Smart Food: Cashew Chicken, compliments of Kludgy Mom

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Guest Poster: Gigi from KludgyMom.com

This week I welcome Gigi, a stay at home mom who parents, cooks and lives haphazardly!  She blogs about it all at http://www.kludgymom.com

Straight out of Martha Stewart’s Great Food Fast is this recipe for cashew chicken. I am still a stir-fry novice; I’ve made some with flank steak a few times but needed to branch out and try some chicken. I love cashew chicken when I eat Chinese out – it’s one of my favorite dishes.   This was incredibly easy and fast to pull together and it tasted really good. I wouldn’t say it was exactly like cashew chicken you’d get in a restaurant, but still had great flavor and was inexpensive to prepare. The biggest endorsement I can give this dish is that my husband REALLY liked it and said so. His usual response to everything I make is “it’s good, hon”. It could be an amazing meal but his reactions are always pretty muted, so when he said how impressed he was with this dish on my first try at it, I knew it was a keeper.

Cashew Chicken (from Everyday Food: Great Food Fast by Martha Stewart Living)

Ingredients
¾ cup roasted, unsalted cashews (these are sometimes in the produce section) 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenderloins, cut into 1-1 ½ inch pieces* 2 tbsp cornstarch ½ teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 6 medium garlic cloves, minced (use a garlic press) 8 scallions (1 bunch), white and green parts separated, each cut into 1-inch pieces 2 tablespoons rice vinegar 4 tablespoons hoisin sauce ¼ cup water
Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. (Start cooking rice, if making.)
2. Place cashews on a baking sheet in a single layer. Toast in oven until fragrant, about 5 minutes. They will crisp up as they cool.
3. Place chicken pieces in large bowl and mix with cornstarch until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat evenly.
4. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil over high heat until very hot. Add half** the chicken to the skillet and stir-fry (stir as you cook) until lightly browned but not cooked through, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
5. Add the remaining tablespoon vegetable oil to the skillet; then add remaining chicken, garlic and white parts of the scallions. Stir-fry until the chicken is lightly browned but not cooked through, about 3 minutes. Return the first batch of chicken to the pan. Turn heat down to medium and add the rice vinegar; cook until evaporated, about 30 seconds.
6. Add the hoisin sauce and water; cook, tossing, until the chicken is cooked through, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Stir in the scallion greens and cashews. Serve immediately.
*Chicken pieces should all be roughly the same size so they cook evenly. Since chicken breasts are not uniform thickness, compensate by making the thinner pieces a bit bigger.
**The reason the chicken is cooked in two batches is because it will not sear properly if crowded into the pan. You want it in a single layer.

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