Friday, November 19, 2010

A little bit of Laos.

Halloween weekend 2009 found Frank and me up in Madison, Wisconsin. It's a really great college town with lots of character. We were in the area to see a concert and didn't get to stay very long, but we were there long enough to have one of the best meals I've ever had. Inside a tiny house on a side street is a Laotian restaurant called Lao Laan-Xang, where I was treated to the pleasure of curry squash.

The dish was a rich, flavorful coconut red curry broth with soft chunks of sweet potato, butternut and acorn squash, zucchini, Thai eggplant and chicken served with rice. It was a little sweet, a little more spicy, and very, very, comforting.

You know those bites of food that you just sit and savor and that make you say, "mmmm.... mmmm...." over and over until someone asks you if you are okay?

Yeah, it was like that.

I knew I wouldn't be able to get a curry like that in Kansas City, so I had develop as close an approximation as possible.

One problem -  I HATE cutting up butternut squash. Frank hates it, too. It seems like it takes a machete to get through one of those suckers, and we're both afraid of losing digits.

Thank goodness for Costco. This time of year, they have fresh, pre-cut butternut squash cubes in their produce section. YAY!

With the hard part out of the way, all that was left to do was play around with some recipes until I found one that hit the mark. This most recent incantation from earlier this week comes very close, but it's not perfect. I'll explain more about that in a bit.

By the way, one of my favorite ingredients is red curry paste. It's a concentrated curry mixture that's packed with very complex flavor. A little goes a long way, and it will keep in the fridge for months.
Red Chicken and Mango Curry
Servings: 4
WW Points: 9 per serving

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. canola oil
1 1/2 Tbsp. red Thai curry paste
1 14-oz. can light coconut milk
1 c. chicken broth
1 Tbsp.. fish sauce
1 1/2 c. butternut squash cubes
1 1/2 c. sweet potato cubes
1 c. mango cubes
2 tsp. fresh lime juice, plus wedges for garnish
3-4 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped
2 c. brown rice, cooked

Saute chicken in skillet over medium-high heat until browned and cooked through, and remove to a plate.

Saute onions and garlic in oil over medium-high heat for two minutes, then add curry paste. Whisk in coconut milk, broth and fish sauce and bring to a boil. Add butternut squash and sweet potato cubes and simmer, partially covered, about 20 minutes or until tender.

Add chicken back to pan and bring to a boil. Add mango and lime juice and heat through.

Serve over rice and sprinkle with cilantro and lime wedges
Like I said above, this was very good, but it wasn't perfect. I think I'm going to eliminate the mango next time, and maybe add some acorn squash chunks (I'm not as afraid of cutting one of those in half). Also, I found that this is better served in a bowl over rice. I don't know why, it just is.

As leftovers go, this is a home run. The flavors all meld together and it reheats nicely in the microwave. A little bit of Laos in my office cube is rather nice.

What's the best meal in an unlikely place you've ever had?

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