Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Coconut Peanut Sauce, two ways

I can't begin to count the times I've made peanut sauce. Problem is, I don't think I've ever made it the same way twice. Sometimes it's been lick-the-plate yummy; sometimes, not so much.

This week, I gave in and sought professional help. I checked several of my most reliable sources and settled on the variety favored by BrokeAss Gourmet, which Gabi Moskowitz humbly titles Basic Peanut Sauce. Since it calls for a half-can of coconut milk -- and I (1) hate discovering a forgotten half-can of coconut milk in the back of the refrigerator and (2) felt fairly certain it would be a hit -- I made a double batch.

Glad I did. It was delicious on Sunday drizzled on tender Asian long beans, but even better tonight used as a simmering sauce for chicken and carrots.

This whole search started when Tim brought home two bundles of aptly-named long beans, which in this case were probably at least 18-20 inches. He gets them from a vendor who sells at the Midtown Farmer's Market at North Hills on Saturday mornings. Sometimes she has Gobo, or burdock root, which looks even more strange but is likewise well worth trying.

Since I made a big batch of Basic Peanut Sauce figured I may as well make a double batch of rice, too. Graham could live on rice, so leftovers never go to waste in my house. I didn't think of it in time, but both of these dishes would be nice garnished with a crunchy handful of chopped dry-roasted peanuts.

Asian Long Beans with Sauce

2 bunches Asian long beans (or 1 1/2-2 lbs. fresh green beans)
4 cups vegetable stock (or water)
2 cups brown basmati rice
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 small bunch cilantro, minced
Basic Peanut Sauce

Bring stock or water to a boil with garlic. Add well-rinsed rice, cover and reduce heat. If the lid does not make a tight seal, crumble a piece of parchment paper larger than the pot, then smooth out and tuck under lid. Cook about 45 minutes or until tender and liquid is absorbed.

(My preferred method is to make the rice early, even several hours ahead. Turn the heat off after 45 minutes regardless of absorption and keep covered. Warm gently on stove or zap just until hot right before serving.)

When rice is nearly ready -- or ready to finish -- fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil, as if to cook pasta. Wash and pat dry long beans. Trim ends and cut to desired length. I usually just cut them in half.  They are long beans, after all.

Cook about 5 minutes or tender crisp. Drain well and transfer to a serving bowl. Drizzle generously with Basic Peanut Sauce and minced cilantro. Serve over rice, with extra sauce on the side.

(Next day, even if all those lovely beans are gone -- trust me, they will be -- warm leftover rice with a few spoonfuls of sauce.)

Tonight's dinner started with a quick stop at Petra Grill and Mediterrean Market, which features a Halal butcher (and really terrific fresh-made falafel). I asked for 1 1/2 lbs. of boneless chicken thighs, which the butcher promptly asked if I wanted cut up and trimmed of fat. I assumed it was a kindness offered because I have a huge splint on one hand, but this is a standard and free service. Just like once upon a time. Yup, I'll be back.

Chicken and Carrots with Coconut Peanut Sauce

1 1/2 lbs. skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into small bites
2 tbsp. canola oil
salt, pepper
1-2 tsp. Rogan Josh (or curry powder)
1 bunch fresh baby carrots, scrubbed and sliced into thick coins
1 cup cherry tomatoes, preferrably Sungolds
2 tbsp. butter
1 small bunch cilantro, minced
Basic Peanut Sauce

1 cup vermicelli
2 tsp. canola oil
2 cups chicken stock

Add vermicilli to pan with oil and cook over medium heat until lightly but mostly browned. Add stock, reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 15-20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and pasta is creamy.

If you're not lucky enough to have a butcher to do it for you, prep your chicken. Season liberally with salt and pepper and lightly with Rogan Josh (or curry powder). Pour oil into large nonstick skillet over medium-high flame. When oil shimmers, add chicken, turning occasionally, and cook until well seared but not done. Remove to bowl.

Add butter and carrots to same skillet over medium-low heat. Add about 2 tbsp. water (or a splash of beer or wine, if consuming while cooking), scrape up any browned bits, and cover. Try not to peek but jiggle pan now and then to make sure they're not sticking.

Check after 4 minutes. When the tip of a knife will just poke through carrots, add chicken and any accumulated juices and about 2 cups Basic Peanut Sauce; stir well and cover. (Don't worry if the sauce thickened in the refrigerator. It will loosen up as soon as it hits the pan.)

Simmer about 10 minutes, then add Sungolds, stir through and cover pan. Cook about 5 minutes more then transfer to serving bowl. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro and serve with vermicelli.

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