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.
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)