Thai Massaman Curry

Well folks, the time has come to post my most favorite-est thing to eat in the whole world except for, you know, foie gras, lobster, pecan-crusted sweetbreads, creamed corn, and a few other treats. And that chunk of tongue heaven is Massaman curry.

It is a Muslim-influenced curry with extra spices such as cardamom and cloves and less zesty lime juice and Kaffir lime typical of other Thai curries. In Thailand I ate it almost every day for an entire month. This is a great dish to make as a staple in your household, with an incredible and never-gets-old flavor and a fantastic ratio of saturated fat to unsaturated fat – a hallmark of 180-style dining.

Please don’t be deterred by the apparent complexity. Once you’ve made your curry paste you can make a small batch of Massaman curry from scratch in 20 minutes and pour it over a bowl of cold, day-old rice for an amazing meal. Eating healthy certainly can be less complicated than this, but for any food nerd, this is no sweat. Enjoy!

Massaman Curry Paste (big batch – keeps for 3-4 weeks refrigerated)

Ingredients

-2T each: cumin, cardamom, coriander, black pepper (pre-ground or ground fresh in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle as shown in video) 

– Small pinch of whole cloves or ground cloves

– 1 pack of mild red chili pepper from the Mexican food section at the store (add warm water until a paste forms)

– 2 4-inch strips of lemongrass

– Thumb-sized piece of ginger (peeled)

– 3 whole shallots or ½ yellow onion – 2 garlic cloves

– Root end of 1 bunch of cilantro

– 1T cayenne pepper

– Splash of extra virgin olive oil

Directions

1) If using whole spices, toast in a frying pan on high heat until smoke starts to roll off of them, then grind into a powder.

2) Chop cilantro, ginger, onion/shallot, and garlic into small pieces. Really cut the lemongrass well, as large pieces often remain fibrous in the curry later on.

3) Blend all ingredients in a food processor for at least 20 seconds. Scrape sides and blend again – the more it’s blended the better. Blend for up to 5 minutes.

4) Stir in a little olive oil at the end to moisten and preserve the curry paste.

 Making Massaman Curry (for 4):

1) Just like making Tom Kha Gai, begin by sautéing on medium heat (sweating) some sliced onion and sliced red bell pepper in ½ stick of butter.

2) When vegetables begin to get soft, but are not yet brown, add several tablespoons of curry paste and toast it on the bottom of the pan, stirring every few seconds. The more you add, the spicier and more powerful the finished product will be.

3) When the curry paste has cooked for a few minutes, add two cups or so of water or chicken stock, and bring to a boil. Heat on high!

4) Add ¼ cup of unflavored peanuts.

5) Next add 2-3 cans of good quality coconut milk depending on how much curry paste you added and how many people you are feeding (Chaokoh, without any emulsifiers like carageenan or guar gum is preferable). You may also add a splash of whipping cream, but that is optional.

6) Bring to a boil for 2 minutes, then add chopped raw chicken, whole shrimp, sliced beef, or diced fish. Bring to a boil once more.

7) Season heavily with salt and/or fish sauce and additional cayenne pepper if needed until the flavors come up. Do not use cilantro or a lot of lime at the end like you do with other curries! Massaman should be sweeter and less sour than both Thai soup and other curries, so go easy on the sour flavors such as vinegar and lime juice. Use, at most, the juice of ½ lime at the end.

And here are the Massaman tutorial videos:

Tom Kha Gai

Tom Kha Gai (or Tom Ka Gai as I’ve seen it spelled) is a Thai coconut soup.  It’s quick.  It’s easy.  It’s fresh.  It’s simple.  It’s awesome.  Plus, the pot I made in this video, with over 1/2 stick of butter, 4-5T of heavy whipping cream, and 3 cans of coconut milk contains about 4,000 calories and a nearly unbeatable ratio of saturated fat to polyunsaturated fat.  Mainstream health might gasp at this, but they need to take a visit to Thailand to see the kind of obesity this soup and other rich curries is causing over there… um, none.   

Nutrition aside, this soup is literally the best soup I’ve ever made and had.  The theme of Thai cooking is to keep the flavors as bright as possible.  Cooking time is meant to be as minimal as possible to preserve the brightness – almost the opposite theme of other ethnic cuisines which rely on long stewing to create deep and subdued flavors. 

Anyway, you can find out more about this soup in 180 Kitchen or in the back issues of the 180 eZine, 180DegreeHealth Report.  It is  a must-make soup.  There’s a reason why a sick woman requested that I make it for her yesterday.  It’s the best thing ever. 

(Note:  At the end of the video I make mention of “my future mother-in-law.”  Don’t worry, I’m not engaged or anything.  Just making a joke… ladies).

