Frequently, when I go to my parents’ house, the organizing spirit seizes me with an iron grip and won’t be satisfied until I’ve emptied out the pantry, sorted every package and box and can of food, and replaced them again. It’s usually a comical affair as my mom and I chuckle at the ridiculous artifacts of gift baskets and deep discounts we find lurking at the back of the cupboard. And upon returning home, I tend to find myself inspired to root through my own pantry to create meals with odds and ends I already have on hand.
This dish came out of one such rooting. An excess of white rice, leftover almonds from my holiday toffee-making, a can of water chestnuts, and chicken and peas from the freezer, seemingly disparate parts, became something great together as this Almond Chicken. With the addition of a green onion and a bit of sherry and soy sauce, it’s a quick meal that requires only a few minutes of stir-frying and a fluffy bed of rice.
I know that January, for many people, is synonymous with cleansing diets and post-holiday de-cluttering. For me I’ve added in the goal to focus on using up foods from my pantry. My tendency, especially since starting this blog, is never to make the same thing twice so I always have something new to share with you, which sometimes causes me to abandon my dry goods for excesses of fresh produce or obscure ingredients.
This dish, if anything, has reminded me that there’s a lot of good stuff hiding out in my narrow kitchen cabinet. With a little planning and creative thinking those random ends-of-this and half-packs-of-that can come together for a dish that is filling, flavorful, and new.
Adapted from Appetite for China
3 T canola or vegetable oil
12 oz skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1″ pieces
1 egg white
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cornstarch
8 oz container sliced water chestnuts, drained
1/2 c frozen or fresh peas
1 scallion, chopped
1 c whole almonds
3 T soy sauce
2 T cooking sherry
Heat vegetable oil in a large frying pan or wok over medium heat. Chop chicken into one-inch pieces and combine in a bowl with the egg white, salt, and cornstarch. Mix well with a fork and set aside. Chop the scallion, drain the water chestnuts, and measure out the almonds, peas, soy sauce, and sherry: the meal cooks quickly once you begin.
Dump chicken pieces into the hot oil and sauté until it begins turning golden brown on the outside and the chicken is barely white all the way through. Add water chestnuts and sauté for another 2-3 minutes. Add peas, scallion, almonds, soy sauce, and sherry and cook, mixing often, for another 2-3 minutes.
Serve over steamed rice.