Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Thai Feast

Last year for Christmas I gave my parents a meal cooked by a personal chef. The chef being... me! It turns out that I get the procrastination trait from my dad. I cooked this dinner last weekend. Yes. December 1st.

I told them to pick a menu or theme. They chose Thai. Not 10 days before that I had announced that I was never again making Pad Thai as it never turns out right. So I had a little panic attack and then got to work on figuring out what I was going to make that wasn't Pad Thai.

It turned out amazing (if I do say so myself)! I will make these recipes again and again. They are fairly easy and all gluten free, as it so happens. I spent an enjoyable hour in the Asian supermarket up the street from my office looking perusing the strange (to me) and wonderful foods. I found all of the authentic ingredients I needed, despite asking for help and the clerk not understanding a word I said. A lot of them were frozen, so I have lots of left over ingredients to use up. Excellent.

Here is the menu. I followed the recipe for all the dishes except the mango salad as I was pretty confident about that dish having eaten it lots of time before. The other recipes, not much. I've never eaten those dishes and didn't have time to do a test run so I went by the (Mac)book. 

Green Papaya and Mango Salad adapted from Canadian Living
I wanted to do just green papaya, and I even found a green papaya at the Asian market. But when chopped it up, I found that it was totally bland. Maybe it needed to ripen, but I thought the point was that it is green? So I used some papaya and some mango. It turned out perfectly. I could go for some right now, actually.

Red Curry Shrimp from Food and Wine
Totally easy and yummy. I didn't make the tartar sauce in the linked recipe- I just did the shrimp. Next time I'd like to find a recipe for homemade red curry paste. As I found out with the next dish, the jarred stuff vs. your own curry paste is like night and day.

Green Curry Chicken from Real Thai Recipes
This was unreal. So delicious. I forgot to take photos of the whole meal the night of, so I made this again on Sunday. The first time I pounded the ingredients for the curry paste in a pestle and mortar, the second time I did it in the food processor. Use a pestle and mortar if you have one. I wouldn't have believed it, but you can taste the difference. It's almost as if the flavors are coaxed (or threatened within an inch of their life) by being pounded and ground by hand. Be careful when adding the coconut milk at the end of the recipe- I added the whole cup the recipe calls for at once and the sauce ended up too thin- add a bit at a time. Also, be careful not to take a huge whiff of the shrimp paste. Gag city. Think fish sauce times five. Oh, and one more thing. I don't usually love eggplant but it really soaks up all the flavours in the sauce. The second time around I used red pepper and carrots as that's all I had and that was ok too though.

Spicy Glass Noodles with Crispy Pork from The Kitchn
This was the sleeper hit of the night. The recipe is easy and sounds unassuming, but the result is fantastic. I like that it is to be served cold or at room temp. That's part of the reason I chose this recipe, actually. I figured I'd make it and let it sit while the green curry finished cooking. It all went according to plan. I wouldn't recommend serving this hot, in fact, as the noodles need some time to absorb the sauce. I poured in all the sauce the recipe called for and it looked soupy and I was really disappointed, but by the time it was served it was perfect.  

Sticky Rice with Sweet and Spicy Dipping Sauce from i eat food
I have made sticky rice many, many times. Tyler's cousin used to work at a Thai restaurant and gave me a steamer contraption for making steamed sticky rice as I love it every time he makes it. It pretty much looks like the one in the link, but bigger because it's the Vietnamese version or something. Same idea though. I cook mine differently than she does. I just dump the soaked rice in the basket and stick a sauce pot lid on top to cover it. It doesn't seem to take as long to cook this way. You do, however, have to pick dried bits of rice of the bamboo after though. You've been warned.

Coconut and Lime Creme Brulee (recipe below)
This is my own recipe. I adapted a no-bake pumpkin creme brulee recipe that I made the other week. This was originally going to be a tropical fruit creme brulee- mango, banana, lime- but that one didn't set and it tasted more like banana pudding. That went down the drain (told you it didn't set). The second version came out much better. Use a kitchen torch or a blow torch (seriously- careful!) to brulee though. I stuck them under the broiler to save some time and the custard got heated through and wasn't as nice. Lesson learned: always go with the blow torch option. Always.

Adapted from Canadian Living
Serves 4
If you can't find green papaya, use some slightly under ripe mango. I used my handy OXO julienne peeler for the papaya and carrot which makes it really easy.

  • 1/2 small green papaya, julienned
  • 1 ripe mango, sliced into thin strips
  • 1/2 red pepper, sliced into thin strips
  • 1 small carrot, julienned
  • 1/4 cup shredded red cabbage
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced into rounds
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tbsp julienned mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup salted roasted cashews, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • zest of 1 lime (use a Microplane or small grater)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1-2 finely chopped thai chilis, depending on how hot you want it
Mix the dressing ingredients in the bottom of a mixing bowl. Add the salad ingredients except 1 tbsp mint and the cashews and toss to combine. Let rest 15 to 20 minutes. Serve topped with reserved mint and cashews.

Serves 4
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • zest of 1 lime, zested on Microplane or small grater
  • 1 1/2 cups lite coconut milk
  • 2 sprigs mint leaves
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 8 tsp fine sugar, for bruleeing
Heat coconut milk in a saucepan over medium heat with mint leaves (don't bother stripping from stem- just throw the whole thing in) until bubbles form around the outside and milk is steaming.

Meanwhile, mix cornstarch, sugar, salt, egg yolks, lime zest in a medium bowl. Slowly add heated coconut milk while whisking yolk mixture. Add mixture back to pot. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until very thick. Pour into four ramekins, cover with plastic wrap directly on surface of custard, and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

To serve, sprinkle each custard with 1 tsp sugar. Brulee with a kitchen torch or bring out the big guns and (carefully!) use a full on blow torch. Sprinkle with another tsp of sugar and brulee again. Serve with 5 minutes so that the sugar topping doesn't soften.