Recipe for cashew chicken stir fry, rice pilaf part of annual tradition
Same time next year is a promise often made, but seldom kept. However, the Ridley family of Maine and Fraser has, for the past 28 years, kept their date with two other families to gather not once, but three times each year for dinner.
The Maine Ridleys serve a Chinese dinner in February or March. Another family provides beef tenderloin cooked on a rotisserie grill around the first week of June. The third family hosts a lobster feast near the end of August. The families enjoy each other’s company and the meals are fantastic.
The Fraser branch of the Ridley family includes son Brian, daughter Allison and son-in-law Jesse McWilliams. They celebrated a variation on the Chinese feast this month when the Maine branch of the family tree, parents Dave and Diane Ridley came for a visit.
The menu normally includes pork egg rolls, cashew chicken stir-fry, beef teriyaki and rice pilaf. Pared down to the cashew chicken and rice pilaf along with lemon yogurt cake, it was more than adequate to serve a few friends in addition to immediate family. The only problem was that there were no leftovers.
Parents Dave and Diane Ridley both hail from Maine, Dave from central Maine and Diane from the southern part of the state. When they first dated, Diane impressed Dave early on with her skill cooking tuna casserole, and she served it frequently. After they married, he diplomatically asked her to never serve it again. She took the request well and it has never reappeared.
With the help of her mother and mother-in-law, Diane became an excellent cook with a vast repertoire. She learned to feed her family on their limited teacher’s salary by planning ahead and using ingredients from one meal in another meal later in the week. Non-tuna casseroles also helped to stretch the food budget.
Family favorites include anything with curry – Hungarian Curry Chicken soup and Mulligatawny soup are staples. They love coastal specialties like haddock, lobster and Shrimp Wiggle, a dish with Maine shrimp, white sauce and peas served over saltine crackers or toast points. As children, Dave and his brothers competed to see who would eat the most saltines with Shrimp Wiggle. The record stands at 48.
Dave’s mother Frances was not only a tolerant mother; she was a very creative cook. She invented Ridley soup burgers, which are similar to Sloppy Joes. Fraser Ridley’s have a binder of family recipes, which they cook from whenever they get lonesome for a taste of Maine and favorites from their childhood.
Dave and Diane Ridley are retired secondary-level educators who love reading, traveling, sailing and cross-country skiing. Diane taught special education and Dave taught biology and coached the soccer and cross-country ski teams. Dave now pursues his second career in photography and has captured stunning landscapes from their travels. Diane tutors to keep connected to adolescents. While in Fraser she volunteers in teacher/daughter Allison’s classroom at Fraser Elementary School. Diane also enjoys the time to do crossword puzzles and Sudoku. She keeps active with Zumba dancing, kayaking, and cooking. During the summer months, they both work at the Camden, Maine boat harbor. They also enjoy having more time to entertain friends with dinner.
Here are recipes from their Fraser Chinese Dinner they entertained with in Fraser. The Lemon Yogurt Cake is from one of Diane’s favorite Food Network shows, the Barefoot Contessa. Vegetable quantities in the chicken stir-fry depend upon the number of people you plan to serve as well as how much you like a particular ingredient. Add other veggies if you prefer. You can cook the chicken ahead and keep warm in the oven. The same is true for the rice, just keep it warm in the skillet.
Chicken Cashew Stir-Fry
6 boned, skinned chicken breast halves
4 stalks celery, cut on the diagonal
1/2 green pepper, cut into strips
3 carrots, sliced (not baby-sized)
broccoli florets (from one stalk)
2/3 cup cashews
ginger root (half a hand)
garlic (2 large cloves)
1/2 cup teriyaki sauce or to taste
Cut chicken into bite sized pieces. Using a garlic press, squeeze ginger root and garlic to get juice and pour juice over chicken and let sit a while (at least 30 minutes). Stir-fry the chicken, remove from wok and keep warm while you stir-fry the vegetables and cashews. Return chicken to wok and stir in some teriyaki sauce. Serve over rice pilaf.
9 Tbs. butter
3 cups rice
6 cups boiling chicken or beef stock
3 bunches scallions, sliced
1 tsp. pepper
Melt butter in frying pan. Add rice, scallions and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes until rice is hot and shiny. Add broth and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover pan and cook 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
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