Racing Rachael: Hot Topic

I'm not really a fan of chicken pieces with nuts. *Insert inappropriate comment here, kids.* However, since my husband dog-eared this 30-minute recipe, I thought I'd give it a go. Is it a keeper?

The food: Chipotle Cashew Chicken with Brown Rice and Glazed Spinach Salad. The chicken was sprinkled with Rachael's favorite Montreal Steak Seasoning, and browned before being sautéed with soy sauce, onion, garlic, red bell peppers, water chestnuts and green peas. Add the chipotles, cumin, honey, maple syrup (real Vermont, of course), cilantro and cashews, and you've got a beautiful, flavorful, satisfying dinner. The chicken was perfectly tender and served as a nice counterpoint for the crunchy water chestnuts and cashews. The sauce is a complex combination of just the right amount of sweetness, smokiness and spice.

Of course, the part of the recipe that I would normally consider foolproof, I, or Rachael, managed to screw up. The four cups of chicken stock were not completely absorbed by the rice, which resulted in a watery mess from which we strained the rice. Maybe it was because the recipe called for quick-cooking rice instead of long-grain rice? In any case, it had nice flavor once it was rescued from the sea of stock.

And then we have the Glazed Spinach Salad. Blegh. As I was chewing my first bite thinking, "What is that weird flavor?" my hubby chimed in with, "This tastes fishy." He was right. The rice wine vinegar, plum sauce, soy sauce, sesame seed combo was highly reminiscent of a mouthful of California roll. While delicious when popping sushi and swilling sake, it is a flavor that I neither expected nor enjoyed on my spinach salad.

The time: 36 minutes.

The verdict: The chicken recipe is a definite success with a little tweaking to the rice. It is a scrumptious dinner that looks, and tastes, like you've been cooking for hours. A great entrée for entertaining. That spinach recipe, on the other hand, can go back to the nasty little place it came from. That is a part of Rachael Ray's brain that I never want to visit again.

Ways to beat the clock: Using Rachael's method of measuring (i.e., 1 tablespoon = a palm full; 2-3 tablespoons = 2 healthy drizzles) really does speed things up, although it makes my palms sweat. I learned to bake before I learned to cook, so I'm a big fan of precise measuring...maybe if I make enough of these meals I'll lighten up!

Happy (speedy) cooking!

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