The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.
As long as you have a food processor or a powerful blender, nut butters are a cinch to make — not very challenging at all. What I did find challenging was deciding on what kind of nut I wanted to use and coming up with a creative dish to incorporate it into. Cooking with nut butters isn’t new to me, but I typically use them in dishes like these udon noodles with sweet and spicy sauce. And while that type of dish is delicious, I was looking for something a little lighter in this hot weather. I originally anted to make a macadamia nut butter and use it in some sort of Hawaiian/Indonesian fish dish, but I had already planned two other seafood-based dinner for this week and thought that a third would be overkill.
I remembered that I had some duck in the freezer, and I had been wanting to make lettuce wraps for a while so that seemed like it would be perfect paired with a cashew butter. It was a great choice — the cool, crisp lettuce kept that rich duck from seeming to heavy and the sauce was incredible! It was creamy and sweet and just a little bit spicy, with some rich notes from the soy sauce and sesame oil. Thinned out a little bit more (maybe with a little bit of lime juice?) the sauce would make a fabulous salad dressing. I’m torn over whether I want to eat my leftover cashew butter on toast or make the dressing and have a huge salad. I might just need to buy more cashews and do both….
- 1 duck leg
- 1 Tbs Szechwan peppercorns, cracked (you can also use black pepper)
- 1 pinch kosher salt
- 1/2 cup fresh shitake mushrooms, chopped
- 1/2 shallot, minced
- 1 chile pepper, chopped
- 2 green onions, chopped
- 1 ounce rick stick noodles, soaked according to the directions on the package
- 1 head iceberg lettuce, or other crisp lettuce
- 1 recipe cashew sauce (see below)
Preheat the oven to 400.
Mix together the salt and cracked pepper and rub it into the duck leg. Set an oven-proof pan over a burner set to high. Once the pan is warm, add the duck leg skin-side down. Cook for 10 minutes, or until the skin has crisped up. Flip it over so the skin is on top and transfer it to the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, until duck is cooked through. Remove the duck from the pot and place on a cutting board to rest for 5 minutes. Chop the meat into small pieces, or shred with two forks.
Discard all but 1 Tbs of duck fat from the bottom of the pot. Put the pot with the duck fat on a burner set to medium. Add the shallot, mushrooms, and chile pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often, until the shallot and mushrooms are soft. Remove from heat and mix in the noodles, duck, and 2 Tbs cashew sauce.
Serve in lettuce leaves and use the remaining sauce for dipping.
Serves 2 and an entree, 4 as an appetizer
- 1/4 cup raw cashews
- 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
- 2 cloves garlic, grated
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 1 Tbs seasoned rice vinegar
- 1 Tbs sesame oil
- 2 Tbs water
- pinch crushed red peppers
Place the cashews in a food processor or blender and blend until a smooth paste is formed (this will take 2-3 minutes).
Combine the cashew paste with the remaining ingredients and mix until you get a smooth sauce.
Yields about 1/4 cup sauce.