Tuesday, January 17, 2006

i have a secret

This is my super-secret none-more-secret recipe for christmas curry that I have been perfecting over about two years. I can release it now because I have a new signature curry, pomegranate-lamb, that I won't be giving details on. Have fun.

You will need:

One large Kabocha squash. Failing this, use summer or spaghetti.
Palm sugar. If you don't have it, use a mixture of brown and white.
Yellow curry paste
Curry powder
Fish sauce ( we love the three crabs brand )
Meat of your choice or tofu, cut into small pieces
(if using meat a white fleshed animal would be best)
Yellow onion
Yukon gold potatoes
3-4 cans coconut milk (small) or one large, one small. You can mix and match regular and lowfat.
Chicken/Vegetable soup stock (the fresher the better)
Rice
Optional:
star anise
Garam Masala

Roast the squash. You can do this the night before if you want. For a Kabocha, cut it in half and scrape out the seeds. Then lightly oil the flesh (you don't want it greazy but you don't want it to burn either). My estimate is 45 minutes at 350, but don't quote me. When your squash has cooled, peel the skin from it. You could do this before you cook it; either way is difficult. On a Kabocha the skin is edible so you don't have to be so stringent. Also you may want to roast the potatoes at this time because the curry will not cook them fully. I'd say cook them about 3/4 of the way done, so that a fork still has trouble going through.

Into the blender/food processor go:

1/4 of the cooked kabocha flesh
1tsp fish sauce
One 'Nilla-wafer' portion of palm sugar (they sell it as such) or 1/4 cup of the sugar mixture
Heaping tablespoon (or two) of curry paste, depending upon if you like it hot
1 can (about 10 oz) coco milk
1-2 cups of stock.
Garam Masala to taste
Generous pinch curry powder

Mix these up thoroughly. It should come out like a melted milkshake. Chunks of palm sugar are OK; they will dissolve with a little encouragement from a spoon. Curry paste, though, will not so if you are unsure, start slowly with some wet ingredients and the paste, adding the sugar later. Pour this mixture into a heated saucepan, wok, or large frying pan. You will need more room than you think. Over medium heat, reduce the mixture for about 30 minutes, encouraging it often so that it doesn't dry too much or burn in certain areas. If you have opted for more stock it will take a bit longer. When you're done it should have reduced in size considerably and stiffened to about honey consistency. Taste it and see if it is lacking in spiciness, curry flavor, saltiness, sweetness. You can adjust for these later.\r\n\r\n \r\nStart your rice. I have found lately that adding stock to the mix is good--but dont\' overdo it. If you are using hard-skinned rice, put in two cups of rice, 3 of water, and one of stock. If you are using polished (white) rice, how about 1 1/2 cups of water and 1/2 cup of stock to 2 cups of rice. Now put the rest of the coconut milk you have into the blender/food processor. Why go for broke? Because the coconut milk\'s breadth will allow for you to adjust the flavors. If the rendered curry you tasted earlier was not spicy enough, add another spoonful or two of curry paste (alternately you can fry a Thai chili or jalapeno for this). If it is not curry-flavored enough, add some curry powder (but be careful...the curry paste is much more complex. Just curry powder will cheapen the final taste). Now would be a good time to add some fish sauce unless it tastes too salty to you. Think of it as the soy sauce of southeast Asia. If the curry is curried, spicy, slightly salty, but not rich then add another 1/4 cup of sugar or one Nilla-wafer amount of palm sugar. Add another 1/4 of the kabocha meat to the blender and let 'er rip. Add the shake you've just made to the rendered curry and bring the heat up to a rolling medium again.

Check your rice!

As the curry begins to reduce again (more slowly this time due to more moisture from coco milk), prepare your hearty ingredients. Chop the remaining squash into bite-size pieces. Do the same for the onion, potatoes, and meat or tofu. If using tofu, giving it a light fry first would help it to retain its shape when you are stirring it around later. If you are using meat, thinly slicing it will obviate the need of extra cooking outside of in the curry pot. Once it appears your curry mixture is on its way (well mixed and steaming but not boiling), add the chunky ingredients. You may want to reserve the onions for later because they are more tender. The duration of cooking is up to your discretion (and that of your ingredients). When each of the ingredients is soft enough to eat it's time to do so!

I like to serve the curry over a small bed of rice in a bowl (it has a tendency to run away from you). I sprinkle curry powder on top (cinnamon would be OK too) and a few star anise stars. Make sure your guests know not to eat the stars!

Friday, January 13, 2006

endangered animals taste good














Now this is what I'm talkin' about. Ootoro ("oh-toe-row"). A guilty pleasure for me, and I hope all, due to the endangered nature of bluefin tuna. I've seen these fish at the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, and man, they are immense. Dangerously so.
This plate of Ootoro and Sake nigiri sushi was brought to us at our most favorite sushi spot in Monterey. We love it there. They apparently like us too, as they didn't charge corkage for our Shirakawago nigori sake.