John’s favorite cuisine is Thai. He never gets sick of it. I sometimes need a break from what we think of as the entrée dishes, although I rarely tire of the salads. Despite the fact that at the end of the day Mexican is my favorite cuisine, the one that I never get tired of, I do love Thai food and it holds a special place in my heart because it is the one cuisine that John and I learned to make together. We served it at our wedding. To this day, making curry pastes is a joint endeavor.
Because it is John’s and my “special food” (is that weird? Most couples have songs—we have cuisines) and because he loves it so much, every year for his birthday I make him a big Thai feast. Way more food than is justified by 2 small kids and 2 adults! Although we enjoy Thai desserts, I like to make an indulgent Western dessert to go with it—frequently something with peanut butter and chocolate.
This is the first multi-dish, somewhat formal meal I have posted about and I have already encountered several problems, probably familiar to long time bloggers. First, it is hard to take photos since my priority is getting everything to the table on time for HIS special day, not worrying about pictures for MY blog. Second, and perhaps more important, it is hard to keep track of exactly how I am making the dishes when the last hour is spent frantically finishing multiple dishes at once (this year none of them were make ahead except the dessert) and making sure they all make it to the table at the appropriate temperature and texture.
Soooo… while I really want to share these dishes with you, and while I really hope some of you will try them, I will emphasize more than ever to taste as you go and adjust to your liking. The pork dish is quite easy and the other 2 are quite flexible—different veggies (and meats in the case of the rice) can be used.
1 lb pork tenderloin, sliced into ½ inch thick medallions
2 t superior dark soy sauce
1 t sugar
8 cloves garlic, finely minced or mashed
2-3 T neutral vegetable oil
2 T good quality fish sauce
4 T light brown sugar (or palm sugar but this is one recipe where I find the light brown sugar easier)
Marinate the pork medallions in the soy sauce and sugar. Cover and chill for up to 3 hours (this step is not strictly necessary but I have found that it allows for doing some steps ahead of time and the soy sauce helps the meat brown, as opposed to steaming grey in its own juices).
Heat a wok or large heavy skillet on high heat. Pour the oil into the skillet, turning and tilting the skillet so that the oil coats the sides of the pan. Put the garlic in the pan, cooking for 1 minute, until toasted light brown and fragrant.
Add the pork to the pan and cook for an additional minute. Add the fish sauce and sugar and cook, stirring to coat the pork, until cooked through and coated in the sugar/fish sauce.
Thai Fried Rice with Pineapple
3 cups dry jasmine rice, cooked the day before and left uncovered in fridge overnight to dry out (or use leftover rice)
6 oz coconut cream (the solid part, reserve the remaining solid and liquid part for the salad recipe)
4 t red curry paste, such as Mae Ploy (or more if you can handle the heat)
1 t sweet curry powder
1 T tamarind paste/concentrate
1 T superior dark soy sauce
2-3 T fish sauce
2-3 T palm sugar or light brown sugar
2-4 eggs (to taste) scrambled separately
1 small pineapple, chopped into chunks and juice reserved
1 sweet bell pepper, sliced thinly
10-15 small shrimps (I buy frozen pre-cooked, so they are just added to heat through)
½ medium red onion, thinly sliced
Heat a large wok or skillet on high medium high heat. Add the coconut cream and heat until it separates. Add the curry paste and mash and stir it into the coconut cream. When it is totally mixed in, add the red onion, stir fry for about 30 seconds, and then add the rice and stir fry briefly. Add the curry powder, the tamarind and the soy sauce and stir fry another 1-2 minutes. Add the pineapple juice, the fish sauce and the sugar, continuing to stir. Add the shrimp (if using pre cooked frozen—otherwise cook separately and add at the end), the pineapple chunks and bell pepper and stir fry. Taste for seasoning. Add more fish sauce if it needs salt, sugar if it needs to be sweeter. Add a plain hot sauce such as sambel olek if it is not spicy enough (it would be difficult to mix in the curry paste at this point).
If you want to get fancy, this is a great dish to serve in a carved out pineapple.
Other veggies and meats that you could use in this same basic recipe: grape or cherry tomatoes, grape halves, basil leaves, yellow curry paste in place of red, pork/chicken/beef, tofu, broccoli, green beans, cilantro, zucchini/yellow squash, winter squash—you get the idea.
This one is the hardest to give instructions for. Like many of you, I don’t measure anything when making a salad—either in the dressing or the vegetables. So I will do my best, but you should increase or decrease amounts to suit your own taste. There are many versions of Yam Woon Sen in Thailand—I have several different ones in my cookbooks and have eaten different ones in restaurants—so I promise you cannot mess it up by doing something different. Think of my recipe as inspiration to make it your way!
