Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Steve McQueen, for real! And other ideas....

Besides seeing a shirtless Steve McQueen, who was anything but a poseur (dude was real!), going all bad ass on a Husqvarna motorcycle in an early '70s Sports Illustrated cover, there's tons of time to waste on a cool blog site I ran across called The Selvedge Yard, whose author has "a passion for people, places, things & ideas of enduring heritage, quality, authenticity & character." Quite a noble cause, n'est pas? Have fun!

Don't Get Complacent: Ca Ri Ga revisited

One of my favorite things about cooking is finding new, better ways to do things. Whether it's technique or improvements to a favorite recipe, the discovery part is always fun. Case in point is the classic Vietnamese curry dish Ca Ri Ga. I've had a version locked and loaded in my repertoire for a few years now (see original post here). It was always delicious, had been made many times before for friends to much praise, and seemed perfect. The lesson here is one should never get complacent, because when I was in a curry-ish mood with a bit of starch craving on the side yesterday morning I entered three words into the awesome epicurious recipe search app: "sweet potato curry". Up popped this recipe, and a few hours later the results appeared as pictured.

This was almost a whole new curry from my previous ca ri ga. Slightly more pungently flavored and definitely brothier. In fact it was the broth that made the whole dish better. Equal parts chicken stock and coconut milk, it had a silky texture yet was not too thick and not too liquidy. Just right. In her notes below recipe author Mai Pham suggests having it with a baguette which I will definitely do next time (although our rice side was excellent). It could also be made vegetarian style by leaving out the chicken, maybe throw in some cauliflower and broccoli or whatever plant based needs you have. The prep was straightforward and simple, and the dish comes together ridiculously easy (both of which always score huge in my book and make this a perfect after work dinner). My mind was opened to a new possibility, my palate was extremely happy, and as much as I loved my old ca ri ga, I have just found a new, better way to edible satisfaction!
*    *    *    *    *    *   
Ca ri ga

from epicurious: The recipe and introductory text below are excerpted from "Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table" by Mai Pham and are part of our story on Lunar New Year.

"True to the Vietnamese style of curry-making, this recipe is milder and lighter than Indian or Thai curries. You can make this with chicken stock, but the coconut milk adds body and enhances the overall flavor. Depending on my mood and the time of year, I sometimes serve this with a warmed baguette (a French influence) instead of steamed rice. Other times, I just make the curry with more broth and serve it with rice noodles. Like other curries, it's delicious the next day."

yield: Makes 4 Servings

3 tablespoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 pounds skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon chopped shallot
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons ground chili
paste or dried chili flakes, or to taste
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 lemongrass stalks, cut into 3-inch pieces and bruised with the flat side of a knife
1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled, cut into 3 slices and bruised with the flat side of a knife
1 1/2 cups fresh chicken stock or store-bought low-sodium chicken broth
3 carrots, peeled, cut on the diagonal into 2/3-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
1 yellow onion, cut into wedges
1 medium sweet potato (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

Garnish (feel free to use any/all):
1/2 cup Asian basil leaves, cut in half
8 sprigs cilantro, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 scallions, chopped

1. Combine 2 tablespoons of the curry powder and the salt in a bowl. Add the chicken and turn to coat the meat evenly. Set aside for 30 minutes.

2. Heat the oil in a medium pot over moderate heat. Add the shallot, garlic, chili paste and the remaining 1 tablespoon curry powder, and stir until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add the chicken and cook until the edges of the pieces are golden, 3 to 4
minutes. Add the fish sauce, sugar, lemongrass, ginger and chicken stock. Bring
to a boil, then reduce the heat. Add the carrots and cook for 10 minutes. Add
the coconut milk, onion and sweet potato and cook until the vegetables are
tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl, garnish with Asian basil,
cilantro and scallions, and serve.