Thursday, December 18, 2014

Authentic Jungle Curry (Kaeng Pa)

Jungle curry is a primitive dish that comes from the remote regions of Thailand. It is a blindingly hot dish that was traditionally made with bush meat and whatever other ingredients were on hand. Today, it remains a popular dish in Thailand, and although it is still an incredibly spicy dish, the random jungle meats have been largely replaced by duck or pork (I use seitan). The reason for the severe hotness of the dish is twofold: first, hotness was often used to mask sometimes dubious meats or vegetables used, and second, there is no coconut milk used to add sweetness and creaminess to absorb the heat. This is a watery curry—almost a stew. This is an adventurous dish.

Shopping hints: for the seitan, there are a lot of different types out there. Go with traditional flavored (not barbecue, bacon, chorizo, or any other varieties that are now available). And there are also strips or other "cuts" also now out there; just go with the plain old chunky stuff. Also, there's some unusual ingredients here, such as karachi, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, Thai basil, and lemongrass. All these are available at most Asian grocers. 

Prep time: 2 cocktails

For the paste:
1-3 habenero peppers, stems removed and halved (amount should vary depending on your tolerance--I use 5 peppers)
4 fingers of krachai, chopped
1 stalk lemongrass, chopped
¼ cup shallot, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic
2 TBSP galangal, chopped
Pinch white pepper
1 Anaheim pepper chopped

For the curry:
3 TBSP peanut oil, divided
1 8-ounce package seitan, torn into thin strips
3 cups veggie stock
2-3 TBSP fish sauce
3 Anaheim peppers, chopped
2-3 cups mixed vegetables (can include broccoli, bamboo shoots, zucchini, carrot, cabbage, eggplant, etc.)
2 TBSP drained green peppercorns, out of a jar (available by capers and other condiments at the store)
4 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
5 fingers of krachai, chopped finely
1 large tomato, sliced
Handful Thai basil (tear largest leaves in half)
Prepared forbidden black rice, sticky rice, or sticky noodles

Prepare the paste by combining all the paste ingredients in food processor, spice grinder, or mortar and pestle. Process until you have a smooth paste.

Heat 2 TBSP of the oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add seitan. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until it begins to get a bit browned and crispy on the exterior. Remove from heat and set aside.

With your burner on medium, heat the remaining 1 TBSP of the oil in a large wok or pan. When hot, add 1/3 cup of the paste (save the rest of the paste for another use). Stir constantly for 90 seconds. Add stock and fish sauce. Bring to a boil and then add Anaheim peppers, vegetables (but NOT the tomato), peppercorns, lime leaves, and krachai. Stir frequently for a couple minutes until veggies becomes a bit tender.

Stir in tomato and Thai basil remove from heat. Let sit for a minute or two then add Seitan and serve over warm rice.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Filthy, Dirty Rice

Dirty rice is a Creole dish that gets that name because it is traditionally speckled with chicken liver and giblets. Er, no thanks. Instead, I opt for a hearty combination of cajun spices to give this dish some serious kick. But fear naught, dear reader! This substitution sacrifices nothing in terms of authenticity or awesomeness. In fact, if anything, it makes my recipe superior to the giblet-centric version, thus making it not just dirty rice but filthy, dirty rice! Maybe even despicable, grimy, filthy, dirty rice. How could you not want to make that for your family?! 

Prep time: 1 cocktail

3 TBSP olive oil, divided
2+ cloves garlic
½ cup chopped onion
3-5 stalks celery, chopped
½ green bell pepper, chopped
1 cup uncooked brown rice
1-2 Tomatoes
1.5 cups water
¾ tsp ground thyme
¾ tsp oregano
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
½ tsp cayenne (or more to taste)
1 TBSP Cajun seasoning
3-5 bay leaves

Heat 1 TBSP of oil and add the garlic and onion, sauté a couple minutes Add celery and pepper and sauté another couple minutes. Remove from heat.

In separate saucepan with lid, heat the remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil over medium high heat. Add rice and stir very frequently until the rice turns nice and toasty brown.

Add vegetable mixture, tomatoes, water, all spices, and bay leaves to the rice. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the rice is done (45 minutes-1 hour). Remove and let rest, covered, a couple minutes, fluff with a fork and adjust seasoning to taste.

Meatless Louisiana Red Beans

How could you not love a food that was supposedly invented by a gaggle of people with such a drinking problem that by the time Monday morning rolled around, this was all they were able to stomach? That's the tale behind this dish. The fine citizens of New Orleans have served red beans on Mondays for generations because by the time the weekend was over, this was the only food up to the task of soaking up all those Sazeracs. Note that cooking beans takes a looooong time--about 8 hours at my altitude (though a pressure cooker reduces this time to minutes) plus soaking the beans overnight. But cooking this dish from scratch is well worth it! So go fix yourself a French 75 and get into the kitchen! Serve with dirty rice

Prep time: 1 cocktail

1 pound dry red beans
1 large green pepper, chopped 
1 medium onion, chopped 
5 medium stalks celery chopped 
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 ounce Tabasco sauce (ONLY use Tabasco, no other hot sauce is acceptable)
6-8 bay leaves
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp Cajun seasoning
1 tomato, minced (optional)
2-3 tsp salt (to taste)
1 TBSP soy sauce
Vegetarian Andouille, Kielbasa, or other spicy sausage (optional) 

Slow method: rinse beans and soak in cold water overnight before cooking. Fast method: Instead of soaking overnight, rinse beans and throw in a pot of boiling water. Boil for 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for at least 2 hours. Discard water.

Next, cover the beans in a pot with fresh water and bring to boil. Then add all other ingredients except salt and soy sauce. Reduce heat to a gentle boil and cover. Stir occasionally until beans are soft, adding more water if necessary.

Stir in salt and soy sauce. Adjust salt and seasoning, as needed. Toss in your faux sausage, if using and cook a few more minutes. Serve over rice.