Let me introduce you to my new favorite dinner.
I only recently discovered the delicious, enchanting flavors of Thai food a little over a year ago. From the moment I had my first dish, I was hooked. I have since had the pleasure of sampling a myriad Thai dishes and can confidently state that I have loved every single one. The complex, subtle flavors are more pleasant to eat than a really good dessert. I love the warmness from the chilies, the sweetness from the sugar and coconut milk, the sour tones from the limes and lemongrass, and the salty punch of the fish sauce all coming together to form a symphony of flavors like I have every experienced. Paul has also enjoyed sampling various Thai dishes with me, although he still claims that Indian food will always hold the #1 spot in his heart due to his continual hostility towards coconut milk. Indian food delivers more of a direct, bold punch of spice and flavors whereas Thai is more delicate and intricate. I assumed that because of this Thai would be difficult to cook. However, I did want to learn how to cook it because I have been craving it often and getting takeout regularly just isn't an option.
I started my research at the library by checking out various books on Thai cooking. The complexity of the ingredients really got to me. Most Thai dishes start by making a paste with various spices, lemongrass, herbs, and chilies. However, many of these ingredients can be expensive and difficult to find. The books did state that buying a curry paste from the specialty section of your grocery store is an economical option. However, there are many, many different brands of curry paste out there. And lots of them have received horrible reviews for their lackluster flavor.
After doing a bit of research, I found that the Mae Ploy brand of curry paste is actually utilized by a lot of Thai restaurants because it has an authentic, fresh flavor. Plus, it's a product of Thailand and not an American or China-based company. I ordered some green curry via Amazon and then anxiously awaited its arrival.
Once it came, I chose a simple recipe from which to start and adjusted it a bit due to what I have tasted and enjoyed after visiting a few different Thai restaurants.
The results were divine. Such a beautiful dish to enjoy on a cold night. In addition, it comes together quickly and is such a breeze to make. Seriously, the most difficult part is slicing the chicken thinly enough. Until my craving subsides, we will be making this a couple times each month.
Feel free to substitute shrimp for the chicken or to use different types of chopped vegetables. You could make it vegetarian by adding some tofu and extra vegetables. The coconut broth is so darn good that you could probably add a handful of Lucky Charms cereal to it and it would still be one knockout of a dinner. Okay, don't quote me on that...but do give this dish a try.
One last note, making the recipe as stated will result in a mildly spiced broth (at least with the brand of curry paste I used). If you want extra heat, feel free to add more. Keep in mind, this stuff is potent so don't go overboard!
Thai Green Curry with Chicken
adapted from Cook's Illustrated
2 (14 ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk, unshakened
2 tablespoons green curry paste (use extra if you like heat)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of excess fat and sliced thin against the grain
2 1/2 cups zucchini, halved and sliced
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded, stemmed and sliced into thin strips
1 large chile (hot), stemmed, seeded, and quartered lengthwise
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves (optional)
Gather all your ingredients before making the sauce. If the chicken is completely thawed, freeze for 15 minutes before slicing thin against the grain (it will make it a lot easier to slice thin!). Cut any pieces that are super-long in half so that they are all about the same size.
Carefully spoon off about 1 cup of the top layer of cream from one can of coconut milk. This layer should be thick and possibly solid. Place the coconut cream and curry paste into a large Dutch oven and bring to a simmer over high heat, whisking to blend, about 2 minutes. Maintain this brisk simmer and whisk frequently until almost all of the liquid evaporates. This should take anywhere from 3-5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-high and whisk constantly until the cream separates into a puddle of colored oil and coconut solids, about 3-8 minutes. Continue cooking until the curry paste is very aromatic, 1-2 minutes.
Whisk in the remaining coconut milk, the fish sauce, and the brown sugar. Bring back to a brisk simmer and cook until the flavors meld and the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Season the chicken with some table salt and add it to the pot, stirring until the pieces are separated and evenly coated with the sauce, about 1 minutes. Stir in the zucchini and bring back to a brisk simmer over medium heat. Cook until the vegetables are almost tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the bell pepper and fresh chile and cook until the vegetables are crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Remove the Dutch oven from the heat and stir in the lime juice and basil (if using). Serve immediately over hot jasmine rice.