For the most part, my husband is responsible for bringing me out of my picky eating habits from back in the day. Over the past ten years (oh my goodness…ten years…) he has diligently fought with me over trying one bite of this and that. At first I found this so incredibly annoying but now I am thankful that he encouraged me to broaden my food horizons. Otherwise, I probably would not have gotten into cooking as much as I have and I would certainly not have this blog.
But I cannot talk about food exploration without mentioning my college career as a waitress for a thai restaurant in Richmond, Virginia called Elephant Thai. My friend Suzy worked there at the time and I mentioned I needed some extra money so that I could avoid eating from the Wendy’s value menu on a regular basis. She told me to stop by and fill out an application. So I did and just like that, boom, I was employed.
Now, before working at Elephant Thai, I had only tried chicken satay and a bite or two of my friend Lainy’s favorite dish, Pad See Ew. I knew practically nothing about Thai food; I did not even really know if I would like it. But in the following months turned to a couple of years, I was exposed to some of the best dishes I have ever had. At Elephant Thai we would have family style meals before and after every shift. This was oh so amazing for my food budget. The catch: accepting that I had to eat things like beef tongue or coming to terms with the fact that every dish was served “Thai Hot”. Also, my husband (boyfriend at the time) had to accept that I smelled like fish sauce more often than not.
Fast forward to now and my love for Thai cuisine, curried dishes, and heat has only grown. I have only tried to make Thai style dishes at home a few times and typically, for whatever reason, they turned out poorly. So, I decided to leave it to the professionals.
That is, until last night! Mercury may be in retrograde, but I FINALLY created a tasty curry. It is strange how sometimes I can plan a meal for days only to have the results turn out to be mediocre but this dish came together on a whim and my husband is saying it is the best thing I have ever made. I was inspired by a can of coconut milk that had been sitting in my pantry for weeks and the memory of a little boy at Elephant Thai who often came in with his father, asking for “chicken yellow curry, please”.
I must say, I’m a bit proud of this one. I combined what I learned from April Bloomfield’s Mind of Chef episode on curry with some basic ideas I picked up at Elephant Thai. No recipes, no tips from the Internet!
1 lb chicken thighs or tenderloins
1 14 ounce can light coconut milk
1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
1/2 large onion, diced
1-2 carrots, diced
1-2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 tablespoons yellow curry powder (depending on heat preference – I like Penzey’s Hot Curry powder)
1/2 teaspoon of ground coriander
Salt and pepper to taste
Cilantro, limes, green onion, and jalapeños for garnish (Thai chilies would be better here, but I had to work with what I had at the time)
Rice for serving (jasmine preferable)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fish sauce
First, prep the rice. I always cook rice ahead of time because I prefer it to be a bit dry. I’ll leave you to prep your own rice, in your own way.
In a dutch oven style pot, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. When heated, throw in the onion, carrots, and ginger. After 5 minutes or so, add in the garlic. Give it a good stir and add in more oil if the mixture gets too dry. Then, add in the curry powder, coriander, salt and pepper. Get those veggies coated in the spices.
Next, add in the diced tomatoes. Give the mixture a good stir and then move the heat to a low simmer. Cover the pot and let the tomato mixture simmer, simmer, simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring fairly regularly.
At this point, the chicken can get started. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Salt and pepper the thighs or tenderloins. Next, place a sauté pan over medium heat with a bit of olive oil. When hot, brown the chicken for a minute on each side. Then place the pan in the oven and cook the chicken for roughly 18 minutes, until just about cooked through. Set the chicken aside.
When the tomato mixture has simmered for a good while, place the chicken into the pot. Then, pour in the coconut milk over. Add in the fish sauce. Stir everything together and let the curry simmer for another 15 minutes or so. Give it a taste to see if you need more heat or seasoning.
Serve the curry over rice with lime slices, chili peppers, cilantro and green onion.