Thai Green Curry With Crispy Roast Chicken | Cooking With Bells On

Thai Green Curry with Crispy Roast Chicken, Shiitake Mushrooms, and Bok Choy

It is way too tempting to order in for dinner in New York City, particularly when the temperature outside is 12° and any of 200 or so nearby restaurants will bring food to you at the click of the button.

Thai Green Curry with Crispy Roast Chicken and Basil and Lime Wedge Garnishes

But now that Spring has arrived it’s time to muster up a little resilience against the lure of take-out containers and bicycle delivery men. In the name of saving a little more money to go towards our dream projects, Brian and I sat down a week ago and decided that our beloved takeout had to go. You see, even though we eat well, we still have a general budget of how much we spend on food each week; our weekly $30+ ramen/sushi/thai delivery indulgence ends up tacking an extra 20% onto that budget. Listen guys, if I learned anything from my job in finance, it’s that you don’t want drive up your expenses.

Crispy Roast Chicken, Basil, and Lime Wedges to Top the Curry

Well, delivery dinner may be so last week, but that doesn’t mean the food we had delivered has to go, as well. Recently I found myself craving some warm and spicy thai green curry, and so I sent myself into the kitchen to recreate this take-out favorite. As I was planning the dish, it occurred to me that I might be able to improve it a bit by giving the protein some respect and cooking it separately. For the rest of the dish, I played it fairly traditional, staying true to the flavors I craved – peppery ginger, fragrant lemongrass, creamy coconut milk, and tender Asian vegetables. What resulted was a lush bowl of thai curry, topped with a bit of succulent roast chicken that had a perfectly crispy skin. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Thai Green Curry with Crispy Roast Chicken, Mushrooms, and Bok Choy

Serves 2

Thai Green Curry With Crispy Roast Chicken | Cooking With Bells On

I loved this curry served on its own, almost as more of a soup. However, if you feel like you’re missing some starch, or if you just can’t imagine having curry without anything to sop up all the delicious liquid, go ahead and serve it over rice.

I noted in the ingredients that the fish sauce is optional… but saying so pains me. I made this dish twice, once forgetting the fish sauce and once including it, and I have to say that the fish sauce really brings the dish together. It’s like the anchovies in Caesar salad – you don’t know that they’re there, but it definitely doesn’t taste right without them. Having said that, if you’re the type that is iffy about the idea of anchovies in your salad dressing, then you can certainly leave the fish sauce out of your curry. You can find fish sauce (nam pla) in the Asian aisle of most grocery stores.

Ingredients:

2 chicken thighs, skin-on and preferably bone-in

2 tbsp butter or ghee

sea salt and red chili flakes

1 14 oz can coconut milk

2 tbsp green curry paste

1 finger-sized piece of ginger, cut into 3 strips vertically

2 stalks lemongrass, split lengthwise and bashed with the blunt side of a heavy knife

2 tsp. fish sauce (optional)

1 cup chicken broth

2 large handfuls shiitake mushrooms, sliced (substitute cremini or button, if necessary)

2 baby bok choy, quartered lengthwise

small handful basil leaves, sliced into ribbons, to garnish (optional)

2 lime wedges, to garnish

Sear and roast the chicken: Preheat the oven to 375º and place a pan over high heat. Allow the pan to heat for several minutes until it’s blazing hot. Meanwhile, coat the chicken thighs with the butter or ghee and season the skin with salt and chili flakes. (The best way to do this is to allow one hand to get messy with the butter and use the other hand for seasoning.) Place the chicken thighs skin side down in the hot pan and season the upward facing side. Sear for two or three minutes until the skin gets crispy, then flip and cook for two more minutes on the opposite side. Remove the chicken to a baking dish and place in the oven to finish cooking, about 15 minutes.

Prepare the curry: While the chicken is cooking, place a saucepan over medium-high heat on the stove. Pour in the coconut milk and bring to a boil. Allow to reduce by 1/3. After the coconut milk has concentrated a bit you can whisk in the curry paste. Add the ginger slices, bashed lemongrass stalks, fish sauce, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then simmer for five minutes. Once the ginger and garlic have steeped and fully perfumed the curry base, fish them out with tongs.

Add the vegetables: Set the chicken aside to cool a bit after it has finished cooking in the oven. With the curry base over medium heat, add the shiitake mushrooms and cook for about three minutes, until they begin to get tender. Add the bok choy to the curry, cover, and allow to steam for another two or three minutes. The curry is ready when a fork will pierce the bok choy with little resistance.

