There are some recipes that you know you’re going to love just by a quick glance at the ingredients. This is one of those recipes. Cashews, with their rich, creamy, salty nuttiness are one of my favorite nuts, I love cilantro and I love, love, love garlic. And if you ask me, almost any dish can be improved with a kick from jalapeños. So when Joseph asked if I would be interested in trying the recipe, I ran to get my coat so we could hop in the car to get to the grocery.
Joseph found the recipe in The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century, which he got for Christmas. And it was, just as I had predicted, an awesome recipe. You start off by blending the cilantro, lime, cashews, garlic, brown sugar and oil and then marinate the chicken in that heavenly mixture. What’s not to love?
The book recommends serving the chicken with chilled sesame spinach (recipe below) and they are not wrong there. It’s a zippy and very fresh recipe and even though I generally don’t advocate for chilled veggie dishes when it is freezing outside — I like hot food to warm me up — I really liked it and wouldn’t hesitate to do it again in cold weather. That said, I think this would really hit the spot on a hot summer day because it is incredibly refreshing.
Spicy, Garlicky Cashew Chicken
Note that you can marinate the chicken in the cashew mixture for up to 12 hours if you want to get some of your dinnertime prep over and done with earlier in the day.
The chicken goes really nicely with the chilled sesame spinach (recipe below) and we also served it with some brown rice.
1 cup roasted, salted cashew nuts
6 tablespoons chopped cilantro, with some stems, divided
1/4 cup canola oil
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 to 2 jalapeño peppers, sliced (discard seeds or not, to taste)
Juice of 1 lime, plus lime wedges for garnish
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 pounds chicken thighs and/or drumsticks.
Combine nuts, 2 tablespoons cilantro, oil, garlic, soy sauce, sugar, jalapeño, lime juice and 2 tablespoons water in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth, scraping down sides as necessary. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Season chicken all over with salt and pepper. Thoroughly coat each chicken piece with cashew mixture and set aside any remaining mixture. Let the chicken marinate at room temperature while you heat your grill or broiler (and this is also a great time to get started on the spinach if you’re going to make it). Or refrigerate for up to 12 hours before cooking.
Preheat your broiler or grill. Grill or broil the chicken, turning frequently, until it’s crisp and golden on the outside and done on inside (should read 160-165 degrees with an instant read thermometer), about 20 to 30 minutes.
Sprinkle the chicken with remaining cilantro and serve with lime wedges and remaining cashew mixture.
Chilled Sesame Spinach
20 oz spinach, washed well
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup white vinegar
3 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 sesame seeds, toasted
Fill a large pot with ice and cold water. Bring another large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the spinach (do in batches if necessary) for 5 seconds and then remove and immediately plunge into the cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain the spinach, gently squeezing it between your hands to get out excess water, and chop roughly. Place in a medium bowl and cover and refrigerate for about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, ginger, and pepper and mix well.
Once the spinach has chilled, pour the dressing over the spinach. Use a fork to fluff the spinach and make sure that it’s coated well throughout. Top with toasted sesame seeds.