinkled them on top of the meal. That way I was able to control the portion of cashews we ate and also the cost. Cashews are like avocados. They are very GOOD for you with very good types of fats but they also are a lot of calories. I always add avocados to my salads at lunch time and it always takes a salad that would normally be 100 something calories to 300 something calories easily. But do NOT fret over calories. Some foods that are actually very healthful have lots of calories. I would not freak out over the cashews too much if you make this recipe.

If you would like you could also use a lighter version or a less sugar version of peanut butter like I did. Although I am not too sure this makes much of a difference as it isn’t too big of a portion that you actually end up using for this meal. It just gives it a very nice nutty flavor.

Garnish: To top this meal off, which I was utterly surprised was not part of the original recipe, you must add a bit of fresh green cilantro to the top. This is a VERY Thai thing to do. Cilantro is eaten in many far Eastern countries. I really felt that this splash of green really tied things in together.

WARNING: While making this dish, something very extraordinary happened. As I was melting the brown sugar in the oil to make the base for the sauce…the brown sugar got lumpy…and then turned to rocks…and so I thought I burned it…but I kept stirring…and I kept applying slight pressure to the brown sugar rock formations all over my pan and the heat eventually melted all the rocks down into a nice toasty, nutty syrup…which was an interesting and harrowing experience. But if you find yourself thinking you’ve completely ruined the dish and your brown sugar starts seizing up on you…JUST….KEEP….STIRRING. It’s amazing the things you discover when you don’t know what you’re doing….at all.

All in all I felt this was a very wholesome, filling, and satisfying meal filled with complex carbs and protein like chicken and peanut butter. I understand those of you that have not tried Thai food you may be a little skeptical about the peanut butter/chicken combination. All I can say is…don’t knock it until you try it. It’s actually very tasty. I hope you enjoyed this recipe test! Let me know if you try it.

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Eat, Pray, Love,

Katie

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