Quick conversion of a non-curry fan

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Before taking on my project to cook every recipe in Good Fish, I was not a huge Thai food fan and curry was especially not high on my list.  But chef Becky Selengut is slowly winning me over with her delectable Thai influenced-dishes and today’s recipe has made me a curry convert!

Halibut Coconut Curry with Charred Chiles and Lime (pg 123) is packed with layers of flavors and tons of distinct spice, and besides that, it was really fun to create!  I’m pretty sure I took many shortcuts in creating curry dishes for my personal chef clients in the past, because a) I didn’t know how to cook a good curry and b) I didn’t know how fabulous fresh ingredients would taste if prepared correctly and with care.  Now they tell me!

The visual and aromatic treat that develops when you blend the be-jesus out of jalapenos, lemongrass, cilantro, ginger, cumin, turmeric, shallots and Kaffir lime leaves is something to behold.  It’s the most fabulous color of green and smells heavenly – and the sensations skyrocket once the melange slides into a hot frying pan to meld with coconut milk and fish sauce for short simmer.

And the supposed star of the show, the Alaskan halibut I picked up at the Edmonds Farmers Market earlier that day?  It takes a supporting role in the form of cubes added after the flame is extinguished, left to cook in the residual heat from the prettiest green curry you’ve ever seen!

What really made the dish for me was the topping – the spicy, bright, acidic bite of onion/chiles/cilantro/lime atop the dreamy, creamy curry was a revelation for a curry-avoider like me.  Love, love, love this dish and so did Katy – she vaulted it into her top five best of the 30 or so recipes I’ve prepared so far.  Last but not least, the recipe doesn’t mention serving this beautiful curry atop rice, but it’s a brilliant idea to round out the ideal Thai meal.  Paired with a bright German riesling, the conversion will be complete for any non-believer…

Halibut Coconut Curry with Charred Chiles and Lime

For the halibut curry

  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeds and membranes removed from 1 (or both, if you want less heat)
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, woody top half discarded, chopped
  • ½ cup roughly chopped shallots
  • ¼ cup cilantro stems
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh galangal (or ginger, if you can’t get galangal)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, ground in a spice grinder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, ground in a spice grinder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon dried turmeric (or 1 teaspoon grated fresh turmeric)
  • 5 Kaffir lime leaves (or zest of 2 limes)
  • chicken or vegetable stock or water
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 14-ounce can coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce (Thai Kitchen fish sauce is gluten-free, as are others)
  • ½ pound halibut fillet, skinned and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • sesame seeds, for garnish

For the topping

  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 4 Fresno chiles, seeded and minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced red onion
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro leaves
  • 2 limes, peeled and flesh cut into small dice
  • salt

Add the jalapenos, lemongrass, shallots, cilantro, garlic, galangal, coriander, cumin, salt, turmeric, and 1 of the Kaffir lime leaves to the bowl of a food processor and blend, using up to ¼ cup of chicken stock to help the mixture process into a smooth puree. You’ll have to scrape down the sides of the food processor once or twice. Blend well for at least 3 minutes.

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, add the vegetable oil. Add the curry you processed and fry it up for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the coconut milk, fish sauce, and the remaining Kaffir lime leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the halibut and turn the heat off. Let the residual heat gently cook the fish. After 5 minutes, it will be ready to serve. Garnish with the sesame seeds.

To prepare the topping, heat the vegetable oil in a small sauté pan over medium-high heat. Fry the chiles and onion until they are caramelized, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the cilantro and lime. Season to taste with salt. Serve a spoonful of the topping on top of each person’s curry.

Recipe courtesy of Becky Selengut and Good Fish


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Copyright 2011 Karen Rosenzweig