Well, that was an Oregon summer.
I guess it’s over? This week the sun promptly faded and the rain came out. I’m a bit sad that the sun went bye-bye and the rain and humidity are once again making macaron-baking a struggle, but on the bright side, soup season is here! I love soup season. I really do.
Okay, so this is really more of a stew/braise, but I’m all about the curry right now. My life has been touched by ambiguous curries. My dad used to make…well, who knows what my dad got up to with a dutch oven and free reign over the spice aisle, but he use to make these searingly hot (to my ten year old palate) concoctions, full of spicy meat and vomit-colored sauce. When I complained he’d just say, “You don’t know what’s good.”
Well, crap if he wasn’t right. I don’t know when the shift occurred; maybe sometime during the weekly dinner outings to the Thai place in Pacifica where my parents used to go. We went out a lot after my Dad died, something we almost never did when he was alive. It was a shift in the dynamic between mother and daughters; suddenly I could relate to my Mom in a way I couldn’t when I was younger. The three of us would go out for lunch like girlfriends, giggling over spicy curry and Thai iced tea, and it was like us against the world. Learning to like spicy food was like a rite of passage, one that I wasn’t capable of passing until just then.
Ah, jeez. Are you crying yet? If not, go chop an onion. Chop it good.
Anyway, this is an experimental sort of curry. I can only barely make Chinese recipes and I’m half Chinese, so I reserve the right to not know what the fuck I’m doing when it comes to Thai flavors. Thai-ish. I believe I adapted this recipe from a spicy soup recipe from Epicurious, and also from some other random recipe that called for sweet potatoes. The sweet potatoes, they spoke to me. I made it once, I think at my mom’s house? And it was so good that I made it again a few weeks later for a work potluck. Last week when the weather turned gray I made it for the third time. And oh, I’ve missed it.
WARNING: If you do not enjoy the smells of delicious curry cooking, you should not make this. There is no escaping the tantalizing aromas. Neighbors and roommates will be very envious of/annoyed with you. But they can suck it.
Also I do not have any stovetop process photos, because even though my Dad was right about spicy meat being good, I was right about the sauce. It ain’t pretty. And my kitchen gets terrible lighting. If I could make a scratch and sniff website, I would. Actually, I might not, because that would be embarrassing and inappropriate in libraries and such.
I’d advise doing ALL the prep at once, marinating the chicken while you chop everything else. Once this baby gets going you’re not gonna want to stop. I made the mistake of forgetting to peel/chop my sweet potatoes until the last minute, and let me tell you, peeling potatoes is even less fun when you’re trying to do it on the fly. Also don’t shake your coconut milk when you buy/use it. Ideally I like to find the dingiest, dustiest can in the store, so the fat is nicely separated from the water. We’re gonna deglaze with that fat, baby. I’ve been told the fat helps to toast the spices and bring out extra yummy flavors, but I forget where I heard that or whether it makes any sense. But it looks impressive, and it makes it easier to incorporate the thick curry paste into the sauce.
Experimental Curry2 T. vegetable oil 1/2 onion, chopped 3 garlic cloves, minced 2 T. lemongrass, minced 2 T. ginger, minced 2 T. curry paste (I used red curry paste, available in asian markets)
2 T. curry powder, divided 1 t. chili garlic sauce (The kind with the rooster on it…I call it cock sauce. You can use another name.)
2 cans coconut milk 2 c. chicken broth 2 1/2 T. fish sauce 2 t. sugar 3 c. sweet potato, cut into 2 inch chunks 3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, halved
Toss the chicken with half the curry powder, let marinate while you prepare the other ingredients, about half an hour.
Heat the oil in a large dutch oven and brown the chicken in 3-4 batches, over high heat, turning as soon as the pieces brown enough to unstick themselves from the bottom of the pan. Place the browned chicken in a bowl and set it aside. reduce the heat to medium and, in the same pot, sautee the onion, garlic, ginger and lemongrass until the onions are translucent and some of the liquid has released. Add the remaining curry powder, curry paste, and chili sauce, along with the fatty part of the coconut milk, skimmed off the top of the can. Stir it together and let it cook down a few minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.
Add the remaining coconut milk, the chicken broth, fish sauce, and sugar, and bring to a boil. Add the chopped sweet potatoes and the browned chicken and reduce the heat to low. Let it simmer until the potatoes are cooked through and the chicken pulls apart easily, about half an hour.
Serve with steamed rice and garnish with cilantro, green onion and fresh squeezed lime.