Sunday, August 15, 2010

Red curry shrimp pasta, and a confession

Ever wanted to make a particular recipe, only to be repeatedly thwarted by lacking the right ingredients?  Or, in my case, using up a key ingredient in ANOTHER recipe before getting to the intended one?  Yeah.  That's the case here.  The ingredients in question?  Red curry paste and cilantro.  A note on that herb, confusingly also referred to as coriander and/or Chinese parsley.  Some love it, some hate it... it really seems to polarize people that way.  I'm part of the former group, which I discovered some years ago at my favourite Thai restaurant in Windsor (Basil Court.  You should go, right now, and order the Matsaman curry, Thai spicy noodle, and/or sweet and sour chicken.  I'm not kidding.  Tell them I miss them desperately).

There you are.  I'm so sorry I left.  Nothing in Winnipeg compares to you... not that I'm trying to replace you, I swear. *Sniffle*
(Image shamelessly and somewhat stalker-ishly ripped from Google Street View).
Ahem. *Discreetly dries tears*.  Sorry, back to cilantro.  I had bought a bunch, stuck it in my fridge, and then ended up using most of it for guacamole a few weekends ago when I had my friend/coworker over for some vino (more on that sinful liquid later).  As with pretty much any herb I bring into my house, I forgot about it, and it got all wilty and mushy.  Ew.  Not good eats, as Alton would say.  I had originally bought it with the idea of re-making this pasta, which I made for Hubs and myself several months ago with mid-level success.  In a fit of laziness, I had substituted drained, canned diced tomatoes for the fresh ones called for, with the results being somewhat lackluster.  

Not to be defeated by a pasta recipe (my ancestors, I'm sure, were rolling over in their graves at the prospect), I decided to give it another go this past Friday.  I was especially keen since it was a "green-light" dish from my glycemic index diet book (stay tuned for more on that; I'm just not ready to face the fact that I haven't been strictly following that book for the past month or so).  The stumbling block was a lack of red curry paste.  Despite a microscopic examination of the shelves at my local Superstore (which, strangely, also has a hard time keeping cilantro in stock), I have been curry-less for the past two months.  It wasn't until I tried switching supermarkets to Safeway (a Big Deal, since the Loblaws family of companies helped pay for my undergrad degree), that I found the coveted little jar of deliciousness.  Safeway also had an ample stock of what can only be described as the most luscious-looking cilantro I've seen in all my born days.  Full steam ahead!!!

Mmm, steamy.  See what I did there??
Now, I've been wrestling with the idea of posting this recipe, since my second attempt (with fresh tomatoes, GOOD wine, and better-quality shrimp) was so very successful.  Since I modified things slightly, I think I'll go ahead with it... mostly because I can't deny any shrimp and/or curry lover the means to try this delish dish.  I mean, c'mon.  Just look at it.

The acidity of the lime and cilantro really balance out the heaping spoonful of red curry I added, so my "version" of the recipe contains considerably more curry than the original.  I like it spicy.  If you don't, you know what to do: just cut back.  Marinading the shrimp in the paste is genius... not only are the shrimp infused with the flavourful heat, but any residual paste marries into the resulting sauce.  If you're not afraid of a departure from your standard American-Italian spaghetti and meatballs fare, give this a whirl.

Check out that cilantro in the foreground.  Gorgeous.
 Red Curry Shrimp Pasta
(Barely adapted from the "G.I. Diet Clinic" by Rick Gallop. 
Please don't sue me, Mr. Gallop, you won't get much)

