I always keep an eye out for interesting recipes wherever I go. We have in California a wonderful organic supermarket Bristol Farms, which releases a new issue of their magazine with recipes each season from different chefs. I pick up one every chance I have. The recipe that caught my eye in the fall issue came from chef Bruce Aidells, "Braised Thai Red Curry Short Ribs with Baby Bok Choy." I decided to give this recipe my own spin by using chicken and leeks instead of short ribs and Baby Bok Choy. The shiitake, carrots and peppers are also my addition. Although leeks are mostly used in Western cuisine, they are a great substitute for Bok Choy and the Thai flavors complement them wonderfully. I also like that there is no need to brown the thighs as they will absorb plenty of flavor from marinating and from the braising liquid during its slow cooking. The cooking method used in this wonderful recipe is very versatile and can be successfully adapted for cooking beef or veal shanks and also beef or pork ribs and I love to slowly braise duck legs. This is a great recipe for slow cooking and spicy food fans. —Kukla
6 or 3 hungry ones!
• 1 cup dried shiitake mushrooms slices
• 2-3 teaspoons Thai red curry paste, or more to taste (depending on how spicy or salty the paste you are using is)
• 3 large garlic cloves, chopped
• 1 1 1/2" piece of fresh ginger, peeled and diced
• 1/2 cup cilantro or parsley stems, coarsely chopped (save 1/2 cup chopped leaves for garnish)
• 6 whole scallions , coarsely chopped
• 1 medium red bell pepper + 1 green Hatch or Anaheim chile pepper, coarsely chopped
• 2 cups shiitake soaking-liquid, divided
• 6 large chicken thighs, washed and pat dried
• 2 medium red onions or any kind you have on hand, thinly sliced
• 1 medium-large carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4" coins
• 3 tablespoons fish sauce
• 2 tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice, or more to taste
• 3 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped, or 3 whole canned tomatoes, chopped
• 3 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, thoroughly washed, pat dry and cut unto 1 1/2 to 2" long cylinders
Start by reconstituting the shiitake mushrooms: Rinse the dried mushrooms well, place them in a medium sauce pan and pour 2 1/2 cups of boiling water over them. Cover tightly with a lid. Soak for about 20 to 30 minutes. Using a slotted spoon transfer mushrooms to a colander; strain mushroom-soaking-liquid through a sift lined with cheese cloth. Set aside.
Place red curry paste, garlic, ginger,scallions, cilantro or parsley stems, peppers and 1/2 cup of mushroom soaking-liquid into bowl of food processor. Process until a loose paste forms. Add some more of the liquid if the mixture is too dense.
Place chicken thighs in one layer into a non-reactive dish and spread about 1/3 of the curry-mixture all over them. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to marinate for 1 hour at room temperature.
When ready to cook, scatter the onion slices and carrots into a large Dutch oven or a heavy-bottom large and deep pan. Add the remaining curry mixture to coat the onions and carrots. Scatter around the shiitakes; pour in the remaining mushroom-soaking liquid, fish sauce and lime or lemon juice. Bring to a simmer.
Nestle chicken thighs and leeks in the liquid, cover tightly with a lid and cook on low heat for approximately 1 1/2 hours. Check often and give it a shake to prevent scorching in the bottom. When the thighs and leeks are tender, add the tomatoes and mix-in coconut milk, season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper; simmer for another 5-7 minutes uncovered.
Serve hot over cooked Jasmine rice or with plenty of good country bread to soak up the succulent braising Juices.