I think it’s safe to say that I don’t currently possess the kitchen of my dreams. What I have is very functional – it’s gotten me to recipe 50 of this year-long personal challenge so far – but it falls short of my ideal. When my wife Mateja and I lived in Halifax for two years, I wasn’t merely left wanting, but actually needing, a better kitchen. We had a cramped spaced with little in the way of a counter, no dishwasher, and very limited cupboard space for all the pots, pans, and other kitchen accessories that I’ve come to rely upon. In all fairness, we didn’t own many of those items at the time, but we wouldn’t have had the space for them anyways. Now, our situation is much better, but I’ve still got picture in my head of what my perfect kitchen would look like.
I mention this for two reasons, the first being that Mateja and I had the opportunity to tour a beautiful show home today. It’s always so refreshing to walk into an open house or show home, see a beautiful kitchen, and instantly start dreaming of making an absolute mess in it. It’s a shame when a beautiful kitchen is underutilized, and so when I see a one whose design and style I agree with, I dream of cooking up a meal worthy of its surroundings.
The other reason I mention this is because today I took my show on the road, cooking not at my own house, but at my childhood home. My dad recently purchased a new puzzle, and invited Mateja over to help him work on it – he even stocked the mini-fridge with beer to help sweeten the deal. As I absolutely detest puzzles (I haven’t the slightest amount of patience for them), I volunteered to cook dinner there instead. It was nice letting my mother feel spoiled by having somebody else cook (I invite them over for dinner occasionally, but it had been a while), and yet I felt spoiled as well because she picked up most of the ingredients for me; I think that’s what they call win-win, right?
It was actually very nice cooking in her kitchen, as we acted as a sort of tag team. She made sure to set up the kitchen just right – laying out lots of cutting boards, measuring cups and spoons, and anything else I’d have trouble finding on my own – and then assisted me by writing out my ingredient changes as I went. For this meal I used Sticky-Gooey-Creamy-Chewy’s “Chicken with Peanut Curry Sauce“, though I made enough modifications to keep my mother quite busy writing out my altered list of ingredients. Speaking of which, here is my recipe:
Thai Peanut Curry with Chicken
- 2 medium onions, diced
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 orange bell pepper
- 3 + 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1 can (227 ml) bamboo shoots, drained
- 5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken, cut into 1-inch pieces (I used 1 pound of chicken breast, and 1 pound of thighs)
- 3 tbsp. corn starch
- salt and pepper
- 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 can (400ml) coconut milk
- 1/2 cup natural chunky peanut butter
- 3 tbsp. brown sugar
- 3-4 tbsp. red curry paste (I used 3, but would have preferred more)
- 1 tbsp. fish sauce
- 2 tbsp. lime juice (roughly 1 lime)
- 5 green onions, diced, for garnish
- handful of peanuts, for garnish
- Jasmine rice, for serving
- Heat 3 tbsp. oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Toss the chicken in the corn starch until evenly coated, then place in the frying pan with the heated oil. Season with salt and pepper once chicken is in the pan, then cook until the meat shows no pink when cutting into thicker pieces (at least 5 minutes), stirring/flipping occasionally. Be careful not to overcook the meat. The chicken will cook a bit more while simmering later, but will remain quite moist cooking in the sauce.
- Remove the chicken to a bowl and toss the onion, peppers, and bamboo shoots into the frying pan. Sautee for about 6 minutes, until the veggies have softened. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes, then remove veggies to the same bowl as the chicken.
- Combine together all the ingredients for the sauce, except for the curry paste (the coconut milk, peanut butter, fish sauce, lime juice, chicken broth, and brown sugar), whisking until well-incorporated.
- In the empty frying pan, add the remaining tbsp. of oil and allow it to heat up. Add the curry paste, and cook for about 1 minute, pressing the paste against the pan with a spatula.
- Add the sauce, stir, and let come to a boil. Toss the chicken and veggies back into the pan as well, and let everything simmer for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Serve over a bed of Jasmine rice, garnishing with green onions and peanuts (crushed and roasted, preferably). Fresh cilantro makes a nice addition as well, if you don’t forget to pick it from the garden like I did.
The final product was quite tasty, though I do feel that a bit more curry paste is warranted next time (as I mentioned in the recipe posted above). I’m also thinking that adding a red chilli or two (the tiny ones used in Thai cooking) might be worth a try, adding a spicy flair to a dish that was flavourful, yet mild in terms of heat.
Being at my parents’ house, my mother and father witnessed the flurry of activity that now occurs after each new dish is made: picture time. Feeling slightly embarrassed to be taking photos of delicious food instead of eating it, I cut the session off shorter than I would have liked to. Also, they were eating on one end of the table where I was taking photos, and I knew it would be a bit odd to ask them to move/abstain from eating so that I could get shots from other angles they would otherwise be interfering with.
All in a day’s work (or hobby), I guess.