Saturday, November 17, 2012

Thai Sweet Meat Winter Squash Curry

In our last share from our Open Oak Farm summer CSA, we received an Oregon Homestead Sweet Meat winter squash that was about the size of my son when he was born. It felt like a big responsibility to process it. I roasted and froze some for my favorite Thanksgiving pumpkin praline pie, a second aliquot went into a spicy bean and pumpkin soup with stock made from the pulp, and the final third I used in a rendition of my favorite Thai dish: pumpkin curry. I was lucky enough to have some especially fresh and fragrant ginger and lemon grass that I picked up at last week's Saturday Market, which I blended into an approximation of a red curry paste.

A heaping tablespoon of this wonderfully fragrant, if not terribly red paste, combined with coconut milk and the cubed squash, cooked up a delicious pot of rich, thick curry. Because I had fuyu persimmon salad on my mind, we had an extra orange meal with sliced persimmons on salad greens with lime juice dressing and peanuts. And now I have a good half cup of curry paste remaining. When I'm all cooked out after Thanksgiving, and we've had our fill of cranberry turkey sandwiches, I plan to whip up another pot of Thai winter squash curry as a perfect vehicle for leftover turkey.

Thai Sweet Meat Winter Squash Curry
~6 cups sweet meat winter squash or pumpkin, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces
1 14 ounce can coconut milk
1 to 2 Tbsp red curry paste (recipe below)
1 red or yellow sweet pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp lime juice
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 scant tsp sugar
thai basil leaves or cilantro leaves

1. Heat a large Dutch oven or cooking pot over medium heat. Open the coconut milk can and scoop out the thick coconut cream. Melt this in the pot until it sizzles and then add the curry paste. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring, until it is very fragrant. 

2. Add the chicken pieces and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring to coat in the curry paste. If using cooked turkey pieces, omit this step and add the turkey once the squash is cooked.

3. Mix together the remaining coconut milk, lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar. Add this to the pot, along with the cubed squash, peppers, and onions. Bring the stew to a simmer, turn the heat to medium low, cover, and cook until the squash is tender, about 30 or 40 minutes. Uncover, taste and adjust seasonings, (add cooked turkey at this point, if using) and simmer for another 10 minutes or so until the sauce is desired consistency. Turn off the heat and stir in the basil or cilantro leaves. Serve with steamed rice.

Red Curry Paste
1 Tbsp coriander seeds
6 small dried chile peppers (such as de arbol)
1 tsp black pepper corns
2 tsp coarse sea salt
1 shallot
2 large cloves garlic
2 Tbsp cilantro stems
1 lemon grass, coarse outer leaves removed
2 inches ginger root

1. Toast the coriander seeds for a minute in a dry skillet until fragrant. Then toast the chile peppers until the puff up, but do not burn. Remove the seeds from the peppers. Using a mortar and pestle or electric spice grinder, grind the coriander seeds, chile peppers, pepper corns, and coarse salt into a powder.

2. If you want a good work out, you can process the rest of the ingredients in a large mortar and pestle, or combine them all in food processor and process together into a smooth paste. Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator or freeze single portions in an ice cube tray. This makes enough for multiple pots of curry.

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