Cooking Giada De Laurentiis’ Thai Curry

Food Network has really changed over the years. It used to be packed with people making interesting foods and teaching us how. Now, even though they act like that’s still the main focus on shows like Next Food Network Star (which should probably be retitled The Next Food Network Game Show Host), you’ve got to search around more to see cooks telling you how to cook interesting and amazing food. While flipping around a few¬†weekends back, we happened to stumble upon one of those wonderful times. That’s where I got the recipe for Giada De Laurentiis’s Thai Curry and figured I’d give it a shot.

I do want to say a few things right off the bat. I had trouble finding yellow curry paste at my grocery store. I bought curry sauce and just kind of eyed it. I couldn’t find a simple conversion chart for curry paste to curry sauce, so I basically poured in a little under 1/4 of a cup after giving it a taste. I think that’s the key to making sure you’ve got the right.

I will also note that shrimp can be a bit expensive. I dropped about $12 on deveined, deshelled ones, just to give you an idea of what you’re dealing with. It’s not a bank-breaker, but definitely something to take into account when planning out your meals.

I also completely dropped the chili, swapped out unfindable Thai lime leaves for actual lime juice and throwing the limes in (I realize I should have zested them) and skipped the step where you fry the noodles in canola oil which not only made this dish a bit healthier and cooled down the kitchen on a hot day but also took out a fairly involved step. Aside from those alterations, though, I followed the recipe as written.

Especially without the fried noodle portion, this is a super easy soup to put together. Open a few cans, pour a few things in a pot or Dutch oven and get those veggies in once it’s simmering. Let it sit for 30 minutes, then throw in the noodles and shrimp and let cook. That’s pretty simple.

And the results were pretty good, but I think some of my changes weren’t for the best. The dish lacked heat, which is a key element in Thai cooking. This wound up being good for my kid, because she’s not a fan of the hotness, but made the dish a bit bland. It also could have used more salt. Whenever I’m eating Asian food, I tend to skip the regular salt and go with soy sauce because it feels more in line with the flavors. Adding that to my bowl and then the larger dish when I put it away in the fridge definitely helped.

This is the first time I’ve ever cooked shrimp in what I consider my modern cooking timeframe. My mom taught me how to devein and shell them a long, long time ago, but I decided to cut that step out and just go with ones that had already been cleaned. Towards the end of the cooking process I realized I didn’t know what cooked shrimp was supposed to look like, so I brought one out to my wife, showed it to her and got the thumbs up. They turned out nice, plump and flavorful. I don’t generally cook shellfish, but this positive experience definitely gave me more confidence to do so in the future.

Cooking Giada De Laurentiis’ White Bean & Chicken Chili

I’ve made a lot of different kinds of chili and even though I really enjoyed Pat Neelys the first time I made it, there’s always more variations to try out there in the world. While looking through many a Giada De Laurentiis recipe on Food Network’s website (many of which I wrote about last week), I came across her White Bean & Chicken Chili which is so different from what I’ve tried in the past, I just had to give it a shot. In fact, I’ve actually cooked this dish twice since stumbling across it and it’s been a hit both times.

As will be the case for the foreseeable future, I started this recipe by freezing the meat for about an hour, then trimming and cubing it and running the pieces through my meat grinder. I still haven’t looked at the numbers to see if this is cheaper than buying store-ground meat, but it makes me feel better knowing that I did it myself. Plus, my grocery store tends to run pretty good sales on chicken breasts that I take advantage of whenever it makes sense.

From there, this recipe is pretty simple. You cut up some onion and garlic, gather a small pile of spices, drain and rinse off your beans and prepare the Swiss chard. I went with white both times I made it, though I don’t see why red wouldn’t work just as well.

The results after 50 or so minutes of simmering is a dish that tastes both new and familiar. The ground chicken and chard bring their unique flavors into the mix while the corn and spice combination reminds you of the chilies you’ve had and loved in the past. I’d actually be interested in experimenting with ways that make this even more Italian-tasting. Maybe mix up some of the spices and herbs and incorporate some tomatoes. Could be fun to play with.

Cooking Tamale Pie

Since our oven’s still not working, I’ve been focusing my attention on meals that can be either cooked on the stove pot or in a crock pot. I actually made Tamale Pie from Dawn J. Ranck and Phyllis Pellman Good’s Fix-It And Forget-It Cookbook (page 128) before the oven crapped out, but I figured I’ll be making it again in the near future. Actually, I’d make it again anyway because it was so simple, filling and tasty (I’ve got to think of better words than that when writing about food).

