Thursday, April 10, 2008

Lemongrass Curry

November 2007

Oh my, I do love lemongrass. I will gravitate to anything on a menu with lemongrass in the description, sweet or savory, and I never get tired of the incredibly delicate citrus flavor from this unsuspecting looking piece of produce. So when choosing the next thing to make from Andrea Nguyen's fantastic cookbook Into the Vietnamese Kitchen, my love of lemongrass overruled my typical reaction to curried potatoes and we dined on Chicken, Lemongrass and Potato Curry. Don't get me wrong: I like potatoes fine, but compared to all the other things one can curry they sometimes seem a little pedestrian. Not to worry though, this recipe is brimming with flavor and I will make this for years to come. In fact I've made it twice already, the second time with the addition of, wait no guessing, wait, no, oh darn you guessed it: greens. The particular curry powder she calls for may be difficult to find depending upon where you live, but I have to say that it's totally worth the hunt. In fact, you can get it through Amazon if you are really having a tough time of it. This is another recipe that calls for chicken parts, but I go for the whole chicken route that I wax on about from time to time.

Chicken, Lemongrass, and Potato Curry
From Into the Vietnamese Kitchen by Andrea Nguyen

3 medium or 2 hefty stalks of lemongrass (Trim the tough core at the base, chop off the green woody tops and peel away any dry outer layers. Quarter the stalks lengthwise and chop coarsely. You should end up with about 2/3 of a cup.)
Chubby 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil
2 tablespoons Madras curry powder (she recommends D&D or Sun Brand)
1/2 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
One chicken, circa 2 1/2 to 3 pounds
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 can of coconut milk
4 white or red boiling potatoes (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds) peeled and chopped to the size you like
1 lime, cut into wedges

Boil the chicken for 30 to 40 minutes or until thighs pull away easily. Cool. Pick the chicken down to the bone, shredding the meat as you go, saving all scraps for stock.

In a food processor, process the lemongrass for about 3 minutes or until it is a fine, fluffy mass. Pause occasionally to scrape down the sides. Be sure to stick your nose in there a few times to enjoy the lemongrass aroma.

Add the ginger and pulse to chop. Smell again.

Add the onion and process until the mixture forms a fine paste.

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the lemongrass paste and sauté for for about 3 minutes. Add the curry powder and red chili flakes and continue sautéing for about 1 minute.

Add the shredded chicken, salt, pepper, and coconut milk. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, uncovered, for about 20 minutes.

Add the potatoes and return to a simmer. If the liquid doesn't cover the potatoes, add water as needed. Cook until potatoes are tender. Turn off heat and let stand for 30 minutes to develop the flavors. If you are adding greens, throw them in just before turning the heat off (I used chard, kale, and broccoli greens).

Before eating bring curry back up to temperature. Taste and adjust seasoning. If you find the curry too spicy or intense, add water. If you find curry too mild, simmer further to deepen flavors, adjust seasoning, or strain out a cup of potatoes, mash them, and return to pan. Serve over rice with lime wedges.

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