From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...I'm not sure there is anything more American than Chinese take-out food. Most of our Chinese favorites bear no resemblance to the food that's actually served in China, but those menu standards have worked their way to the American table, and they've refuse to surrender their seats when new foods and other cuisines have come to town. Why do we hang on to these old favorites? I have a hunch they were nursery food for many of us. They exposed us to what seemed exotic in a safe and non-threatening environment, and, for the older among us anyway, they were treats and associated with special occasions. There was one restaurant in the neighborhood where I was raised. It was run by a Chinese couple who lived in the back of the store, and on my fourth birthday, they introduced me to the wonders of egg foo yung, chop suey and fortune cookies. I was hooked and it is an addiction I've never quite overcome. I have a stash of classic carryout recipes that are among the most used in my files. I love them because they are quick, easy and reliable and they were the spark that kindled my interest in Asia and began my great love affair with the region, its food and its people. Chicken with cashews is a classic Chinese-American dish. It's called a stir-fry but that really is a misnomer. Chinese food is tossed not stirred and the only trick to this type of cooking is advanced preparation. If an ingredient is going into the wok, it must be ready to go before you fire up your pan. There is no stop and go in this type of cooking. Once you begin, it's full speed ahead. This dish is actually easy to make because it uses so few ingredient and it can be on the table in about 20 minutes. I hope those of you who like Chinese-American take-out will give this recipe a try. I think you'll find your creation is better than what you can buy and, bottom line, it certainly will have more cashews. Here's the recipe.
Chinese Chicken with Cashews...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite
2 tablespoons sherry or shaoxing wine
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 pound uncooked chicken breasts or thighs, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ginger, minced
3/4 cup celery, trimmed and cut in 1/2-inch dice
1 cup dry roasted salted cashews
3 tablespoons green onions, chopped
1) Combine sherry, water, soy sauce, cornstarch, sugar, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Stir until ingredients are well mixed and form a smooth sauce. Set aside.
2) Heat wok or skillet over high heat. When pan is hot, add oil and swirl to coat pan. Add garlic and ginger and stir-fry until shiny and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chicken in a single layer and cook without stirring for about 30 seconds. Toss chicken and stir-fry until chicken changes color, about 1 minute longer.
3) Add celery and stir-fry until it is bright green and chicken is cooked through, about 1 to 2 minutes longer. Add sherry mixture and toss well. Cook until slightly thickened.
4) Add cashews and green onions. Toss to thoroughly combine with chicken and celery. Serve immediately. Yield:4 servings.
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