Friday, February 08, 2013


I’m curious what determines a person’s palate.  Certainly location.  Even in this world of cultural cross pollination, a child in Nagasaki or Adis Ababa is likely to come of age with a different frame of gustatory reference than I did in Springfield, Ohio.   Economics of course would come into play in a similar way.  Deep pockets could certainly lead the way to depth of cuisine and all the variety therein.

Family of origin…  and probably to a certain degree the culinary capabilities of whoever was in charge of feeding said family.   Or culinary proclivities…  Growing up under the influence of a militant organic vegetarian would have as significant of an influence as a home cook who depended on Hamburger Helper, canned spaghetti sauce and take out menus.  I also had the pleasure of growing up in a family with little tolerance for finicky eaters.  You ate what was on the table, or waited until the next meal.  That will broaden a child’s tastes.

Sophistication … or just the desire to seem sophisticated is another factor.  I know a few people who might never have ventured to try sushi or caviar had they not been offered it in public, and from the hand of a lovely one they hoped to impress. Personally I am still “jonesing” for those caviar-luscious parties of the 1990’s, and proud to be someone privileged to reminisce about that kind of indulgence!

But I’ve come to believe that the major determining factor is how much joy one derives from feeding themselves.  Big Mary has the potential to derive A LOT of joy! Too much my doctor might say.  I’ll concede I have much to learn about control, both portion and self….  But I would SO rather deal with the frustration of extra pounds than be one of those food phobic folks with a litany of foods they never eat.

In the years following my 1980 arrival in New York City, I have found a lot of culinary G spots, flavors and aromas that opened my unschooled Midwestern eyes wide.  Who had ever heard of Pad Thai before I found that Chinatown dive?  Pastel de Choclo?  I barely knew where Peru was, but I knew I loved this corn custard casserole I found in Hell’s Kitchen! And I continue to be drawn to these much less expensive,  endlessly inspiring centers of culinary pride for the enterprising immigrants who open their kitchen to NYer’s, always on the prowl for the next new thing.

Here is a recipe inspired by those flavors that’s so easy to make it should become a regular event in your kitchen.  That’s why I encourage you to go the extra distance to source out the unusual ingredients.  Something this delicious deserves a little effort!  And these Thai kitchen staples will keep refrigerated for a very long time.  (The lime leaves freeze well for more than a month.)  But once sourced, this is an exotic yet accessible dinner that can be thrown together in less than 30 minutes.  As one of my private cooking class clients said last week… “My friend is very a very picky eater, but she would love this…. I’m going to make this for her. I just won’t mention the ingredients.”


1               Tablespoon Vegetable Oil
5               Small Shallots, peeled, halved and slivered - 
                 approx 1/2 cup
1 - 1 1/2     teaspoons Thai Green Curry Paste 
                 (depending on desired spiciness), 
                 available in Asian grocery stores
3               Large Kaffir Lime leaves - stems removed
                 and finely chopped, (3/4 teaspoon), 
                 available in Thai or Asian Grocery stores or
                 substitute 1/2 teaspoon grated lime zest
1 - 1 1/4     Pounds boneless Chicken Breast - cut into
                 1 inch pieces
1               Medium Red or Yellow Pepper, stemmed, 
                 seeded and cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 1/2          Tablespoons Thai Basil, chiffonade cut -
                 available in some Greenmarkets, many 
                 Thai/Asian groceries or substitute equal
                 parts mint and regular basil

Heat a large skillet or wok over high heat.  Add oil.  Add shallots and cook a minute or so until they begin to soften.  Add Curry Paste and stir continually for 30 seconds.  Add chicken, red pepper and chopped lime leaves.  Cook over high heat for 1 minute.  Add 1 1/2 cups of coconut milk, reserving the rest for final seasoning.  Lower heat to medium. Cook for several minutes until chicken is cooked through, about 4-6 minutes.
Add Lime juice and basil.  Stir well, taste and adjust seasonings as desired ...
Too spicy?  Add remaining coconut milk.  Needs salt?  Add another 1/2 teaspoon of fish sauce.  Needs acidity?  Add another 1/2 teaspoon of lime juice.

Serve with steamed jasmine rice.

Copyright 2013 Big Mary's Kitchen


Jenn said...

Tried it thanks to you and we love it!!!

Marge @A Sweet and Savory LIfe said...

This sounds incredible. Perhaps if I don't make it, a certain smooth-headed someone will make it for me...