Saturday, December 13, 2008

Two problems, one post: Sweet Potato Panang

I have posted about neither a dish I’ve made (shame) nor a sweet potato dish (scandal!), but that’s all about to change. Two nights ago I finally made sweet potato curry, a taste-texture-smell sensation that Kendall has been praising non-stop for years now. As a dish it does a lot of things, but it did not disappoint. Picture to come when I get the cord to Z’s camera.

Generally I don’t like eating things that have been shipped from halfway across the world to get to me, even if they are in cans. However, galangalanga isn’t easy to find so when I discovered that the Thai grocer across the street from Awesome Thai (a post on AT is sure to be forthcoming. In fact, I propose that we get all the SPF together for a trip there soon) sold cans of curry paste I decided I’d give ‘em a shot. The writing on these cans is all Thai so despite it’s elegance I wasn’t able to discern a recipe. That ended up not being a bad thing, as is most often the case when I just do what my nose and stomach tell me to.

Now, I like brown rice a lot, mainly for the texture. When I eat it I like to pretend that I’m eating a lot of tiny balloons that pop and release a delicious warm mush when I crush them with my teeth. Regular white rice is like just eating the balloon filling in some weird mush that has not been individually packaged just for my dining pleasure. I think this is a pretty good analogy because it would take a long time to individually stuff balloons with warm ricy-goodness and it takes a long time to cook the brown rice. Make sure you start cooking this shit at the beginning of your meal. It’ll stay warm as long as the pot has the top on it and if you don’t give your little balloon packers enough time then the balloons the give you to eat will be disgusting because they’re really pissed at their working conditions.

So, while the rice is cooking I diced a huge chunk of ginger—a lot more than I usually use. I added 3 (pretty good sized) diced cloves of garlic to this. Then I cut up 1 medium onion and 2 shallots julienne style and I sautéed all of these things in a pan with a small amount of olive oil (just enough to barely coat the pan, I didn’t want an olive-y curry).

As they were doing their thing and making my kitchen smell delicious I peeled and chopped 2 medium sized sweet potatoes. It’s pretty easy to know what size to chop these things into, just make it the size that upon entering your mouth mixed with sauce and rice will force your body to make a deep rumbling MMMMM sound that would be embarrassing were you not eating this in the company of only those people you allow into your home.

So I threw the potatoes in as I was chopping them, and when I got the first one in I had my lovely assistant add the can of panang curry paste and stir so that everything was coated. At this point you couldn’t even tell there had been any oil on the plate in the first place and it seemed like I was just frying delicious roots in a dry-ish curry paste. I think this is probably a good thing because I read in a few places when trying to learn how to cook Indian food that sautéing the spices dry first does a lot more to ‘release their inner flavor’. If it doesn’t do that it’ll release their inner smell and your nose will trick you enough that it doesn’t matter.

While all of this sizzling was going down I choped 2 big-ish peppers: one red and one yellow. I did a thicker slice than julienne would have wanted and then made rectangles out of the strips. I threw half of each in at this point and the other half at the very end after all of the milk had gone in (so that they'd be a little turgid as I was eating).

After all the potatoes were in I stirred everything for a while to try and ensure that there was an even coat of paste on everything and that each bit had spent its moment warming itself on the pan bottom. Then I opened a can (400ml) of coconut milk, threw out all of the weird caked crap at the top, poured in just a little, and stirred lovingly with a wooden ladel as if I were making a risotto. I ended up doing this for the rest of the coconut milk phase and I have no idea if it helped the dish, but it was fun.

I should say here that I find the trickiest part about Thai cooking to be the coconut milk. I like the flavor, I like it an awful lot, but ONLY when properly mixed with delicious Thai spices. If there is too much and I have a very sweet curry I get unbelievably sad because I know what the dish could have been. I’ve done this with Massaman curry too many times. Since the dish already has some yammy sweetness to it I did not want to over do it.

About halfway through the milk business I also poured in some fish oil. I have no idea how much I used, somewhere between half a teaspoon and 2 tablespoons. That probably isn’t very helpful but it probably shouldn’t be right? Everyone has a different tongue that wants a different amount of fish oil on it, so you shouldn’t just put as much fish oil as I did in yours.

Then I let the whole thing cook over a medium-low heat for a while, stirring very occasionally. I was hoping to eliminate as much sweet potato rigidity as I could. When I couldn’t bare waiting any longer I dished the whole thing up and ate. I used a plate rather than a bowl because it wasn’t super soupy, but when it is I really like to just dump the rice into the curry-bowl and eat it that way.

There aren’t words for how good it was. I can only say that I was extremely upset when I was full that I couldn’t be eating more, that I ate seconds twice throughout the evening, that I had it for breakfast and for lunch the next day, and that as I write this now, two days later, I still wish I were eating it. My stomach longs for it at night (it has enough spice to warm the tummy through these cold almost-winter new york nights). I could go on. I was particularly happy with how the peppers turned out. None of them were crisp, but they gave a nice textural variety to the ricy-potatoe goodness that was going on with them.

So, basically this was a triumph. As Z put it “you outdid yourself this time Mr. Roess”. I rate this an MMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! .


CaseyMustPie said...

mmmm that sounds great, mike! but in defense of white rice: I really like white rice.

mwr said...

Yeah, don't get me wrong. White rice totally has it's place. Brown rice sushi might be gross.

k said...

actually brown rice sushi is great.
publix what!

Eric said...

Hi, Erin's friend Eric here. I love the blog! This is essentially what my friend Greg and I do at work many mornings: recap recent meals. And as far as curry paste, there are a ton of different variates at the Bengali grocery store about 20 minutes from where I live. Makes a great stir fry!

CaseyMustPie said...

Hi Eric!

Queen of Cuisine said...

GUYS. I want to shove this in my face RIGHT NOW. Mmmm Sweet Potato Panang.

Also, I'm going to go ahead and vote yes on a field trip to Awesome Thai (I'm so glad we've turned this into a proper noun), especially since my sister's flight was delayed on Friday, we went all the way to Awesome Thai, and it had JUST CLOSED. Like, people were still sitting in it. It was masquerading as open, but it was NOT. I almost cried right there on the street.

Please can we go soon? Pretty please?

mwr said...

Hey Eric! Thanks for liking the blog!