Garlicky Cashew Chicken

After a long dearth of poultry-related posts on this site, I have now given you two chicken recipes in a row. Forgive my poorly synchronized variety, but I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm any longer. I first tried this recipe back in December, and it has been haunting me since.

I love the unique flavor profile of this dish: it has a sweet, salty, spicy, umami combination of flavors with ingredients that smack of both East Asian and South American cuisines. I can never decide whether I would rather have this with rice or as an exotic taco filling, and I end up eating the whole batch before I reach a conclusion.

The good stuff that goes in the food processor

The original recipe calls for thighs or drumsticks and suggests either grilling or broiling. For one reason or another, the thought of dark meat with the cashew coating didn’t appeal to me, so I used chicken tenders the first time, and I have never looked back. As I do not own a grill, broiling was the only way to go, and I am more than satisfied with that decision as well. The chicken tenders cook super fast in the broiler, and they get perfectly done in the time it takes the topping to brown. The final result is a crispy, browned coating on juicy, tender chicken. And given that this recipe is also quick and easy to prepare, I give it my wholehearted endorsement in every regard.  Go eat this now!

Fun Fact: Cashews are a good source of magnesium, a mineral that is essential to the function of more than 300 enzymes in the body. Magnesium is also involved in bone formation, muscle and nerve function, and blood pressure regulation.

Garlicky Cashew Chicken

adapted from Melissa Clark’s “In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite”

1 cup roasted cashews, salted or unsalted, with additional cashews for garnish

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish

¼ cup olive oil

4 large cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 teaspoons brown sugar*

2 limes – 1 for juice, 1 cut into wedges for garnish

1 or 2 jalapeños, using as many or as few seeds as desired

2 tablespoons water

Salt and pepper to taste

1½ lbs. chicken tenders

Combine the cashews, 2 tablespoons cilantro, olive oil, garlic, soy sauce, brown sugar, lime juice, jalapeño, and water in a food processor or mini food processor (I’m confident a blender would work here too, though it may require more pausing to scrape down the sides), and grind together until smooth. Add salt to taste.

Preheat the broiler. Line a baking sheet with foil, and spray or coat lightly with oil. Season the chicken tenders with salt and pepper, and arrange bottom-side-up on the oiled baking sheet. Drop a generous spoonful of the cashew sauce over each tender, and use a separate utensil to spread over the surface of the chicken (DO NOT TOUCH THE SAUCE SPOON TO THE CHICKEN – IF YOU HAVE EXTRA SAUCE, YOU WANT IT TO BE SANITARY FOR CONSUMPTION).

Broil chicken for 5 minutes, then flip each tender and repeat the sauce spreading process on the smooth top sides. Broil for about 5 more minutes, or until the coating is golden brown, and the chicken’s internal temperature is 165 degrees F.

Sprinkle additional chopped cashews and chopped cilantro over the top, and serve with lime wedges and extra sauce, if any.

This chicken is delicious on its own and would also make a great lettuce wrap filling. Leftover sauce would be delicious on rice or as a sandwich spread (I’m thinking a BLT…mmmm….)

*I accidentally misread this as 2 tablespoons the last time I made this. It was still delicious, and it made the sauce brown up nicely. It certainly doesn’t need this much sugar, though.

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