Red Curry Peanut Sauce

Red Curry Peanut SauceThere are few things that do not taste better with this sauce on them.  It is quite spicy and will induce a little bit of sweat while you are eating it, but it is generally not unpleasantly hot.  This is the classic peanut sauce to serve with Chicken Sateh.  It is richly flavored and would be overly sweet if it weren’t for the tamarind, which adds a fantastic tart flavor that pulls it back from the brink.

DSC_0001There are a couple of things worth noting about this recipe.  There is not much complicated about the technique here, but the ingredients that you use matter.  If you don’t do much Thai cooking, you may not be familiar with the concept of curry paste.  When you say the work “curry” in teh context of Thai cooking, this is the stuff that you are talking about.  Rather than the yellow powder that you buy in a jar, curry paste is a complex blend of chilies, garlic, shallots, lemon grass, galangal, lime leaves/rind, and other spices.  Fortunately, it comes in a plastic tub so you don’t have to make it yourself.  Mae Ploy is the brand I use and it is available in most asian grocery stores.  If you can’t find it, drop me a line and I can explain how to make it from scratch…. 

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Harissa – Sauce of Opportunity

HarissaHarissa is a term that covers a variety of chili-based condiments originating in North Africa.  Because I am not a food historian or any form of authority on what goes on in North Africa, I am going to discuss this sauce in purely practical terms.  The reality is that this stuff is tasty and versatile enough that we, generally, try to keep a jar or two of it in the refrigerator at all times.  It has deep, complex smoky flavor, musky overtones, and varies widely in the amount of heat that it brings to the table.  The batch that we are currently working through is actually quite mild in the heat department.  Sure, you could blow your sauce out with heat from the chilies, but I think that the complex interplay of the spices, the chilies, and final notes of citrus are more interesting.

Which brings me to another thing that I love about harissa; it is very much adaptable to individual taste and style of cooking.  If you start with someone else’s base recipe, you will find within about two batches that you have successfully altered it to match your own perception of how it should taste.  This is a situation where you should really listen to your instincts with respect to the proportion and amount of each ingredient.  Let’s take a closer look at how this sauce is built…. 

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