It’s the time of year that I dream about cooking. Telluride's morning temperatures hover around 10 ºF, yet there's not enough snow to ski. If you asked me, I'd probably lie and tell you that I love off-season in Telluride. The truth, however, hovers somewhere in between that and late night searches for cheap flights to someplace tropical. What exactly I’d do with my job or my family if I found a $400 flight to Fiji isn’t really important; the thrill is in the hunt.
Barring the discovery of cheap travel to someplace warm, I’ll continue to dream about and actually make curries. Curries allow me to remember. I smell the salt and the spice and the heat of Thailand, and I remember a favorite day I spent with Andy years ago.
In the memory, the day begins as all of the best mornings do: at the market. There are baskets of chilies, mangoes, and coconuts everywhere we turn. The smell is somewhat smoky—grilled squid, somewhat sweet like tamarind, and somewhat stinky—call it durian meets dried fish. The essence of Thailand.
This dish is a variation of a curry I learned in a Chiang Mai cooking class over a decade ago. Make it while you wait for the snow to fall and the skiing to begin. May it carry you away to a warmer place.
Chicken Green Curry
12 oz boneless chicken thighs, thinly sliced
2 cans of coconut milk (keep 2 tablespoons to use as a garnish, don’t shake the cans)
3 tablespoons green curry paste ( we like Mae Ploy, but Thai Kitchen is fine)
1/2 cup of Thai eggplants sliced in half (if you can find them)
1 small can of bamboo shoots
2 tablespoons palm sugar (or brown sugar)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
4 kaffir lime leaves (or 1 tablespoon of lime juice)
1 handful of sweet basil leaves, chopped
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 jalapeño pepper, sliced (optional)
Scoop 3 tablespoons of the thick coconut milk into a hot wok. Stir continuously until the milk separates and forms an oil. It’s very important to smile as you do this, or the oil won’t separate. Add curry paste and fry for 1-2 minutes. Add chicken and fry until the outside of the chicken turns white. Then add the rest of the coconut milk (minus the 2 T for the final garnish), the fish sauce, sugar, lime leaves, red peppers, and eggplants. Simmer until the eggplants and peppers are thoroughly cooked. Add half of the basil leaves and simmer for another minute.
Serve with steamed rice. Garnish with a few basil leaves, sliced jalapenos, and the reserved coconut milk.