Inside the Thai Pantry

This is a first in a series of posts to help with adding a bit of variety to your pantry staples. Happy Eating!

The Global Pantry Series: Inside the Thai Pantry

The Table Home Chef Blog

For our money, no cuisine out there manages to hit on all the flavors – sweet, salty, sour, umami, (and yes, sometimes spicy!) like Thai food. From universally loved noodle dishes like Pad Thai, to more adventurous ones like deep fried whole fish with chili sauce or fiery minced meat dips, there’s a kaleidoscope of flavors to explore beyond what’s offered at the average takeout spot. Cooking Thai food at home can seem intimidating to many cooks, but you’d be surprised how many dishes are built on the same foundational ingredients and simple techniques. Shopping ahead of time for some key pantry items will ensure you can create those intense flavors you expect from a restaurant at home, and the rest is simple – just add vegetables, rice or rice noodles, and the protein of your choice to your weekly shopping list and you can be cooking authentic-tasting Thai food in no time.

(image via indie culinary)

Curry Paste

Thai curries can be laborious to make from scratch, as they often contain garlic, chilies, galangal, lemongrass, and dried shrimp. Luckily, some great-quality pre-made curry pastes can be purchased in your local Asian market or online, like these ones from Mae Ploy. They come in a rainbow of curries, like red, yellow, green, and panang. If you’re looking for a seafood-free version, these vegan pastes by Maesri are your best bet. A little goes a long way, and they keep well, so we recommend buying them all and finding your favorite!

(image via street smart kitchen)

Sauces

Thai cooks rely on an arsenal of sauces for the umami flavors they add to stir-fries and noodle dishes. We couldn’t choose just one sauce to recommend, so we’re suggesting two: oyster sauce, and fish sauce. These sauces are versatile and widely available, but don’t judge them by their smell straight from the bottle! They’re both used in small amounts, and don’t taste overtly fishy in the finished dish – especially if you buy from brands with high quality standards, like Red Boat and Lee Kum Kee. If you’ve just been cooking with soy sauce up until now and feel like your stir-fries or curries are missing depth of flavor, these are the two sauces that you need in your kitchen. Interested in diving in deeper? Street Smart Kitchen has a great guide to Asian sauces.

(image via inquiring chef)

Tamarind Paste

Lime juice is liberally used in many Thai dishes, but it’s not the only sour component you’ll find in the Thai pantry. Tamarind, the pulp of a tropical tree pod is both fruity and really tangy – and it’s used in savory dishes, desserts, and even drinks! You may have seen the large brown pods for sale in Mexican or Asian grocery stores, but if not, you can buy a shelf stable concentrate with no compromise in flavor. We like this one from our friends at The Spice House. but if you’re feeling intrepid, you can make your own using this guide from Inquiring Chef.

(image via inquiring chef)

Bird’s Eye Chilies

If you’ve ever ordered Thai takeout, you’re familiar with the follow up question “how spicy?” Contrary to popular belief here in the states, some Thai dishes are meant to be enjoyed spicy while others are completely mild, and you’d never order using the star rating for spice at a restaurant in Thailand. Whether you’re spice fanatical or fearful, one of the best parts about cooking Thai at home is that you can control the heat. Thai Bird’s Eye Chilies are easy to find dry or in paste form, and as a pepper that rates 50,000 – 100,000 on the Scoville scale, a little goes a long way. Serve Nam Prik Pao table-side so everyone can add as much (or as little) as they like, or if not, there’s always Sriracha.

(image via the kitchn)

Coconut Milk

There’s nothing like fresh milk straight from the coconut, but we know that’s not realistic for most of us living outside of the tropics! Great coconut milk is essential for making Thai curries, and luckily, it’s now widely available at most stores. However, there’s a lot of varieties and formats out there, and it can get confusing fast. We’ll make it easy: look for full fat, unsweetened coconut milk, in a box (or tetra pak) if you can find it. We love the Aroy-D brand, straight from Thailand.

Kaffir Lime Leaves

Lastly, there’s lime leaves. Like we’ve mentioned previously, lime juice is often  added as a final squeeze of freshness in many dishes, but Thai cooks don’t just stop at the fruit! The leaves are incredibly fragrant, and if you’ve ever enjoyed a comforting bowl of Tom Kha Gai soup, you know how distinctive the flavor they add is. As with Kaffir limes, their leaves are not easy to find fresh – look for them frozen, and next time your curry needs a dose of fresh, zesty aroma, snip in a leaf, thinly sliced.

 


Duck a L’Orange

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You can use any type of duck that you can find in your local supermarket or butche. I like to use the Rohan duck, which is exclusively available at D’Artagnan. It is raised without antibiotics or hormones in open barns, and is the company’s proprietary hybrid that includes the Heritage Mallard and Pekin duck breeds. With a flavor reminiscent of a heritage-breed duck from France, the juicy, tender, rose-colored meat and mild taste make the Rohan™ Duck unique.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 quart fresh-squeezed orange juice, or bottled
One 12-ounce jar orange marmalade, reserving  3 tablespoons for basting
½ cup honey
1 D’Artagnan Rohan Duck, 5 to 6 pounds
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 small red onion
3 garlic cloves
1 small lemon
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 thin-skinned navel orange, washed and cut into thin slices
½ cup Grand Marnier

Directions:

Remove the duck from the packaging and rinse the duck inside and out with cold water, reserving the neck and liver, if desired. Trim the excess fat and skin.

Combine orange juice, marmalade, and honey in a bowl  or casserole dish, deep enough to hold duck. Add duck, and drizzle the marinade over the duck, cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight. Make sure you turn the duck once or twice if marinade doesn’t cover it completely.

