Cashew Chicken on a Pan

With a little prep time the night before, this can be a very quick to the table weeknight dinner. Chop the chicken up and store in one container in the fridge. Chop the vegetables into bite sized pieces and store in a separate container. Finally, make up the sauce and have it at hand when you’re ready to cook. Dinner will be done in about 30 minutes.

Sheet Pan Cashew Chicken Recipe

Ingredients

Cut everything into bite sized pieces

  • 1 pound Boneless Skinless Chicken (breasts or thighs both work)
  • Approximately 3 -4 cups of mixed raw vegetables. Good choices are cauliflower, bell peppers, red onion, green beans, broccoli florets, carrot slices. Use what’s in your fridge, according to what your family’s tastes.
  • 1 cup of raw cashews

Sauce ingredients

  • 2/3 cup Soy Sauce low sodium
  • 34 Tbsp. Cider Vinegar or Rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. Honey
  • 1 Tsp. Sesame Oil
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp of Garlic Ginger Paste OR 2-3 cloves garlic and 1″ minced ginger
  • 12 tsp. Salt
  • 12 tsp. Pepper
  • pinch of Red Pepper Flakes
  • 2 Tbsp. Cornstarch
  • 12 Cup Water
  • Juice of 1 lime optional

Directions

  1. In a medium sauce pan, combine all of the sauce ingredients. Heat on medium-high to a boil. Lower heat to medium low and stir frequently until the sauce thickens. It will be quite thick and will thin out in the oven as the chicken and vegetables release their moisture. Take the sauce off the heat and set aside for step 5
  2. Preheat oven to 375 F
  3. Line a 9×13 baking dish or sheet pan with foil for easy cleanup.
  4. Spread chicken evenly over the baking sheet
  5. Pour approximately 1 cup of the sauce over the chicken. Toss with tongs to coat evenly with the sauce.
  6. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes
  7. Remove from oven and add your the mixed vegetables and cashews to the pan. Add the remaining sauce and toss to coat the ingredients with the sauce.
  8. Bake another 12-15 minutes until chicken is completely cooked and vegetables are tender.
  9. Serve with cooked rice.

Keep cooking and we’ll talk later.

Kate


Seafood Pasta Sauce

I’m lucky to live in one of the most seafood rich markets in the world. We grow the best lobster, and the best mussels money can buy (Sorry, Belgium). With these blessings on our doorstep, you can bet our cooks have come up with some great ways of enjoying it. This seafood pasta sauce is great served as the filling on a simple lasagna or a penne bake. A sauce like this can instantly elevates a simple plate of plain cooked spaghetti to a full-fledged feast.

Seafood Pasta Sauce

Course: Kitchen Basics

Yield: 4 cups

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 shallot finely minced
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 2 Tbs all-purpose flour or favourite GF substitute
  • 14 tsp salt
  • 18 tsp pepper
  • 18 tsp nutmeg
  • 14 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 12 cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • 34 cup milk (any fat percentage)
  • 14 cup heavy cream 35% fat or your market equivalent
  • 14 cup grated cheese Cheddar, Gruyere, Swiss etc
  • 12 cup cooked lobster cubed
  • 12 cup cooked shrimp diced
  • 12 cup seared scallops diced
  • 1 fresh lemon, juiced or 2 Tbsp bottled lemon juice
  • chopped parsley for garnish – optional

Directions

  1. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat.
  2. When the frothing has subsided, add shallots and cook lightly until soft.
  3. Add mushrooms and continue to cook until the mushrooms release their moisture.
  4. Sprinkle flour over top the cooked vegetables and stir, allowing the flour to cook slightly and combine with the butter.
  5. Add the broth and stir, followed by milk. Stir well while the sauce thickens. Do not boil. Remove from heat once the sauce has thickened.
  6. Add cream and stir.
  7. Add the seasonings – salt, pepper, nutmeg, cayenne (or hot pepper flakes) and stir.
  8. Add the cooked seafood and stir gently enough to mix. Add lemon juice.
  9. Taste and adjust seasonings as required.
  10. When serving, reheat until hot over medium heat. Will keep in the fridge for 2 days.

