November 2, 2010

Christmas Curry

In the summer of 2009, The Boog systematically destroyed my hopes for a crop of home-grown vegetables and herbs by digging up whatever I planted.  Had I planted a shoe-tree or a bacon-bush, she no doubt would have pitched in with the watering and weeding.  Seeing no real benefit for herself by allowing Green Intruders to occupy what were otherwise perfectly decent Digging Spots and Future Mud Holes, Boog promptly removed the gorgeous basil, peppers, and tomatoes I had managed to nurse into adulthood. Mind you, I was the idiot who figured that we might as well start a garden in the spot Boog dug up, because there was already a hole. It wasn't "a" hole, it was "Boog's hole," and she was not interested in sharing.

Unlike our dogs, E and I are easily trained.  We learned that if we were going to grow anything, it would have to be well-protected from our nefarious beasts. Thus the construction of a simple chicken-wire fence around our garden last spring, and an ensuing feeling that we were officially Gardeners.  I mean, it's nothing to go bragging about, being the result of 4th-grade-level engineering and $20 worth of supplies from the hardware store.  But it did its job...for 4 months.  

That is, until Boog decided she'd had enough of being kept out of the garden and just jumped the fence.  Just jumped it.  One afternoon, we're relaxing on the deck, and we look up, and there she is, in the garden, sniffing around.  She looks up and sees us watching her (well, laughing at her) and squats for a quick pee.  It wasn't even a territory-marking type of pee.  It was just a completely unselfconscious moment of delight that she at last unlocked the door to that patch of ground she had been denied. So pretty, but so much trouble.

At any rate, the Boog's new ability to enter the garden at will, and autumn's impending arrival (ok, this was August, but how were we supposed to know that it would take another 3 months for the cold weather to truly arrive?), signaled the end of the growing season, and I harvested up all the peppers in the garden.  This amounted to about 1 pound each of green cayennes and jalapeños.  These peppers look remarkably similar, but have about 600 degrees of separation in the heat department. There have been several incidents involving mistaken identity that resulted in teary-eyed, red-faced, coughing and hacking-style regrets.  We're pretty sure it was the cayennes that were spicier, but sometimes a jalapeño would surprise you. Anyway, fast forward to late October, and the reason we ate Christmas Curry....

I decided to make use of our CSA bounty and make a Thai green curry dish.  I went the usual route, but only used 1 can of coconut milk since the curry bottle was half empty.  I sliced up three of the green cayennes, and dropped them in for the simmer.  E and I do spicy food regularly- and I mean spicy.  Really spicy.  We enjoy it, and are not afraid of it.  But we were both very afraid of this curry.  Apparently those three chilies I cut up were the spicy cayennes, and were waaaaay more heat than this family could handle.  Rescue attempts began immediately. Adding more coconut milk diluted it enough, but it also diluted the curry flavor, leaving us with just spicy coconut sauce.  We had half a jar of red curry, and despite some trepidation, I added that in.  SURPRISE!!! It didn't result in a disgusting looking brown curry, or a confusing tasting dish.  Instead the final dish was a beautiful red and green mix.   Still looking quite fresh, and tasting phenomenal and complex.  And not a bit too spicy...  

This is the green curry I usually make.  I've followed the recipe from this book and gotten a much richer curry, but it isn't as quick.  Incidentally, this is one of the only cookbooks I've ever really enjoyed just reading. Usually I like to just skim them for ideas, but this book has loads of reference info for Asian cuisine of all kinds, and big beautiful pictures- and some recipes too complex or foreign not to follow to the letter. 

Green Curry
2 carrots
1 red bell pepper
1 bunch vitamin green or bok choy
1 small onion
1 head broccoli (cut into florets)
any other veggies you want (snow peas, green beans, tomatoes, bamboo shoots, etc.)
2 chili peppers (or more if you want spicier- use Thai peppers, cayenne, jalapeños)
2 cans coconut milk
fish sauce
sesame oil & veg oil
1 jar green curry paste (or make your own if you need to show off)

Chop all veggies into bite-sized pieces.  Heat a tbsp veg oil and 1 tsp sesame oil in wok or large saucepan.  Add curry paste and cook until fragrant.  Add both cans of coconut milk, and two dashes of fish sauce.  Bring up to a low boil and reduce for 5 minutes.  Then add bell pepper, carrots, onions, and chilies.  When they begin to soften, add the vitamin green or bok choy and broccoli.  Bring back up to a simmer and cook another 5 minutes, or until they're just soft.  Taste the curry and add salt if needed, or more chilies if not hot enough.  Serve with rice and enough beer to cool your tongue.  

Ideas- Add chicken or other meat at the beginning, when you saute the curry paste.  Let the meat get coated and partly cooked in the paste before adding the coconut milk.  If using tofu, cook at the beginning, then pull it out and add right back in at the end so that it maintains its texture.