From Scratch, All of It


Not only was today’s recipe assembled from original ingredients, but even the curry paste was concocted in the kitchen.  That freshness adds depth to the dish and gives Scallops with Thai Green Curry an especially expressive taste profile.  With fresh lemongrass, lime zest, chiles and ginger, among many, many other elements, the curry sauce has a clean and vibrant complexity that tops the jarred stuff – even the worthiest – every time.

At first, when Fine Cooking featured instructions in its December 2016/January 2017 issue, the shopping list intimidated.  Not that readers are unfamiliar with, shall we say, involved preparations, but the complication of having ingredients themselves requiring recipes is fairly novel.  This better be worth all the trouble.

It is.  The peppers do add a bit of heat, but the flavors jump off the dish for reasons much more sophisticated, and satisfying, than just Scoville in high gear.  In fact, not only do peppers contribute spiciness, but the ginger and the garlic create their own distinctive tingle.  In a balance for which Thai cuisine is justifiably famous, though, the conflagration never gets out of hand, as sweet creamy coconut milk, fresh snow peas and carrots, and cooling mint and cilantro douse the flames.  Not before they make their presence known, though.

Plus, in a modern twist, the blender makes quick work of the curry ingredients, a vast improvement over the wooden mortar and pestle the original Thai cooks would’ve used.  Even in Thailand, most present-day cooks, especially those in urban areas, probably zip things through the blender.  Not much give on ingredients, and time-proven techniques often are indispensable, but as for tools, innovation rules!

Especially when a long list of ingredients awaits preparation and guests get hungrier by the minute.  Just a little patience.  It’s a virtue, after all, and soon enough everyone will savor a depth and sophistication that comes only from assembling everything on the spot.

*****

Pan-Seared Sea Scallops with Thai Green Curry, Snow Peas and Carrots

For the paste:

  • 3 tablespoons lemongrass, finely chopped (*1)
  • 3 tablespoons serrano chilies, stemmed but retaining the seeds, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely-chopped shallot
  •  1 tablespoon coarsely-chopped gaarlic
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely-chopped ginger
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely-chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 and 1/4 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumon
  • 1/4 tablespoon grated lime zest
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

For the rest of the curry:

  • 1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (*2)
  • 5 small carrots, peeled and sliced fairly thinly on the diagonal
  • 6 ounces snow peas, cut into thirds lengthwise on the diagonal
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1 and 1/4 pounds sea scallops, abductor muscles removed
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil, more if needed (*3)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, more if needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Start by making the curry paste.   Put the lemongrass, chilies, oil, shallot, garlic. ginger, cilantro, cumin, cilantro and lime zest in a blender.  Pulse until just blended.  Add 3 tablespoons of water, and salt and pepper to taste.  Blend until a coarse, wet paste forms.  Set aside.

Place a large saucepan over a medium flame.   Add the curry paste to pan and cook, stirring frequently, until the paste thickens and begins to stick to the pan, about 4 minutes.  Add the coconut milk, broth, sugar and 1/2 cup of water.  Increase flame to medium-high and bring to a boil.  Reduce flame to medium-low to maintain a simmer, which you’ll maintain for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the carrots and the peas, and continue simmering until the vegetables are just tender, about 4 minutes.  Stir in the fish sauce, then turn off the flame..

Meanwhile, pat the scallops dry and season them all over with the ground coriander and the salt.  Place a large skillet over a medium-high flame (*4).  When pan is hot, add the butter and oil.  Place the scallops in the skillet in a single layer.  When the bottoms begin to brown, after a couple minutes, flip the scallops and cook until the other side is also browned, about two more minutes.

Stir the chopped herbs into the curry.  Pour curry over steamed rice, and top with scallops.

NOTES:

1 – Be sure to chop the lemongrass finely.  While the blender will pulverize most of the vegetables for you, the lemongrass will remain stubbornly intact, making necessary a fine chop.

2 – Use palm sugar if you have it (I do – showoff).  If not, light brown sugar also works quite well.  Even granulated sugar is practical.

