When we were little and in Capital “B” Big trouble, the big gun was called in for disciplinary purposes. The Capital “B” Big gun was my Dad. He’d come in from a long (long) day out in the barn, and really, the last thing he had was the mental energy to deal with my brother and I bickering over back car seat territory or my (alleged) smart mouth. Poor SUE!, at her witt’s end, she’d send us to sit on the hope chest at the end of my parents bed, and wait for him to come in for dinner and deal with us.
I found myself sitting on that hope chest frequently.
He’d walk in, with this dreadful, awful, you-couldn’t-possibly-have-let-me-down-more look on his face, and I’d know, to the depths of my bratty little soul, that I was very much in Capital “B” Big trouble.
A product of the child-rearing-via-belt generation, my Dad took the complete opposite approach. He’d draw a long, deep breath, sit down next to me, and spend the next 2 hours* reasoning with me, talking through why what I had done was a bad decision, and how bad decisions effect other people, and they have repercussions, consequences, and I very well could have just changed the entire trajectory of my life by mouthing off to my mother. Is your computer screen dripping with the guilt of my childhood yet? It should be. (*Perhaps a slight exaggeration.)
It’s worth noting that this child rearing approach put the absolute Capital “F” Fear of God into me. Oh, it worked all right. The thought of letting down Dad was enough to make me beg for a real, honest-to-goodness grounding. I was practically begging him to take my bedroom door off the hinges.
And he would wrap up this dissertation on bad choices with his favorite saying – WATCH OUT FOR THE KITTY CATS. To this day he says it pretty much every time I leave after a visit, and often after a serious phone conversation. The proverbial Kitty Cats. They’re everywhere. Lurking, stalking, just waiting for you to make a silly little mistake so they can pounce on you.
This metaphor took on a new, and all too vivid meaning the year we got SUE! a beautiful bird feeder to hang outside the kitchen window so she could watch her beloved little chick-a-dees while standing at the sink. Dad meticulously hung it on a long rope at the perfect viewing height, dangling from the outstretched limb of a gorgeous maple tree right outside the window. Bring on the dirty dishes, her little piece of kitchen zen was complete.
We all stood there in this Norman Rockwell-esque family huddle, proudly looking out the picture window at the filled-to-the-brim bird feeder, just waiting for the happy song birds to come. And on the farm, if we had one thing, it was a lot of birds. In no time, this adorable little bird landed right on the bird feeder, so happy to have found some perfect little sunflower seeds. Chirp, chirp, chirp. And on the farm, if we had one thing, it was big, fat, barn cats. And in no time, a cat lept out from the bushes underneath that bird feeder and in one swoop ate the bird.
Circle of life, people. Up close and personal when you live on a farm.
Unfortunately, the jumping ability of big fat barn cats wasn’t taken into consideration when hanging the bird feeder, and it was the feline equivalent of a silver platter. Tender young jaws still gaping, without a word my Dad walked out the door and hiked the bird feeder up a few feet and then we all pretended like it never happened.
I recently told my Dad that I was a Kitty Cat. This is obviously a load of kitty-cat-poo, we never outgrow the KITTY CATS. I have plenty of them right at home in the kitchen. Hands down, the one that sneaks up and bites me in the tush most often is heat. I love hot, spicy dishes, but I tend to give my tolerance way too much credit and end up with a tongue that doesn’t work for a good two days.
Because of this, I haven’t made many thai curries – it’s just too easy to underestimate how hot such tiny peppers can be, and end up with something practically inedible. But my deep obsession with Green Curry is so fervid, and the local Thai joint employees were getting a little too chummy with their best customer (me), so I decided I needed to figure out my own home Green Curry.
Well let me tell you, I am THE CULINARY KITTY CAT QUEEN with this dish. Soooo yummy that I am still dreaming about it a week later. Pick your favorite vegetables, serve over some rice, and it’s a healthy quick(ish) weeknight dinner that rivals any thai restaurant green curry I’ve ever had.
