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Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2008 08:10 pm

Cranky for curry

HereÂ’s a kitchen substitute for Zoloft on a gloomy winter day

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It’s a new year, and everybody on cable television says I should feel bright and shiny like a brand-new penny or a twinkly star, full of determination and potential. And I do kinda sorta feel that way with this year’s to-do list permanently tucked into my pants pocket, hoping that it will somehow etch its way onto my person like a henna tattoo. Despite my meditative efforts, I must confess that I’m already tired (or maybe I’m still tired from last year?), and the 10-minute daily ration of January sunlight is making me cranky. Unfortunately, my escape route is covered with ice, and the January white sales are long gone. My only recourse is to get into the kitchen and make a pot of curry. Aromatic, warming, and soul-cushioning, a pot of curry is everything that January is not. It is the quintessential antidote for seasonal affective disorder — or any disorder, for that matter. Out of Zoloft? No problem; curry can pinch-hit.
Culinary questions? Contact Kim O’Donnel at kim.odonnel@creativeloafing.com.
Chicken, Lemongrass, and Potato Curry (Ca-Ri Ga)
Adapted from Into the Vietnamese Kitchen, by Andrea Nguyen
Two or three chubby stalks of lemongrass, exterior    layers removed, trimmed to about 8 inches,    quartered lengthwise and coarsely chopped    (about 2/3 cup) 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely    chopped One yellow onion, coarsely chopped (alternatively,    three shallots) 2 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil 2 tablespoons Madras curry powder 1/2 teaspoon dried red chili flakes 2 1/2 pounds bone-in chicken thighs or    drumsticks, skin removed 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste 1/2 teaspoon black pepper One can (13 1/2 ounces) coconut milk (I    recommend the Chaokoh and Mae Ploy brands) 1 1/2 pounds white or red waxy potatoes, peeled    and cut into 1-inch chunks One lime, cut into wedges
Meatless variation: Replace the chicken with any of the following: 1 cup sweet potatoes or eggplant cut into 1-inch chunks or 1/2 cup green beans or cremini mushrooms sliced in half. Diced extra-firm tofu would be nice here as well.
Place the lemongrass in the bowl of a food processor or a blender and whiz for about three minutes, until uniformly pulverized. Pause occasionally to scrape down the side of the bowl. Add ginger and pulverize, using the pulse function. Add onion (or shallots), processing until the mixture forms a paste. In a large, deep skillet or wok, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the lemongrass paste and sauté for about two minutes or until fragrant. Add the curry powder and red chili flakes and sauté for about one minute. Season the chicken with salt and add to the mixture, along with the pepper and coconut milk. Liquid should cover the chicken; if not, add water as needed. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, uncovered, until the juices run clear in the chicken, about 40 minutes. (Meatless version: Eggplant, potatoes, and sweet potatoes need twice as much cooking time as green beans and mushrooms. Add to the curry accordingly.) Add the potatoes and return the skillet to a simmer. Cook until the potatoes are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and cover the skillet, allowing it to cool for at least 15 minutes. When ready to serve, taste the curry, reheat it, and adjust seasonings as necessary. Serve in bowls with lime wedges, with French bread or over rice. Makes four entrée-size servings.
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