If you’re bored and want to blow your mind sometime, I highly recommend doing a quick web search for how cashews grow.
I have assumed for a long time that cashews, just grow inside a normal shell and look pretty much like a walnut or a peanut. But they don’t. At all.
Instead, the nut, which hails from Brazil, grows like a little tail off the bottom of a cashew apple. According to an article by Matthew Baron, people thought cashews were poisonous for a long time, because their shell contains a skin irritant—kind of like poison ivy.
Baron points out that, for that reason, you can’t actually buy unshelled cashews. I had never really considered that I haven’t ever cracked open a cashew before.
I started thinking about cashews this week, because Joey forwarded me a social media post with a recipe for cashew chicken and asked if I would be willing to add it to my experiment list. I, of course, obliged, and the results were great.
I don’t have a source for this recipe. It’s one of those that has been out circulating on Facebook, and the original author hasn’t been included. I did adjust the garlic and ginger for my version, though.
- 2 pounds boneless chicken breasts or thighs
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons ketchup
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 1/2 rounded teaspoon ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup cashews
- Cut the chicken into about one-inch chunks. Combine the flour and black pepper in a large Ziploc, and add the chicken. Seal the bag and shake to evenly coat the chicken in the flour and pepper mixture.
- Heat the canola oil over medium heat in a skillet and add the coated chicken, sauteing until it’s browned. (Don’t worry about whether it’s cooked through; it’s going to go into a crockpot next.)
- Place the browned chicken into a crockpot.
- In a bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ketchup, brown sugar, garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes and then pour over the chicken in the crockpot.
- Cook for four hours on low heat.
- Mix in the cashews, and serve over rice or lo mein noodles.
This was absolutely delicious. The cashews added a nice crunch, and the sauce was awesome. It was just the right amount of sweet and not spicy at all.
This is also really easy to double, which is what we did, and the leftovers heat up really nicely in the microwave.
And I was excited to have some leftover cashews in my pantry to snack on. Apparently, they’re a lot more interesting than I ever knew and have come a long way from being a “poisonous” nut on a tree to hanging out in my crockpot.
This piece first appeared in print on Nov. 19, 2020.
Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas and sponsored by Main Street Co. & Kitchen Corner in Newton, Kan. Visit their website at shopmainstco.com.