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calendar   Thursday - January 17, 2013

Thai dinner for the slightly hesitant

I can’t stand doing another gun control post right now. So here’s what we had for dinner last night. It’s super easy to make and pretty inexpensive to boot. What it is, is meat and potatoes in a creamy light sweet and sour sauce, with a slightly zippy summer salad on the side. Feeds 6.

Is it good? Hella yeah. How good? Well, let’s ask CNN: they rate massaman curry as as the best tasting food in the whole world.



Massaman Curry and Thai Cucumber Salad

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Maesri curry is the real deal. It’s a genuine imported Thai product, and the flavor is very close to what you get at your favorite Thai restaurant. “Massaman” is the Thai word for “mussleman”, which is the old way of saying “muslim”. So to allay any pro-islamic feelings, we always throw in a fair amount of pork.

First make the cucumber salad. It needs at least half an hour to marinate; 1 or 2 hours is better.

2 cucumbers, peeled and sliced in half lengthwise
1 shallot, chopped
1 golf ball sized white onion, chopped (or 1/4 of a large yellow or Spanish onion)
1/2 cup rice vinegar (or 1/3 cup plain white vinegar)
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar (use palm sugar if you want to be authentic, although any granular sugar will be fine)
1 level teaspoon of kosher salt
some hot pepper: either chop up a jalapeno, or use 4-6 chopped dried Sanaam or Tien Tsin red peppers, or use a teaspoon of dried pizza peppers. If you can’t abide any heat at all, dice up half a red pepper instead
a handful of fresh cilantro, chopped, stems and all

In a medium mixing bowl whisk the sugar and salt in the water and vinegar until dissolved. Add the peppers. Peel and chop the shallot and the onion and throw them in. Take a teaspoon and scrape the seeds from the halved cucumbers. Turn the halves flat side down and slice them 1/8” thin. Add them to the bowl. Taste the liquid; it should be a bit tangy with a bit of pepper zing. Add more vinegar if it seems too weak; we’re making pickles here, almost. Cover and refrigerate. Remember how much vinegar and pepper you used for the next time you make this, so you can adjust the sourness and the heat to where you like it.



Next, start a pot of rice. Plain old white rice is fine, or you could be authentic and buy the more expensive Thai jasmine rice. Either way, 2 cups of water for every slightly topping full cup of rice. Toss a teaspoon of kosher salt into the water as it boils. Add the rice and stir until the water has boiled again for 1 minute. Cover the pot and take it off the heat. In about 45 minutes the rice will be perfectly done and cool enough to eat.



Now make the curry.

1 can Maesri Massaman Curry. The can is about the size of a can of cat food. You can find the stuff in any Asian market, and many Thai restaurants also have a little grocery area over on the side. They always stock this stuff. You can also get it online.
2 medium Russet potatoes or 4-6 small yellow or red potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2” cubes
2 cans of coconut milk. ALWAYS buy the cans that say “first pressing” on the label. That’s the good stuff, and it costs a little more than the cheap stuff. But it’s sooo much better.
1 16oz can of garbanzo beans (chick peas), drained
2 large chicken breasts, diced into 1/2” cubes
3 pork chops or 3” of pork cut off a pork loin, diced into 1/2” cubes
3 green onion sprigs, either julianned into short ribbons or chopped
1/2 a large Spanish onion, peeled and roughly chopped
a double handful of cilantro, rough chopped stems and all
optional: 4-8 dried Asian hot red peppers (either the Indian Sanaam or the Chinese Tien Tsin) each chopped into 6 chunks, seeds and all
optional: 2 or 3 shakes of good cinnamon
optional: a handful of unsalted cashews or peanuts.
optional: 1 or 2 bay leaves

In a medium skillet heat a generous splash of olive oil. Add the chicken and the pork cubes and fry them until lightly browned. You don’t need to fully cook them, just do them until you can’t see any pink meat.

In a large skillet over low heat, dump the entire can of curry. Stir it around until it just starts to sizzle, then add 1 can of coconut milk. Stir it up, and heat it until the red oil starts to come up, about 5 minutes. Dump in the onion and potato cubes and stir. When the sauce boils again, add the meat, peppers, the bay leaves if you’re using them, and the second can of coconut milk. Stir, reduce heat, and allow it to simmer for about 45 minutes until the potatoes are well cooked. Add some water if the sauce is too thick. Add a couple shakes of cinnamon and the green onions. Stir, let cook another 2 minutes, (remove the bay leaves) then serve over rice. Use the cilantro and cashews or peanuts as a garnish. Drain the cucumber salad and save the juice. Serve it in small bowls, and add a few spoons of the marinade to each bowl.

It’s that easy. You can make both the curry and the salad without using any hot peppers at all, and it will taste just fine, but even a tiny bit of hotness really wakes things up. On the other hand - and this is me, Mr. Fire Sauce, saying it - you can go too far. Massaman curry is not traditionally a spicy hot dish. It’s supposed to be gentle and sweet. Meat and potatoes with sauce, simple salad on the side. 

Enjoy. And don’t forget the Thai iced tea, or the Thai barbecued pork slices with hot sauce.

Variations:
Add a 1lb can of diced tomatoes during the stewing. Don’t use the kind that are seasoned with lime juice (Rotel brand, which makes awesome guacamole).
Add 1/2 lb of peeled and sliced eggplant after the sauce has been stewing for 20 minutes.
Try it with fresh basil instead of cilantro. Using dried herbs instead of fresh will seriously diminish the flavor.
You can omit the chick peas. Put in a cup and a half of frozen peas and carrots or green beans if you’d prefer, or if you have to camouflage the “foreignness” of the dish. It doesn’t really have to have any vegetables at all, but that’s a little dull.
You can use water or water and milk to replace the second can of coconut milk. You can add more meat - this recipe uses about a pound total - but if you add much more, you will want to add another can of curry paste and more coconut milk. You can make this with beef too if you want.
Rescue me: it’s tough to overcook this dish, but if you do you’ll have a very thick stew. Nothing wrong with that, but you do want the sauce to be thin enough, and plentiful enough, to have some extra to soak into the rice. So add some water, milk and water, more coconut milk, or some chicken stock near the end if it seems too thick. Just don’t turn it into soup.
Overkill is good too: a can of Maesri curry paste costs about $2. If you use 2 cans the flavor will be quite a bit richer, even if you thin the sauce down just before serving.
With the potatoes, chick peas, and chicken, this dish needs some salt. I’m in the habit of not adding salt to anything I cook, since my wife usually hates it. But you could easily put a tablespoon of good Thai fish sauce or soy sauce in this dish and not put it over the top.


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 01/17/2013 at 11:23 AM   
Filed Under: • Fine-Dining •  
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