Serve: Slice the chicken thighs, discarding bones. (Actually, don’t discard – toss them in a freezer bag for future broth-making!) Serve the curry in large bowls, over rice or on its own. Place the chicken meat over the curry, and garnish with basil and lime wedges.

 

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Braised Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms and Peas | Cooking With Bells On

Braised Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms and Peas

As much as I can, I try to plan my meals around what looks best at the store or farmer’s market, keeping in mind both cost and seasonality. The thing is, I have pretty high standards when it comes to quality – I like my produce organic, my seafood sustainable, and my meat grass-fed – and the ingredients that meet these standards can often be disappointingly expensive. While I’m okay with paying a premium for quality ingredients that taste better and are far more nourishing (really, see: 1, 2, 3), I don’t necessarily want to just give my wallet outright to Whole Foods.

To hack the cost side of things, I often buy more unconventional cuts of meat. Oxtail and liver are totally fair game for me when I’m shopping for protein, though I get that they might be a tough sell for some (most) of my readers. But lamb shanks? Oh, lamb shanks I know you’ll like.

Rosemary and Thyme Bouquet Garni

The idea for this dinner came about as I was walking through Whole Foods on Tuesday evening. Passing by the butcher case, I spied the lamb shanks – local, grass-fed, probably kissed by unicorns – for six dollars a pound. Alongside the shanks were more conventional cuts like legs and chops, but at double and almost triple the price, respectively. There wasn’t even a decision to make. I asked the butcher to wrap up the shanks, grabbed some vegetables, and headed home.

Dinner came together without much work, though the finished dish might certainly have people thinking otherwise. After the meat was seared and the vegetables sauteed (fifteen minutes at most), the lamb simmered away without fuss for two hours. If I had a slow cooker, maybe I would have left the lamb to cook gently there while carrying on with my day. Before serving, I quickly boiled down the broth to make a sauce, to which I added butter and peas at the very end.

Served over mashed white sweet potatoes, the final meal was something I felt good about serving, meeting all my persnickety high standards. But instead of costing the thirty-five dollars it might have run me at a restaurant, I was able to put each plate on the table for about a quarter of the price. Total win.

Braised Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms and Peas

Serves 4

Braised Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms and Peas | Cooking With Bells On

As I mentioned above, you could certainly prepare this recipe in a slow cooker. To do so, first sear the shanks and saute the vegetables in a hot pan. Transfer these items to the crock pot, and proceed with the recipe as described. Before leaving the house, set the slow cooker to low. When you return in the evening, you should find the lamb shanks cooked and falling-off-the-bone tender.

I served this recipe over mashed white sweet potatoes, which were amazing. If you can’t find white sweet potatoes, go ahead and mash plain sweet potatoes or even regular potatoes. I imagine this would be quite delicious over risotto, as well.

Ingredients:

2 tbsp neutral oil (I used coconut oil)

4 lamb shanks

1 leek

3 handfuls mushrooms (I used a mix of cremini and oyster, though plain button will work just fine)

5 garlic cloves

Rosemary, half a handful of sprigs

Thyme, half a handful of sprigs

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

4 cups chicken broth

2 tbsp butter

1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed

Sear the lamb shanks: If you can, bring the lamb shanks out of the refrigerator about an hour before you plan to start cooking and allow them to come to room temperature. Heat the oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat until the oil and beginning to smoke. Season the shanks with salt and pepper, and place them in the pot seasoned-side down. Reseason the top side of the shanks in the pot, and sear them in a pan for about five minutes so that they take on some golden brown color. Flip and sear the other side for an additional five minutes. Remove from pot and set aside.

Saute the vegetables: Halve and rinse the leek, then thinly slice white to light green portion. Slice the mushrooms. Smash the garlic cloves and remove the skins. Add all the vegetables at once to the pot (over the oil used from the lamb) and season with salt and pepper. Saute until leeks go a little transparent and garlic turns golden and fragrant. Stir in the Dijon mustard.

Add the herbs and broth: Get together your rosemary and thyme in a parallel pile and tie them into a bunch with some twine. Add them to the pot, along with the chicken broth. The broth should almost cover the shanks – if it does not, add some water or additional stock. Cover, and bring to a simmer.

Simmer for two hours: Stir and rearrange the shanks once or twice to ensure even cooking.

Make the sauce: Remove the shanks from the pot. Pluck out and discard the herb bouquet. Do your best to skim out most of the vegetables (so that you don’t boil them to mush) and set them aside in a small bowl. Bring the broth to a boil and allow the broth to reduce for about 10 minutes, at which point you should have only 1/2 of concentrated broth left in the pot. Whisk in the butter, and add the peas.

Serve: Serve the lamb shanks atop the leek and mushrooms. Spoon over the sauce. Devour.

