Monday, December 22, 2008

Lemon Grass and Curry

I got a great idea for this week's recipes from a reader who wanted to cook with lemon grass. I think maybe it was started by the wonderful article in this months Bajareque Times by Sonia Jones, ND of the Haven Spa and Wellness Clinic called Luscious Lemon Grass. I am well aware that for many, there is a mystery of how to use Lemon Grass in recipes. Also there is a general misunderstanding of what "Curry" really is and the differences between curries from around the world.

Lemon Grass in native to India. Yet in reality, in most parts of that country, Indians do not use much Lemongrass in their cooking. They use it as tea. Only in the southern states is it sometimes used in cooking.

Thai food simply can not be made correctly without it. It is easy to use, just get a very sharp knife and thinly slice the whitish bottom part to throw into stews and soups (it makes a fresh fresh addition to chicken stock). Many recipes also call for the technique of taking the blunt side of your knife and pounding the white part of the stalk to release the flavors and throwing the whole bruised stock into the dishes, making it easy to remove after stewing, much like a bay leaf.

"Curry" simply means a saucy dish that is heavily spiced. The concept of Curry began with
the cuisine of India. Then with European and Arab spice trade, colonization and slavery, the many techniques of Indian Curry spread and adapted to many other parts of the world, such as Indonesia, Africa and the Caribbean. Even the Japanese have embraced Curry. They sell it out of vending machines!

I going to recommend a great book that really tells the story of "curry". From Curries to Kebabs: Recipes from the Indian Spice Trail by Madhur Jaffrey is superb reading and cooking. Anything by Madhur Jaffrey is great in my opinion.

So for this week's recipes, I have included two that use Lemon Grass. The first is an Indian Curry and the other is a South East Asian inspired Noodle and Beef dish. I hope that you enjoy them. They are really fun to make and fill the house with great aromas.

Chicken Moulee

A Curry style dish from the south Indian state of Kerala

1 lb chicken thigh fillets

For moulee sauce:
1/3 c. oil
2 Onions -1 is sliced across then thinly in half rings, the other puréed
1 1/2” ginger shredded coarsely
2 stalks lemon grass puréed
1” ginger puréed
6 almonds puréed
1 pinch turmeric powder
2 c. coconut milk, try to find the thickest possible
2 T vinegar
1 T sugar
Salt to taste
1 t. plain flour for thickening.
Sliced green chili
Season with salt and lime juice

Brush chicken fillets with oil then sauté over moderately high heat with another tablespoon oil until fillets are lightly browned. Remove from pan and set aside. Heat oil and fry the puréed onions and sliced onions with ginger shreds. Add puréed ginger, lemon grass and turmeric and fry until aromatic. Add coconut milk and cook on low until oil separates. Add vinegar, sugar and salt then flour mixed with 1/4 cup warm water. Add chicken pieces and allow the sauce to reduce. Season, garnish with chopped red and green chilies. Serve with steamed rice.

Vietnamese Herb Noodle Salad with Grilled Beef and Lemon Grass

This dish is very fresh and tasty.

Herb Noodle Salad

1/2 lb. rice vermicelli or thin spaghetti (angel hair)
1 cup each loosely packed fresh mint, basil, and cilantro leaves or sprigs
1 piece (3 in.) cucumber, peeled, halved, seeded, and sliced into 1 1/2-in. matchsticks
1 lime or lemon, cut in wedges

Boil vermicelli according to package instructions. Drain, rinse with cool water, put in a bowl, and cover with a towel.
Before serving, check noodles; if gummy, rinse again and drain. Arrange the salad: first noodles; then herbs (loosely torn), cucumber then add beef. Garnish with a drizzle of lime and/or dipping sauce.

Dressing for the salad.

1/2 to 1 red hot chili pepper, sliced into paper thin rings
1/2 tablespoon minced garlic (about 1 large clove)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 1/2 to 2 tbsp. fresh lime juice

Put sliced chili in a small bowl. Add 1/2 cup warm water, garlic, fish sauce, and lime juice to bowl and whisk to combine.

Grilled Beef with Lemon Grass

1 1/2 t. sugar
1 T. freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 T. minced garlic (3 or 4 large cloves)
1 1/2 stalks lemon grass, white part minced (about 3 tbsp.)
3 T. fish sauce
3 T. olive oil
1 pound beef tri-tip or round, sliced against the grain into 1/4-in. slices
2 yellow onions, peeled and quartered
2 T. loosely packed fresh cilantro sprigs
2 T. crushed unsalted dry-roasted peanuts

In a wide, shallow bowl, whisk together sugar, pepper, garlic, lemon grass, fish sauce, and 2 tbsp. olive oil. Add beef, toss to coat, and refrigerate 2 hours.

Rub remaining 1 tbsp. oil over onions. Prepare a gas or charcoal grill for medium-high heat (you can hold your hand 1 to 2 in. above grill level only 3 to 4 seconds). Brush grill with vegetable oil. Thread onions onto two 8-in. metal skewers. Lay onion skewers on grill and cook (close lid on gas grill) until softened, about 15 minutes, turning skewers every 5 minutes or so.

When onions are cooked halfway, lay beef slices on grill and cook (close lid on gas grill), turning once, 3 to 5 minutes.

Arrange beef and onions on a platter on top or right beside the noodle salad. Garnish with cilantro and peanuts.

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