Thursday, November 11, 2010

Butternut Chicken Curry

It surprises me how often I hear people make a blanket statement about not liking curry, since the term doesn’t really apply to one specific food or spice but a wide variety of South Asian dishes. To me a tangy, runny Thai curry tastes completely different from a thick, cumin-y Indian one. But that could be because I have yet to meet a curry that I didn’t like. In fact, once the weather starts getting cold and snowy like it did this week I immediately start craving Chanon Thai’s red curry with tofu. One bite of that stuff will chase the chill right out of you.

The curry recipe posted below is very much an Americanized, mild dish—perfect for those who are skeptical about eating this kind of stuff. I found it while looking through my cookbooks for a recipe to use up some butternut squash, specifically a savory one since it seems like most methods for cooking squash favor a sweet preparation involving cinnamon, nutmeg, etc. I loved the way this turned out—the bland, sweet flavor of the squash was a perfect complement to a slightly spicy, flavorful sauce. It was also simple to make and made for excellent leftovers throughout the week. Highly recommended.

Butternut Chicken Curry (from the Keeping Up Cookbook)

I did have to make a few tweaks to the original version of this recipe. I could tell at the outset that the one tablespoon of fish sauce it called for was going to be way too much so I reduced that amount, as well as the amount of onion. I added some carrots and red pepper, but you could really use any other veggies you want (potatoes, snap peas, mushrooms, etc.). I also had issues with my sauce being way too thick. I’m thinking this is because my chicken took twice as long to cook as the recipe indicated, so the squash broke down a bit and thickened the sauce. I solved this problem by adding some hot water every time it got too gloopy, but in the future I think I’ll just start cooking the chicken earlier in the recipe.

Note: most grocers carry curry paste, coconut milk, and fish sauce but you can find this stuff for a lot cheaper at your local Asian market.

1 small butternut squash, seeded, peeled and diced
1 (14 ounce) can of unsweetened coconut milk, lite or regular
1 heaping tablespoon mild Indian curry paste, such as Patak’s*
1/2 medium onion, diced
3-4 chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces (I only used 2)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon Thai fish sauce
1 carrot, peeled and cut into chunks (or a bunch of baby carrots cut in half, which is what I used)
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and sliced
1 tsp. salt

1) Place squash and carrots in a microwave-safe dish and add enough water to just cover bottom of dish. Cover and microwave for several minutes until squash is tender. (mine took a lot longer than the "several" implies. About ten minutes total).
2) Drain water and set aside.
3) Bring 1/4 cup coconut milk and curry paste to a simmer in a large skillet over medium heat, whisking constantly.
4) Add onion and bell pepper and saute for 5 minutes (I would probably add the chicken at this point, too, but I can’t say that definitely because I haven’t tried doing it yet).
5) Stir in remaining coconut milk, sugar, salt, and fish sauce, then add chicken, squash, and carrots.
6) Simmer until chicken is cooked through, stirring often, 6-8 minutes. Serve over rice, couscous, or pilaf.

*I bought the “hot” version of the recommended brand and it wasn’t too spicy at all. If you like a little heat to your curry, I would suggest buying something stronger than the mild variety and adding more of it.

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