All you need to make this dish is 3/4 cup of cornmeal, 1.5 cups of milk, an egg, a pound of cooked ground beef, some chili mix, a 16 oz can of diced tomatoes, a 16 oz can of corn (or cut off the cob if you have it, like I happened to at the time) and a cup of cheddar cheese. While the beef was cooking, I cut the kernels off the corn cob and combined the cornmeal, milk and the beaten egg. You then combine that mixture with the cooked beef, corn and tomatoes, put it in the crock pot and cook either on high for one hour or low for three. At that point, sprinkle the cheese on top, let cook another five minutes and
you’ve got dinner.

I like this recipe because it was a different enough take on Mexican food without being too much of a pain to put together. I mean, I love taco night, but that can get kind of boring. I also like enchiladas, but those are kind of a pain in the butt to make. This was super easy and, thanks to the shorter cook time than most slow cooker recipes, it doesn’t really involve that much prep or cook time. I also like that you can do some tinkering with this recipe with different kinds of ground beef, cheese and, of course, using fresh ingredients instead of the canned ones suggested in the recipe.

Sixth Anniversary Dinner At Cotton In Manchester, NH

To celebrate our sixth wedding anniversary (which was actually yesterday, but we went out on Saturday), my lovely wife did a bunch of research about nice restaurants around her parents’ house in New Hampshire. We decided on a place called Cotton in Manchester which was a wonderful restaurant and got big huge thumbs up from both of us. We decided to skip appetizers, but did go with some drinks. I had a couple Cherry Old Fashioneds which had Red Stag by Jim Beam Black Cherry Bourbon with muddled, sugar, orange slice, cherry and a dash of bitters. Man, that was a tasty drink that I would love to have again and again.

For dinner, I went with Wood Grilled Native All-Natural Jumbo Sea Scallops. I’m a big fan of scallops and usually only get them when we go somewhere in the summer near the ocean in New England and those are always fried. Don’t get me wrong, I dig fried scallops, but it’s such an awesome food that sometimes you just want to eat the thing and not the breading. Cotton’s jump scallops were super tasty and wonderful. When I saw there were only five on the plate, I was a little bummed, but then I started cutting them up and realized this was the perfect amount of food, especially when included with the applewood smoked bacon, sweet potato corn hash and honey chipotle aioli. Man, that hash was fantastic. The sweetness of the sweet potatoes bounced perfectly off the saltiness of the bacon, the slight heat of the aioli and the crispness of the corn.

I can not recommend this place enough. We dropped a good amount of money because it was our anniversary. Had this just been a regular date, though, there were plenty of other options that still looked awesome and probably tasted the same. I would love to eat at Cotton again. And again. And again. By the way, sorry about the bad picture, I felt weird snapping even this one and just did it on the quick.

Cooking Southern American Succotash Soup With Chicken

Being from Toledo, Ohio from parents who were both from Ohio, I had pretty limited exposure to southern food. We didn’t have a lot of barbecue places around from what I remember, though there are a number of ones in town now. And, as far as I knew, succotash was something only preceded by “sufferin'” in cartoon character exclamations. When I was flipping through the Chicken and Duck Soups chapter of The Ultimate Soup Bible, I stumbled upon a recipe for something called American Southern Succotash Soup With Chicken (page 296) that sounded pretty amazing. Anything with corn, bacon and chicken is aces in my book, so I decided to give it a whirl.

And it turned out pretty fantastic, plus the recipe isn’t all the difficult. You start off boiling some chicken breasts in chicken broth for bout 15 minutes. While those were going, I got to work on prep, chopping up a few strips of bacon, two onions and some parsley. When that was good to go, I started making the base of the soup which involved cooking the onions in butter for a handful of minutes. To that I added the bacon. My wife doesn’t really like squishy bacon in soups, so I tried to get it a little crispier. You then add in some flour to thicken, the hot stock from the chicken (which had been removed after it was done cooking and set aside for chopping) and some corn.

My grocery store didn’t have fresh corn, which was weird because they did a few weeks ago, so I went with frozen. You also add some milk and let that cook for about 15 minutes. Then you add in the cut up chicken, the lima beans and the rest of the milk and you are ready to go. I’m sure it would have been even better with fresh corn, but I think it turned out really well. It was thick and creamy without using cream, which I appreciated, but did have bacon and beans and chicken which all mingled together in a very satisfying and filling meal. Bonus points for being equally good if not better when reheated. Definitely give this one a try when you’ve got a colder day on your hands this summer.