Sunday, May 17, 2009
Thai inspired dinner with a good friend
I've been wanting to visit my favorite Thai restaurant, Suwanna for a while now. It's a nicer place to go and we usually reserve it for special occasions (the last time we were there was my birthday back in November. We were going to go there for Jonathan's birthday a couple of weeks ago but it was closed (they take a couple of week's holiday each year). So while we went elsewhere for dinner that night, my Thai craving didn't go away. While I make a decent Thai stir-fry, there are other dishes that I love eating but have never made myself. Tonight was the night to search and experiment. Can I make more than a stir-fry? Can I brave a carrot salad and succeed? How about Chicken Satay and peanut sauce?
I did some googling and found a few recipes for each. Some I followed as written, others I tweaked.
1st up was the carrot salad. Carrot salad is something I would never have ordered were it not for the encouragement of my friend Erin on her birthday at Suwanna one year. She raved about it. I thought how good could a pile of shredded carrot be? I am not a huge coleslaw fan to begin with, why would I order something resembling coleslaw at a fancy restaurant? I am so glad I did. This carrot salad was so delicious. I found a highly rated version at Group Recipes and gave it a go.
3 cups grated carrots
1/4 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 cup chopped peanuts
Finely chopped fresh mint for garnish (I didn't have fresh mint so I left this out)
In a food processor blend all the vinaigrette ingredients except peanuts and mint. (I used a hand blender to mix)
Wash the carrots with a brush and grate into a large bowl.
Add the dressing and marinate for 20 minutes before serving. (ours marinated for closer to an hour)
Garnish with chopped peanuts and mint.
The result was a lovely salad. All adults at the table loved it. I say adults because my kids took one look at their plate of salad, rice and chicken and kind of shook their head. Elijah ate the rice, tried the chicken and salad before rejecting it. Jeremy didn't even get that far. He immediately grabbed the salad into his hands and said, 'No like this' and started to pile it onto my husband's plate. At that point I figured it would be a lot easier (and quieter) to make them each a snack plate supper of cheese and crackers, yogurt cups and dried fruit. It worked!
Thai stir-fry and basamati rice I could probably make in my sleep by now. I made the stir-fry and curry sauce plain (no shrimp or anything) and added more veg than I would if I were making this with a meat. I halved the sauce from my usual as I had only half a can of coconut milk left over from the satay marinade.
1 tbsp cooking oil
1 onion, chopped
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1/2 yellow pepper, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
Stir-fry all of the above over medium low heat until just soft, add the sauce (below) and allow to cook together to let the flavours blend into each other. Add some fresh chopped cilantro just before serving.
Curry Sauce (1/2)
1/2 can coconut milk
1/2 tsp red curry paste
few dashes of fish sauce
Boil altogether in a small saucepan, whisking well.
The chicken satay recipe I found at All Recipes.
1/2 cup canned coconut milk
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon yellow curry powder
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon chili oil
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cut into strips
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro (did not add)
1 tablespoon chopped unsalted peanuts (did not add)
12 wooden skewers, soaked in water for 15 minutes (we just grilled the chicken without being on skewers)
In a medium bowl, stir together the coconut milk, ground coriander, curry powder, fish sauce, and chili oil. Add the chicken breast strips, and stir to coat. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, and up to 2 hours.
Preheat an indoor or outdoor grill for high heat. Thread the chicken strips onto skewers. Discard marinade.
Grill chicken for 2 to 3 minutes per side, until no longer pink. Time will depend on how thick your strips are. Transfer to a serving plate, and garnish with cilantro and peanuts. Serve with peanut sauce for dipping.
*We didn't skewer it and I didn't add the cilantro and peanuts at the end because I already had a couple of dishes with both. Also, when I started the marinade I was out of ground corriander so I used 1 tsp thyme and 1/2 tsp parsley in it instead. I did have to make a grocery run for a couple of things (highly unusual for me, I know) and ended up picking up some ground coriander while I was there and adding it to the marinade when I got home. I think the chicken sat in the marindade for a good 3 hours before we grilled it on the BBQ. I also managed to convince my husband to BBQ in the rain for me for this, which I am very grateful.
