Smackdown: Nuts 4 Nuts


I am deeply, deeply satisfied. Like, if I were a smoker, I’d be lighting one up right about now.


Sometimes, Smackdowns fail spectacularly despite one’s best efforts. Sometimes, they are destined to fail.  Sometimes, they are absolutely astounding but too time-consuming to make it into the regular lineup, and sometimes they quickly become go-to meals.

It’s always especially exciting to run across the latter and expand the weeknight repertoire, and tonight we did just that with spicy, garlicky, cashew chicken from The Essential New York Times Cookbook.

This chicken is totally worth the price of admission. And I didn’t even get this book on sale, so that’s saying something.


I can’t say enough good things about the spicy, garlicky, cashew sauce, which was so good that Brian and I kept sneaking licks of it out of the bowl. Best of all, it takes zero work other than plugging in the FoPro and roughly hacking at a coupla cloves of garlic.

Cashews, garlic, fresh jalapeño, cilantro, soy sauce, veg oil, brown sugar and a little water go into the FoPro, you whiz, and the most wonderfully complex sauce emerges. With the ribs and seeds left in half the chile, the heat level was just right, and all the flavors were in perfect balance, with no one trying to be a show-stealer.


In step 2A, you fetch some chicken thighs from the refrigerator and put them in a bowl that’s obviously too small for tossing them around in the sauce, creating an extra dish to wash for no good reason because it was quite clear from the get-go that the bowl was inadequately sized; however, you do not feel too bad about this because you know you will not be doing the dishes tonight.

In step 2B, you put the chicken in a normal-size but less photogenic bowl and toss it around with about 2/3 of the sauce. (You’ve reserved the other 1/3 for dipping and pre-dinner snacking.)


The slathered chicken goes into a hot oven (or onto a grill) to crispify. Here, I admit that I had to diverge from the recipe as written slightly: I was instructed to either grill or broil the chicken, but after a few minutes under the broiler it became evident that the nuts in the sauce would burn to a crisp long before the chicken was cooked through, so I decided just to bake it on high heat instead. I know you’ll forgive me.


While the chicken cooked, I boiled up some coconut rice. Apparently, the only way I can cook rice without overcooking it and scorching it to the bottom of the pot is if I cook it in coconut milk for precisely 18 minutes, no more, no less. Comes out perfect every single time, by which I mean the two times I’ve done it. But that’s two times more than I’ve managed to cook rice perfectly before, so I’m sticking with it.

spicy, garlicky, cashewy

A mound of rice, a piece of chicken, some extra sauce for dipping and lime wedges to perk everything up, and a truly wonderful meal is on the table. Perfectly moist chicken – huzzah for dark meat – with a crisp, spicy, garlicky, salty, tangy, sweet, nutty, umami-y crust. It’s excellently paired with the slighly sweet coconut rice, and the extra sauce for additional slathering is a must.

I tell you now that we will be eating the holy hell out of this sauce on grilled meat ALL SUMMER LONG. I’m going to eat it on chicken. I’m going to eat it on pork. I’m going to dip grilled veggies in it. I’m going to make giant vats of it in the full-size FoPro, use it to fill a kiddie pool in the backyard and lounge around in it; that’s how freaking good it is.

And, I totally want to make, like, every other recipe in this book. Which is also fun to read, with entertaining and witty headnotes for many of the recipes.

To sum up: buy this book, and make this chicken.

(Or: get the recipe online)

19 thoughts on “Smackdown: Nuts 4 Nuts

  1. Sweet! I’ve been looking for the perfect recipe to break in my copy of this cookbook. It’s on my list for this weekend. Grazie!

  2. trick #1 to perfect rice: buy a rice cooker

    trick #2 to perfect rice: put the rice, salt and a little margarine/butter into a microwave safe bowl (large bowl so there’s room for it not not boil over) add double the rice measure of water. stick into the microwave and microwave on high for 8 minutes then for 10-12 minutes on medium high. even if there’s some over-boiling it’s easy to clean up and the rice won’t scorch. it’s also much easier to clean up a microwave plate than a stove top.

  3. oh, make sure the bowl is covered with a microwave cover to keep the water from boiling away too quickly.

    this is the way we cooked rice for years until we got a rice cooker.

  4. Glad I’m not the only person completely incapable of cooking stove-top rice. My rice cooker finally bit the dust last year after 12 good years of service, and I scorched pot after pot of rice. My husband can’t understand how I can cook so well but kill rice. Finally gave up and got another rice cooker.

  5. I don’t have the book – but did print out the recipe from the back in 2007 and have made it several times. I prefer to season the chicken and use unsalted roasted cashews instead and, I agree, baking is better with a quick few minutes under the broiler at the end.

  6. I kick ass at rice. My secret is the glass lid – you can see when it’s ready without having to take the lid off and let the steam out, so nothing dries to the bottom of the pan. Then: as soon as there are “eyes” in the rice and they don’t have water bubbling out of them anymore. Dunzo. Perfect rice.

  7. That chicken is going to be dinner in my house very soon! I have a set of those old “Visions” by Corning pots, and I swear, perfect rice every time. It’s completely clear so you never have to guess or peek. I always use one for popcorn too so I can satisfy my inner child and watch it pop.

  8. Didn’t buy the book, got the recipe off the internet. This is amazing and yummy, and I want to bathe in the sauce. I made enough to drench the cooked chicken in, and omg. Taste explosion. Jalapenos and cilantro and garlic, OH MY.

    I will make this again. What other meat can I ruin with this stuff? :)

  9. Hi Michelle, Do I have to buy the book to get the recipe? I offered to make this for Kerry tomorrow night but don’t have the recipe?

  10. I haven’t even baked the chicken yet, but made this sauce for a dinner party tonight, and I am struggling not to eat it all with a spoon before guests arrive! Thanks so much for posting it!

  11. so I’ve been reading for a little while and haven’t commented before but I just made this and the chicken is in the oven and OMG the sauce is delicious. I was a little worried initially because I only have an immersion blender but it worked like a charm and I can’t stop eating the sauce. It’s like crack.

  12. emily and dinah, glad you loved it too! i freely admit to eating leftover sauce with pita bread like a dip. i don’t think there’s any shame in that.

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