For several months now I have quietly, wait, no, not quietly, quite vocally in fact, lusted after the Preethi Wet/Dry Grinder Mixie. It was at the top of my wish list, bolded and astricked, it was mentioned casually to my parents and not so casually to my husband. Come Christmas or Christmas money spending after Christmas, I *had* to have this machine.
Well my family is not deaf or cruel (and while the mixie is a little pricey, it is in the Holiday gift price range for our family, not, for example, a new car or oven or anything), so my parents did indeed purchase one for me for Christmas. And I finally got a chance to try it out.
I first read about the Preethi on Tigers & Strawberries. I was instantly captivated by the curry paste possibilities. As many of you know, I am a bit anal about my curry paste–and so while we love SE Asian food, those dishes requiring pastes are only made for more special occasions as I laboriously pound (ok I laboriously mince–John laboriously pounds) the paste out in a mortar and then after it has been broken down it gets blitzed in a processor. I tried once skipping the pounding, and the processor was just not up to the task of breaking down the lemongrass completely. Which means the curries would have decent flavor but you would feel it grit between your teeth as you chewed and then spend the night picking lemongrass out of your teeth. Not fun.
Then I discover that in India they have blender/processors that grind to the fineness of a spice grinder (or coffee grinder)–but that you put wet stuff in them. What?!? How did I miss this?!? After all, with all the Indian food I make how did I never see a reference to such a thing in one of my cookbooks? Well, anyway, I had not. Never mind the Indian and Middle Eastern food applications–of which I am sure there are many as well as dishes from other cultures I have not thought of. I wanted this for curry pastes. I have countless books of curries–all starting with a paste and all unmade by me because I am too busy and/or lazy to pound out a paste. This could be revolutionary.
And it was. What usually takes us the afternoon between finely chopping/mincing, pounding, processing and cleaning up the mess took me about 30 minutes, including prep time. And that’s with the kids bugging me to help. And the paste was smoother than anything I have been able to achieve with a processor, given that you need to stop processing the paste if it starts to heat up (which it will even in a Western processor).
This particular curry paste was extra exciting for a second reason as well. It is the first time (and probably the last until next summer) that I was able to use a kaffir lime fresh, picking it right off of the tree and immediately chopping the peel. (I did have one other lime, but it had to be frozen since Sammy picked it before I was ready for it, grrr….) The whole kitchen smelled like kaffir for a while.
This Chu Chee curry is outstanding. A Chu Chee is a Thai red curry traditionally served with seafood. It should not be as strong as some curries, so as to not overwhelm the more delicate seafood. I like it a little soupier as well, for the same reason, so I use light coconut milk as well as the thick and luxurious Mae Ploy. As far as I am concerned, the balance of sweet and salty is up to you, although David Thompson (one of my sources for Thai recipes) does not feel this curry should be very sweet. Any veggies that sound good to you will work–in the spring I think I will make this again with fresh snow pea pods. If you do not have a Preethi and need instructions on making a curry paste, I suggest you check out this green curry I made 2 summers ago.
*Recipe will make enough for curry below, plus some extra*
10 white peppercorns
6 black peppercorns
1/2 T coriander seeds
1 T shrimp paste, double wrapped in foil and toasted for 5 minutes on each side
peel from 1 kaffir lime, chopped
3 medium-large shallots, chopped
2 heads of garlic, chopped
5 New Mexico dried chile peppers, seeded and soaked in hot water for 20 minutes, reserve the water
arbol chile peppers to heat tolerance (I used 2), seeded
1/4 cup chopped galangal
2 lemongrass stalks, trimmed to lower 3 inches and thinly sliced
1 T chopped cilantro stems
If you are making this without a wet/dry grinder, do check out the green curry instructions. If using a mixie, add the lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime peel and pulse until it has been minced. At this point the mixture is too dry to do much else. I ground my spices separately in my spice grinder, but you should not need to–bear with me since I am still playing with my new toy!
Add the rest of the ingredients, including 1/4 cup of the chile soaking water and pulse a few times. If it is wet enough to blend, blend for 30-60 seconds. If not, add more soaking water and try again. Do not let the mixie heat up. Do blend until the paste smells like a cohesive, new flavor, as opposed to individual ingredients. The texture should be smooth with no visible chunks of individual ingredients.
Use within a week or two. Store in the fridge, sealed, until ready to use.
19 0z can Mae Ploy coconut milk
14 oz can light organic coconut milk
5 T fish sauce
1/4 cup palm sugar, to taste
4 kaffir lime leaves, inner vein removed and torn in 2
1 1/4 cups chu chee curry paste (see above)
Veggies of choice: I used 1 sweet bell pepper, thinly sliced and 1 zucchini, cut into half moons. I think pea pods would be nice as well. Use whatever sounds good to you, just be mindful of how fast it will cook.
shrimp and scallops for 4-6 people (I think I did around 30 sea scallops and 30 mid-size peeled w/ tails on shrimp 2 adults, 2 kids for 2 nights)
1 handful basil, chiffonaded (preferably Thai or purple, but Italian works fine in the winter when it is all you can get)
1 handful cilantro leaves, chopped
Remove the thick coconut cream from the top of the Mae Ploy can and heat it up in a large soup pot or Dutch oven. When the oil has separated from the cream (do not get hung up on this if your can has gotten shaken–in which case fry for a few minutes), add the curry paste and mix it in, frying. Once again fry until the oil separates. Then add the rest of the curry milk–both cans–and the fish sauce and palm sugar. Also add the kaffir lime leaves. Simmer, covered, until 20 minutes before serving time. At that time, add the vegetables in the order they would cook (i.e., if you use pea pods, add them last, after the seafood even, but zucchini and peppers throw in at this point). Then add the seafood, cover and simmer until cooked through. Do not let the curry simmer hard (to ensure moist seafood).
Pick out the kaffir lime leaves or warn your guests to avoid them. Serve with jasmine rice and a pickled cucumber salad.