The first time I visited my besty at her super grown up apartment in Boston, she made this great cashew chicken stir-fry with wild rice, wrapped in sweet buttery Boston lettuce wraps. Applause for the best nester I know! Anyway, it’s a RealSimple recipe, so it qualifies as quick and simple, but it includes more ingredients than the typical RS dinner, for a surprisingly sophisticated result. And the eaters always declare it better than pricey lettuce wraps at our local pan-asian restaurants.
I’m not a big fan of wild rice, so I make this with Thai Sticky Rice, which is quick & awesome, but 1) you have to buy the right stuff–called “Thai sticky rice” or “Thai sweet rice” and imported from Thailand, and 2) you have to soak it in water for at least an hour first, to release its sticky qualities. The original recipe calls for it to steam wrapped in cheesecloth; I find cheesecloth weird and flimsy, so I use my nut-milk bag, but any sort of steamable bag would work. I include the other ingredients because they are complimentary to the chicken, but plain sticky rice is very versatile. And any rice will work, but the sticky kind limits the mess in an already-messy dish.
Cashew Chicken Lettuce Wraps
serves 4; 30 minutes to table
4 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari (wheat-free soy sauce)
4 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2″ pieces
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 bunch scallions, trimmed and sliced
1 8-ounce can sliced water chestnuts, drained
1/4 cup roasted unsalted cashews
1 small head Boston or Bibb lettuce, leaves separated
1. Combine the soy sauce and honey in a small bowl. Set aside.
2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt & pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to brown, about 3 minutes.
3. Lower heat to medium and stir in the garlic and ginger. Add the scallions and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the water chestnuts and half the soy sauce mixture. Continue cooking until the chicken is cooked through, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and sprinkle with the cashews.
4. Divide the lettuce leaves among plates and spoon the chicken & rice over the top. Serve with the remaining soy sauce mixture for drizzling.
Thai Sticky Rice
from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman
serves 4; 1+ hrs soak + 20 mins cooking
1 cup thai sticky rice
1/4 cup chopped scallions
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 tb soy sauce
1 lime, juiced
1. Rinse the rice, then soak it in water for 1-24 hours.
2. Drain, then wrap the rice in cheesecloth. Put an inch of water in a lidded pot & bring to a boil, then put the rice in a steamer basket & steam for 25-30 minutes. Bittman says it’s impossible to overcook, so don’t worry if you leave it in there longer.
3. Toss the cooked rice with remaining ingredients. If it cools down too much, rewrap in cheesecloth and steam or microwave for a few minutes to reheat.