The NEXT day,

Preheat oven to 375 ° F.

Remove duck from marinade, reserving marinade.

Using a fork, prick duck skin all over with a fork, but DO NOT pierce the flesh. Season inside and out with salt and pepper.  Slice the small red onion, break the garlic cloves in half and slice the small lemon in half and place the onion, garlic and lemon in the cavity of the duck. Using kitchen twine, truss the duck and place breast  side up on a rack in a roasting pan. If you do not have a rack for you pan, use three or four four ribs of celery, laying them in a row and set the duck on top of the celery “rack”.  If you are using a Granite Ware Enameled Dutch oven to roast your duck, be sure to cover the duck with the lid provided.  Transfer the roasting pan to oven and roast the duck. After 10 minutes, turn heat down to 350°F and roast for 1 ½ hours.

Once duck has rendered some fat, spoon 2 about tablespoons of it into a saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat, add onion, and sauté until tender and light brown, 5 to 6 minutes stirring occasionally. Pour in reserved marinade and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring up any browned bits. Adjust heat to medium and reduce liquid until thickened, 20 to 25 minutes. Pour the sauce into an electric blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Pour through a strainer into a saucepan and add the Grand Marnier and set aside.

When duck has roasted for 1 ½ hours, remove pan from oven and turn heat down to 325°F. Discard all but a little fat from roasting pan, and lay orange slices over bottom of pan.  Return the duck, placing it over the orange slices. Using a pastry brush, baste the duck with the sauce. Return the pan to oven and cook until slices begin to brown about 10 minutes.  Brush a final coat of orange marmalade all over the duck. Cover with the lid if using a roaster, Turn off the oven and let the duck stand for 10 minutes.

Remove the duck from the pan and place on a craving board and allow to rest for at least 10-15 minutes before cutting or craving.

To serve for 2: Cut duck in half using sharp scissors or poultry shears. Remove backbone by cutting along one side and then the other, then cut along breastbone. For 4: Cut each half into breast and leg sections.

Place each duck portion on a warm plate. For complete meal, serve with a generous mound of rice next to it, lay orange slices around it,  and a green vegetable like green beans or steamed asparagus, or roasted Brussels sprouts, and ladle on sauce.

 

 

Cook’s Notes:

If you don’t have any Grand Marnier on hand,  Cointreau or triple sec are suitable substitutes.

downloadI like to roast my duck in a Granite Ware Enameled Dutch Oven, that I inherited from my Grandmother. I don’t even know if they still make them or not. For me, using this type of cookware always produced a moist bird, whether you are roasting a duck, a chicken or a turkey. You can perfectly roast your duck without one, using a shallow roasting pan and that is perfectly fine.

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All photographs and content, excepted where noted, are copyright protected. Please do not use these photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this photograph and all other contents, then we kindly ask that you link back to this site. We are eternally grateful and we appreciate your support of this blog.

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Pan-Seared Pork Chops with Balsamic Roasted Strawberries

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For me, one of the fun things about cooking is thinking outside of box and combining flavors to create a wholesome yet interesting  dish. Sometimes, you get to combine ingredients and flavors that don’t seem like they should go together. Yes, of course, this  can sound a bit strange, like dill pickles and maple syrup. But let’s consider meat and fruit. You might recall some classic dishes, such as turkey with cranberry sauce, lemon pepper chicken, and more. These familiar meat and fruit pairings are delicious, yet the idea of using both fruit and meal in the same dish is undoubtedly a little controversial. You might know that someone who cannot forgive the crime of putting pineapples and ham on pizza.

However, let’s not worry about that….for now.

Intuitively, there are some meat and fruit combinations that  you might not consider  to be perfect flavor companions, but you will find that their sweet and salty relationship does work: fruit adds a sweetness or even tartness to the salty meat. The main challenge with fruit and meat is finding the right combinations. When the right types of fruit and meat are paired with each other, this extra contrasting dimension enhances the flavor and appeal of the dish.

So that brings us full circle back around to pork and strawberries.

Pork comes in many forms and when paired with fruit, the combinations are endless.Traditionally, pork pairs well with fruits like apples, apricots, cranberries, currants, dried cherries, dried figs, mangoes, oranges, peaches, pears, pineapple, plums,  and even quice. But  very few people will intutively think  of  strawberries being paired with pork. The technique of roasting brings out the sweetness in strawberries, making them a delicious accompaniment to spice-rubbed, pan-seared pork chops.This unusual  combination will not only impress yourself  but your family as well.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

For the Strawberries:
1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved widthwise
2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste

For the Pork Chops:
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
Kosher salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
¼ tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
Four  1 ½ – 2 pounds bone-in center cut pork chops
¼ cup fresh mint leaves, for garnish

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment. On prepared pan, toss the strawberries with the shallots, brown sugar, and oil. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Roast 10–12 minutes, until strawberries are soft.

Season on both sides of the pork chops  with salt . To  a small bowl, add  the cumin, coriander, and cayenne. Mix to combine. Rub the seasoning all over the pork chops. Make sure to wash your hands. 

In a large cast iron skillet, add the oil and heat on medium high until the oil is shimmering. Add the pork chops to the skillet and cook 5 minutes per side, until cooked through. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes.

To serve, arrange the pork chops on a platter and ladle the roasted strawberries on top of the chops. Garnish with the mint and enjoy.

 

Hello Friends!

All photographs and content, excepted where noted, are copyright protected. Please do not use these photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this photograph and all other contents, then we kindly ask that you link back to this site. We are eternally grateful and we appreciate your support of this blog.

Thank you so much!