30 September 2013

Eats: Thai wonderpot with peanut sauce

The other day at work, I spent about ten minutes enthusing to a co-worker about miracle mac & cheese. In my defense, she’d asked me if I had a good mac & cheese recipe, though I admit she probably didn’t need to me to talk about it quite as much as I did. What I can I say? It is indeed miraculous.

That miracle mac & cheese changed how I feel about cooking pasta and sauce, and it’s what prompted me to try the Italian wonderpot I wrote about a few months ago. It’s just so rewarding to create a pasta dish entirely in one pot, using every bit of the liquid for a thick, flavorful sauce. So of course, when I noticed that same website also provided a recipe for a one-pot Thai wonder with a peanut sauce, I put it on my to-try list as well!

However, instead of following the recipe, I ended up making lots of changes and adding new ingredients. So, now there’s a downside to this one-pot pasta that somewhat negates the “easy”: a super-long list of ingredients. But don’t be intimidated! Almost all the ingredients are things I keep on hand, and they just get dumped in the pot with no special prep. Lots of flavor for a little work!

To start, I added four cups of chicken broth (swap for veggie broth to make this an entirely vegan dish) and a can of light coconut milk to my Dutch oven. Then I added two tablespoons soy sauce, a tablespoon of rice vinegar, and a dash of fish sauce (again, omit for vegan) to make the broth.

Honestly, I added a half-cup of water as well, but it ended up being a bit two much liquid. I’d omit the water if I were to make it again, and maybe even reduce the broth to three-and-a-half cups. Lessons!

Then I stirred in “some” minced garlic, peanut butter, and red curry paste. A tablespoon or so of each should do it – maybe extra peanut butter if you’re nutty like me.

Then I chopped up the veggies: sprouts, celery, spinach, and carrots. Again, it’s an “as much as you want” sort of deal!

I think I used two stalks of celery, about a big carrot’s worth of baby carrots, a small handful of sprouts and a big handful of spinach.

Almost time to get this on the stove! I added a pound of linguine noodles and ONLY the carrots and celery to the pot (save the sprouts and spinach for later).

Now bring it to a boil over medium-heat! If you reduced the volume of liquid as I suggested above, you should probably put a lid on the pot. I found that I needed to boil off the extra liquid, so I left mine uncovered.

While it’s coming to a boil, go ahead and add the rest of the seasonings: red pepper flakes, green onion, and cilantro (I used dried for all). It’ll give the dish the extra kick in the pants!

Oh, and of course, the sun set in the twenty minutes I spent simmering and cooking this dish, so my lighting in the photos went all wonky. Welcome to autumn! Oh, I’m sorry. Tell me again how much you are sooooo excited about your pumpkin spice latte. I was distracted by how the days are shortening at a alarmingly fast rate.

With or without sunlight, simmer that pot until the liquid is almost completely absorbed and the sauce is deliciously creamy:

Mmm! Mine was a bit too soupy, but I’m sure if you cut back the liquid, it’ll be tops.

Just when you’re ready to stop simmering, add the sprouts, the spinach, a tablespoon of lime juice, and a half-cup of dry roasted peanuts.

The heat will wilt and cook the spinach just enough, so you don’t need to add it any sooner. This is also a good opportunity to use up any random leftover vegetables in your fridge. My Thai wonderpot got a few leftover florets of roasted broccoli, as well!

Stir it up and it’s DONE!

I admit, I was worried about this dish the entire time I was making it. It was taking way too long for the liquid to reduce, so I feared my noodles would get overcooked. And I was fretting about the seasoning and whether Mr. P would even like it (especially since it’s hard to improve upon his favorite red curry – why mess with a good thing?). So, I was pleased enough when it turned out okay for dinner. Pretty good, and slightly easier than the standard red curry I make.

But where this dish won me over was in the leftovers. Obviously, Mr. P and I can’t eat a pound of pasta, so there was plenty for me to take for lunch. And holy moly, was it delicious reheated! This might get added to the meal rotation just so I can eat it for lunch every day for a week.

So I hope you give this a try if you want an easy, mostly-vegetarian Thai dish! And... that’s about it, dear readers! No meal plan this week. It’s basically a repeat of last week, owing to my busy busy work week and having leftovers from the previous week’s grocery shopping. So with that, have a happy Monday!