Friday, September 15, 2006

Sweatin' to the Curry

Not too long ago, while checking out some new sites, I came across the Global Gourmet site. The archives hold a lot of cookbook reviews, with a few recipes thrown in for you to try. If you like trying global cuisine, and dishes you don't normally make, check out this site.

This recipe for Red Curry Beef with Potatoes comes from The Simpler the Better; Sensational One-Dish Meals by Leslie Revsin with Rick Rodgers. If nothing else, the cover photo of risotto with shrimp is enough to at least check the book out.

This was truly a one-pot dinner, although not quick cooking; known to be a tough cut of meat, chuck needs a good amount of time braising to become meltingly tender. I opted to throw in with the browning onions a sliced-up green bell pepper and a couple of sliced garlic cloves. The finished dish was quite spicy and had a moderate amount of heat, although very manageable when served with a dollop of sour cream or, as I had on hand, yogurt cheese (drained and thickened low-fat yogurt).

This makes four good-size servings and could probably be made and frozen for a desperation dinner down the road. I'm not sure: how do dishes made with coconut milk freeze? Having been on a low-carb kick the past couple of months, making a dish with potatoes was a real treat, and I didn't feel guilty as each serving had probably less than one red potato in it. A glass of New Zealand Marlborough district saugignon blanc paired well with the dish. The stew had lime and citrus flavor, and the wine had distinct grapefruit overtones. A better match, I feel, would have been a dry riesling.

The heat and spiciness in the recipe come from the three tablespoons of red curry paste. Once again, Palm Springs proves itself to be a culinary backwater town; I had to go to three supermarkets to find curry paste. The recipe called for three, but next time I think I'll tone it down by starting with only two and go from there. In this case the advice we've all heard rings true: you can always add more, but once in there, you can't take it out. One other thing: I used fish sauce, which I had in the cupboard, because it gives the dish that authentic Thai flavor.

Here's a copy of the recipe from The Global Gourment.

Red Curry Beef with Potatoes
4 servings

Here's another recipe that uses red curry paste, one of my favorite ingredients. In fact, it is probably the most famous use for red curry paste—a luxuriously spiced beef stew with chunks of potatoes.

2 large onions
1-1/2 pounds red-skinned potatoes, peeled
2 limes
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons red curry paste
Two 13-1/2-ounce cans coconut milk (do not shake cans)
3 tablespoons soy sauce or fish sauce


Cut onions into 1/2-inch-thick half-moons. Cut potatoes into 1/2-inch-thick rounds. Grate zest from limes. Juice limes; you should have 2 to 3 tablespoons.

1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in Dutch oven or flameproof covered casserole over medium-high heat. In batches without crowding, add beef and cook, turning occasionally, until beef is browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer beef to plate.

2. Heat remaining tablespoon oil in pot. Add onions and reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions soften, about 5 minutes. Add curry paste and 2 tablespoons thick coconut "cream" (the thick liquid that has risen to the top of the canned coconut milk). Mix well and cook for 30 seconds. Return beef and any juices on plate to pot. Whisk coconut milk in cans to combine milk and remaining "cream" and pour into pot, along with soy sauce. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for 50 minutes.

3. Add potatoes to pot and cover. Cook until both beef and potatoes are tender, about 35 minutes. Add lime zest and juice. Serve hot.

Simple tip

Don't confuse coconut milk with cream of coconut (such as Coco Lopez). The former is unsweetened, while the latter is used only for making piƱa coladas and some desserts. However, the thick, rich paste that rises to the top of canned coconut milk during storage is similarly called "coconut cream." The question is what to buy? The answer is coconut milk.


Add 1 green bell pepper (seeds and ribs discarded, pepper cut into 2-inch long strips about 1/2 inch wide) and 2 finely chopped garlic cloves to the pot with the onion.

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