Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Red curry noodles with ground pork, red pepper and carrots

I've been slowly accumulating food magazines over the last couple of years. I knew I wouldn't make probably a quarter of the recipes in them and the pile was beginning to get unwieldy, so lately I've been flipping through them and cutting out the ones that speak to me (then taping them to paper and sliding into plastic sheets in a cute binder). This simple and adaptable recipe was yelling at me the loudest, "Make me! ME!"... So I obliged.

Whatever you've got in the crisper is going to work in this dish. I used a red pepper and the rest of the carrots from my garden but it would be great with cabbage, zucchini or summer squash strips, beans or snap peas would be particularly good, and so on. You could certainly use any ground meat you like, and if you don't have ground meat you could just slice a chicken breast or pork chop thinly and use strips. 

You can find lemongrass everywhere now, but if you have an Asian market near you I'd recommend you buy it there. You'll get ten times as much for the same cost (just freeze what you don't use in Zip-locs. I freeze everything. Half a can of black beans left? Dump in a Zip-loc and freeze 'em. Cup of crushed tomatoes left? Pour into a Zip-loc and freeze it. The other half of the canned coconut milk from this recipe? Waiting in a Zip-loc in the freezer for me to make it again.) (You should probably buy stock in Zip-loc.)

1 red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
~2 medium carrots or a handful from your garden, cut into matchsticks
small knob of fresh ginger, chopped (about a tablespoon)
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 Thai chili or chili of choice, chopped
1 stick lemongrass, dark outer leaves removed (I had to remove 2 leaves from my stalk to get to the good stuff), chopped
1/2 a small onion or shallot, thinly sliced
1/4 lb ground pork
1/2 cup coconut milk (the "light" stuff is fine)
1 tbsp red curry paste
juice of 1 lime
big handful of basil (Thai would be best but any is fine), ripped

4 oz Chinese yellow noodles

In a large skillet, heat a drizzle of vegetable oil. Add your carrots but don't season, just let them caramelize and soften on their own for a few minutes. You don't want them to soften too much (if you added salt they would), they should still stand up straight because they're going to cook again for a minute or two at the end and you don't want them to turn to mush after that. Add a pinch of kosher salt when they look about done, toss through and remove to a plate. Add a little more vegetable oil and repeat this process with the peppers, you can see in the pic above what they should look like when they're ready to come out of the pan. Ordinarily I don't do this whole cooking things separately thing, but I really think it makes a difference here because the veggies have variable cooking times - if I did them all together and just forged forward, the peppers would be all soggy and peeling by the time the carrots were just right. One way around this is to cut smaller or more thinly the things that take longer to cook, but then they don't look as nice. Ah, first world problems.

While those are cooking, whiz your ginger, garlic, chili, and lemongrass in the food processor (this works nicely if you have one with the little bowl inset or a Mini Prep). Take a whiff - it should smell sooo good. Mmm. Also go ahead and get a pot of water on to boil and cook your noodles according to the package directions, minus 30 seconds or so of cooking time. They're going to finish cooking in the pan with everything else. Drain and set aside.

Once the carrots and peppers are done, add a little more vegetable oil and saute your onions for a couple of minutes. When they've softened, add the ground pork with a good pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Break it up and allow it to brown. When it looks about done, add your lemongrass mixture and stir through for a minute. 

While these things are happening, combine the coconut milk, red curry paste and lime juice in a bowl and whisk until smooth. 

Now, add back your vegetables to the pan along with the coconut milk mixture, basil, and your noodles. Toss toss toss. When the liquid is about gone, you are ready to eat!

Serves 2, takes about half an hour if you multi-task efficiently.

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