When it comes to Thai food, the cuisine ranks among the top of our ethnic food preferences. This classic from Milk Street, Thai Stir-Fried Chicken with Cashews raised the bar as the best version we’ve made at home. We pretty much followed the recipe to a T, except exchanging a medium-large red pepper in place of the small one. Oh, and of course we increased the amount of cashews 😉
Milk Street’s version uses mostly pantry staples and can be on the table in about 30 minutes. The chicken marinates for 15 minutes before cooking, and you can prep the bell pepper and scallions in the meantime. Serve the stir-fry with steamed jasmine rice.
Tip: Don’t discard the marinade after draining the chicken. It’s mixed with ¼ cup water and becomes a sauce that lightly coats the chicken and vegetables.
With stir-fries, most commonly we use our carbon steel wok, but our large cast-iron skillet happened to be sitting on the stovetop that evening, so it became the vehicle of choice. Choose your weapon—I mean skillet—according to your own preference, but don’t use a non-stick otherwise the chicken won’t brown well, if at all.
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
¼ cup water
2 Tbsp. peanut oil
1 small red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and sliced into thin strips
1 bunch scallions, cut into 1-inch lengths; save some thinly sliced greens for garnish
1/2 cup roasted cashews, more for garnish if desired
In a medium bowl, whisk together the garlic, fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, cornstarch, pepper flakes and ¾ teaspoon white pepper. Stir in the chicken, then marinate at room temperature for at least 15 minutes.
Drain the chicken in a fine mesh strainer set over a medium bowl, pressing the chicken to remove excess marinade. Stir ¼ cup water into the marinade and set aside.
In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until barely smoking. Add the chicken in an even layer, then cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes.
Stir in the bell pepper, scallions and cashews. Stir the marinade mixture to recombine, add to the pan and bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits. Cook, stirring often, until the liquid thickens and clings to the chicken, about 2 minutes.
This recipe from Milk Street is an adaptation of one from “More Mexican Everyday” by Rick Bayless. Adding the shrimp at the end, after the rice has steamed, and allowing them to cook gently with residual heat ensures they are plump and tender and not overdone. Then layer in herbal notes by simmering minced cilantro stems with the rice, and folding in chopped cilantro leaves just before serving.
The entire bunch of cilantro goes into this one pot meal, so you’d better be committed. We happen to love the herb, but I know several folks who think it tastes like soap and/or have an issue digesting it. Parsley could be an option, but the flavor profile will be altogether different.
When looking at the ingredients, I thought why not use our homemade shellfish stock instead of chicken broth? Makes more sense when the star protein is shrimp. And speaking of the liquid component, do yourself a huge favor and read the amount necessary shown on the package of long grain rice that you are using.
The original recipe said to use two cups and that’s initially what we did. We checked the rice doneness after 15 minutes, again after 20 minutes and a final time at 25 minutes and the rice was STILL not done. Finally I checked the package which says to use 3 cups liquid per 1 1/2 cups rice, duh!
We had to remove the shrimp to a plate and cover with foil. Measure another cup of stock, heat it in the microwave, pour it back into the pan, cover and simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Then once again, remove the pan from the heat, add the shrimp back to the mixture, cover and let sit for a couple minutes more before adding the cilantro.
Just sayin’, read your rice package for the proper amount of liquid and save your self the headache… Then enjoy the feast, it was fabulous and the shrimp were tender and succulent.
Season the shrimp with ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper; set aside at room temperature.
In a large saucepan over medium, cook the oil and garlic, stirring often, until the garlic is just barely golden, 2 to 3 minutes.
Stir in the chipotle chilies, cilantro stems, rice and raisins, then add the broth and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer over medium-high, then cover and reduce to low. Cook until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes.
Uncover the pan and scatter the shrimp evenly over the rice. Re-cover, remove from the heat and let stand for 10 minutes.
Gently fluff the rice with a fork, folding in the shrimp. Re-cover and let stand until the shrimp are opaque throughout, another 5 to 7 minutes.
Stir in the cilantro leaves, then taste and season with salt and pepper.
*TIPS: Read your rice package label for the correct amount of liquid for 1 1/2 cups. Don’t lift the lid to peek at the shrimp after they’ve been added to the pan, except to stir them into the rice. Uncovering releases the residual heat needed for gently cooking the shrimp.