Two years ago, anxious about living in a new place and having lots of unstructured time on my hands, I decided that I wanted to learn to cook well. Gourmet was never my goal; I was more committed to creating meals and treats that fed souls and hungry bellies—and given my love for/appreciation of good food, I expected that my culinary journey would be fairly easy. I scoured cookbooks and online recipe forums, determined to make magic in the kitchen just like my mom always did. But after several months of total failures (and very few successes), I was at a loss. So instead of trying to master everything at once, I decided to work at getting good at one dish at a time.
My first make-it-every-night-until-you-get-it-right meal?
For weeks, I tried to view the risotto-making process as a sort of kitchen meditation. It requires constant stirring, constant attention, constant awareness—and it required me to stand in one place for a full thirty minutes, watching and stirring and managing the constant chatter in my head. As my confidence grew, so did my repertoire: Basic risotto. Parmesan and pea risotto. Spring vegetable risotto. Pumpkin risotto. And when Dmitri found a recipe for a Thai-inspired coconut curry risotto that looked pretty darn amazing (and pretty darn foolproof!), I disregarded my hesitations (Thai risotto?! How inauthentic!) and decided to give it a go.
The result? A totally phenomenal and perfectly balanced sweet-salty-creamy-spicy dish that satisfied our homesick-hungries and our taste for Thai—and one that manages to be both warming in the winter months and light and refreshing when it’s warm outside.
Today, however, the heat index in our little Texas town was right around 105—and when Dmitri requested risotto for dinner, I had to laugh; the idea of spending an extended period of time over a hot stove just wasn’t appealing.
But you know what’s always appealing? Coconut, lime, and red chili paste. So I stopped laughing, and got right to work.
I’m not a great cook by any means, but my totally limited kitchen experience has taught me a few things for sure: a wonderful meal is definitely worth a little extra effort– and a little upper-lip sweat never hurt anyone :).
Coconut Red Curry Risotto (adapted—barely–from here: http://maresfoodandfun.blogspot.com/2009/05/thai-red-curry-risotto.html )
1 onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons grated peeled fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste (see notes)
1 1/2 cups arborio or carnaroli rice
About 4 cups chicken or mushroom broth
4 ounces chopped mushrooms
1 cup low-fat coconut milk (stir before measuring)
1 1/2 cups frozen petite peas
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1. Stir together onion, ginger, and garlic in oil in a large frying pan for a few minutes.
2. Stir in curry paste and rice, mixing well to coat.
3. Pour in 1 cup chicken broth and stir 3-4 minutes (or until it has been mostly absorbed). Add mushrooms and coconut milk; again, stir until liquid is mostly absorbed. Add 2 more cups broth, 1 cup at a time, stirring after each addition until almost absorbed, for about 15 minutes total.
4. Return pan to medium-high heat, add 1 more cup broth, and stir until liquid is absorbed and rice is creamy and tender, about 10 minutes. If risotto is too dry or too chewy, add a little more broth and cook until it reaches your desired consistency. Add in thawed peas, cilantro, and salt to taste, and serve with lime wedges.