I recently discovered a new smartphone app that helps me manage my pantry inventory, including the fridge and freezer, and keep track of expiration dates. This is especially useful for someone like me who has a bad habit of buying ingredients with the idea that it would be cool to figure out a use for it sooner or later. Needless to say, in time that sort of thing lends itself to an overstocked pantry.
One of the benefits of the new app is the ability to stay on top of some of those impulse items that need to be used before they get too old. I spent a good chunk of this weekend taking inventory with the handy barcode reader that is built into the app. When I was done I started noodling about dishes to make with what I have on hand. Tonight’s offering is an improv using mostly just what I had, except for the fresh vegetables – a Thai-style red curry chicken with broccoli, zucchini and bamboo shoots.
Here are your ingredients to make four servings:
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tsp. garlic paste
- 1 tsp. ginger paste
- 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and thinly sliced
- ½ medium onion, sliced into crescents
- 2-4 tbsp. red curry paste (according to taste)
- 2 cans (13.5 oz.) coconut milk
- 1 can (8 oz.) sliced bamboo shoots
- 1 medium zucchini, sliced into 1/4” rounds
- 8 oz. broccoli florets
- ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
- Juice of ½ lime
- Kosher salt to taste
- Sliced green onions for garnish
- Cooked jasmine rice to serve
A quick note on the red curry paste – it can pack a wallop, depending on the brand and how much of it you use. I’m a total spicy food junkie – the kind that goes into an Asian restaurant with a 1 to 10 heat scale and orders a 15 or a 20. Yeah, I’m that guy. Unfortunately, Lolly is the polar opposite of that, so I have to compromise – somewhat. I used a paltry 3 tablespoons of the paste and listened to her gripe about it more than once, but I’m toughening up her palate. She’ll thank me someday when she’s able to experience the joy of the ghost chili without flinching. Moving right along …
In a deep skillet, heat the olive oil over medium flame, then stir in the garlic and ginger pastes, followed by the chicken. Cook until the chicken is mostly done, about 5 minutes, then add the onions and cook a few more minutes until they are tender. Add the curry paste and one of the cans of coconut milk, stirring thoroughly to ensure the paste is completely dissolved. Add the bamboo shoots, then cover the skillet and simmer on low heat for at least one hour. The goal is to make the chicken super tender while infusing it with the flavor of the curry, so if you can let it braise a little longer than an hour, so much the better.
Now we’re coming down to the finish line. At this point it’s a good idea to get your jasmine rice on to cook so it finishes up at the same time as your curry. By the by, I happened to have some extra chicken stock on hand, so I used that instead of water to make the rice.
Stir the broccoli and zucchini into the curry mixture, along with the second can of coconut milk, cover the skillet again and continue to cook on low heat until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat, stir in the lime juice and cilantro, and adjust your seasoning with some kosher salt. With that you’re ready to plate – or bowl, as we did tonight.
We served this up over hot, fluffy jasmine rice and topped it with some fresh green onions sliced on an extreme bias to look extra pretty. For an improv dish I was quite pleased with how it came out – very fresh, light and authentic tasting, practically bursting with genuine Thai flavors, and generally a healthy, balanced meal for good measure. I hope you’ll give it a try and enjoy it as much as we did – despite Lolly griping about the heat level. We’ll keep working on that. Until next time: Eat well, my friends!