That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history. – Aldous Huxley
The kitchen is a classroom full of lessons – some hard, some not so hard. But every time you cook it’s a learning experience.
For example, here’s a few of my favourites:
A good instant-read thermometer is a “must” in the kitchen. It saves you from ruining a good cut of meat. No one likes raw chicken, no one likes dry steak and no one likes to waste money.
Never add all the salt you think you need while cooking soup, stew or sauce. Each reduces and run the real chance of being saltier than you want.
When you’re in the grocery store, think ahead. How many ways can you use an ingredient? This is important for two reasons. If you are a 2-person household you won’t use many ingredients up in one meal. It also gives you flexibility in what kind of meals you can make. Never underestimate the variety of recipes you can make with a single ingredient. (e.g. you can put avocado in chocolate pudding!!)
“Lite” coconut milk has less coconut fat (ergo more water) than its non-lite counterpart. You will be reducing your sauce forever to get the consistency you want. Think regular milk and cream. You need the additional fat to make a luxurious sauce. So suck it up. East sensibly another night. One meal will not pack 20 pounds on you. I guarantee it.
All these lessons (except for the first one) come into play in this recipe. There’s no worries that your chicken won’t be cooked after simmering for 30 minutes. But the coconut one is of particular importance.
I have found gold, literally, in the coconut milk I use. It’s Rooster Brand® Gold Label coconut milk. It even says it on the label: ideal for cooking. You can get it at the Superstore right alongside the red label Rooster Brand®. It costs no more than any other and is about half again as thick. This is exactly what you want when reducing a sauce.
And remember the sauce and salt lesson. “Taste for salt and adjust” are some of the best directions that can be written in a recipe.
Thinking ahead – like when you purchase cilantro – is also important. Nobody uses a whole bunch of cilantro at once unless they're making a pesto. This holds true for other ingredients too, like vegetables.
Roasting squash for 2 people? Do the whole thing and then reserve what you don't eat for squash ravioli, or even a squash pasta sauce. Think ahead. It saves you money and keeps variety on your plate.
Everything you encounter teaches you something. It’s how you apply the lessons you learn that dictate success or failure, in the kitchen or in life.
Green Curry Chicken
Prep: 10 min | Cook 45 min | Serves 4
4 large chicken legs and thighs*
1 tbsp vegetable oil
salt and pepper
2 medium onions, chopped large
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 Thai bird’s eye chilli, diced
1” fresh ginger, diced
8 green cardamom pods*
1 tsp cumin seed
3” stick cinnamon
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 lime, quartered
1 medium tomato, diced
1 398 ml can thick coconut milk
1 cup chopped cilantro
salt and pepper, to taste
Heat the vegetable oil, on medium-high, in a large oven-proof pot with a cover. Cut the chicken into leg and thigh pieces and season with some salt and pepper. Starting bone side down, fry until browned on both sides, and then remove to a plate. The chicken will not be cooked through at this point.
Fat will render out of the chicken as it fries, so you will have far more than the 1 tbsp you started with. Drain off all but 1 tbsp fat.
Add the chopped onion and sauté for 2 minutes. Then add garlic, ginger, chilli, cardamom, cumin, cinnamon and turmeric. Sauté for 2-3 minutes longer.
Next add the lime, tomato, coconut milk and cilantro. Bring the mixture to a simmer and then nestle the chicken down into the sauce. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Cook, with cover ajar, for 30 minutes on medium heat. Check and stir occasionally to prevent the sauce from sticking to the pot bottom and burning.
Reduce the sauce slightly if desired before serving by turning the heat up. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust.
Serve with basmati rice.
* You could also substitute 8 chicken thighs (bone in, skin on). Instead of the whole cardamom pods (which can be a surprise when you bite them), substitute 1/2 tsp ground cardamom.
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