Thai Chicken with Green Curry Sauce: Early Spring Inspiration
April 4, 2019
The temperature changes so quickly at this time of year, yo-yoing back and forth between the warmer weather that we crave and winter’s last stand. It is hard to know what to make for dinner let alone what to eat at all. One minute comfort food is perfect and the next, lighter, brighter dishes are more appropriate. What's a chef to do? Perhaps there is a balance: a welcome change but one that is still warming.
When I think of spring dining; asparagus, artichokes, morel mushrooms, peas, ramps, spring lamb, and goat cheese all come to mind. It is still a little early for many of these but any recipe that feels bright and fresh and is a departure from what I have been eating, feels spring-like to me. This Thai Green Curry is just that. The lemongrass, fish sauce, ginger, basil and coconut milk team up nicely to create this delicious and refreshing stew that is just right this week.
If you took my recent cooking class with Thai Mussels, you are already familiar with these ingredients and may even have them on hand. If not, they are worth adding to your kitchen toolbox. Just be sure to read the Secrets to Success for some tips on how to use them properly.
Secrets to Success:
Usually when working with lemon grass, you use only the tender inside of the stalk. For this recipe, just slice the entire piece in thin slices, crosswise.
Avoid purchasing stalks that are loose and coming apart as well as stalks that are brown and crusty or crumbling. These are old and probably not that fragrant or nutritious any longer.
If you can't find lemongrass with the fresh produce, check the freezer section. Because lemongrass freezes well, it is often sold in frozen packets of about six to eight stalks.
Peel your ginger with a spoon.
Fish sauce has an unpleasant smell, but it adds umami and a unique taste that cuts through the richness of the coconut milk. I encourage you to try it.
Read your can of coconut milk carefully: use unsweetened.
I used Fair Trade brand coconut milk. Available on Amazon and at Whole Foods.
Coconut milk often separates in the can. Vigorously shake a can of coconut milk before opening it. Use a spatula to scrape out any thick coconut cream that remains behind.
Coconut milk should be refrigerated when opened. It lasts only a few days.
Thai Chicken with Green Curry Sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 1 ½ -inch pieces
3/4 cup sliced shallots (1-2 large)
1 large red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 large broccoli tree, washed well, cut into medium florets, and microwaved in a microwave safe bowl for 1 minute on high power
5 tablespoons Thai green curry paste* (recipe below)
1 14-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk (I used Fair Trade) brand
1 tablespoon fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)*
1 large handful snow peas, washed well and drained
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil plus sprigs for garnish
1-2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Chopped peanuts for garnish, optional
White rice for serving
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in wok or large saute pan over medium high heat. Season the chicken lightly with salt and freshly-ground black pepper and add to the wok. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly- browned, about 5-10 minutes. (The chicken will not be cooked through.) Remove to a plate. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the wok followed by the shallots, peppers, and broccoli and cook until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the curry paste and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the coconut milk, fish sauce, and bring to boil. Lower to a simmer, return the chicken, any juices accumulated on the plate, and the snow peas to the wok, and cook until the chicken is just cooked through, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in the soy sauce, chopped basil and lime juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide curry among bowls. Garnish with basil sprigs and chopped peanuts, if using. Serve with white rice. Makes 4 servings.
* Available in the Asian foods section of many supermarkets and at Asian markets.
Green Curry Paste
Adapted from Curtis Stone
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2/3 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves
1/3 cup packed fresh basil leaves
2 large shallots, peeled and quartered
8 garlic cloves
2 lemongrass stalks, trimmed to 8 inches and thinly sliced
One 3-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 Thai chiles or small serrano chiles, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon lime zest
2 tablespoons fish sauce
¼ cup canola oil
Heat a small heavy sauté pan over medium heat. Add the coriander seeds and stir for about 3 minutes, or until toasted. Transfer the coriander seeds to a plate to cool.
In a small food processor or blender, combine the coriander seeds, cilantro, basil, shallots, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, chiles, and lime zest and process, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl, until very finely chopped. Add the fish sauce and oil and process, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the processor, until a coarse paste forms.
The paste will keep for up to 5 days, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, or frozen for one month.