Keep cooking and we’ll talk later.

Kate


Basic stir fry sauce

Compared to the price of the ingredients, bottled stir fry sauce is frightfully expensive. This is a basic recipe that works well with meat or vegetarian stir fries. Use it like you would the bottled versions. It can also be made ahead to help save time on those busy week nights.

Basic stir fry sauce

Course: Kitchen basics

Cuisine: Asian

Ingredients

  • 23 cup soy sauce low sodiium
  • 12 cup chicken broth low sodium
  • 13 cup rice wine or rice vinegar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. sugar or honey
  • 1 Tbsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 2 Tbsp. cornstarch

Directions

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a Mason jar with a lid and shake to blend. When the stir fry vegetables are as done as you want, push them to the side of the pan/wok. Pour the stir fry into the pan and let it thicken. This will only take a minute or so. Take the pan/wok off the heat. Pull the stir fry ingredients through the sauce and serve.
  2. Alternative directions — put all the ingredients in a medium-size saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat. Stir frequently until the mixture comes to a boil.. Whisk to ensure it remains smooth while it thickens. It can be refrigerated for a week.

Keep cooking and we’ll talk later.

Kate


How to get your sear on

“sear” by michelle@TNS is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of electric pressure cookers and slow cookers. I think they’re an amazing help for busy cooks who want to provide quality meals for themselves and their families. I love how they relatively straightforward to use and that they let people take advantage of some of the cheaper cuts of meats. They’re really useful for making soups, or stews and I used them almost exclusively to cook beans.

What I don’t like is they have been used to advance this idea that all ingredients can be dumped into the cooker and voila, you walk away. No, no, no, no, no. This “dump and go” technique cheats the cook and diminishes the meal by not maximizing the flavour that was available but not utilized.

What on earth am I babbling about? I’m talking about the art of searing — particularly meat, but I’m going to expand it a little by including vegetables. And to help my gentle readers to understand the importance of this oft forgotten step, I’m going to geek out with a little cooking chemistry.

The Millard reaction.

Would you grill a nice steak or would you boil it? For most of us, this is no brainer. Part of what makes a steak delicious is that brown crust on the exterior. Regardless of the level of doneness we want in the interior of our steak (rare, medium or ruined), few people would give up that complex explosion of tastes on the exterior. That bit of tasty is brought to you by the Maillard reaction, named after the French scientist who investigated the chemistry in the early 1900s.

Simply put, the Maillard reaction takes place on the surface of proteins when they are heated. The amino acids and naturally occurring sugars combine and as they continue to heat, the newly formed molecules break apart and recombine. When you’re searing your steak, literally thousands of chemical reactions are taking place, adding colour, texture and most importantly, flavour to the food. This can be replicated in a chemistry lab (that’s what food additives often are) but not as easily as it’s done in your frying pan.

There’s three things to remember when searing meat. One, the pan has to be hot and the oil needs to be hot. Two, sear in small batches, please. The pan can’t be crowded. And third, water will retard the Maillard reaction.

Drying the meat makes all the difference

The first step to ensuring you get a good sear on your meat is to surface dry the meat with a kitchen towel or paper towel. Pat it gently to absorb the surface moisture and this will allow the meat to sear as soon as it hits the pan. If you wish to season the meat with salt and pepper before cooking it, do this after drying the meat.

The second step of a successful sear is a HOT pan. Which pan, you ask? You want something that is heavy enough to hold the heat. Many recipes will call for a pan with a non-stick coating. Not needed, for reasons I’ll go into shortly. What you do need is a pan that can take the heat, which can compromise a non-stick coating. My preference is my standby cast iron frying pan. It’s well seasoned after years of use and proper care. While I’m an ardent fan of the Instant Pot, and the manufacturer has a “saute” function for browning, it doesn’t do the trick for searing, in my opinion. One, it’s not heavy enough to hold heat. Secondly, compared to a frying pan, the liner is narrow and tall. This just traps moisture coming out of the meat and results in it steaming the meat as opposed to searing.