Fresh lime juice, garlic, fish sauce and sugar to taste (see notes on nuoc cham; for me personally, this dressing is less sweet, less garlicy and less salty than nuoc cham—i.e., less fish sauce, minced garlic and sugar—and more sour—i.e., more lime juice—and much more spicy*)
Glass noodles, soaked until easily separated in warm water (10-15 minutes), and then boiled until cooked (they will become clear, like glass, when fully cooked—check the instructions on your package for times as I have seen variation there, mine took about 8 minutes)
Large shrimp to garnish, maybe 8 (I just quickly boil frozen, pre-cooked shrimp)
One sweet bell pepper, thinly sliced
½ medium red onion, thinly sliced and blanched for 15 seconds if raw onions are a problem for you
⅓ lb pork tenderloin, minced pork, cooked in water or coconut milk
romaine or leaf lettuce
basil, prefer thai, shredded
mint leaves, shredded
cilantro, roughly chopped
Chinese long beans, chopped into 2 inch segments
Toss all ingredients together—let those that are cooked come to room temperature before tossing. This salad is best at room temp, not too cold or hot. The glass noodles will absorb a lot of the dressing—be prepared to use a lot of limes when making the dressing.
*Because of Alex, we used sambal olek to individually make our salads spicy, but the more traditional method is to use minced Thai bird chile peppers
“Birthday Pie is better than Birthday Cake!”
So announced my daughter, loyal to the latest dessert, after trying this confection. I have better pictures of it because, unless you get up really early, it is a 2 day affair, with frequent chillings. It is worth it. John found it perfect as is—I would have like a stronger chocolate and peanut butter flavor, so I might have decreased the whipped cream topping. The crust is sublime.
Tish’s Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cloud Pie
Baking By Flavor, Lisa Yockelson (taken from Tish Boyle)
Peanut Butter Cookie Crust
⅔ cup AP flour
½ t baking powder
1/8 t baking soda
pinch of salt
4 T (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
⅓ cup creamy peanut butter
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg yolk
½ t vanilla
Chocolate-Peanut Butter Mousse Filling
2 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped finely
2 T cornstarch
½ cup granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1 ¾ cup milk
2 large egg yolks
½ cup creamy peanut butter
½ t vanilla
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
Whipped Cream for Topping the Pie
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
1 T superfine sugar
½ t vanilla
Chopped roasted peanuts and/or semi sweet chocolate curls and shavings for garnish
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and soda and salt.
Cream the butter and peanut butter together in a mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add the granulated sugar and beat for 1 minute. Add the dark brown sugar and beat 1 additional minute. Blend in the egg yolk and vanilla. On low speed add the flour mixture in 2 additions. Beat just until the flour is absorbed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Turn the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and shape into a disk about ½ inch thick. Wrap it up and refrigerate it for 45-60 minutes.
Place the chilled dough disk into the bottom of a 9 inch pie plate. Using your fingertips, press the dough evenly into the bottom of the pan and up the sides. Refrigerate the pan with the crust for another 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 F about 20 minutes before removing the pie crust. Bake the pie crust in the pan for 13-15 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges. The crust will be soft and puffed when it comes out, but it will firm up and flatten as it cools. Place the pie pan onto a cooling rack and let it cool completely.
Place the chopped chocolate into a medium sized mixing bowl and set aside.
Sift the cornstarch, sugar and salt into a medium sized heavy saucepan and then whisk to combine thoroughly. Turn the heat onto medium high and slowly blend in the milk, stirring as you pour. Heat until it thickens (this is similar to making a white sauce); it will take 5-7 minutes for this to happen.
In a small, heatproof bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Add 2-3 T of the hot milk mixture to the egg yolks to temper them. Off the heat stir the tempered egg yolks into the saucepan. Then put the saucepan back onto moderate heat and let it bubble, stirring, until thickened, 2-3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the peanut butter and vanilla.
Pour 1 cup of the heated peanut butter/milk mixture onto the chopped chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted and incorporated.
Scrape the chocolate mixture onto the cooled pie crust. Smooth the top with a spatula or offset palette knife. Refrigerate for 60-90 minutes or until completely set.
Transfer the remaining peanut butter filling to a medium sized bowl and cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the peanut butter mixture. Chill for 45 minutes, or until cool but not set.
Place the chilled cream into a bowl and whip until soft peaks are formed. Stir 2-3 large spoonfuls of the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture, then gently fold the rest in. Scrape this mousse onto the chilled chocolate layer of the pie, smoothing the surface. Chill until set, at least 4-6 hours.
Whip the remaining cream until just beginning to mound. Add the sugar and vanilla and whip until softly firm peaks have formed. Top the pie with the whipped cream and chill for one more hour.
Garnish the pie with chopped roasted peanuts and/or chocolate shavings and curls. I opted for the chocolate (which was my change, not listed in the recipe).