Friday, March 06, 2009

Seek Simplicity, And Distrust It

After chafing repeatedly at the inadequacies of my Thai food- specifically in terms of that restaurant-perfect authenticity that makes us (those of us who live in places that have it, that is) seek out cheap ethnic takeout much more often than we should- I finally broke down and ordered some stuff to help bring my cooking up to the level which my cravings require of me. Specifically, kaffir lime leaves and galangal, which I just can't find up here. Both freeze really well, so I ordered a fair amount and we should be set for a while.

C brought some chicken thighs and coconut milk back from the store per my request, and I had the rest prepped for their return because it was well nigh dinner time and dithering was not an option. To the BBQ pork broth I had added galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaf, ginger, garlic, and a slice of fresh yuzu from the jar that I preserved in salt with spices all Moroccan-styley a few months ago, and let it all simmer for an hour or so.

When they arrived, I hastily tried to put a brown on the thigh skins, then added onion and the spuds, and then poured in the coconut milk and broth. After a few minutes, I added bunch of coarsely chopped spinach and shredded kaffir lime leaf and let it go a bit longer. Then I served it on brown rice with a pinch of crunchy salt and a couple of chutneys.

It's hard to overstate how great this was; the broth had taken on such a panoply of flavors by this point that it became an ethereal symphony of smoke, spice, Southeast Asian twang, and meaty richness which both underpinned and overlayed the coconut's unctuosity, mingling with the giving density of the roots and perfuming the chicken to make for a pretty sublime onslaught of flavors and textures within a very traditional framework.

Always save your bones; I have no compunction about taking them from dinner guests and putting them all in the fridge for a day or two until there's time to make a stock. And if you can then add layers to the broth over the course of a few days, letting it become a unique, unduplicatable essence of the time, place, and sequence of ingredients which comprised your life, then you've got the foundation for food that makes indelible memories. It also helps to have beer, but I believe that we covered that last time.


Heather said...

Simple meals seldom are.

This scarcely looks like Thai food - I need to see the creamy coconut gravy to be convinced.

Brittany said...

sounds like it has all the flavors of my favorite seven elements soup that I get at my favorite thai restaurant.

I always end up feeling sick to my stomach a few hours later (coconut milk does that to me....*sniffle*), but it's always worth it.

Chris Rywalt said...

"Unctuosity"? Really?

Anonymous said...

Ohhh, Peter, your pix are getting really sexxxxy! I'd lick the screen were I not sitting in my regular cafe.

cook eat FRET said...

there are no shortages of adverbs and adjectives in your world... that's for sure.

sounds like a great dinner, peter

Jo said...

But this...
"become a unique, unduplicatable essence of the time, place, and sequence of ingredients which comprised your life, "
is inherently what bothers me when I crave something made in the past that for the very reason you describe is no longer repeatable.

The Spiteful Chef said...

I'm with Heather. It looks too suspiciously healthy to be a Thai curry, which everyone knows is the only kind of Thai food there is (in a perfect world).

Brooke said...

You can never just say "it was damn tasty", can you? Oh well. I suppose it does kinda look like an ethereal symphony of flavors.

peter said...

Blanche: Well, you can't. It wasn't Thai food. But the gravy was insane.

Brittany: I hear you; the solution is to use those little cans of coconut milk instead of the big ones. You get the flavor and creaminess, but you don't shit fuzz the next day.

Chris: Hey there. Yes, really.

Linsey: Hey there to you too. I love the longer daylight hours; I'm hoping that as of tomorrow the pics will jump to a new level of unsuckiness.

Claudia: Wanna play scrabble?

Jo: Well, that means you're doing a good job. It's all about embracing life's evanescence.

Kristie: No, in a perfect world I would get green papaya salad every day.

Brooke: It was both damn tasty and the other thing.