When I was in the third grade, I thought to myself, “I better start thinking about what I want to do when I’m older.” At that tender age, I already adopted the fear of being uncertain about a career path. I was such a strange kid. In the fourth grade, I sat my mom down at the kitchen table and inundated her with questions about our family’s finances. I wanted to know how much our house and cars cost and how much we spent on bills every month. I was trying to figure out how much I needed to make to maintain a “normal” lifestyle. That same night, I estimated my future salaries and budgeted my finances for the next twenty years. True story.
This aberrant behavior has mostly helped me in life, but sure, there have been times when it bit me in butt.
Nowadays, I find myself taking mental notes on wisdom I want to pass on to my children. There are some skills, manners, and attitudes that I hope they’ll adopt (being kind and empathetic are at top of my list). So here I go again, thinking 100,000 steps ahead, because kids are currently low on my “to do” list. I have many things I want to do (make french macarons, pad kee mao, and chocolate souffles to just name a few), and many places I want to visit before kids!
There’s no denying I am getting a little older, and I am starting worry about things I once thought only parents could worry about. My little sister, for example, was home on Spring Break and was out late the other night. My mom texted me, told me Annie wasn’t home yet, and asked me to contact her. When I got no answer from my sister, my mind went racing. It turned out that she just “forgot” and didn’t hear her phone ring when I called – I invented that line! I gave her an earful about worrying my parents and me. I realized that I had to disabuse her of the notion that she was the only one to worry the parents. And like that, I received my first karmic retribution. After all of those years of “forgetting” to let my parents know about my whereabouts, it was about time I got a taste of my own medicine. Parenthood is going to be fun, isn’t it?
Back to focusing on the present – spring is here! Long gone are the days of down jackets, runny noses, and bruises from slipping on ice. It’s finally starting to feel like spring, or a normal day in California. Lawns are growing their hair out. Runners and bikers are on the road. Ice cream is making its way back on my weekly grocery shopping list…who am I kidding? It’s on my list (and constantly stocked in my freezer) all year long. And rumor has it, the ephemeral ramp will soon be appearing at farmers’ markets. This is the year that I will get my hands on some!
While I wait for ramps to come into my life, I have been using a lot of basil – Thai basil. The sweet smell is so intoxicating – I would put some by my nightstand if I didn’t need it for my panang chicken curry.
I am never not in the mood for Thai food. If my fridge was always stocked with ingredients for my favorite Thai dishes, I would probably only ever make Thai food. Well, no – that’s probably not true, but I’d make it pretty often! My recipe is adapted from Saveur’s Panang Chicken Curry and the changes I made were inspired by my favorite Thai restaurant’s (Thai Canteen in Davis, CA) panang curry. I love the soft bell peppers in this dish, which melt in your mouth. Kaffir lime leaves are often used in Thai curries, but they are like a golden ticket – impossible to find in Boston. As a substitute, I add fresh lime juice, which gives the curry a nice tang and a lovely fresh taste. The first step is browning the chicken to lock in the juices, and the steps that follow are just as easy. This dish is actually a very easy one-pot meal. It’s truly perfect for any night, especially if you’re like me and an aficionado of Thai cuisine.
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1½ pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced into bite-size pieces
- 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into thin strips
- 1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and sliced into thin strips
- 2 cups coconut milk
- ¼ cup Panang curry paste
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce
- 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1½ tablespoons corn startch
- 6 sprigs thai basil
- In a dutch oven or large pot, heat the oil up over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, season with salt and pepper, and stir constantly. Cook until no longer pink, about 5 minutes, then plate, and set aside.
- Add the bell peppers, and cook until soft, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Plate and set aside.
- Reduce the heat to medium, then add the coconut milk and curry paste. Bring to a simmer, and stir until incorporated.
- Add the fish sauce, brown sugar, chicken stock, lime juice, and cornstarch, then return the chicken and bell peppers to the pot. Simmer over medium-low heat for another 15 minutes, then remove from the heat. Garnish with thai basil leaves, and serve with rice.