Small batches; hot pan

The Maillard reaction takes place between 280 and 330 degrees F (140-165C). I put the cast iron frying pan on a high burner and allow it to heat up. After that pan is hot, add about 1 Tbsp of oil (something with a reasonably high smoking point) and turn the heat down to medium high. When the oil shimmers but before it starts smoking, add the surface dried meat in small amounts. If the pan is overcrowded, you’ll get the situation where the meat steams instead of searing. You will probably have to do a few batches in order to do up enough for a stew. The goal here is not to cook the meat through. You’re looking to only brown the exterior of the meat.

Allow the meat to just sit in the pan for a few minutes. If you try to move or flip the meat and it’s stuck to the bottom, let it sit a while longer. When the meat is seared and brown, it will automatically release from the surface of the frying pan. That’s why a non-stick coating pan is not required, and seriously, high heat really encourages that coating to break down more rapidly. Those pans are expensive enough without doing anything to reduce their lifespan.

Toss those onions into the hot pan and let them soften

Once all your meat is browned, add any of the aromatics and other root vegetables to the pan. Onions, garlic and other ingredients produce a better flavour if you take the time to soften and brown them before adding to your main stew pot. The oil in the frying pan helps extract the oil-soluble flavour compounds. The liquid in the stew will take care of the water soluble compounds. Technically speaking, the browning of the onions etc is not the Maillard reaction. Carmelization, which is what happens to the onions as they brown, is based on chemical reactions happening to sugar as it is heated. The Maillard reaction is reserved to amino acids in proteins.

In this case, the liquid in my dish was a can of diced tomatoes

Finally, you’ll want to de-glaze your frying pan. The little brown crunchy bits stuck to the bottom of the frying pan are full-on flavour bombs. To release this yumminess into your dish, take a small amount of whatever cooking liquid the recipe calls for and pour it into the still hot pan. Liquids usually used for de-glazing are wine, stock or just plain water. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up those bit and pour it into man dish.

So there you have it. The major takeaway here is to maximize flavour in your dishes, take the time to brown the meat and aromatics. Keep the meat dry, use a hot pan and a small amount of oil. It really does take that crockpot stew to the next level.


Kitchen basics: Taco seasoning

I can’t help but shake my head at the price for commercial seasoning mixes. In addition to being heavily laden with salt and/or sugar, they also create a lot of garbage waste with the packaging.

Here’s a remedy that let’s you control the amount of salt as well as coming in a reusable package! Use it freely for chilis, tacos, burritos or anywhere else you might be looking for a little kick. And if there’s a seasoning you don’t like, just omit it.

Homemade Taco Seasoning

Course: Kitchen basics

Cuisine: Mexican

Prep Time: 5 min

Total Time: 5 min

Yield: 1.5 cups

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons chili powder
  • 4 tablespoons cumin
  • 2 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tsp chipotle powder ( optional)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoon dried minced onion or 1 tsp onion powder (not salt)
  • 2 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoon corn starch (optional)

Directions

  1. Add all the spices to a mason jar. Close and shake until fully combined.
  2. 2 Tablespoons of the mix is equivalent to 1 package of commercial seasoning

Plov: The Instant Pot Edition

The inspiration for this column came from an article in the Guardian that was written a couple of years ago. It reminded me how much I love all these rice dishes from the region, whether its origins are Iraq, Iran, or other parts of Central Asia.

I am convinced that there are as many recipes for Plov, a meat-vegetable-rice one-dish deliciousness, as there are Uzbeki grandmothers. It’s all part of a great regional rice tradition that fits into the umbrella term of pilaf or pilau.

Sheep farming is an important part of this nation’s agricultural tradition and so plov is usually made with lamb or mutton. Chicken and beef are also used but to a lesser extent. Vegetarian versions are less common but not unknown. I’ve chosen to offer a vegetarian version this time but I’m sure there will be meat editions coming in the future. Also in the future, I will publish a stove-top version of this dish for those who don’t enjoy an Instant Pot in their kitchen.

