Feast 29 – Thai Inspiration

As the months creep by, i find myself increasingly falling victim to a creeping malaise and general apathy towards doing all the day to day tasks that make up my life here in Korea. unfortunately, that has bled over into my blog entry habits and i find myself, for the third week in a row, making an entry 48 hours after the meal has actually gone down. It strange, i still am excited about the project and exert a great deal of my waking hours planning and executing the meals but somehow i get lazy when it comes time to make the entries. i make no excuses, i just beg your indulgence. i will strive to be better. in 27 days, i assure you i will be better, a plane ride and a few weeks with the family should go a long way to re-energizing my flagging willpower. all that aside, here is the weeks meal:

I had a desire to make some Thai influenced food and also, in the interests of economy, using up the catfish i still had in the freezer from the cajun meal a few weeks back. so, the thing that popped to mind first was fish packets, wrapped in banana leaves. but hey, who am i kidding, banana leaves, here on a military base? not bloody likely. ok, says i, fine… the suitable substitute is parchment paper… easy right? well, no, because yet again, here is another item that is widely available in the civilized world that i am unfortunately unable to get. so, i had to settle for foil packing. not a tragedy but i am getting damned sick of resorting to tertiary options. there is nothing like a stint overseas to make you appreciate the vast selection of a modern, well stocked grocery store. on a tangential note, i remember the first weekend that the family was in colorado, after four years in england. my first trip to a large grocery store was a defining moment in my recovery from the culture shock of being away from the states for that long of a period. it was strange to see so much selection in such a compact space. choice is overwhelming at times but it really stands out after you have done without for any period of time.

wow, this is meandering a bit from the subject… focus, greg, focus…

ok, fish packets… i came across a recipe that detailed a fish packet marinaded in a basil curry sauce. well, thats a win to start with… i found it at http://thaifood.about.com/od/thairecipes/r/Salmon.htm and while it calls for salmon, cod or other specific fish, my inventory of catfish and liking for its flavor made it a very suitable substitute…

Spice Mixture for the marinade

* 2-3 fillets salmon, red snapper, cod, or other fish, preferably fresh, but frozen will work too (SERVES 2-3)
* 1 pkg. banana leaves (if frozen, thaw for at least 1/2 hour) OR 2-4 sheets parchment paper, OR tin foil
* CURRY MARINADE/SAUCE:
* 1 shallot
* 2 cloves garlic
* 1 thumb-size piece galangal (or ginger), sliced
* 2 tsp. ground coriander
* handful of basil leaves
* 2 Tbsp. fish sauce
* 1/2 can good-quality coconut milk
* 2 kaffir lime leaves, snipped into small pieces with scissors (discard central stem)
* 1 fresh red chilli, sliced (seeds removed if you prefer a milder sauce)
* 1 tsp. chili powder
* juice of 1/2 lime

Fish, marinaded and ready to wrap

Preparation:

1. Place all curry marinade/sauce ingredients in a food processor (or blender) and process well.
2. Place fish fillets in a large bowl and add 1/2 the curry marinade. Reserve the rest for later.
3. Slather the marinade over both sides of the fish.
4. Allow fish to sit in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to 30 minutes. Note: If you’re pressed for time, you can cook the fish immediately, as the flavors are so strong, they will still permeate the fish sufficiently.
5. When fish is done marinading, spread a banana leaf approximately 1 foot square on a working surface (you will have to cut the leaf) – or the equivalent of parchment paper or tin foil. Place one fillet in the center of the leaf/paper/foil.
6. Fold both sides of the wrapping material over the fish, then fold both ends to create a square “packet”. Turn it seam-side down to keep sides from opening (unless using foil, which will stay by itself). Do the same for the other fillets.
7. Place packets in a glass casserole dish or pie plate (to catch the drippings in case packets leak) and bake for 15 min. at 350 degrees, or longer depending on the thickness of the fillets.
8. After 15 minutes, open one of the packets. Insert a fork into the center of the fillet or steak (the thickest part) and gently pull back. If inside flesh is opaque and no longer transparent, the fish is cooked. If not, return to oven for another 5-10 minutes.
9. Over low heat, warm up the reserved curry sauce/marinade.
10. To serve the fish, scoop several spoonfuls of rice onto the side of the fish (right on the banana leaf, if using). Spoon some curry sauce (marinade) over the fish, then add a sprinkling of basil and/or coriander leaves.

well, i was also unable to get kaffir lime leaves so excluded them. i increased the red peppers to three given my own personal affinity for the spicier side of life. honestly, it wasn’t hot enough in my opinion and would probably either use more or a different type of pepper in the future.