Soup for Early Spring

Last weekend, New York City finally got its first glimpse of spring. In context of a winter that has been surprisingly harsh and enduring, with months on end of polar vortex blanketing the city in shades of grey and gloom, this flash of warmer weather seemed to spontaneously energize every small being in the city. As if choreographed by nature, New York, long asleep, awoke all at once. Trees that had been barren for so long shot out bright green leaves as sparrows sang out to each other on well-rested voices beneath a cloudless blue sky. New Yorkers ventured out of their stuffy apartments to bask with nature in refreshed enthusiasm, lingering in the sunlight on newly crowded streets and rediscovered park benches. And I, dressed in short sleeves and a smile that involved my whole body, set about to make a meal that expressed the glory of this early spring.

After so many months of heavy stews and chilies, spring inspired me to create a lighter take on soul-warming soup. It’s time to forget about root vegetables and heavy spices and turn my attention to bright, clean flavors that resonate with the season. While the spring’s best greens will hide under soil for yet a few more weeks, I can still prepare winter’s alliums in a way that hints of the season to come.

First, I prepare a rich chicken broth, which is necessary to warm in these still-chilly evenings. Then, to complement this base, I sweat loads of onions and fennel (whose bright licorice flavor and delicate green fronds make them the springiest of winter vegetables) until they have given up their pungent aliases and divulged a creamy and sweet character.  Finally, to bring the color and freshness I crave, I finish the soup with rosy radishes, a mess of cilantro, and saline olives. The overall effect is warming, but it warms in the manner of golden sunshine on lightly clothed skin. In other words, it’s exactly what you want during the week when New York weather teases with spring on the weekends.

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Soup for Early Spring

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 2 lbs. chicken thighs (bones and skin on)
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp cooking fat of choice (I used coconut oil for a clean flavor; you could use butter or ghee as well; or olive oil if that’s what you have around, though I don’t love that for higher heats)
  • 2 onions, sliced into half-moons
  • 2 fennel bulbs, cored and sliced into half-moons, fronds reserved
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp dried oregano (or fresh, using double the amount)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes (or an abundance of fresh diced tomatoes, if in season)
  • 1 bunch radishes, cut vertically into quarters or eighths if very large
  • Cilantro or parsley (or whatever herb is in your fridge)
  • Black olives

Steps:

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  1. Prepare all your ingredients. See recipe endnote for detailed slicing instructions if you need them.

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  1. Bring chicken broth to a boil. This is the part where we make store-bought chicken broth incredible (or homemade broth even better). Add the chicken thighs. If you want your broth to be, as I said, incredible, don’t try and cut a corner by using boneless-skinless thighs. The bones and skin add flavor and body, as well as loads of nutrition. Simmer the chicken in the broth for 15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked. Remove chicken to a plate and allow to cool. Set broth aside in a large bowl.

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  1. Heat the fat in a large pot over medium-high. Add the onions, fennel, garlic, and oregano, then season liberally with salt and pepper. The goal with all these alliums is to elicit a sweet and soft character, not a caramelized and crunchy one. Don’t skimp on salt here, as it is vital in drawing water out of the vegetables so that they soften. Cover the pot and allow the vegetables to hang out for a good long while so that they reduce by about 50% (this could take up to 30 minutes). Stir occasionally to keep things from getting browned (though your onions will probably still taste great if that happens). While all this is happening on the stove, pull apart your now cooled chicken. If you’re like me, you’re going to toss the bones and skin into your special “Future Broth” bag in the freezer. If you can’t imagine ever making chicken broth at home, toss them out.

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  1. Once the vegetables have cooked down considerably, add back the chicken broth. Add the canned tomatoes, radishes, and shredded chicken. Bring to a simmer, and cook for about 15 minutes, or until the radishes are tender.

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  1. Stir in herbs and olives right before serving.

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  1. Serve soup warm and garnish with fennel fronds.

Endnote:

  • To slice onions into half-moons, cut first vertically (slicing through the stem) and peel. Cutting through the stem end leaves all the layers in each half bound together by the stem, so the onion doesn’t fall apart on your cutting board. The slice horizontally across each onion to produce half-moons.
  •  Fennels can be confusing creatures if you don’t know how to tackle them. Fear not, it’s easy and they’re delicious. First slice off all the stems and fronds, if attached. Then remove the tough outer layer, which might be stained brown. Placing the fennel upright on the cutting board, slice down through the stem. There is a core you can now see towards the bottom of each half of the bulb – slice that out with a diagonal cut on either side of it. Finally, put the fennel on its side and slice across into half-moons as you did with the onion.