I know that there are a lot of ways to go about reverse engineering a recipe and one of my favorite ways is to take a bit of something and gently deconstruct the different flavors while the food is in my mouth. The only recipe I have still yet to reverse engineer is the Vietnamese Pho from Pho Van in the Strip District in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (If you are ever in Pittsburgh it is well worth the trip. Your mouth and tummy will thank you.). Their flavors were sublime and extraordinarily complex. However, I digress, and I need to get back to today’s recipe.
There I was having some Chinese takeout from a very respectable place down here in South Carolina and I was trying to do the flavor deconstruction thing with the Cashew Chicken that I was eating. The flavors that I was experiencing were good. They had great fresh ingredients and the sauce was very good but I could not help but see how it resembled barbecue sauce. The flavors I was experiencing had all the major players for cashew chicken, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, a hint of lemon grass, some garlic and hoisin sauce (I believe) but I kept thinking that I could do the sauce more simply. I wanted to have this recipe so that you would be able to do it on a week-night without any trouble. As anyone who reads this Blog knows, I am a person that violates my mother’s rule of “Don’t play with your food” and I did. I was able to substitute a commercially available (albeit high quality) sauce to get the same flavors I was experiencing in the restaurant sauce. One day maybe I will try my hand at making my own sauce for cashew chicken but for now, the recipe below is my twist. It turned out great! I hope you try it and let me know how yours turned out.
My Way – Cashew Chicken
Gary Bechard – The Well Fed Cyclist
Serves 4 – 6
1 lb – Chicken tenderloins, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 – Zucchini, medium size, cut into bite size pieces
1/2 – Red bell pepper, heavy diced (should be about 4 ounces)
1/2 – Green bell pepper heavy diced (should be about 4 ounces)
1/2 – Large sweet onion, heavy diced (should be about 4 ounces)
6 oz – Carrots, sliced (not too thick because they will be too crispy, not too thin because they will disappear in the cooking process)
2 – Broccoli crowns, cut into bite size pieces
4 oz – Mushrooms, sliced
4 to 6 oz – Cashews, lightly salted
1 tsp – Coarse ground, sea salt
1 tsp – Coarse ground black pepper
1 tsp – Ground ginger
10 0z – Sweet Baby Ray’s Hawaiian Barbecue Sauce (so I cheated a bit on the sauce)
3 to 4 tbsp. – Canola oil or peanut oil (A couple of good turns around the each of the pans will do great)
Construction Instruction (Chicken) –
In a large skillet, do a couple of good turns around the bottom of the pan with the canola (or peanut oil) and bring up to heat. When the oil is at temperature, put in the cubed chicken and cook like you would in a stir-fry. While the meat is cooking, season with salt, pepper and ginger remembering not to over season. When the meat is done remove it to a separate bowl to wait on the vegetables.
Construction Instruction (Vegetables) –
In a larger skillet (this will have to hold all of the ingredients at the end), do a couple of good turns around the bottom of the pan with the canola (or peanut oil) and bring up to heat. When the oil is at temperature, put in the onions, peppers, carrots, cashews, and begin to cook like you would in a stir-fry. Season the vegetables lightly with salt pepper and ginger. Note: I always do my vegetables going from hard to soft. As these vegetables begin to soften a bit, add in the zucchini, broccoli and finally the mushrooms. The idea for the vegetables is to not allow them get too soft, as you will want them to retain a bit of their crunchy texture.
Construction Instruction (The Finale)
Take your chicken and add this to the vegetable mixture and combine thoroughly. To this mixture, add the Sweet Baby Ray’s Hawaiian barbecue sauce and make sure that all the elements have been coated well. Over low heat, bring the mixture up to serving temperature.
I served this over rice.
The Well Fed Cyclist