This chicken was really tasty. I would definately make it again.
The peanut sauce I had a harder time finding. I read a lot of peanut sauce recipes and never did find one that I thought would be really good. What I ended up doing was basing mine on a recipe I found at All Recipes and then adapting it based on the comments it had received. It made a lot more sauce than I was expecting, and I ended up cooking it in a small saucepan over low-medium heat in order to get the peanut butter to a really smooth consistancy.
1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter (I used smooth, natural)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon white sugar (I used brown sugar instead and increased it to 1 tbsp)
2 drops hot pepper sauce (I increased this quite a bit, probably 4 or 5 good shakes, not drops)
1 clove garlic, minced (I increased this to 2 cloves crushed)
1/2 cup water
*I added a little bit of chili oil and threw in some sesame seeds too
In a small bowl, stir together peanut butter, soy sauce, sugar, hot pepper sauce and garlic until well mixed. Gradually stir in water until texture is smooth and creamy.
*These directions didn't work for me. I combined everything into a small saucepan and whisked it together over low-medium heat instead.
The results were quite tasty.
Dinner was followed by mango sorbet and chocolate chip cookies. Very tasty.
So a little while back, Mommy Gourmet challenged us to have a meal with a friend (or friends) and write about it. I really wanted to do this, not for the contest of it, but because I really enjoy spending time with my friends. Because of the chaos that is our lives at present I was starting to think that I wouldn't have the time to share an evening with everyone. We did have dinner with friends over the past month, but it's been dinner out, not dinner in.
This morning after church, my husband was chatting with a very good friend of ours, Debbie. As I joined them I kept getting the nudge to invite her over for dinner, so I did. (Hey, when God speaks, I've learned to listen). As soon as the words were out of my mouth, Jonathan said, "I was just thinking that, yes, you should come over for supper tonight." So she agreed.
It has been too long since we've had Debbie over. We don't live close to our family (life having taken us to the complete opposite side of Canada), but we've been fortunate enough to make some friendships here that truly have become more than friendship. I would count Debbie as someone who is more family to us. She is one of Jeremy's godparents. She is someone that we have travelled with. She is someone who has cared for our children when we've gone away (she looked after Elijah when I was labouring with Jeremy). She's one of the first people to know what's going on with us. She prays for us and with us. She's just a really lovely person. Her daughter, Christy is also very close to us and is the first person we call to take care of the boys when we want a night out. Christy was away tonight for the long weekend, so it was just Debbie, which was neat because we often don't get to see Debbie, just Debbie.
The boys were so excited to see her. She is one of their favorite people. You can always tell with the kids who they like and who they don't by how much they show off, and it was full force show off mode tonight.
Most of the night took place in the kitchen (because let's face it, I'm somewhat of a Maritmer now and that's what Maritimers do) and we just talked. We talked while I finished up supper. We talked while we ate. We talked while I cleaned up. We talked during dessert. And we talked over tea (Darjeeling - me) and coffee (Starbucks blend - Jonathan and Debbie) afterwards. Those are some of the best nights. You don't need to plan any entertainment (and really, a two year old running around in his diaper telling you he's naked is entertainment - and hey, there's always his four year old brother doing his best Elvis impersonation using a hockey stick as a guitar too). It's just friends being friends, catching up and being comfortable with each other. There's no pressure to be anyone in particular, just yourself.
Debbie loved the food. She fully admits to being a functional cook. She makes sure that there is always a nutritious meal set out (she and another friend of ours run a place called Jordan House, which boards women who need a place to stay), but she's not one to experiment with food. She had a good laugh that my kids would turn down this 'gourmet meal' for cheese and crackers. She thought the carrot salad was so tasty (never having had Suwanna's to compare to). She asked how I made the stir-fry (and had seconds, always a compliment to the cook). And just seemed to really enjoy the meal. She also had a giggle over me taking pictures of what we were eating, but was intregued enough to want to see the blog after supper.
I don't think you can ask for much more than that. Good friend, good food, good time.
Debbie with Elijah