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.
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.