It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.
I love Chinese food and often resort to getting take out in order to fulfill my cravings. But more often than not I am disappointed. The food arrives soggy and lukewarm and lacks the real flavors I’m craving. But the reality is that so many Chinese dishes are incredibly easy and quick to make so there really isn’t any reason not to make them yourself.
Case in point is this kung po chicken dish from Noble Pig. It is fast, delicious and because you are making it yourself you can adjust the spiciness to your liking, which in my case is very hot. The key to ensuring that your dish is fresh and flavorful is to prep all of your ingredients before you begin cooking. Do this and not only will your meal be great but it will be done and on the table in a flash. Enjoy!
CASHEW KUNG PO CHICKEN
1-1/3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2″ pieces
5 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sherry
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons cooking oil
3/4 cup cashews
4 scallions, white bulbs and green tops cut separately into 1/2″ pieces
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, more or less depending upon your preferences
- In a medium bowl, toss the chicken with 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of the sherry and 1 tablespoon of the cornstarch.
- In a small bowl, combine the sugar, vinegar, sesame oil, water and the remaining 4 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of sherry and 2 teaspoons of cornstarch.
- In a large wok, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over moderately high heat.
- Add the cashews, stirring until light brown, about 30 seconds. Remove from the pan.
- Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in the wok.
- Add the white part of the scallions and the red-pepper flakes to the pan and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.
- Add the chicken with its marinade and cook, stirring, until almost done, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add the soy sauce mixture and the scallion tops and simmer until the chicken is just done, about 1 minute longer.
- Stir in the cashews.
- Serve over steamed rice.
Boneless chicken breasts are a cook’s best friend and for this reason I always have a package in the freezer just waiting to be turned into dinner. Some weeks we may eat chicken every night of the week yet never tire of it because what is served on top creates variety. Neutral in flavor and incredibly versatile, they can be dressed up or down. A simple sauce can take them in one of many directions. And as is the case with this recipe, the classic combination of poultry and cranberries takes on a whole new meaning with the addition of a few extra ingredients.
A bread coating is the quickest way to give a chicken breast some crunch. But when you add toasted and chopped nuts to the breading mixture your results are extra crunchy and flavorful. And thanks to the addition of port, this cranberry sauce is anything but ordinary. If you are pressed for time, you can also make the cranberry port sauce ahead of time then simply reheat over low heat while the chicken breasts are cooking.
To complete the comfort factor of this dish I served it alongside oven roasted sweet potatoes and steamed greens.
CRISPY CASHEW CHICKEN w/ CRANBERRY-PORT SAUCE
For the sauce:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 small shallot, minced
1 cup fresh cranberries
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup tawny port
1 teaspoon cornstarch
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan set over medium-high heat.
- Add the shallot and saute until soft and fragrant, about 4 to 5 minutes.
- Add the cranberries and sugar and cook until the sugar has melted.
- Add the chicken broth and port to the berries, turn the temperature to high and bring to boil.
- Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. You want the flavors to meld and the cranberries to begin to break down slightly.
- In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of water. Mix the cornstarch into the cranberry mixture and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
- Turn the heat to low and keep warm until ready to serve.
For the chicken:
4 boneless-skinless chicken breasts halves, pounded flat
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup toasted cashews, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
- Place the egg in a shallow dish.
- In a separate shallow dish combine the breadcrumbs, sage, salt, pepper and cashews.
- Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet set over medium high heat.
- Dip the chicken into the egg then dredge in the crumb and nut mixture being sure to coat both sides of the breasts.
- Place the chicken breasts in the skillet and cook for 4 minutes. Flip the chicken and cook for an additional 4 to 5 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
- Serve topped with the cranberry sauce.