Weeknight Cooking: Peanut Chicken with Jasmine Rice

DH loves peanut sauce. If it were up to him, he’d smother everything he ate in it – chicken, beef, vegetables, Skittles, vanilla ice cream. Everything. To date, he’s tried every peanut sauce available at every Asian restaurant in our city.

While perusing RecipeZaar, I found a good looking recipe for a peanut chicken dish. When I brought it home to try, it went under intense scrutiny. In the end, not only was it deemed worthy, but also that the dish tasted just as good, if not better, than what is available at restaurants. While we’re pleased with the delicious taste and creamy texture, I’m also very happy with the fact that it takes only 20 minutes to make.

For those of you who live alone or only cook for two, this is a perfect dish for you to put into your rotation, as it makes two servings and is great as leftovers.

Creamy Peanut Chicken with Jasmine Rice
Serving Size: 2 or 3
Prep Time: 20 minutes (includes cooking time)
Note: I guarantee that by the time your rice is finished cooking, your dish will be done.
Ingredients:
1 Tbsp. peanut oil
1 Tbsp. red curry paste
1 tsp. chili sauce
2 chicken breasts, cut into small cubes or strips
1 cup light coconut milk
1 Tbsp. fish sauce, optional
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
3 Tbsp. crunchy peanut butter (I use creamy – it’s just a textural preference thing)

The way to go about getting the maximum efficiency in making your meals is the order in which you do things. I really do think this is why Rachel Ray can do 30-minute meals. It’s not just the meals, but the order that she goes about doing it all.

First things first. Grab out your Jasmine Rice and figure how much you want. For two people, I usually make 1 1/2 cups of rice. So, follow the instructions on the package. Measure your water and put it in a pot. Put the pot on a back burner and set it to high. Now forget about it for a minute.

Grab your chicken breasts and cut them into either small cubes or strips. I cut them into cubes, just because when I sit down to eat I don’t want to deal with cutting things up – I’m hungry and just want to shove it into my mouth.

At some point during your chicken cubing, your water will start to boil. Add your rice and follow the instructions, which is usually something about adding some oil and salt (always optional – I never add the salt), covering the rice, and turning it down. Set your oven timer for 15 – 20 minutes, or however long it takes for your rice to cook. The package should say. I try to avoid brands that take 30 minutes to cook, because your dinner is done cooking well before then.

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mmm… rice.

As you can see from the picture, I add a bit of oil to my rice to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. This will get stirred up and covered. Turn the burner down low and turn a timer on so you don’t overcook your rice.

When you’re done, put the 1 Tbsp. of peanut oil, 1 Tbsp. of red curry paste, and 1 tsp. of chili sauce into a frying pan and set it to medium. I tend to like my dish a little spicy, so I will put in a rounded spoonfuls of curry paste and chili sauce. And that’s something great to note about this dish – you don’t have to be exact with anything in this recipe. Some dishes are fussy and will come out wrong, this one isn’t. However, the quality of ingredients matter – I have found that the curry paste you use really makes a difference.

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You don’t have to get fancy and use a wok – a frying pan is fine. This will heat up quickly. Stir it all together with your spatula. This concoction will not come together like a fine, smooth mixture. Instead, as you can start to see in the photo, it will bubble up.

Toss in your chicken and mix well. Cook the chicken for about four minutes.

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If you’re not so good at judging when to stop cooking the meat and you end up with something dried and tough, use a timer. You’re already using the oven timer for the rice, you say? Use the microwave timer for the chicken. It should appear cooked on the outside. Don’t worry about this too much – it doesn’t take long to cook small chunks of chicken through, and it’s going to simmer in the pan for the next 10 or so minutes – more than enough time to cook.

Add your 1 cup of coconut milk (the second cup can be stored in the refrigerator and used a few days later for something else), 1 Tbsp. of brown sugar, and 3 Tbsps. of peanut butter. I tend to be pretty strict about keeping to the 1 cup of milk and 1 Tbsp. of sugar, but I am rather generous with the peanut butter.

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If you like crunch in your peanut dishes, then go with a chunky peanut butter. I use creamy just because I do. It comes down to your own textural preference.

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Now you’re going to mix it. Do it carefully, taking your spatula or spoon or whatever you’re using and folding it. I say fold for two reasons. First, at this point the consistency of the dish is pretty runny and if you aren’t careful, you’re going to splatter everything like a big noob. Second, you want to make sure you scrape up the bottom and sides of the dish and get everything combined pretty evenly. Once it’s combined, turn the burner down a bit and stir periodically. After a couple of minutes, the sauce will thicken.

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Stir the chicken periodically until the rice is done. Serve.

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If you have leftovers, go ahead and store the rest of the rice with it. Now, a lot of people have trouble reheating rice the next day. Even after you pop it into a microwave, it will come out feeling a little dry and hard, and less than desirable eating. What you do is, put a little bit of water into the rice – don’t drown your rice. Put in just a little and heat it up. Stir the rice around a little bit – your rice will soak up the water and get that soft texture again.

Enjoy!

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