Important Note:  Do not eat the lemongrass and ginger chunks.  They are just for flavoring.  It’s kind of annoying to have to pick them out as you eat, but that’s how Thai people do it so get used to it!     

Mushrooms

There’s a real technique to cooking mushrooms. Most people make the five tragic mushroom errors before the shrooms even have a chance to get warm. Those five errors are:

1) Washing the mushrooms with water.

2) Slicing them crosswise.

3) Adding the mushrooms to the pan before the pan is even hot.

4) Not using enough fat.

5) Crowding the pan with too many mushrooms.

By increasing the water content of the mushrooms while simultaneously increasing the surface area for cooking by slicing them thinly, a brown sear becomes a virtual impossibility. And the sear, people, is what making the perfect sautéed mushroom is all about.

So never wash mushrooms. If you see visible dirt, brush it off with your finger or a dry paper towel or custom mushroom brush (soft bristle toothbrushes work fine, but I’m just not that anal).

When you cut them, quarter them, so that all the mushrooms will be in direct contact with the skillet.

Do not overload the pan! Use either a bigger frying pan or fewer mushrooms, but never cook mushrooms more than 1 layer deep. You’ll see the single layer technique in the video.

Use plenty of fat, preferably from leftover meat searing or plain ol’ butter, and fry these puppies up. If you don’t use enough fat, they will kind of dry cook, not get brown, but instead get dehydrated. Make sure there is so much fat that even the great fat-sponge, the mushroom, cannot soak it all up.

Salt them well, and serve right away. A perfectly-cooked mushroom does not need the help of garlic or onion, which can actually pollute and overpower the clean taste of a pure, plain, mushroom. Because the mushroom is the ultimate fat sponge, it is a fantastically delicious accompaniment to many savory meals. And the mushrooms don’t exactly have to be white truffles to be good. The plain, white button mushroom or crimini can be turned into a culinary delicacy when cooked just right. With this video, and the careful instruction on mushroom cookery given in 180 Kitchen, I hope you can get it down.

And for the Love of God – Don’t stir ’em or shake the pan too much!  Let them get brown before you even think about touching them. 

Crispy-Skin Sockeye Salmon

Ten or so days ago I talked about Vitamin D in wild-caught sockeye salmon on the 180 podcast.  Other than cod livers and herring, both things you’ll be hard pressed to find or be able to eat in large quantity, Alaskan sockeye seems to be the richest whole food source of vitamin D in ze world.  It is even more important this time of year (in the Northern Hemisphere), to get as much vitamin D from your diet as possible.  At any kind of latitude, winter sun is insufficient to simulate vitamin D synthesis in the skin – our primary source of this mighty vitey.

So now that we’re deeply into the dark days of winter, it’s time to go salmon crazy.  It is thought that humans need, between sun and diet, up to 4,000IU of vitamin D each day – maybe more.  While this is easy to get in summer months while basking in the sun (a highly recommended 180 pastime), it is almost impossible to get through diet.  I won’t stop you from chugging cod liver oil, but I can tell you that I’m eating at least one pound of salmon per week – sometimes two, and will be keeping this up until at least early March. 

Although estimates differ, a 100 gram portion of sockeye can have up to 1,000IU of vitey D.  That means a pound has close to 5,000IU, give or take.  While this is certainly not 4,000 per day at a rate of 1 pound per week, it’s something substantial (the average American is lucky to ingest 200IU of vitamin D per week from whole food sources), and can hopefully tide me over until spring where I will be baking out in the sun, sans sunscreen, and getting well over 10,000IU per day.  Vitamin D is a beautiful thing, and the vast majority of modern humans are thought to have major D deficiencies according to blood serum levels.  This is particularly true if you are dark-skinned, live at far Northern or Southern latitudes, and don’t spend much time in the sun, minimally clothed without sunscreen.

And we’re just talking vitamin D here.  This says nothing of the potentially vital long chain omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA – salmon being among the best if not THE best source in the world, or salmon’s off-the-charts content of vitamin B-12 and the mineral selenium, both thought to be nutrients of equal importance.  Selenium is thought to be one of the greatest assets in avoiding heart disease.   

So, without further ado, here is a video on searing up some nice, crispy-skinned wild Alaskan sockeye salmon.  Enjoy with some vitamin A-rich butter, spinach, fried yams, and so forth. 

Note, to get Vitamin D in salmon, the salmon must be wild-caught salmon.  Amongst wild-caught salmon, sockeye has the highest level. 

For more on Vitey D, check out this short post at 180 Bloggie-Style

Crank your volume a little so you can hear me over the sizzle. 

Bacon-Wrapped Tenderloin

I hated to torment you guys with this impressive display of yumminess, but the urge to do so overwhelmed any and every moral I may possess. 

