hot curry on a cold night: simple green curry with shrimp, potatoes, green beans, and red pepper

I love the sudden stillness that blankets the city before an evening snow.  In the hours before the flakes even begin to make their blustery descent their forthcoming presence is well known.  The streets grow quiet as the sun ducks behind the reaches of the Hudson, warm light spills out of windows onto the sidewalk, and occasionally you catch the smell of a wood fire rising out of an old chimney.  It’s this time – more so than any other – that makes me want to hunker down in my warm little abode with a glass of cab, a warm and steamy bowl of something delicious for dinner, and the person (and pooch) I love.

We’ve had quite a few of these days here in the Northeast – as has just about the rest of the country it seems.  2011 is off to a blustery *frigid* start and the perfect thing to take the sub-zero chill off is a big bowl of this spicy shrimp curry.  The gentle heat of curry paste and the creaminess of the coconut milk come together to create the most delicious and fragrant broth that warms from the inside and fills you up wonderfully.  I absolutely love it.

The veggies are cooked just barely through to maintain a slight crunch, and the shrimp are added in at the very end to simmer oh-so-gently until they are sweet, succulent, and tender.  The toasty smell of the curry paste will make your house smell warm and inviting, and it gets major brownie points in my book for dirtying only one pan and coming together in about 45 minutes….so you can spend less time slaving over dishes, and more time snuggling under a cozy blanket waiting for those flakes to make their appearance.

Shrimp & Vegetable Curry over Jasmine Rice
My Own Recipe
Serves 2 with leftovers

The key to this dish is the curry powder/paste combo – it gives a depth of flavor that you just cannot get from one or the other alone.  Buy the largest fresh (shell on) shrimp available, and if possible find some with the heads still attached (I don’t know what’s with the general aversion to seafood-con-cabezas, but I love it – there’s a boatload of flavor in ‘dem heads!).  The shells add another layer of sweet flavor to the broth and look gorgeously pink and bright when piled atop the plate.

You can find curry paste in the Thai section of your supermarket, or easily on a site like Amazon.  The vegetable portion of this is where I get unscientific….use as many as you like (I think an eggplant would be nice, added in with the potatoes), tweaking and substituting for your tastes.

1 lb large shrimp (for me, this is about 10 large whole shrimp, with heads on, or 20 small to midsized)
2 – 14oz cans coconut milk (I generally use light)
2 Tbsp curry paste
Two handfuls fingerling potatoes, sliced into rounds
One large handful haricot vert (skinny green beans), trimmed and cut in half
One red pepper, sliced into strips and then cut in half
1 ½ Tbsp grated ginger (about a 1.5” long piece) grated or finely minced
3 cloves of garlic, grated or finely minced
Bunch cilantro (about ¾ cup), roughly chopped
Salt to taste
Olive oil

For Rice:
1 cup Basmati Rice
1.5 cups water

Make the rice – put the rice and water in a saucepan (that has a lid) and bring to a boil over high heat.  Let the water boil down just below where the rice is in the pot, then cover with the lid, and turn the heat down to low.  Let simmer for 20 minutes, then turn off the heat.  Keep the lid on the pot to keep the rice warm while you prepare the curry.

Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large wok or heavy bottomed pan over medium heat and gently fry the minced garlic and ginger until it’s golden and fragrant.   Add the curry paste and whisk until it is combined well with the garlic and ginger. While whisking continuously (to avoid clumps), add in both cans of coconut milk.  Mix until there are no clumps and the broth is a nice light green color.

Bring the broth just barely to a boil over medium heat, and add the sliced fingerlings.  Cook the potatoes for about 10 minutes, until they are just barely fork tender.

While the potatoes cook, peel and devein the shrimp.  If using whole shrimp, keep the heads and tails attached, but remove the thin shell covering the body.  When the potatoes are just barely tender, add the cut green beans and sliced red pepper, and simmer for 5 minutes.

When the veggies are crisp tender, add the shrimp.  Make sure they are all submerged in the broth, and flip each one after about 3 minutes to ensure even cooking.  Simmer until the shrimp are just cooked through, about 4-5 minutes.  They should be just opaque all the way through, and the shells/tails should be a bright pink color.  Take the curry off the heat and stir in the roughly chopped cilantro.

Spoon the curry over the basmati rice to serve, ladling in plenty of the broth and vegetables.  Top with the shrimp, and marvel at all that steamy goodness that came from one pot.

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