Curry Guru

Any recipe that calls for curry is a champion in my book. Whether the curry be of the red, yellow and green paste sort, the golden saffron colored powder that every cook should keep stocked in their spice rack or the smorgasbord of different types indigenous to numerous countries around the world. Heat levels aside they are all spectacular. I do not favor one over the other.

When dining at Thai restaurants, I alway order Massaman curry with fish or chicken. I love the addition of potatoes and roasted peanuts. Partner-in-crime is a stickler for the Pad Thai. Of course. When visiting Indian establishments, I opt for Vindaloo. Usually with lamb. Let's add some bottomless baskets of garlicky Naan bread too please. I wish such a thing existed. At our Vietnamese haunt, the wonderful woman who knows what we likes (translation, we rarely order from the menu) prepares us a curry that includes chicken, sweet potato, coconut milk and other goodies. It comes served with rice or vermicelli noodles, which one uses to soak up the rich and delicious broth. 

When visiting Amsterdam once (it is so close by train to my German city that we were there regularly), a friend from Jakarta insisted I visit her favorite Indonesian spot in the city. I refuse to reveal how many beers I drank over the course of that lunch. My mouth caught fire from the get go. We are talking borderline nuclear. It is a marvel that I didn't go blind. Heat aside, it was one of the most wonderful and memorable meals I enjoyed during my time overseas. Lest I not forget the incredible Indian curries I ate many a times in London. The best of the best. My beloved South African dish Bobotie calls for curry. In short, all variations of the spice make for some of the most unforgettable meals. 

At home, you can pull together a curry dish one, two, three. If it is not a Monday night, you effectively need meat, tofu, fish or beans, coconut milk, curry powder or curry paste, red pepper flakes or chilies for a bit of kick, sugar for a hint of sweetness (this is optional), fish sauce because it adds depth and is frankly, the business. Oil of your preference in which to cook, maybe the zest of a lime, chopped ginger, onions, perhaps lemongrass, cilantro and some leafy greens. 

Vegetables go a long way. Carrots, broccoli, green beans, water chestnuts, baby corn, peas or zucchini. Get creative, all will do. Remember for those veggies that cook most quickly, add them to your pan last. You can dress up your compilation anyway you like. The key to curries, like all stir fries, is organization. Chop your meat, vegetables and herbs in advance. Have any cans opened. Measure out the beans and spices. Get your pan nice and hot and then in steps, start cracking. 

We made the following recipe together this past Tuesday night to toast a snowy evening. I cooked garbanzo beans on Sunday (to go with the beef stew) that were sitting in the fridge begging to be used. I had some spinach with which I wanted to part ways, a bunch of tired cilantro and two breasts of chicken purchased before the havoc engulfed my local groer. I always keep cans of coconut milk in the pantry. The other ingredients were on hand and as such, we were cooking. On this night, partner-in-crime and I met at home to assess the situation. With the Weather Channel in the background, we found ourselves regularly opening the front door to watch the snow fall. It was quite marvelous really. 

Snow in Charlotte is a wonderful albeit peculiar thing. First and foremost, it brings out the most erratic drivers. Should you find yourself here during adverse weather, I urge you to proceed with caution on the road. You should also know to get your ducks in a row early. The grocery stores are always mobbed. Come Tuesday evening, I don't think there was a slice of bread, quart of milk or case of beer anywhere to be found in a 25 mile radius. Rightfully so, the government takes heed accordingly, schools close and the city is enchanted by the snowy, beautiful flakes. Those from places where snow is measured in feet and not inches think us crazy. It's no wonder that everyone is moving here in groves! Snow in this corner of the Earth is simply another element that makes the South so enchanting!

You do not need snow to make or enjoy the below. Just some quick elbow grease and a hot pan. Enjoy!

Curried Chicken with Garbanzo Beans and Cauliflower
Adapted from Mark Bittman


3 breasts of organic chicken - cut in chunks 
1 head of cauliflower - chopped - remember to hold onto the stalk for chicken broth
2 cups of garbanzo beans - we cooked our own
3 inch knob of ginger - chopped
3 cups of spinach
1 cup of chopped cilantro
1 TBS curry
1 tsp cinnamon
Zest of 1 lime
5 green onions - chopped
3 TBS olive oil
1.5 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp red pepper flakes
14 fl oz light coconut milk
1/2 cup of chicken broth
Kosher salt and pepper

Time to Cook

1. Chop up your chicken and salt / pepper it. Heat 2 TBS olive oil in a generous sized pan on high heat. Add the chicken and cook until beginning to brown on both sides. Now add the chopped ginger and green onions to the medley. Stir generously. A comforting aroma will begin to fill your kitchen. Once the chicken is cooked throughout meaning no longer pink in the middle, put it on a separate plate.

2. Now add 1 TBS olive oil back to the pan, which should be piping hot and throw in the garbanzo beans to the pan along with the curry and cinnamon. Brown the garbanzo beans for approximately five minutes. Now put garbanzo beans on a separate plate.

3. Throw in your can of coconut milk as well as the chicken broth. Now add the cauliflower and zest of the lime. You want the coconut milk to bubble, lower the heat to medium high and cook the cauliflower. This should take around ten minutes. You are in business when you can easily put a fork in it and remove without effort.

4. Once the cauliflower is done, please add the chicken and garbanzo beans back to the medley. Also add the red pepper flakes and fish sauce at this time. Now add the spinach and cilantro and stir gently. Your leaves will begin to wilt within three to five minutes. Give everything a big stir and ladle into a shallow bowl. I served ours with steamed gluten free brown basmati rice. Please note this would also taste fantastic with the addition of green peas.


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