as a writer, i’m well accustomed to writer’s blocks – those days when i sit down at the computer and stare at a blank word document with seemingly paralyzed fingers (sidenote: on how i wish it were the early 1900s and instead i was sitting down at my writing desk with parchment and a quill). as a cook, and more importantly, an avid eater, i’m also well accustomed to chef’s block. you know, that whole ‘water everywhere but not a drop to drink’ syndrome.
i’ve got a fully stocked kitchen, thanks to a mother that believed that “fully stocked” meant there was at least one or two extra of everything down in the basement pantry. as a new york city apartment dweller, i don’t have access to fancy things such as “basement pantries” or extra refrigerators – but i make sure i’ve got enough food to feed myself for at least a week at a time, at all times. what can i say? i like to eat. that being said, even i have those days where i rifle through my bountiful fridge and my overflowing cabinets and think, “this is it? really? but i don’t WANNA eat this!” and yes, i do this in my internal cranky voice. if penny (my cat), is around, i say it aloud to her instead of to myself.
BUT! i have a solution. you see, when i’m in a ‘food everywhere but nothing to eat’ situation, i often default to takeout, mostly because it means more exotic food than i can manage to make myself. i’m not the type to order italian or a cheeseburger, but give me some chicken tikka masala or thai curry and i’m a happy camper. but what if i could make these exotic foods myself? newsflash, ladies and gents, i can – and so can you. there’s no need to go running to the telephone when you’re feeling uninspired when you’ve got a kickass chicken curry recipe up your sleeve. this is mine.
The Recipe (adapted from Scott Drewno’s Red Curry Chicken)*
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
3 tablespoons canola oil (canola oil is good with high heats)
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into 2-inch cubes
1½ tablespoons Thai red-curry paste (I use the Thai Market brand)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (you can use regular paprika if you don’t have smoked)
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
½ cup sliced red onion
½ mushrooms, sliced (I used brown button)
½ of a beefsteak tomato, cut into bite size pieces
½ cup scallions cut into 1-inch pieces (use both white and green parts)
14 oz unsweetened coconut milk (I use reduced fat coconut milk from Trader Joe’s)
¼ cup fresh lime juice (the juice of about 3 limes)
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
heat the oil in a large skillet and add the chicken. cook evenly on both sides, about two to four minutes. add the curry paste and the paprika, cook until fragrant. add the veggies – carrots, tomatoes, mushrooms, scallions, onion, red pepper – and cook for another three to five minutes. add your coconut milk, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the milk thickens slightly, eight to ten minutes. add the lime juice, season with salt and pepper, and stir in half the cilantro.
serve over white rice, and garnish with remaining cilantro. this dish reheats well, and tastes even better the next day, once the flavors have had a chance to sink in.
*the recipe i adapted features a few things i don’t like, like fish sauce – but you can find it here.