Thai Red Fish Curry

Frugal Red Fish Curry recipe

The Home Chef's Guide to Frugal Fine Cooking(Excerpt from “The Home Chef’s Guide to Frugal Fine Cooking” Available October 15, 2017. This is the first in a series of guidebooks to delve deeper into specific topics discussed in, “The Home Chef: Transforming the American Kitchen” – available on Amazon.)

Regarding Curry…

“Curry” can be a confusing term. It’s the name of an entire family of Indian, and Indian-influenced, dishes, but it’s also the name of spice blends within those dishes, and those blend of spices are different from region to region, and, typically, house to house.

Instead of a specific recipe, with set ingredients, think of it as a term like “sauce”, for which there can be uncountable varieties (and my mom’s is always better than your mom’s…)

Curries in Thailand (usually a mix of curry spice paste, coconut milk or water, meat, seafood, vegetables or fruit, and herbs) mainly differ from the curries in Indian cuisine in their use of fresh ingredients such as herbs and aromatic leaves, instead of a mix of dried, and then toasted and ground, spices.

The dry, powdery stuff we buy in the jars is a lot like kissing your sister…similar…but not quite the same thing.

My personal favorite Indian blend (when not toasting and grinding it fresh) is the “Bombay Curry” from my beloved Market Spice, in Seattle’s Pike Place Market.

Curries (the dishes) are a great way to add a touch of the exotic to a frugal dinner, while using up leftover meats and veggies, at the same time.

Think about it…both India and Thailand are home to some of the poorest people (and the best food) on the planet.

Once again, it’s less about what you’ve got, than what you can do with it.

Thai Red Fish Curry

1lb tilapia
1 knob of ginger, peeled
2 cloves of garlic
1 stalk lemongrass, minced
Juice of half a lime
2-3 fresh red chilies
1 Tbs tomato puree
1 onion, very finely chopped
Oil
2 Tbs fish sauce
2 cups coconut milk
1 cup water
A generous pinch of salt
Cilantro to garnish

To make the curry paste blend together the ginger, garlic, lemongrass, lime juice, chilies, tomato puree and a little oil.

Heat a little more oil in a large saucepan and begin to fry the onions. After 5 minutes add the paste and cook for a further 10 minutes.

Tip in the coconut milk and water and continue to cook to allow the flavors to infuse, and the sauce to reduce a bit.

Season the sauce to taste before adding the fish in large, skinless chunks. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until the fish is completely done.

At this point one can serve the dish, though if the sauce is a little thin one may opt to remove the fish from the sauce and turn the heat up for a little while.

Ensure it is served piping hot, sticky rice, mango slices, and fresh cilantro are optional.

Poisson Meunière

Julia Child“It arrived whole: a large, flat Dover sole that was perfectly browned in a sputtering butter sauce with a sprinkling of chopped parsley on top. I closed my eyes and inhaled the rising perfume. Then I lifted a forkful of fish to my mouth, took a bite, and chewed slowly. The flesh of the sole was delicate, with a light but distinct taste of the ocean that blended marvelously with the browned butter. I chewed slowly and swallowed. It was a morsel of perfection. In all the years since that succulent meal, I have yet to lose the feelings of wonder and excitement that it inspired in me.
I can still almost taste it. And thinking back on it now reminds me that the pleasures of table, and of life, are infinite–toujours bon appétit!”
~ Julia Child
For my friend, Duane…

IMG_7789Poisson Meunière

2 8-oz skinless fish fillets (sole, cod, halibut, tilapia)      
3 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup flour                        
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper                    
1/4 cup milk
3 Tbsp. canola or vegetable oil            
1 ½ Tbsp. lemon juice
1 ½ Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley        
1 lemon, in 8 wedges
1/2 cup fresh peas, steamed, shocked in cold water
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Black rice, cooked with a little salt

Add the butter to a heavy saucepan and cook on medium heat until the butter melts, the foam starts to subside, brown flecks appear and the butter just starts to brown. Immediately remove from heat and pour into a heat-safe bowl. It will continue to darken once you remove from heat. It should smelly nutty.

If it smells burned, you will have to start over (sorry!)

Set butter aside, and keep warm.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and pepper. In another small bowl, add the milk. Heat a heavy skillet on high heat (no oil) for four minutes.

Meanwhile, dip the fish fillets into the milk and then into the flour, tapping off any excess. Add the oil to the skillet, tilting the skillet to coat the bottom. Place the fish in the skillet — carefully, as the oil may splatter. Cook for six minutes undisturbed on high heat.

With a spatula, turn the fish over and, if the pan looks dry, add another tablespoon of oil.

Turn the heat down to medium-high and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes, give or take a minute depending on the thickness of your fillet. Plate over hot black rice

Drizzle the lemon juice on top of the fish followed by a scattering of peas, parsley, and a generous drizzling of brown butter.  

Enjoy immediately, serving with more lemon wedges at the table if desired.

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We served this dish at on of our “My Kitchen Outreach” Pop-Up Dinners, and it was a huge hit, especially with my friend Duane, who is, frankly, a little obsessed with it. 😉

The cookbook for that dinner, “Paris”, is available in the bookstore.

Enjoy!

~Chef Perry