There has been a hole in my life since moving out of Lincoln Park. I lived close to the lake for two years, on the north side of Chicago. I was steps from Wrigley Field, near the Belmont harbor where mini sailboats bounced about during their Saturday morning lessons, and just a block away from the lakefront path where I used to ride my bike.
All of these conveniences and attractions were great, but I don't feel I took advantage of them enough while I was there, leaving me not missing them all that much. They are still there when I want to visit. One of the things I do miss however is being in the small delivery area of Thai Classic Restaurant.
Yeah, I know this sounds a little extreme. But you do not want to get between this woman and her curry. I am sure there are better Thai places in Chicago, and there may even be some in my new hood, but I just loved the solid, dependable, consistent panang curry entree from the Classic.
For years I have been making 'curry' at home. I use the quotes because it never tasted anywhere close to what I have been enjoying at Thai and Indian eateries. It started with a recipe on the label on the back of a Thai Kitchen curry paste jar, and pretty much went downhill from there. Don't get me wrong, a little curry paste and coconut milk mixed with some veggies and rice were okay for a while, but I think I hit my limit of half-assed curry. I needed a real curry, and I needed to be able to make it myself.
Well I FINALLY found it. This recipe for chicken curry with cashews was recommended on a forum on Serious Eats, which is a food website that I am a daily visitor to. It may be a little more demanding, but this recipe hits all the right notes. The layers of flavor, the different textures, the heat, it all adds up to a dish that will cure me of my longing for Thai Classic any day.
Of course I toyed with it quite a bit, but that is the best part about this recipe, it just begs to be messed with. The base for the sauce is the key here, but the additions are up to you. As for me, I went light on the meat, and heavy on the veggies. This abundance of vegetables, combined with the yogurt addition, led me to believe that this is a healthy meal, we will just ignore the 1/2 stick of butter and the giant mound of jasmine rice shall we?
Chicken Curry with Cashews and Yogurt
adapted from Gourmet Magazine
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
2 medium onions, halved and sliced thinly (2 cups)
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
3 tablespoons curry powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
4 boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 large tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped - if tomatoes are not ripe/in season you can omit the chicken stock and use 1 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes and their juices.
2 cups chicken stock
1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
1 can chickpeas, drained
1 can bamboo shoots, drained
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3/4 cup cashews (1/4 pound)
3/4 cup plain yogurt
Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat, until it starts to bubble. Add the onions, bell peppers, garlic and ginger and cook until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the curry powder, salt, cumin, and cayenne and stir to combine. Add the chicken thighs and cook just until browned on all sides, about 6-8 minutes. Add the tomatoes, chicken stock, chickpeas, bamboo shoots, and cilantro and simmer over medium-low heat until the chicken and all the vegetables have cooked through and sauce is reduced, about 30-40 minutes.
Feel free to add more chicken broth if the sauce reduces too quickly, I believe that the long slow simmer is where you get a lot of your flavor from here, so give it some time.
While curry is cooking, pulse the cashews in a food processor or spice mill until finely ground, almost to a powder, but careful not to go to far otherwise you will end up with cashew butter. Just before serving, stir the yogurt and most of the ground cashews into the curry to thicken the sauce.
Garnish with come chopped cilantro and reserved cashew powder, and serve over jasmine or brown rice.
Who needs you anyway Thai Classic. It may not be traditional panang, or even Thai, but it sure is delicious and feeds that little guy that lives in my tummy that screams 'feed me curry!!' every now and then.