A luscious and flavorful curry inspired by an amazing chef, Jazz Singsanong
The first time I saw the marvelous Hepburn-Tracy film Adam’s Rib (1949, which you can and should rent on Amazon) I was nine years old and fell in love. I fell in love with those two great actors and their magical chemistry; with Judy Holliday, stunning in what was basically her film debut; with late 40’s New York City and a way of bustling, exciting life completely alien to me; and with the smart, witty script by Ruth Gordon (yes that Ruth Gordon) and Garson Kanin. I could do a whole blog post on this movie – and perhaps I will! But for now:
There’s a moment in the movie that made my nine-year-old jaw drop wide open. The two leads, married lawyers on opposite sides of a case, come home from a hard day battling each other in court and want a romantic night. They decide to cook dinner. And on a quick whim, they decided to make… curry!
I couldn’t believe it. Curry to me was an exotic dinner reserved for very special occasions. Surely it must take days to make! You must understand… in The South, the main type of curry we serve has as its base yellow curry powder, and is served over rice with a dozen or so diced ingredients on the side, including bacon, diced apples, slivered almonds, coconut flakes, raisins… It was such fun to eat as a kid! You were able to choose your toppings, which seemed very adult. It had only a bit of spice, which was tempered even more by the fact many of the toppings were sweet. I loved that yellow curry, the only curry I knew existed. For these two erudite city folk to be able to quickly whip up a curry from their pantry?
Let’s just say I wanted move in with them that instant. (Their gorgeous two-story apartment didn’t hurt either.)
It was years before I discovered there were so many other curries! And that you can indeed make a curry rather quickly if you have the right ingredients on hand. I’ve tried many curries in the last few years. Green has long been my favorite… until now.
Cut to last January: One of my various jobs is editing a Food Network competition show, Guy’s Grocery Games, hosted by the indomitable and wonderful Guy Fieri. I work on it with an amazing post production team and a set of terrific editors. It’s a very fun show on which I’m proud to work.
Often the competing chefs are famous, or work at famous restaurants. In January I was editing an episode (working with my good friend and food compadre Hilary) that included a chef from a very famous Thai restaurant, Jitlada. Her name is Jazz Singsanong, a heartfelt and extremely funny woman, and an incredible chef. She won a big tournament with a quick fire version of Panang Curry, which she poured over a pan-roasted halibut. The judges went nuts. (Check out the links above to see her videos… she’s a delight.)
Because I’m the editor, I was able to watch her create the curry from start to finish. So I started making it at home and, as is typical for me, messing with it in my own fashion. I’ve made at least it seven or eight times now and have come up with my favorite version, which you yourself can tweak.
The only real prep is getting the pantry ingredients on hand (see recipe below). Do this now and like Hepburn and Tracy in Adam’s Rib, you can have curry any night of the week!
NOTE: You can make this vegetarian or, if desired, add protein. All versions are noted below. While I love to serve this curry over rice, if you omit the protein and sautéed vegetables and cook only the curry itself, like Jazz you can pour it over anything.
Ok this seems long… but it’s not. It’s easy… just making sure the recipe is clear:
Before making this particular curry, you need a couple of things from either Amazon or an Asian market near you:
This is the curry paste you want: (click the name it will link)￼
And the coconut cream: (click the name it will link)￼
This particular cream sometimes is not available… another I’ve found that is great is this one: (click the name it will link)￼
This recipe is pretty ‘wing it’ BTW… follow what is here but if you veer off, you can’t mess it up.
Also: I always double this. It’s even better the next day and it freezes beautifully, though even the double amount is always gone before I can freeze any.
1 sweet onion, sliced into half rings
1 red bell pepper, sliced vertically
1 yellow or orange bell pepper, sliced vertically
2 carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal
A dozen small yellow potatoes, sliced into thick coins (or two large Yukon gold potatoes
cut into bite sized pieces – sweet potatoes also work great!)
1 can of panang curry paste
1 stalk lemon grass, sliced thin
1 Fresno Chili or Serrano pepper, sliced thin… remove the seeds if you don’t want it fire hot
A nice knob of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, chopped
Juice of one lime (use two if they are dry, as limes often can be)
A few shakes of a good fish sauce (Red Boat is excellent and reasonable)
Vegetable or chicken broth (or water)
1 can of coconut cream (this does not go in the blender)
If you want a protein:
3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, sliced thin
2 duck breasts, with skin
You can do this a day or two before, or the morning of.. save in the fridge, then bring to room temp as you make the curry:
1) Sauté the carrots, onions and peppers over low, with salt and pepper, until slightly caramelized and tender but far from mushy (they will cook more in the curry). Begin with the carrots, as they take longer to soften.
2) Boil the potatoes in salted water until slightly tender, then drain well.
1) Into a wide, deep skillet pour a can of the coconut cream. Turn heat to medium high. Bring to a light boil, stirring. When at a boil, reduce to medium low.
2) As this comes to a boil, put all the blender ingredients into a blender. Add enough of the stock of your choice (or water) to come up a little over half way.
3) As we say in Texas, blend the shit out of it.
4) When the coconut cream is at that bubbling simmer, add the blended contents of the blender. Stir well, bring back to a boil then reduce to medium low for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4) If you’re using the sliced chicken, slide it into the curry at about the 15 minute mark. It will cook by the time the curry is done. At about the 20 minute mark, add the prepped vegetables and continue to cook, melding flavors and warming the veg up.
So you can use the chicken… or just make a vegetable curry, no protein, which is wonderful itself!
OR… BETTER STILL…
After adding the vegetables, take 2 duck breasts and pan sear them as you like (see advice below, it’s easy). You could actually slice the breasts first and slide them raw into the curry, like the chicken, but with duck I like cook separately and sit the duck on top. Also, unless you cook the duck separately, you miss an added benefit that’s key. So cook the duck separately.
When the duck is finished, remove the breasts to a plate and let sit and retain the juices. This is very important. Wait tem minutes, then slice on the diagonal. AND… ADDED BENEFIT: Pour the fat from the duck pan into the curry and stir (!!!) Oh. My. So good.
Whatever choice you make:
Serve the curry over rice. Squeeze more lime juice on top. If using the duck breasts, put the slices on top.
This saves and reheats very well.
VEGETARIAN NOTE: Just use the vegetables as in the recipe and nothing else. Serve over rice. The Bomb.
JUST A SAUCE: prep the coconut cream and blender ingredients the exact same way. Ignore the sautéed vegetables and proteins. You will end up with a lovely, luscious sauce you an pour over anything… or bathe in.