Makes 2 servings
  • 1/2 lb (half of a ~400g bag) large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Thai red curry paste(see note below*)
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced (don't skimp, or I'll hunt you down)
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime (2 if all you have is key limes)
  • 2 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped into about 1 cm squared pieces
  • 1 cup white wine (see note re. skimping above)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste (maybe 1/4 tsp for salt, 1/2 tsp pepper)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 4 oz (~1/4 lb or 226g) whole wheat linguine (I have no idea what 4 oz of pasta looks like.  I went for a quite small fistful.  I know that's not incredibly helpful.  You want enough pasta for two servings)
  1. In a large zip-top bag, add shrimp and curry paste.  Squeeze the excess air out of the bag and seal it, mushing it around to coat the shrimp with the paste thoroughly.  Place in the refrigerator.  If the shrimp is frozen (as mine was), you can leave it frozen and let it thaw overnight with the curry on it; if it's fresh, leave it for anywhere from two to eight hours in the fridge.
  2. When the shrimp is done getting happy with the paste, get a medium-large pot of salted water on to boil.  To a large non-stick frying pan, add oil and garlic and heat on medium until the garlic starts to get golden (~1-2 minutes; you'll hear it sizzle.  Don't let it burn).  Add tomatoes, wine, lime zest and juice, salt and pepper; bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer until sauce reduces and thickens, about 8 minutes.  Add shrimp to the sauce and cook, stirring, until the shrimp are pink and firm (about 3-4 minutes).  Stir in cilantro.
  4. Add the pasta to your water (which should be boiling by now) and cook until al dente (read the package, I'm still not very good with cooking times for whole wheat noodles.  Recipe says 8 minutes, I think I did 10-12).  Drain and add pasta directly to shrimp mixture in frying pan.  Toss to coat with sauce.
  5. Devour.  Preferably, consume with a glass of the same wine you used in the recipe.
Thai Kitchen Red Curry PasteNote: I use Thai Kitchen authentic red curry paste; it comes in a small 112 g glass jar, and can be found in the "ethnic" section of most large grocery stores (though apparently not the one at Sargent and St. James, so don't look there).  Do NOT use President's Choice red curry sauce; this is NOT the same thing, as it contains large amounts of coconut milk.  Whatever you buy, it should be a concentrated deep red colour.  Oh, and I was joking about hunting you down.  Probably ;)

Those last two shots bring me to the "confession" promised in today's title.  I love wine.  Really, I do.  However, I know next to nothing about it, which I find somewhat shameful given my ethnic background(s) and level of adoration.  Oh, sure, I've been on tons of wine tours, and swirled and sipped and trilled with the best of 'em.  Just please, don't ever ask me to describe the bouquet, comment on the notes, or expertly pair a wine with a meal (unless I've already sneaked a look at the back label).  I'm an expert on two things: either I like the wine, or I don't.  Don't expect me to tell you why, with one exception: if my tongue goes dry and my cheeks pucker in, there's too much tannin for me, and I don't like it.

One of the few reds that doesn't have me chugging from a water glass...
As you can see in the pictures of my delish shrimp, I was drinking a bottle of Pelee Island Gewürztraminer (my all-time fave white).  The recipe originally called for a "dry white wine".  This ain't it.  It's a 2 on the sugar scale (read: pretty darn sweet, the very opposite of dry).  It's suggested as an apértif or as a dessert companion.  Bah.  It was the only white I had on hand that I was willing to crack open and cook with, and the label also describes it as "spicy and fruity".  Hmm.  My curry: spicy, check; fruity (owing to the tomatoes and lime), check.  Seems like a good enough fit for me, so I used it in the recipe and to drink alongside.  No complaints here.  Though I'm a million steps below a sommelier, I do know that you should use wines you'd actually drink in recipes, and then drink them.  At least I follow SOME rules.  I'm also pretty good with trying to find reds I like (merlot, shiraz) to go with my infrequent red meat binges:

Are you tired of seeing this burger yet?  I'm not.  Sorry.  But I think this'll be the last of it.
That's it for now.  Just needed to get that wine confession off my chest... I don't want anyone to think that my examples for wine/food pairing should be followed in any way whatsoever.  I know nothing.  Do as I (well, the recipes) say and not as I do, and all that.

Cin cin, à votre santé, and sláinte!

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