Funny…to satisfy both of my childrens’“What’s for Dinner cravings”, bare in mind they both live in separate cities, a stir fry does the trick. For my son we go to one of his favourite Toronto restaurants “Joy Thai” in the Yonge and Lawrence area. For my daughter, when I’m visiting she prefers the TLC treatment. I cook for her.
On a recent visit to Winnipeg, I was coaxed by my kids into giving an impromptu dinner with a very special guest, my Mom. It was special because we were all present, Chad, Cori, Mom, and Me. It was tough because it was a holiday Sunday and no grocery stores were open. Nada…not one. And no menu was planned. We were all famished… so my daughter…who insisted on a stir-fry…pulled frozen solid chicken breasts, frozen broccoli, and cashews from her freezer. Then proceeded to pull a mango, maples syrup, some onion, and garlic from her pantry. And then pulled whatever she found in her fridge that was about to expire. You might be thinking that’s enough to make a wonderful dish. But we really had to hunt for the ingredients. This feast was not planned.
It is the season to pick some wonderful vegetables from your garden or your grocer that is OPEN for business (smiles). Don’t be worried about using frozen vegetables. They are a time saver and so convenient as they keep well for about 3 to 6 months in a small freezer, above or below your fridge… and 6 to 12 months in a big one, a chest or upright. Often frozen veg are even better than fresh (well when you don’t have fresh on hand). They are picked at perfection, quickly blanched and flash frozen, all the while preserving nutrients.
First step, cut up the veggies into bite sized pieces, next step…place the chicken into the microwave to defrost, third step figure out how I was going to make this thing work. Not such a big step as I do this all the time…but added the last step to keep the suspense. Anyway, shear magic! The final result was delicious and everyone was satisfied. Back in TO, I recreated the dish on my own and used somewhat different ingredients with a little abracadabra… voila…refer to picture posted above. Here’s the recipe:
Mango Cashew Maple Chicken with Assorted Vegetables Serves 4
1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 2 lbs chicken, breasts or thighs deboned and skinned 1 large onion, chopped 3 large garlic cloves, minced 1 inch fresh ginger, minced 2 cups vegetables of your choice (I used frozen broccoli, acorn squash, frozen peas, and fresh carrots) water as needed 1 large mango, large dice 2 to 3 tablespoons soy sauce, adjust to your taste 1/3 cup water mixed with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch until blended 1 lemon, juice and rind 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar 2 tablespoons maple syrup 1 teaspoon crushed hot red chili if you like it spicy, optional 1 cup cashews, roasted or toasted
Take partially frozen chicken and cut into bite size pieces (easier to cut when partially frozen. Take out the night before or in the morning and place into the fridge until partially defrosted.)
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet or wok and stir fry the chicken until cooked through (use a thermometer 74 C or cut open to see it’s done i.e. when juices run clear, not cloudy or pink). Take out from skillet and put on a plate. Set aside.
Heat the second tablespoon of oil and stir fry the onion, garlic, and ginger. Once the onion is soft, add the veggie. Stir for a minute and then add ½ cup of water. Cover and wait until steam comes out from the sides of skillet or continue steaming until veg are fork tender. If the water evapourates too quickly, add ½ cup more water.
Once the veggies are cooked, add the chicken and mango.
In a small bowl, take the water and cornstarch mixture (called a slurry in the culinary world) and combine with the maple syrup, lemon juice and rind, rice wine vinegar and crushed hot red chili (if using).
Quickly, make a well in the middle of the chicken mixture, and add the cornstarch maple mixture . When it starts to bubble and thicken mix it all together. Take off heat when chicken and vegetables are coated with the sauce. Sprinkle with whole roasted cashews.
Serve with noodles or rice.
Tip: To roast cashews: place nuts on a small baking sheet, or tinfoil, or toaster oven sheet. Roast at 350 F for about 2 minutes. They are done when golden or when you start to smell the aroma of roasted nuts.