Thursday, April 23, 2015

Help for the Busy Cook: Quick Panang Curry

My life is so full and blessed lately that I feel like bragging, but I will spare you all the details. I'll just say that renovations on the house are going well, I am surrounded by family and friends that I adore, and I have a job that I really love.

All these things keep me really busy all day, and at night I fall in bed with a smile on my face and sleep like a rock. The next morning I wake up eager to see what the new day has in store. I know that sounds a little "Pollyana", but life is good right now and I am loving every minute.

With everything that is going on my weeknight cooking has taken on a new twist. Where I once took great enjoyment in taking the slow route with my evening meals, time has forced me to accept a little help every now and then. I still haven't cracked open a box of Hamburger Helper, but I have found a shortcut to a delicious Thai dish that I'd like to share with you.

One of the things my family really likes is a great Thai curry. Fortunately, there are some very good curry pastes available that make a delicious exotic meal really easy to put on the table. If you prefer to make your own curry paste, I endorse this one from Epicurious, but if you are crunched for time, I really like one made by Mae Ploy. With this paste as a starter, just a few additional ingredients and a big bowl of rice, you have a great meal in no time at all.

Panang Curry

I like chicken or shrimp, but this recipe also makes a delicious vegetable curry. Just replace the protein with cooked potatoes (sweet, russet or a combination of both) and increase the peppers and onions, and you will have a curry that vegetarians, vegans and carnivores will all love.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound chicken (cut into 2" pieces) or shelled and deveined large shrimp
1/2 of a large sweet yellow onion, cut into strips from pole to pole
1/2 of a large red bell pepper, cut into strips from end to end
1 tablespoon panang curry paste (this will give you a slightly spicy flavor)
1 - 14 ounce can coconut milk
1- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 tablespoons chopped peanuts
1 large bunch Thai basil
Cooked jasmine rice (about 1 cup per person)

Pour vegetable oil into a large frying pan set over medium high heat.  Once the oil is shiny and hot, add the chicken and saute until it is just cooked through. Remove meat with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate; set aside.

In the same hot pan, add the onion and bell pepper. Saute until they just start to soften. Add the chicken to the vegetables and stir. Add the curry paste and coconut milk. Stir with a wooden spoon until the curry paste starts to dissolve and the liquid starts to turn orange. Add sugar a little at a time tasting afer each addition until you are happy with the flavor. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes or until mixture is heated through.

Serve with rice, chopped peanuts and Thai basil.

Serves 4 normal people or 2 - 3 at my house.

*Like your curry a little creamier? Just add a splash of cream or milk and stir well.

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