28th in a food series
Draggin' the line
Some things are so stupefyingly great, it's surprising they're not a sin. Mae Ploy green curry is one of them. Chayote squash in chile chowder is another. Both of these soups (or are they stews?) satisfy like comfort food but manage to provoke with contrasting flavors that you weren't expecting.
Mae Ploy green curry with pork
Aside from some vegetables and a can of coconut milk (and maybe some kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass and/or basil leaf – if you've got the energy to go to the store and get any of them)
, you don't need much more than Mae Ploy Green Curry Paste to make a fantastic green curry. Mix up some Mae Ploy and you'll think you're eating in one of the innumerable yet endlessly satisfying Thai restaurants located in strip malls throughout Southern California. Which I say because when we lived in Riverside, for a couple of years, we often ate at a Thai restaurant located in a strip mall in Moreno Valley. The strip mall was anonymous and seedy looking, but the food was wonderful (and ten times better than what we found at the fancy Thai restaurant in Redlands that we tried out). That restaurant in the Moreno Valley strip mall is still the standard I remember when making green curry.
The Mae Ploy band is produced by the Theppadungporn Coconut Co., Ltd.
, which was founded by a Thai couple in 1946 and is headquartered in Bangkok. The instructions printed on the Mae Ploy container are small enough to test the limits of legibility, so here's what I found when I magnified them:
•Stir-fry 50 g of Green Curry Paste in 1 tbsp soybean oil, then add 1 cup (240 ml) of coconut milk.
•Add 200 g of fresh meat and continue cooking.
•Add another ½ cup (120 ml) of coconut milk and ½ cup (120 ml) of water, heat until boiling.
•Add 100 g of vegetables and cook until the vegetables are softened.
•Add 1½ tsp sugar. Taste and season as required.
Suggestion: For a milder flavor, half portion of the curry paste should be used.
Following those instructions you'll produce a reliable and good green curry, but what I do is slightly different. And it's seasonal. I change-up my curry by making it with zucchini in the fall and winter and Japanese eggplant in the summer. Also, I include chicken broth, which I've decided improves the curry's flavor and color. Also, I've decided that green curry with pork tastes more interesting than chicken breast (which is dull) or beef (which is just weird), but for a special occasion, green curry with shrimp tastes outstanding.
1 tablespoon coconut oil, or extra virgin olive oil
1½ tablespoon Mae Ploy Green Curry Paste (14-ounce container available at the Bangkok Asian Market
in Fort Collins)
¾ to 1 pound cubed pork
1 can coconut milk ($1.59 per 13½-ounce can, on sale)
1 cup chicken broth (1 cup water + 1 teaspoon Superior Touch® brand Better Than Bouillon chicken base
at $4.39 per 8-ounce jar)
1 tablespoon nam pla (Thai fish sauce)
2 small zucchini, sliced into ¼-inch rounds (for fall or winter curry), or 1 medium Japanese eggplant, cut into ½-inch pieces (for summer curry)
1 red bell pepper, cut into 3-inch strips (for fall or winter curry; optional for summer curry)
6-inch length of lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus
2 fresh whole kaffir lime leaves (Citrus hystrix
; if fresh leaves aren't available, don't even think about using Thai Taste brand of kaffir lime leaves
, which are shredded leaves jarred in water, which are exceptionally tasteless and in every way without merit)
4-6 basil leaves, cut into thin strips
Stir-fry the curry paste in oil for a minute or so. Add one quarter of the can of coconut milk. Whisk, and simmer briefly. Add the lemon grass and pork, and sauté for several minutes. Add the remaining coconut milk, chicken broth, fish sauce and kaffir lime leaves. Simmer over medium-low to medium heat for twenty minutes. Then add the vegetables and cook until tender. Add the basil and simmer for another two minutes before serving.
Serve with an aromatic rice on the side.
Chayotes in chile chowder
We've loved lamb since my daughter was in elementary school, which doesn't mean we've ever eaten lamb very often, perhaps only once or twice a year, but when we have had lamb, it's been special, in the happy way that good food makes possible... And so, I had to smile when I discovered lamb steaks on sale at King Soopers last week.
The recipe below is the way we've always prepared lamb steaks and chops. We'd place the lamb in the marinade in the morning – before work and school – and then broil the marinated lamb when we got home in the evening.
Recently, we've been serving this lamb with orzo, into which we stir two tablespoons of pine nuts and some chopped Italian parsley and then drizzle on some of the juice from the broiled lamb, which is delicious but not necessarily something everyone will want to do. We've often completed this meal with steamed fresh spinach and enjoyed one of our home's favorite, two-thumbs-up meals... Although not on this recent visit by my daughter.
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 large red onion, coarsely chopped
3 large garlic clove, pressed
1 teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup flour
1 cup + 4 cup chicken broth (5 cup water + 1½ tablespoon Superior Touch® brand Better Than Bouillon chicken base
at $4.39 per 8-ounce jar)
6 Anaheim chile, roasted and very coarsely chopped
2 red bell pepper, unroasted and sliced into 3-inch strips
2 chayote squash ($0.89 each)
1 16-ounce package frozen sweet corn ($1.67 per package, on sale)
1 pint (2 cup) half & half ($1.29 per half pint carton)
Add the olive oil and lemon juice to a bowl and whisk until an emulsion forms. Then use a garlic press to crush the garlic into the oil and lemon juice. Whisk in the other ingredients.
Place the lamb steaks into a plastic container. Pour on the marinade and coat both sides of the steaks. Cover the container and refrigerate for 4-8 hours or longer.
To cook the steaks, preheat the oven to broil. Place the steaks on a sheet of aluminum foil and pour most of the marinade over the steaks. Broil for five minutes. Turn the steaks over, pour on the remaining marinade, and broil for another five minutes.