In the past I’ve made my own green curry paste, and I think that’s where I was getting into trouble. This time around, I got a jar of pre-made curry paste from Whole Foods – the brand is Thai and True. It’s deliciously spicy without blowing out your taste buds. Caveat here, green curry paste is green because it’s made with hot, green peppers. A lot of them. So this curry is inherently hot. But it’s not scald-your-taste-buds-off-hot. And you can use more or less of the paste depending on how hot you like it. You could also add a little sugar, lime juice, or fish sauce to the sauce to mellow it out a bit. (Remember the flavor color-wheel trick?) Following this recipe below, you’ll get about two-star hot on the Universal Generic Completely Subjective Thai Five Star Heat Rating. For whatever that’s worth.
If you are nuts about Green Curry, you must try this recipe. It might just earn a spot in your regular recipe rotation. Enjoy! And I feel like I have to say it for Dad, please, watch out for the Kitty Cats.
Thai Green Curry
Time to prepare: 45 minutes
4 tbsp butter
1 onion, diced
2 tbsp garlic, chopped
2 tbsp ginger, chopped
2 tbsp green curry paste
1 long stalk lemongrass, ends trimmed, and cut on the bias in 2-inch pieces
6 kaffir lime Leaves
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1-15 oz can coconut milk (not light)
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp fish sauce
salt and pepper
2 chicken breasts, sliced thinly in bite-size pieces
1 small eggplant, peeled and diced
2 bell peppers, diced
1/2 head cauliflower (about 2 cups), cut into bite-size florets
2 medium carrots, sliced in 1/2 pieces on the bias
In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion, and sauté until translucent, about 4 minutes.
Add the garlic and ginger, and sauté 2-3 minutes more, stirring frequently. Add the curry paste, and stir to coat the onions.
Add the lime leaves, cilantro, lemongrass, and coconut milk. Bring to a simmer and cook over low heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
While the curry is simmering, prep the vegetables and bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Remove the lime leaves and lemon grass from the curry. Add the lime juice and fish sauce, stir well, and season with salt and pepper if needed.
Using an emersion blender (or a regular blender), blend the curry to an almost smooth consistency. (optional)
Add the chicken and gently simmer until the chicken is cooked through completely, about 5-8 minutes.
While the chicken is cooking, blanch the vegetables individually to desired doneness, 1-4 minutes, depending on the vegetable. (Blanching them one kind at a time will ensure that individual textures are correct.)
To serve, spoon vegetables onto the plate, and top with a few pieces of chicken and a few spoonfuls of the curry. You may also serve over a bed of rice.
Swap in whatever vegetables you like. This dish also works well with shellfish or tofu.
If you don’t have an immersion (or stick) blender, you can use a regular blender. Ladle the sauce into your blender, but don’t fill it more than 1/3 of the way. You’ll have to do it in batches. Also, remove the plastic stopper in your lid and cover the opening with a dish towel when you blend. If you leave it on, steam can build and blow the lid right off when you hit the on button.
This recipe uses a few asian ingredients you may not have in your pantry, but they should be fairly easy to find:
- Green curry paste will be in the ethnic aisle, and comes in a small glass jar.
- Ginger is widely available in most grocery stores, in the produce aisle. To use it, peel the outer skin off with a vegetable peeler. It’s okay if you don’t get all of it off, it’s fine to eat.
- Lemongrass can be found in most grocery stores, it’s usually by the ginger in the produce refrigerated section. If you can’t find it, a teaspoon or so of grated lime zest (coupled with the ginger already in the recipe) will work in a pinch, but there’s no great substitute.
- Fish sauce can also be found in most grocery store’s ethnic aisle. If you can, use the brand with the three crabs on the label. Fish sauce is the salt component to this dish, and won’t make this taste like fish, I promise. In a pinch, you can substitute soy sauce in this recipe, but start with 1 teaspoon and taste, then add another, taste, etc until you get the seasoning correct. 1 tablespoon might be way too much, so be careful using this substitution.
- Kaffir lime leaves will be in your produce section, near the lemongrass. If you can’d find them, you can substitute lime zest.
It’s worth noting that ginger, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves all freeze beautifully, and are great infused in teas and waters. Fish sauce and curry paste last for a while in the fridge (months), though if you find preservative-free versions, they won’t last as long. So consider adding them to your pantry list!