Jeweled Rice

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Basmati Rice or other long grained rice
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 1 large onion finely diced
  • 2 carrots grated
  • 2 stalks celery roughly chopped
  • 2 – inch piece of ginger, grated or 2 tsps of dry ginger
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 3 tsp salt , divided or to taste
  • 1 12 cup mixed dried fruits raisins, apricots, prunes, dates, currants etc
  • 1 head whole garlic head sliced in half horizontally
  • 2 12 cups hot water
  • 14 cup chopped nuts pistachios, almonds or pecans
  • 12 cup fresh pomegranate seeds for garnish
  • parsley (or cilantro) to garnish

Directions

  1. Wash and soak the rice until the water runs clear. Allow it to soak for a couple of hours. Drain well.
  2. Finely chop the assorted dried fruits into equal-sized ‘bits’. Set aside
  3. Set the Instant Pot to saute mode. Add 1 tbsp of oil to the pot and allow it to heat to “Hot”. Add onion and stir frequently until it is golden.
  4. Add ginger, coriander and 1 tsp of the salt. Allow it to continue cooking until aromatic.
  5. Cancel the saute function (off button) for the Instant Pot.
  6. Add the dried fruit bits on top. Mix the remaining 2 tsps of salt with the drained rice. Add the rice to the pot but DO NOT MIX. Smooth it with the back of a spoon.
  7. Using the end of a wooden spoon, poke five to six holes in rice all the way through to the bottom of the pot.
  8. Press the cut garlic into the rice. Again, do not stir or mix.
  9. Slowly, being careful to not disturb the rice, pour the 2-1/2 cups of hot water into the cooking pot.It helps to pour the water over the back of a serving spoon to make its flow more gentle.
  10. Cover and seal the Instant Pot. Set it for the “rice” cooking setting (approximately 12 minutes or if you prefer a manual setting, cook for 8 minutes on high pressure.
  11. Allow the cooker to depressurize for 10 minutes before opening.
  12. After opening, remove the garlic head halves and gently mix the contents of the pot. If you’re a fan of roast garlic, feel free to squeeze the cloves back into the dish.
  13. Traditionally, this dish is served on a large serving platter. Once the rice/vegetable mixture has been plated, sprinkle the top of the dish with the “jewels” — chopped parsley, chopped cilantro if you prefer, chopped nuts, and the pomegranate seeds.

How to press tofu

There’s a basic all-purpose tofu marinade at the bottom of this page.

Remove the tofu from its packaging and drain any remaining liquid from it.

Fold a kitchen towel to make a medium sized rectangle. Line with a folded paper towel. Set the tofu on the top third of the towel . Wrap the top of the tofu block with the kitchen towel by folding the bottom 2/3s up and over the tofu block.

Set a small cutting board on top of the tofu. Weight it down with something heavy, like a 28-ounce can of tomatoes or a cast iron frying pan. Allow the tofu block to press for 15 to 30 minutes.

Remove the weight and drain off the excess liquid. Pat the tofu dry with more towels. Slice the pressed tofu into cubes, thick rectangles, or sticks, according to how you plan to use it.

The tofu will now be able to accept a marinade or is ready for a starch coating.

A good all-purpose tofu marinade

Course: Kitchen basics

Yield: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 pkg Extra Firm Tofu – drained and pressed
  • 3 Tbsp Rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp Maple syrup
  • 3 Tbsp Tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp Soy sauce or Tamari
  • 1.5 Tbsp garlic/ginger paste or 2 cloves garlic, 1 Tbsp minced ginger.

Directions

  1. Cut the drained and pressed tofu into the shape you want.
  2. Mix all remaining ingredients in a bowl. Add tofu and mix gently. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours. Food safety: uncooked tofu must be refrigerated.
  3. Cook as called for in your recipe. If grilling, use the leftover marinade to brush onto the tofu burgers, kebabs, etc.