There’s a lot of Sandra Lee  bashing that goes on in the “Foodie” world. Come on, admit it. We’ve all snickered at her cute little outfits that she matches to her kitchen decor in every episode. We’ve giggled at her seemingly unnatural preoccupation with fancy, fruity cocktails. We’ve chortled at her oh, so perfect “tablescapes”, because after all, who has the time to run around collecting all of that flotsam and jetsam, much less arrange it into a cohesive backdrop to show off a bunch of desserts made from store bought angel food cake and pudding cups. And, most of us have downright sneered at her proclivity for concocting dishes out of boxed, canned, prepackaged food products. Personally, I absolutely cringe every time I hear her mispronounce mascarpone. (That’s right, Sandra. It’s MASCARPONE, not MARSCAPONE. Got it? Thanks.)
Yes, indeed. We’ve all had our fun at Sandra’s expense. Yet I must confess, she kind of fascinates me. While I’ve never been that kind of cutesy, matchy, crafty person, I secretly wish I could be. I’d love to be able to whip up a lovely, themed buffet table out of pine cones, plastic flowers and pipe cleaners! And, though I don’t use a lot of processed foods in my own cooking, I can certainly appreciate Sandra’s creative energy and resourcefulness in hers. She fills a pretty wide niche for those who don’t have the time or inclination to spend hours in the kitchen. In fact, I have tried a few of her “Semi-Homemade ” recipes, and they were pretty tasty.
Case in point: A few days ago, Sandra did an episode on “tropical food”. One of the dishes she made was a sort of Thai chicken curry with a peanut sauce, and I have to say, it looked good. So good, that I decided to try it for myself – with several tweaks. In her recipe, Sandra uses chunks of chicken breast. I went with chicken thighs, because they tend to stay moister when cooked in small pieces. She also relies on frozen vegetables. I used fresh, because it only takes a few extra minutes to chop up a few peppers and some green beans. Sandra also omits garlic in her version. I think that is a sin, so I added some. I included sliced onions, scallions and a splash of fish sauce in the dish as well, because I like them. I also made this a one pot dish by sautéing the chicken and vegetables separately, removing them, making the sauce in the same pan and then adding it all together. Oh yes, and I also toasted the red curry paste before adding it to the peanut curry sauce. I know it sounds like a lot of changes, but it really isn’t. I used all of the original ingredients in the recipe. I just added a few extra and put them together a little differently.
First, you need to chop up your chicken.
Then, slice up your vegetables.
Heat the oil. (Doesn’t it look like a cute little sea creature?)
Brown the chicken and vegetables.
Look at that curry paste sizzle!
Mix up the peanut sauce and toss it all together.
Let me tell you, people, this dish was beyond fabulous! Seriously! No one was more surprised than I was. My little family of three ate the whole, entire batch! Mr. SGCC and Mini SGCC were actually fighting over the last few grains of rice left in the bowl! That peanut curry sauce was so delicious. It had it all – heat, spice, salt and sweet. And, it was ready to eat in under an hour. I served the chicken with some coconut rice (not instant) and a nice, tossed salad (not frozen). This is one dish that I know I will make again and again. My hat is off to Sandra for creating it. I’ll definitely think twice before I criticize another one of her recipes without trying it first – and I hope you will too.
Chicken with Peanut Curry Sauce
very liberally adapted from Sandra Lee 
3 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast or thighs, cut in 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Salt and pepper
1 medium sweet onion, sliced thinly
8 ounces fresh green beans cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
3-4 cloves garlic minced
4-5 scallions, thinly sliced
2 heaping tablespoons Thai red curry paste
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth,
1/3 cup chunky peanut butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
Lime wedges for garnishing
Cilantro sprigs for garnishing
1. Toss chicken and cornstarch together in a bowl until well mixed. Season with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add chicken sauté until lightly browned, about 3-4 minutes. Remove to another container and set aside.
2. Add onion, pepper strips and green beans and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and continue cooking for another 2 minutes. Remove to the same container as the chicken.
3. Make the peanut curry sauce. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together all sauce ingredients except curry paste.until smooth. Heat remaining tablespoon of oil in the frying pan and add curry paste, smushing it into the oil. Cook curry paste for about 1 minute, until fragrant. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients into the pan, mix well and bring to a boil. Add the chicken and vegetables and stir to combine. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally until sauce thickens slightly, about 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in scallions and serve over steamed rice.