Wednesday, December 9, 2009

My Escapades with Thai Curry

I never thought I would be making a foray into the Asian cooking department, but I've recently discovered from my weekly menu planning how easy and delicious Thai curry is, not to mention how well it keeps in the fridge. It even seems to get better as it simmers. I suppose this should be no surprise since it is essentially a stew.

It started with an experiment on Indian flavors last week which ended up OK but not great. I went to my curry mentor at work the next day and got a few ideas from him. He enlightened me on the differences between the various types of curry and gave me a couple of hints on how I could improve my efforts. Boy was he right! I am so pleased with the Thai chicken curry that I made, that I'd like to share my recipe and methods with you. I claim to be no expert on Thai cooking and if you are, you'll probably notice some methods in my recipe that might not be all that conventional, but I think you'll find that the results are delicious and are roughly "in the ball park."

CQ's (not so authentic) Thai Curry

2 chicken leg quarters, bone and skin-on
3 carrots, chopped
2 onions, chopped
1 stalk celery chopped
1 handful of snow peas and sliced red bell pepper (optional)
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 eggplant
3 whole cloves
1 pod star anise
1 tablespoon dried lemongrass
2 Bay leaves
1 can of coconut milk
1 cup dry white wine
1 cups water
1 to 1.5 tablespoons Thai red chili and garlic paste
1 handful of chopped cilantro
1 fresh lime cut into wedges

  1. Cut the eggplant into quarters. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in a 400˚ oven for about 40 minutes until it is caramelized and soft. Remove the meat with a spoon or your hands and reserve for later use.
  2. Prepare a court-bouillon: bring to a simmer 1 cup white wine, 1 chopped carrot, 1 chopped celery stalk, 1 chopped yellow onion, 1 clove, 1 Bay leaf, and 2 cups water. Once the mixture has simmered for about 20 minutes, introduce the chicken leg quarters and poach them gently. Remove the chicken to cool once it is cooked through. When it is cool enough to handle, pick the meat off and discard the bones and the skin. Reduce the cooking liquid to half and save for late use.
  3. Warm up a sturdy skillet or saucepan over medium heat and add canola oil. Season the onions, ginger, and garlic with salt and pepper and sweat them until they are soft and have begun to separate from the cooking oil.
  4. Add the chili paste, lemongrass, star anise, 2 cloves, the remaining Bay leaf, and the coconut milk and let simmer. Steep the spices for about 20 minutes in the liquid before straining into another pot.
  5. Add the carrots to the liquid and simmer them until they are soft.
  6. Stir in the cooked eggplant. It will eventually dissolve into the liquid serving as a thickening agent bringing depth of flavor and silky texture.
  7. Use the reduced court-bouillon to thin the curry out to the desired consistency and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary.
  8. Re-introduce the shredded cooked chicken (and optional snow peas and bell pepper) and bring the heat up to a serving temperature.
  9. Garnish with cilantro and lime wedges.
  10. Serve with steamed jasmine rice.

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