Coconut rice is not very interesting to photograph

i followed their advice in the original recipe and prepared some coconut rice alongside. the recipe as quoted seemed a little on the mild side so i added 2 tbsp of madras curry powder with the other ingredients and followed the recipe as listed. it gave it a nice zest without overpowering the smooth flavor of the rice. quite nice in my humble opinion. here is a link to the rice recipe: Thai Coconut Rice

Ingredients chopped for the eggplant stirfry

for the inevitable vegetable side, i had a craving for eggplant again and came across this recipe: Thai Eggplant Stirfry. I appreciated it both for its variety of flavorings and ease of preparation. I normally swerve away from any recipe that uses the word easy in its title because they tend to be dumbed down version of things i would normally like but this one held true to the promise of ease while still offering the complexities that i enjoy in a dish.

Eggplant stir frying away

personal taste drove me to increase the garlic to nine cloves and max out the red peppers. i was a bit intimidated by the fish sauce in all honesty. this is my first time cooking with it and i was a bit thrown back by the strength of its aroma straight out of the bottle. it is wicked strong to be sure. however, blended with the other ingredients, it gave a great balance to the dish and i will definitely ensure my larder is stocked with it in the future.

Finished meal, plated

this went really well with the lager left over in the fridge. reduce, reuse, recycle…

i am of two minds on quoting recipes wholesale in my blog. on the one hand, i think everyone who reads this knows that i am cooking based on some recipe or another, that i don’t have a test kitchen stashed away in my dorm room where i develop all new recipes. i like to think that my modifications, pictures and commentary are enough to make them worthwhile. so, thats the argument for directly quoting the recipes, to give credit to the sources and ensure people know that i am not claiming these as my own inventions. i feel like i would be doing a disservice to the original authors/compilers if i gave the impression that i created these in a vacuum without any outside influence. at the same time, i prefer rewording them to demonstrate how i prepared the dish and directly showing my modifications. i think the best balance would be to type it out “as prepared” with a follow on link to the original source. that will satisfy my desire for creativity and also my sense of fair play to the sources. anyway, i babble, let me stop.

a teaser for next weekend… originally i had planned on making a thanksgiving meal but in miniature with cornish hens in place of the turkey, hand carved baby potatoes, individual serving sized pies and all that. however, after discussions with Eddie, we both came to the conclusion that the whole thing would be too depressing. that particular meal of all meals is meant to be prepared and ate while amongst your family. it would be a shallow ghost of what it is supposed to be if i did it here in this dorm room a million miles from home. so, that idea is officially off the agenda. however, i have had an insane craving for chorizo. odd i know, some people crave ice cream, i wake in a cold sweat thinking about preserved meat products. go figure. as coincidence would have it, i received the newest issue of bon appetit in the mail yesterday and they have a recipe for Mussels with Chorizo and Spicy Charmoula Broth that is a strong contender for this weeks centerpiece. its a high probability but not a certainty, i have to give thought to sides that will balance the meal. anyway, look for it in about five days.

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One Response to Feast 29 – Thai Inspiration

  1. xtna says:

    Funny thing, the fish sauce, we have some in the fridge and the only reason I haven’t thrown it out is because it isn’t expired yet.

    I can definitely empathize with the lack of motivation and guilt that follows when you don’t post on your blog. However, since mine doesn’t really have a purpose other than to vent I don’t feel quite so bad. After all, it’s not like my own cooking hasn’t been occupying my time. heart ya

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