June 01, 2011

Chicken and Lemongrass Curry

Today's recipe was inspired by a recipe originally presented in Food & Wine in October 2007.  That recipe had a bit more of a Vietnamese spin to it, but I decided to change things up a bit to reflect more of a Thai flavor mix, most notably by using Thai green curry paste.  

Most of the flavor in this dish is derived from a brief marinade of fish sauce, garlic, salt and the aforementioned green curry paste, and from cooking lemon grass and chopped chili peppers in the hot oil before adding the chicken.   A nice, sweet flavor component is provided by caramelizing some sugar and adding it along with the chicken. These potent ingredients impart a delightfully complex mix of flavors - salty, sweet, savory and a bit sour - to the chicken.   The flavor complexity is particularly impressive when you consider how quickly the dish comes together.  The total time from starting prep to putting the dish on the dinner table was less than 1/2 hour. 

All in all, I was pretty pleased with this one.  It was fast, easy, quite flavorful and very memorable.  I think this recipe is destined to earn a spot on my short list of quick and dependably excellent go-to recipes.

Chicken and Lemongrass Curry

yield = 4 servings

2             tablespoons fish sauce
1             tablespoon Thai green curry paste
2             teaspoons minced garlic
2             tablespoons + 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/4          teaspoon table salt
1 1/2       pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts and/or
                 thighs, chopped into bite-size pieces
1/4          cup + 3 tablespoons water
2             tablespoons canola oil
2             tablespoons lemongrass paste (or 2 stalks,
                  tender inner white parts only, chopped)
2             serrano chilis, seeded and minced
1             large shallot, thinly-sliced
2             teaspoons fresh peeled and minced ginger
               chopped fresh cilantro leaves as garnish (optional)

Combine fish sauce, green curry paste, garlic and 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar and salt in a medium bowl.  Add chicken pieces, stir to coat and set aside.

In a small skillet or saucepan, add remaining two tablespoons sugar to 1 tablespoon water and cook over high heat, stirring often, until the sugar is dissolved.   Continue stirring and cook until a deep amber caramel forms.  Remove from heat and stir in the remaining two tablespoons of water.  Transfer to a small bowl.

Heat the canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add the lemongrass, chopped serrano chilis, shallot and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. 

Add the chicken and stir-fry until the chicken is no longer translucent.  Add 1/4 cup water and caramel and cook until the sauce is slightly thickened (another 3-4 minutes or so).  Serve.

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