Springfield Missouri Cashew Chicken Recipe

My husband is the Springfield Missouri native who introduced me to their version of cashew chicken. While it is excellent, I have never had cashew chicken like theirs anywhere else. It's a very simple dish. Rice, either white or fried, is topped with crispy bite sized pieces of white meat chicken, cashews, scallions, and a hearty brown sauce with a hint of Asian flavor. When I first tried the dish it tasted like the eastern cuisine was perfectly fused with good ol' southern comfort food. Some may say I'm crazy but the sauce tasted like it had a hint of beef gravy in it.

Those who have lived in Springfield Missouri often crave this local dish.  For those people I know who have moved away their cashew chicken craving has only been met whenever they return to Springfield. There have been numerous occasions when my husband has said, "I'm craving cashew chicken". So I finally decided to search the internet for a recipe. I came across a few recipe variations and after a few attempts in the kitchen my husband says it's near perfect. I asked what was missing and he couldn't come up with anything other than a request that I make the fried rice that goes with it. When I asked him what is in the fried rice he didn't know. So that will be my next Springfield culinary adventure.


Chicken Preparation

3-4 Chicken Breasts
2 cups of All-Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon of Pepper
1 teaspoon of Salt
1 Tablespoon of Corn Starch
3 eggs mixed with a Tablespoon of cold water

Combine the dry ingredients. Cut the chicken into 1 inch pieces and dredge them in the flour mixture. Then coat them with egg and dredge them with flour again. I like using 2 slotted spoons, 1 in the flour and 1 in the egg, to shake off the excess and help keep my hands clean.

Use peanut, safflower, or any neutral flavored oil suitable for deep frying. Insert a candy thermometer into the oil if you don't have a deep fryer. Using my gas stove with settings from 1-10 a setting of 5 allows me to keep the oil between 325-350 F. Don't leave hot oil unattended and also make sure there is room in the pan for the oil to expand without boiling over. Fry the chicken in batches until the crust is golden brown. When the chicken is lightly browned remove it from the oil with a slotted spoon and put it on paper towels to absorb excess oil.

While the oil is heating up to fry the chicken prepare the sauce.

Sauce Preparation

4 cups of Chicken Broth
3 Tablespoons of Oyster Sauce*
4 Tablespoons of Soy Sauce**
4 Tablespoons of Corn Starch dissolved in 1/3 cup of cold water

Bring the broth, oyster and soy sauces to a boil and then add the corn starch mixture. Stir the mixture well and then turn the heat down and let the sauce simmer. I didn't have chicken broth so I used water and organic chicken bouillon.

*The first time I made the dish I bought Cantonese oyster sauce because it was the only oyster sauce on this particular grocery store's shelf. I'd never bought oyster sauce before so I didn't know there was a difference. The Cantonese sauce is slightly sweeter than regular oyster sauce. If you only have Cantonese sauce it will still taste good but the dish tastes more authentic if regular oyster sauce is used. I was easily able to find regular oyster sauce at another supermarket.

**Last year I learned that soy sauce is primarily made of wheat. So out of curiosity I purchased Tamari which is soy sauce that is actually made from soy. The two sauces taste similar but I'd say the Tamari doesn't taste as strong as the soy sauce does. I haven't made this dish with the soy sauce which is made from wheat so that may be the flavor my husband suspects may be missing. I also used low-sodium Tamari. Since I've only had Springfield Cashew Chicken a few times the sauce tasted great to me but my husband thought it needed some salt. I would imagine if either sauce is used with full sodium content salt wouldn't have to be added.

When half of the chicken is cooked add 1/2 of a 9oz can of cashews to the sauce and they'll soften a bit by the time all of the chicken is cooked.

To assemble: On top of rice add chicken, top with cashew sauce, and then finish with fresh chopped scallions.


Garden Update: Dogs, Grubs, and Beer, Oh My!

Although I've never planted a garden larger than a few vegetables I don't consider myself to be completely clueless when it comes to growing plants. After college I worked as a soil toxicologist and my job was to germinate seeds in Superfund soils. If I can get seeds to sprout in various forms of toxic dirt, the store bought organic dirt should be a breeze. Right?

When I transplanted the seeds I sprouted indoors the weather was pretty warm for a few days. I watered the plants each night and they were looking good. After a few days I noticed some of the leaves were missing and others had a few yellow spots. Within a week I noticed that the beans which gave me trouble indoors quickly took off. Whereas the cucumbers were beginning to look like they were struggling. The cucumbers eventually wilted and died. I lost one of the tomato plants and the basil. The zucchini and carrots sprouted and everything else was looking good.

My husband put up a temporary fence to divide our back yard in half. On one side we have 2 Labradors and the other side is for our toddler to play along with the garden. Since we hope to move sometime in the next 5 years we didn't want to invest in a legitimate fence. This is how well the fence worked:

So, naturally I didn't realize my Labrador could get into the garden until it was too late. I took my morning stroll out to the garden to find it filled with foot prints and several missing plants. He either ate the plants, broke them off, and I'm pretty sure he marked a little territory in the garden as well. The plants he did not eat were yellow and wilted which lead me to believe they succumbed to dog urine. Talk about frustration. All of my hard work vanished in one night, except for the carrots.

Determined to grow a garden this year I went back to the hardware store and purchased a 4' galvanized wire fence. I attached it to the existing fence stakes with zip ties so now there is a double fence border between the dogs and the rest of the yard.

While I was at the hardware store I also purchased 2 heirloom tomato plants, a cayenne pepper plant, 4 bell pepper plants, and 4 basil plants. Some of the other veggies weren't much bigger than what I knew I could grow in a week so I simply decided to plant the seeds directly into the garden.

A few mornings later I went out to water the garden and I found a white grub on top of the soil and some disheveled looking leaves, especially on the basil. I took an empty plastic applesauce container and pushed it into the soil and filled it with beer to catch some grubs. I'm now up to 2 containers and this is what I find after a few days of letting the beer sit:

The grubs crawl into the beer and drown. Sadly I think I'm going to have to create a beer garden to keep up with them. They've taken out 1 basil plant and significantly impacted the other 3 just like the one shown below.

The grubs are also feasting on the lettuce which is planted on the opposite diagonal of the raised garden bed.

I did a little research yesterday and also asked the Urban Organic Gardener that I follow on Facebook for some advice. Since grubs typically stay in one location beer will work but since they seem to be all over my garden it was recommended that I apply Beneficial Nematodes. They're essentially worms that prey on destructive garden pests but they don't have any affect on the good bugs. A pesticide would kill both the good and bad bugs and I don't want to eat pesticides either. Since I purchased all of my garden soil I'm wondering if there may not have been many nematodes. They are naturally found in soils all around the world so one would think they would be present. I'm happy that they work by disintegrating the pests from the inside out so I won't have to continually dispose of dead bugs like I do now.  Yuck! 

So, how do you know if you have grubs if you aren't lucky enough to find one on top of the soil like I did. They leave a slime trail on the surface of the soil and plants that glistens when the sun shines on it. I've always noticed these trails first thing in the morning since they dry out during the day. 

Although this garden has been frustrating at times there are some plants that are doing well which have made it well worth the trouble this far.

Organic green onions I bought at the supermarket and planted; one of the best ideas I found online. The cayenne pepper plant is in the center just behind the 2nd and 3rd green onion. On the left are a few of the bell pepper plants and in the top right corner is a small tomato plant from a seed I planted. 

So, I'm off to find some beneficial nematodes for the garden. Although I planted some lettuce and basil seeds in flower pots I'm considering moving the basil from the garden to a pot as well. The grubs will not get the best of me and my garden : )