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Chinese Cashew Chicken

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I love Chinese food.  Part of what I love about it, I can’t deny, is the convenience – there are some days when I’m working late and I know that I am going to get home at the end of the dinner hour, maybe 8:30 or so, still hungry but much too tired to start cooking.  On those kind of nights, having Chinese takeout waiting for me is one of the ways that my hubby shows me he loves me.  Still, it’s not the healthiest option there is, especially when you add spring rolls to the equation.  I always feel a little bit guilty…

I do love the flavors of Chinese food, both the high-end restaurant food and our little takeout place, but I always wonder what’s in it that makes it taste so good.  Making a Chinese-style entree at home has been on my list for awhile; I’ve been hoping to trim the fat a little and find out more about those flavors that I enjoy.  This Cashew Chicken is perfect for that.  It is quickly sauteed, instead of breaded and deep fried, so it’s lighter than a takeout entree by far.  And I modified the original recipe to include wilted bok choy for some green – so much the better!  Next time you are in the mood for Chinese food, don’t reach for the phone.  Reach for the cashews instead, and whip up this lighter treat.

Chinese Cashew Chicken

1 1/2 pounds (or thereabouts) skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cubed
2 tablespoons dry sherry
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
3 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
kosher salt
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown rice vinegar
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup unsalted cashews, toasted briefly
1 head bok choy, in ribbons
1 recipe cooked white rice, for serving

  • In a medium bowl, combine cubed chicken with sherry, ginger, 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch, and salt to season.  Marinate the mixture in the refrigerator 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine chicken broth, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar and 2 teaspoons cornstarch.  Set aside.
  • When the chicken is finished marinating, heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil until shimmering in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add the chicken and saute until golden brown and completely cooked (in batches if necessary so as not to crowd the pan) and transfer to a plate.
  • In the same skillet, add another tablespoon of oil and wilt the bok choy.  When the bok choy is completely wilted, add the cashews and grated garlic; cook about 30 seconds while moving the garlic around constantly with your spoon.  Return the chicken to the skillet and pour the sauce over.  Toss everything together about 30 seconds, until the sauce thickens.
  • Serve over cooked white rice.

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Source: Adapted from Everyday Food, October 2009

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