Monday, January 21, 2008

Cashew Chicken

For years, I ordered nothing but cashew chicken (and won ton soup, of course) when I went to Chinese restaurants. I never ordered anything else because I loved cashew chicken so so much, and I needed to take advantage of every opportunity I had to get some. Then one day I saw RR make it and I thought, wait, why haven't I been making this at home?

Rachael's isn't exactly traditional though. It has chipotle in adobe in it, which is very spicy, and I'm a wuss. I'm nowhere near chipotle level. I'm getting better though. I remember a time when I didn't use garlic; I don't remember what sort of food I was eating then, but I know it must not have been very good. The recent adoption of andouille into my repertoire was quite a milestone for me, and lately I've been known to incorporate a jalapeño or two, although always meticulously seeded and deveined. But I'm just not on board with the chipotle in adobe yet.

I made this dish for the first time months ago. I wasn't able to find chipotle in adobe in my store, so I got some chipotle chili powder, which Rachael said could be substituted. The recipe calls for 1 1/2 tablespoons, so, knowing myself, I used only 1 scant tablespoon. I stirred some in and tasted it, and--I'll never forget this--I couldn't believe how hot it was. I kept adding more of the other ingredients, trying to save the dish, but even though I was able to decrease the heat level a bit, there is no getting rid of that chipotle flavor. It is strong, and it permeates everything it touches. And, aside from the heat, I find I'm not that crazy about the flavor of it. Although I do enjoy the chipotle mayonnaise on a Sierra Turkey Sandwich from Panera. But I think mayo could make me love anything.

Anyway, I made the dish again, this time without the chipotle. It's really very good. It's not exactly like you would get in a restaurant, but it's close. It has its own unique flavor that I appreciate. I never would have believed that a sauce made from honey, maple syrup, and cumin would give me what I was after, but it works.

Now when I make it, I leave mine spice-free and stir in some chipotle powder at the end or sprinkle some on top for my fiancé, who likes it spicy. And when I go to Chinese restaurants, I find that I no longer have a problem giving other dishes a try. I've discovered that sesame chicken is quite tasty.

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