3 – Or, use coconut oil again, as it anticipates the coconut milk in the curry.

4 – Actually, I’d suggest a medium flame, as opposed to medium-high.  While the oil will prevent the butter from overcooking, it still is fairly vulnerable, and a slightly less intense flame will avoid browning.

15 thoughts on “From Scratch, All of It

    1. Greatly appreciated, Tamara! There’s just something about shellfish, right?

      Assembling all of this from the far reaches was quite a production, but the result was wonderful, and it burnished a genuine sense of accomplishment. Albeit a rather immodest one too.

      Oh, when you take your bib, grab one for me too, will ya? Not for the same reason you’ll use yours, but specifically because I’m a sloppy eater. Most people refined their dining skills past toddlerhood, but not me. I’m a happy baby!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Lots of fresh ingredients. Sounds delicious sans anything fishy or fishly-like, for me anyway. Curries though always cause my stomach to growl with hunger, especially coconut curries, as we’ve talked about before.

    There’s something about cutting up fresh ingredients with a knife that creates a more intimate connection to food. It requires more hands-on work plus washing a blender or a food processor can be kinda bothersome. However, sometimes it’s well worth the work to get just the right consistency for something like a sauce. I use a blender to make smoothies a lot. And of course a good food processor is just the bomb.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, JoAnn!

      Oh, I understand about the scallops. Each has his/her own preferences, right? Artichoke hearts or chicken thighs might advance your imagination more.

      Completely agree about chop-chop resonating deeply. Sure, prepared mixtures have their places, especially on weeknights, but what we explore here happens on the weekends. You likely know I do most cooking on Saturday mornings/afternoons, and the articles reflect the more relaxed, yet sophisticated, pace.

      You’re spot-on about blenders. In common with any tool, they can be an unnecessary complication, but just as often they’re indispensable. I can tell you right now, it was far easier than pounding away in a traditional Thai mortar.

      There’s that, and there’s the fact I don’t have one. A suribachi (A Japanese mortar and pestle) is on the kitchen shelf, alongside a molcajete (the Mexican equivalent, in volcanic stone), but the Thai version is nowhere to be found!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wow, I never fully realized the difference between one mortal and pestle and the other. You really should give a mini-lesson one of these days… with photos maybe. Just a suggestion. 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Good idea, JoAnn – thanks! As there are plenty of Japanese and Mexican dishes planned, one of the pulverizers just might make a guest appearance eventually.

        Meanwhile, there have been cross-cultural applications, as the suribachi has been used to grind Sichuan peppercorns for Kung Pao Chicken, and the molcajete reduced annatto seeds going into a Peruvian dish.

        Often, it’s easier just to use the spice (formally, coffee) grinder, which I do frequently, but when a “hand-ground” consistency is desired, the duos go hemispheric!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yes! When I get back from Idaho I’m going to start doing a lot more cooking so I will able to try out some of your past recipes as well as offer some of my own. The first blog I ever started, many years ago now, centered on cooking.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Thanks, JoAnn!

        Your intention is gratifying, though your history hardly is surprising. Your dexterity with the word matches your expressiveness in photography. Point being, you already show the sensitivity and creativity one calls upon to write a food blog. Glad to count you as colleague!

        The archives aren’t just for readers, you know. Just last week I did up another batch of Dijon-crusted, oven-baked “fried” chicken. After all, as the weather cools, I need something to accompany the TV-viewing sessions that are sure to come. Serious thing, this binge watching. Best to be prepared.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Most generous on your part, Tamara, though…what’s an SEO?

      I’ve spent the last five minutes trying to think of what the initials signify, but I’ve gotten nowhere.

      “Seriously, he doesn’t know what an SEO is?” Yes, not only don’t I see the start line, but I must’ve got lost on the way to the stadium.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, OK. So, we were discussing it, and I didn’t know, even, what it was called. Told you I’m clueless.

        Anyway, yeah, I’m starting to “enhance” my word search, though most of the effort won’t be “all in” until the schedule clears around Christmas. Once again, thanks, my friend!

        Liked by 1 person

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