Tuesday, April 27, 2010

One dish wonder.

There is beauty in an all-in-one dish weeknight dinner.  Making ONE thing is attractive to me, instead of assembling various side dishes, dressings, marinades, and salads to go with an entrée, as I am wont to do on any given night.  I don’t see it as a cop out because seriously, I can’t be a magician in the kitchen every night.  Sometimes I want to sit down to dinner less than an hour after I start making it.  Especially after my hellish daily commute home from the city. Seriously.

I am fully aware that I’m not blowing your mind with this sentiment – probably hundreds of cookbooks and magazines have devoted countless pages and recipes to this very idea, which has been embraced by pretty much anyone who is responsible for feeding themselves or others on a regular basis.  But – I haven’t yet posted on just this sort of dish in the now 4 months that I’ve been keeping this blog…and I think it’s about time!

I’ve actually been dabbling in a lot of Asian cooking lately (more on that as I delve into this), and am happy to say that I’ve built myself a nice pantry of the basic staples.  And there can be no better marriage of the perfect one dish meal, and Asian cuisine, than fried rice.  It contains every part of dinner one might be looking for, and when you make this dish yourself you can control the oil, sugar and salt content, which can be way overdone in its takeout brethren.

There is room in my heart for a zillion variations on this delectable Eastern go-to, but one of my very favorites is brimming with chicken and egg, and dotted with cashews, chilies, garlic, scallions and fragrant basil. It’s sweet and savory in a decidedly Thai sort of way, and really only takes about 40 minutes tops to throw together.  Absolutely crave worthy for minimal effort.

Chicken Cashew Fried Rice with Basil and Chilies
Adapted from Nest Magazine
Serves 2, but is easily doubled for 4

2 cups cooked jasmine rice
1 egg
a splash of milk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 red chilies, sliced
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into strips *see below for suggestion
¼ cup salted cashews, chopped
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
5 scallions, trimmed, whites and greens thinly sliced
6 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped

Cook rice per package instructions.  While rice is cooking, heat a tiny splash of oil in a small skillet over medium heat.  Whisk egg and milk together until just combined.  Cook in skillet until just done – do not scramble, but rather cook as a thin omelette. Cut into thin strips and set aside.

Heat oil in a wok over medium high heat.  Fry garlic until golden and fragrant.  Add chilies, chicken and cashews.  Stir fry until chicken is cooked through.

Add rice, sugar, fish sauce and soy sauce.  Cook over medium high heat stirring constantly to coat, until liquid is absorbed.  Once blended, add the scallions, basil and egg strips.  Cook one more minute and serve hot.

*I learned a great chicken cutting technique from a Cooks Illustrated recipe a while back, which works great with this fried rice.  As you’re slicing the chicken breast, slice with the grain as you normally would.  You’re aiming for ¼ inch slices here.  As you make the cut, flatten the slice of chicken so that it smashes against the cutting board with the back of your knife, as you pull the knife toward you.  This tenderizes each strip, helping them to cook faster and have a much more enjoyable texture!

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