Cooking with the Chili Pepper
There are certain truths in my culinary history for which I am admittedly sheepish. For example, before last week, I had never attempted to cook with a hot chili pepper. Growing up in an Irish family on the Midwestern plains of corn (yep, I’m from Indiana, a Hoosier if you will), chili peppers never figured highly in my kitchen experience. But, I love spicy food and have since educated myself on the health benefits of chili peppers and the relative capsaicin levels (the heat culprit) in the different varieties of chili pepper. With this knowledge, I was finally ready to cook Fish Masala last week.
In my inaugural tryst with the hot chili pepper, I was certainly timid. I did not want my Masala to be tear-your-head-off HOT, so I went for a nice Serrano pepper, just below Thai and
Sadly, the Fish Masala did NOT work. I was impressed by the pungent smell of the spices that filled my apartment during cooking, but in the end, it could have used more heat. Next time, the seeds stay in. Although, I think the greater obstacle to the success of this dish was the fish itself. Tilapia or Sea Bass seem to work well with the flavors of Indian and Thai cooking. I used Kingfish, which may very well be better suited to a proper grilling. My friend Adam’s summation of the recipe was this, “Eh, just use chicken.” Agreed.
6-7 chicken breast fillets
60g (2oz.) ghee
Coconut Curry Sauce:
30g (1oz) ghee
2 onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 stem lemon grass, chopped finely
2-3 small red chilies, finely chopped
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cardamom
2 tsp. curry powder
340ml can coconut milk
Melt ghee in pan, add chicken, fry gently until golden brown and tender; drain, slice. Serve topped with coconut curry sauce. For sauce, melt ghee in pan, add onions, garlic and lemon grass, sauté until onions are soft. Add chilies, cinnamon, cardamom and curry. Cook, stirring, about a minute. Stir in coconut milk and simmer, uncovered 5 minutes. Remove from heat, blend or process until smooth, strain and reheat.