21 November 2008

Just the same?

Dear Reader, did I ever tell you what a disproportionately large stretch of my culinary life – in relation to any other cooking ventures - I spent trying to make up a decent curry? The keyword here is ‘trying’ because I unfailingly ended up with yet another disappointment. So far, nothing remotely noteworthy, let alone praiseworthy. Truth be told, I might be not the most skillful and imaginative curry cook. How do I know it, you might ask. Be my confidant(e), Dear Reader; listen up.

I intend to tell you (briefly) about Luke. Simply put, he leaves me no chance to best him in the kitchen when it comes to curry. This is also how I figured I am hopeless with it. Or just not that good.

Luke is one of my favourite persons in the world; an entartaining, self-contained, respectable American. Luke cooks unrivalled curries; ‘Crime and Punishment’ and ‘Harry Potter’ equally excite him.

I asked Luke the other day – why curries? With no hesitation on his part, this was his modest answer: “I tried it. I liked it. I am good at it.’ Or something along these lines. Clearly, he is very knowledgeable, this Luke. His curries – succulent, delectable, luscious, juicy, slow-cooked, spiced-to-perfection, HONEST curries – make me oblivious of the external world and also of my existentional crisis, such as, ‘Why can’t I cook just the same?’ Such is the power of a good food, I must confess. Anyway, while some grind away at laws of curry nature, the others do not seem to bother much – they just make it. Oh.

Needless to say, I am not very happy to relay to you such unflattering facts about myself, what with my continuous inability to reproduce a WOW-inducing curry. After all, it is not a rocket science, yes?

Dear Reader, finally - I might be on to something. Namely, I made a simple Thai curry dish a few days back which I am really not ashamed to mention. Now, this is not to say I’ll ever go even with Luke, a real natural, but this is just to tell – I might as well do it.

Chicken Curry with Dried Apricots

This curry dish has taken up its residency in my to-cook list since summer this year. Back in Moscow, I used to work with British people; and this nation's take on curries is well documented - I can testify. (And still, Luke from Pennsylvania and his curries stand out). This is a close-up version of a curry dish I once tried in a British home in Moscow.

(Slightly adapted from epicurious.com)

2 Tsp olive oil
½ cup finely chopped shallots
2 gloves of garlic, finely chopped too
1 Tsp minced peeled fresh ginger
1 pound chicken fillets, cut in moderately small chunks
½ cup dried apricots, diced
2 Tsp mango chutney
1 Tsp Thai red curry paste
400 ml unsweetened coconut milk
Salt and pepper to taste
¾ chopped fresh cilantro, without stems

Yields 6 servings

The method is very straightforward and simple.

Heat olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add chopped shallots and garlic and saute until golden brown, about 5 mins. Stir in red curry paste and ginger and cook 1 minute. Add cut in chunks chicken fillets and saute until cooked through, approxiamtely 7 mins. Put chicken in a bowl (with tongs).
Add unsweetened coconut milk and diced dried apricots to skillet and boil uncovered over medium-low heat until mixture is reduced to 2 cups, about 15-20 mins or even a bit more. Add mango chutney and ½ cup cilantro, mix in. Return cooked chicken to skillet. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir well. Garnish with remaining ¼ cup fresh cilantro.
Serve with basmati rice, or indian bread, or steamed vegetables. What's more, you can substitute chicken for other kinds of poultry or meat, or even go vegetarian. I especially like to sop up gravy-like juices from my plate with a piece of country bread. Possibilities are countless; pleasure is unlimited.

Still, could I possibly cook just the same?


Cinnamonda said...

I just love dried apricots, so, yes, your curry sounds really interesting. I might just as well confess that I have never tried to make curry... About the Puccini chocolates, oh yes, do you really think that I could have not have tasted them yet? :) I bought a piece of milk chocolate with macadamia nuts in it and am now half way through it. It tastes very, very, very good! I think I will allow myself to consume the rest of it in the days to come, but I will try to save the other chocolates I bought for Christmas, emphasis on the words "will try". :)


white on rice couple said...

I love the fact that Luke, the respectable American, makes an awesome Thai curry! What a talented man!
And you, my renaissance lady, make an amazing Thai curry too! Just looking at your list of ingredients makes me drool over all the wonderful flavors!

anya said...

Now, it doesn't happen to me every day, to be called 'renaissance lady'! My courtesy is due to Todd and Diane! :)

jesse said...

I'm not sure why you just can't cook the same, but I suspect it's similar to why anything that my mom makes is automatically 1000 times more delicious than my best efforts... because she's a mom. Maybe your Luke has special superhuman powers...? XD The curry looks wonderful though, Happy Holidays!

Cookiemouse said...

Curry with apricots makes my mouth water.

anya said...

Jesse - thanks for stopping by! Now, where my mom's cooking skills are concerned, the situation is just all the way around. :) Of course, this is not to say she cooks worse than I do (that would be a kind of 'crime' to put it this way), it's just that, among other cooking styles, I can cook the way she does, too. :) One of my grandmothers, though, leaves us standing...well, because she is a grandmother. Happy Holidays to you too!

Leighton - I maintain apricots make curry juicier, indeed!