Unfortunately, the video I filmed last night came out sideways.  Bummer.  It was good (I’ll update this post if I can figure out how to fix it).  No matter, the process of wrapping some cow with some pig  just ain’t that difficult of a concept to understand. 

First you get yourself a whole tenderloin, trimming it up by removing some of the hard, exterior fat and removing sinews.   This takes practice, but isn’t rocket science.  It’s not unlike whittling a stick really.   

Next, you cut off the thin tail and trim up the bulky ‘head’ so that the whole tenderloin is close to uniform in size.

From there you:

1) Season tenderloin with plenty of salt and pepper, or in my case, paprika, cayenne, sea salt, and garlic powder mixed together in a “blackening spice.”

2) Lay out enough bacon strips to span the length of the tenderloin.

3) Place the tenderloin on top of the bacon strips.

4) Wrap the bacon strips snugly around the beef, not too tight or too loose, and pin each bacon strip with a toothpick or metal pin such as the kind I have in the pics.

5) Throw the whole beast on a barbecue grill, browning all the bacon on the exterior (you could bake this at very high heat if you prefer). 

6) Cook very slowly on a rack above the grill or in the oven until the meat just begins to tighten.

7) Let sit, away from the heat, for 30 minutes (called “resting,” it allows the center of the meat to get nice and warm, cooking it evenly, without the exterior getting overcooked).

8 ) Reheat for 10 minutes in the oven at say, 400 degrees F. 

9) Remove toothpicks.

10) Slice into nice portions and serve. 

Here are the photos of this amazing concoction, served with a Yukon Gold potato and Yam gratin and Caesar salad with homemade croutons and dressing. 

As always, click on the photos to enlarge.

Palmer Popcorn

This one’s dedicated to my new favorite snack – brought up in 180 Kitchen, recipe #83.  This time, Aurora and I have gotten crazy and added a little nutritional yeast to our coconutty favorite.  Aurora, by the way, is the popcorn princess.  She makes it the best.  Her recipe.  Not mine. 

I must say, there is no finer use for coconut oil.  Say what you will about butter on popcorn, but a light, expeller-pressed coconut oil shatters my best friend butter.  It defies reason I know, but try it sometime, especially if you’re seeking out the metabolic advantages of coconut oil but have failed to find a way to consume it that doesn’t make you gag. 

In the following recipe, I:

1) Place a jar of coconut oil into hot water to liquefy it.

2) Cook about a half cup of Steinke’s heirloom popcorn (awesome) in an air popper.

3) Pour lots of coconut oil (5-6 Tablespoons), 2T nutritional yeast (optional), and some sea salt over the popcorn and mix it all up a bit. 

That’s about all there is to it.  Does anyone really not have time to do this at home?  Makes a great post-dinner snack.  Get’s that ol’ tryptophan across the blood-brain barrier where happy serotonin gets made and transformed into melatonin for a long, dreamy night’s rest. 

Enjoy.

Click on the pictures below to enlarge. 

Wilted Spinach

I’ve been getting back into having that side vegetable with my meals.  Fiber is no longer a foe of mine now that my digestion is so fluid, and the nourishment of a dark green vegetable is pleasing, especially when it adds so much to the overall meal in terms of flavor and texture. 

Of all the vegetable side dishes, wilted spinach is the quickest, easiest, and perhaps the most delicious.  You don’t have to wash it or cut it up prior to use like you do with other vegetables.  It is profoundly high in micronutrients such as Vitamin K (a valuable and rare substance in the modern diet).  It’s the perfect way to utilize some pan drippings from cooking meat, fish, or in this case – bacon.  If not, cook it up with a nice tablespoon of butter. 

Anyway, here’s me, my first online video, cooking up wilted spinach to accompany my breakfast of brown rice and oxtail stew the other morning.  Hope ya’ll dig it.  For more on wilted spinach, see recipe #69 in 180 Kitchen.

180DegreeHealth Kitchen Action

Oh it’s on!

The calorie slayer is live on wordpress, ready to throw down all things edible.

For starters, I’ll be posting tidbits here and there about my own personal diet.  From time to time we’ll get into some recipes and techniques, complete with instructional photos.  I’ll give you some choice links to some of my favorite things at what is hands down the best cooking website on earth at the moment – www. rouxbe.com  By 2010, I’m going to do some filming as well, getting into some excellent and 100% free cooking instruction to help you spank food’s ass like a pro. 

Welcome to the 180 Kitchen!  Get ready to splatter some grease! 

For a primer to the site, please read my February, 2009 eBook release: 180 Kitchen: 180 Tips, Recipes, and More.  Available HERE

For more on 180DegreeHealth, visit:

www.180degreehealth.com

www.180degreehealth.blogspot.com

Beef and Bleu

Bacon-wrapped ribeye with "melted" shallots, grilled asparagus, and Maytag bleu cheese