Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Grain-Free Goodness: Thai Green Curry

I'm so excited to kick off this new recipe series with my FAVORITE meal as of late. I'm not sure if it was the two weeks of not eating or the few days of hospital food, or if my body is really in need of some coconut fat and curry, but I have been craving Thai food like crazy this month. When I go out to eat at a Thai restaurant and order family-style, this is always one of the dishes.

Making a Thai curry might seem intimidating. You might wonder how many extra items you'll need to buy and keep stocked in your pantry. The truth is, the flavors of Thai cooking are actually pretty simple. The one ingredient that is admittedly kind of strange is fish sauce. It smells like really strong fish but imparts a delicious, salty flavor to dishes. The rest of the ingredients you might have on hand and/or are easy to find at your local supermarket: coconut milk (you can substitute light but it's not as flavor-packed and tends to separate in leftovers), olive oil, honey (or brown sugar), green curry paste, lime juice and lime zest.

Authentic Thai cooking calls for kaffir lime leaves. If you have an Asian market close by, pick some up and substitute 5-6 leaves in place of the zest and juice of one lime. We always have limes on hand so I almost always just stick with those.

A good sauce starts with toasting the curry and slowly adding the other sauce ingredients to taste. Then it's as simple as bringing it to a simmer, then adding protein (if using) and vegetables.

Thai Green Curry generally has zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms and bok choy. I like to fill it with all kinds of veggies. Lately I'm really enjoying the colorful assortment seen below:

The key is to add the vegetables in batches to ensure nothing gets overcooked or mushy. By the time everything is finished cooking, it's hard to find a more satisfying, delicious, veggie-packed meal:

With this cooking on your stove (or steaming in your bowl), the aroma of curry plus coconut will be intoxicating! It smells so good!

That bite right there: perfection. Baby bok choy dripping right off the spoon. :) So without further ado, I bring you the recipe...

Thai Green Curry
serves 4 (easily doubled or tripled)

olive oil
2 TBS green curry paste
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and sliced thinly in rounds
1/2 yellow onion, sliced lengthwise
1 can (2 cups) coconut milk (full fat always tastes better; light is a fine substitute)
2 TBS fish sauce
2 TBS honey (can substitute brown sugar)
juice and zest of half a lime
4 C. assorted chopped vegetables: broccoli, carrots, zucchini, baby bok choy, eggplant, green beans
1/2 cup finely chopped basil
OPTIONAL: 2 chicken breasts or 1/2 pound beef, cut into thin strips

For the sauce:
Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add olive oil and swirl to coat. Add curry paste, garlic, ginger and onion to pan and allow ingredients to sit and toast for about 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour in coconut milk and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add fish sauce, honey, and the lime juice and zest. Taste and adjust as necessary. If it's too sweet, add more curry, fish sauce, or lime juice. If too sour, adjust the curry, fish sauce and honey. If too salty, add honey and curry. Get the picture? If you want extra spice, you can also add cayenne pepper or a diced hot pepper.

If you are cooking chicken or beef right in the sauce, this is the time to add it. Let the sauce coat the meat well and then move on to the veggies. For fish options, see below.

Once you've got the flavors balanced, it's time to add the veggies. One of the hallmarks of a good Thai curry is the perfectly cooked veggies. You'll have to add them in batches. If you recall my picture from above, I've provided a little map with a key to help out:

1. Carrots and bell pepper first. Broccoli would be in this first category as well.
2. Zucchini, baby bok choy stalk (save the greens for later), eggplant and mushrooms next.
3. Bok choy tops, basil, green onions and spinach last.

I let the first batch simmer in the sauce, lid partially covering pan, for about 3 minutes. Then I add batch 2 and let them simmer, lid partially covering pan, 3 minutes more. I test the carrots or broccoli with a fork. If approaching al dente, I throw in veggie batch 3. Basically the heat of the sauce will wilt the last ingredients quickly. Then you're finished!

To serve:
Thai green curry is wondrous and beautiful all by itself. If you want more of a soup, it is possible to add 1/2-1 cup chicken broth after the sauce is balanced and tasty, before adding the protein and veggies. I basically just slurp this up as is. My family enjoys it over steamed rice (white or brown).



For an awesome, inspiring meal, try adding a grilled fish fillet and spooning the curry sauce right over the top. (The recipe above was made with light coconut milk. If you compare pictures, you can see that the full fat version looks thicker and creamier).

Grilled Mahi Mahi with Thai Green Curry Vegetables
Serves 4

4 Mahi Mahi fillets (I buy them at Costco, frozen, and defrost for a bit in warm water)
1 TBS butter, melted
1/2 lime or lemon
salt and pepper

For the fish:
Preheat your grill to high. You want a good sear on these bad boys. Squeeze your lime or lemon over the fish. Pour melted butter over that. Season with salt and pepper. 

To cook:
Grill to desired degree of doneness (or until fish flakes easily with a fork).

To serve:
Place fish fillet on a plate. Spoon the thai green curry vegetables right on top!


I've saved my favorite variation for last. I don't have a picture because when I made it earlier this week for dinner, I was too hungry to set up my camera and tripod and wait until I'd snapped the perfect shot. So you will just have to trust me that it is delicious. Especially when it is piping hot. :)

Coconut Mahi Mahi with Thai Green Curry Vegetables
Serves 4

4 Mahi Mahi fillets (I buy them at Costco, frozen, and defrost for a bit in warm water)
1/2 cup dried unsweetened coconut flakes (Go Organic!)
1/2 cup almond flour
1 egg
salt and pepper
1/2 cup olive or grapeseed oil, or combination of the two

For the fish:
Combine coconut flakes, almond flour, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper in a shallow bowl. In another shallow bowl, beat egg. Dip each fillet, one at a time, into egg mixture, letting extra run off. Then completely coat the fillet with almond flour/coconut mixture.

To cook:
Place a large skillet or nonstick pan over medium heat. Add oil and cook until shimmering. Add fish fillets (don't crowd pan) and cook 3-5 minutes, or until golden brown. Keep an eye on the browning so as to not burn the coating. Carefully flip fillets over and cook an additional 3-5 minutes on second side, or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

For a lighter option, you can also bake the fish fillets in a 425F oven for 8-10 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork, carefully flipping the fish halfway through cooking, at about 4-5 minutes. The easiest way to get a crispy exterior is to coat a cooling rack with cooking spray and place it on top of a foil-lined baking sheet. The cooling rack allows heat to circulate the entire fillet and keep things crisp, rather than one side getting mushy from sitting on the pan.

To serve:
Place Mahi Mahi fillet on a plate. Spoon the thai green curry vegetables alongside, or right on top!


Susan said...

We made your curry last night and it was amazing! It was so creamy and delicious. I served it over rice and added chicken with a ton of different veggies. I am so thankful for this recipe. We love curry but have never found one recipe that can be a mainstay in our home. We just found it! Thank you! YUM!

mel @ the larson lingo said...

This looks SO good. I will be pinning this curry. I have been all about Thai Food/Indian Food/Curry this pregnancy!!

Becky said...

Yay, Suz! I'm so glad it turned out. :)