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Thai Red Curry Vegetables

Thai Red Curry Vegetables

 

This slow cooker Thai Red Curry has become a surprise hit in my household. I love that its full of vegetables and the first time I made it was totally vegetarian, eschewing the fish sauce and tossing tofu in at the end. I worried it might be too spicy so I pulled all the vegetables and tofu out of the broth, arranged them on my children’s plates next to their rice and they ended up asking for seconds. Zoe especially loved “the chicken”.  The second time I made it, I finished it with fish sauce, and then dropped some cleaned shrimp in (still keeping the tofu). Fish sauce is an Asian condiment made from fermented fish, and is one of those things that smells so badly but when used in the right context adds such a depth of flavor and salt that can’t be achieved any other way. In fact, any curry at a Thai restaurant, even the vegetable ones, have fish sauce in them. Still, it’s an ingredient that most people don’t want to buy to use once, and it’s really hard to get past the funky fermented smell that permeates the room once you open the cap. If you don’t want to go that route, you can simply season at the end with both soy sauce and regular salt and it will still be delicious. It’s important to add salt at both the beginning and end of the cooking process because in the beginning it will flavor the vegetables cooking, but those vegetables throw off a lot of natural juices that will dilute the broth and need to be balanced at the end. Thai Red Curries are traditionally less spicy than green so I went with that. I use one 4-oz jar of Thai Kitchen Red Curry Paste as a base. It’s a fine product that contains only pureed aromatics and nothing else, but to achieve a full flavor I add more ginger and lemongrass. Slow cooking everything and adding butternut squash lends sweetness that allows me to leave out the traditional ingredient of palm sugar. You can use regular coconut milk, or light, they both taste good, the latter producing a less rich and more soupy broth that is still worthy of some rice. To that point, the perfect side dish is some steamed jasmine rice, but any white rice will do too. Cut all of the vegetables the day before and store them in a big bowl so in the morning you plop everything in the slow cooker and are done with it.

all the beautiful veggies

all the beautiful veggies

Slow Cooker Thai Red Curry

Serves 4

two 13.5 oz cans of full or low-fat coconut milk

one 4 oz jar Thai Red Curry Paste

1 stalk lemongrass, smashed with the back of a knife to release its flavor, split lengthwise and cut into two inch lengths and tied together with a string

one 2″ piece of ginger, peeled and sliced

2 tablespoons soy sauce, plus more at the end

1 tsp salt, plus more at the end

 

1 cup carrots, sliced 1/4″ on the bias

2 cups greenbeans, (I like the Chinese long beans, but American green beans work too) trimmed and cut into approximately 2″ lengths

2 cups butternut squash cut into chunks

1 red bell pepper, sliced 1/2″

one pound shitakes, stems removed and caps sliced, or 8 oz button mushrooms, trimmed and sliced

8 oz organic firm tofu, drained and cut into cubes or

one pound of shrimp, peeled and cleaned

 

1. Add coconut milk, curry paste, ginger and lemongrass to slow cooker and whisk to combine.

2. Add vegetables and gently stir to coat all of the vegetables with the sauce. The vegetables will not be completely submerged and that is ok. During the cooking process they will release their water and shrink down.

3. Cook on high for about 3.5 hours or low for about 6 hours. Fish out the bunch of lemongrass and discard. Finish seasoning to taste: It could take an additional 2 tsp of salt and 1 teaspoon of soy sauce at this point, or 2 tsp fish sauce, depending on the water content in the vegetables. Taste it and season it to your taste. I like salty so I will even add a couple squirts of fish sauce right to my bowl.

4. When it’s seasoned, if adding shrimp, turn the cooker up to high, drop in the shrimp and cook until pink and firm to the touch, about 10-20 minutes depending on the size of the shrimp. If you aren’t sure, take one out and cut into it. Add your tofu once the shrimp are cooked and gently warm through.

5. Serve in a bowl as a soup or with Jasmine rice.

You can finish the dish with chopped red chilis if you like a bit more heat like I do, fresh cilantro leaves and sliced scallions. Enjoy!!

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IMG_0234You’ve eaten the roasted chicken, licked your fingers and now it’s time for clean up. Believe it or not, that chicken carcass that you have left is one of the most valuable things to come across your kitchen. If you haven’t noticed, chicken stock is a widely used ingredient in anything from soups, to curries, risotto, braises and even vegetable dishes. The reason for this is its neutral flavor doesn’t overpower the other ingredients like say, a vegetable stock could, but instead it adds a round flavor and richness that serves as a  great building block. What you buy in the store is usually broth, made from meat and flavorings and not usually the simmered bones. If you make a proper stock from bones cooked for a long time you release their natural gelatin which is why a homemade stock becomes jelly when it cools. What is also does is give you that velvety viscous mouth feel when it’s hot. Store bought chicken “stock” or broth also has salt in it, something the professionals never do because if you reduce the stock to concentrate flavor and gelatin it would then be too salty. So you season with salt at the end. That being said, I use box stock when I don’t have any home-made in the house, but I always buy low sodium and organic to minimize the crazy ingredients they add for flavor. Just watch the salt if you use store-bought, and when using home-made, you will have to season with a little extra at the end. Keep in mind this is one chicken, so you may not get that jelly when cold texture but its still a hell of a lot better than spending money!

If you own a slow cooker, you can toss the leftover chicken body and any juices that are hanging out on the dish around it right in after dinner and cook it overnight or do the same the next day. If not, save it in a Tupperware and simmer it gently in a pot on a day that you have some time. If you simmer it for 2-3  hours you should be fine and watch the water level so it never gets completely dry. Reducing it will concentrate flavor and save space in your freezer and you can add water or broth to make up any liquid difference in your recipes. Lastly, the slow cooker does crazy things to onions so I leave them out if I’m using that.

After the Roasted Chicken Stock  IMG_0232

1 chicken carcass with anything that is left on it, broken up into a few smaller pieces and any reserved juices

3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 2″ lengths

3 stalks of celery, cut large

1 large white or yellow onion, peeled and quartered (omit if slow-cooker)

2 cloves garlic, peeled

8 sprigs of thyme

parsley stems (if you have them)

1 whole clove (if you don’t have it, omit)

1. Cover all ingredients with water in a slow cooker or a pot that is deeper than wide, and not too big or too small for the ingredients.

2. In slow-cooker cook on high for 4-6 hours or low for 8 hours. On stove top, bring to a boil on high heat, then reduce it to a simmer and simmer 2-4 hours until done, watching the liquid. Skim the impurities off the top with a spoon or ladle during the process.

3. Strain out the solids and discard and cool, then freeze.

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