I’ve been in a cooking rut for about the last six months. Partly it is because I was terribly ill, spending an average of a week or so in bed each month and struggling to do much during the times I wasn’t shivering with fever. Partly it is because I stopped learning new things about food. I abandoned my food blogs, cooking shows and many many cookbooks. I just had no energy for them anymore.
Now, I love food. I love food more than most people seem to. It used to be a source of some embarrassment for me, until I decided that that was dumb and it was far more fun to just love what I love and look at you funny if you criticize me for it.
Enter red curry paste.
I have wanted to learn how to cook more non-western foods for a very long time, but they always seemed very expensive. I have made some fabulous Chicken Tikka Masala in my life, and Palak Paneer, and neither of them took small amounts of time or money. I just feel sad walking through the International Aisle in the grocery store. I pout over the price of rice noodles. But a few weeks ago someone totally awesome wanted to cook with me and offered to foot the bill for any ingredients I needed. Needless to say, I shamelessly took advantage and gleefully picked out red curry paste and coconut milk from those forbidden shelves, even eying fish sauce before deciding I wasn’t quite there yet. We made a fabulous curry that night with pork, sweet potatoes and green beans and served it over quinoa.
And ever since, I’ve been something of a curry fiend. As soon as I saw just how far a little jar of paste could go (three dinners for a family of four, much farther for the two of us) I was hooked. I could afford this! I could play with this!
And I do.
So, without further ado, here is my very inauthentic method for making Thai Red Curry. Unlike Indian curries, it’s soup-like and best served over rice or quinoa or some other favorite grain of yours. (I like to cook my grain with some salt, pepper and dried lemongrass and cilantro. Fresh would work amazing too!)
What You Will Need:
- 1lb Protein (I like chicken best, but I have used pork and it’s also awesome)
- 3tbsp Red Curry Paste (you can get away with using only 2tbsp, but I prefer 3)
- 1 can Coconut Milk (I prefer regular, but the light stuff works)
- 3/4c Stock (I use chicken because I have a ton of it in the freezer at all times, but vegetable is good too)
- 1tbsp Oil
- A few cloves Garlic, minced
- A palmful grated Ginger
- 1 onion, diced
- Veggies (You can just use 2 peppers like I have in the past, you can use sugar snap peas or green beans or broccoli or even pineapple. I mean, I’ve used sweet potatoes in this. Anything you pick will be delicious.)
- The zest of 1 Lime
- A palmful dried cilantro (or a bit of chopped fresh)
- 1/2tbsp Soy Sauce (optional)
- 1/4tsp Cayenne (or a chopped hot pepper) (optional)
- Palmful dried Lemongrass (optional)
Mince your garlic, grate your ginger, dice your onion, chop your protein into small chunks. Salt and pepper your protein. Heat oil in a large pan on medium-high. Add curry paste, mixing into oil until easier to stir. Add onion, ginger and garlic and mix until evenly covered by paste. Let sizzle for a bit. Then remove it all into a medium sized pot and leave on low.
Place protein in your now-empty pan in a single layer and let brown. While it’s browing you can chop your veggies, open your can of coconut milk and measure your stock if you haven’t already. Flip protein chunks so they can brown on the other side. I sometimes overcrowd my pan, but it’s really a culinary no-no and you should just work in batches if you really have to. When the protein is done add to the pot and mix so that it’s well covered with the curry. Add the coconut milk, stock, lime zest and cilantro (as well as the optional lemongrass, soy sauce and cayenne–ONLY ADD THE CAYENNE IF YOU LIKE LOTSA SPICY) here. Milk and up your heat to medium. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
When you add your veggies depends on the veggies. For example, if you want some crunch left in your peppers or snap peas you will add them when the curry is simmering and then bring it all up to a simmer again. If you want your broccoli soft you can add it with the milk and stock. If you want potatoes in this, probably sear them in the pan you used for the protein before adding. You get the idea.
Once the curry is simmering (or brought back to a simmer after adding coldish veggies) taste it. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let all the flavors meld to your satisfaction. Then eat on top of rice, with a wedge of your zested lime squeezed on top to add some nice bright acidity. Major yum.
Note: Feel free to substitute in fresh ingredients for dried ones. I always feel that fresh is better. The garlic, onion and ginger add flavor, but really if you just want to make Basic Red Curry you can just make this with the paste alone. This is really a recipe to play with. I’ve yet to make a dud version. So far, anyway.