The first time I bought fresh lemongrass, I was a little taken about by its relatively tough exterior and for the longest time I stuck to using the tubed lemongrass paste. I have to confess, it has its convieniences but then again, you cannot keep a fresh freak away from the real deal for too long and last week I succumbed to getting myself a few stalks.
Since then I have been using lemongrass like it us going out of fashion, it is a good thing my husband likes thai food, in fact, to share with you all of my discoveries, I shall be featuring lemongrass as a two part post (maybe not back to back, but close). The best part of lemongrass is that it actually scents the fridge, hey, works much better than baking soda if you ask me.
So, what exactly is lemongrass? It is a stalky evergreen plant, that is a native to Southeast Asia, India, Myanmar, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Australia. I associate it mostly with Thai food, however it is used in the cuisines of all the countries mentioned. Like a lot of other spices, lemongrass has medicinal qualitites most notably considered healing for colds and also supposed to have preventive qualities to heal cancer.
Usually sold in the supermarkets in 2 to 3 long (2 to 3 feet) stalks, it is important to look for lemongrass with plump bulbs because, this is really what is used mostly for cooking. Drier tougher stems result in most of the lemon grass being wasted. So, we essentially remove the tough outer leaves and then remove the top and slice the bulb discarding about 6 inches of the tough stalk. Since, the lemon grass is really usually minced up, it is all about flavor rather than beauty.
This week is a busy week coming up, we have the Indian spring festival of Holi on Wednesday, I did not do a feature here, but if you stop by CIW around Wednesday, I promise to reward you with dessert recipe. After spring break and Easter, I hope some of you might be in the mood for some inspired cooking, please do stop by the Mount Kisco library on Thursday at 6:30 pm, to learn how to use some spices and of course, I will be signing books.
So, onto todays recipe. Unlike the dafodils that seem ready to sprout out of the garden, inspite of the of the cold, I have not been very happy with the cold weather and have been still sticking to comforting stews like this one. Actually, the carrots were dug out of the back yard, amazing how long they last. So, this stew makes for a hearty meal either by itself or with some steamed jasmine rice.
A thai inspired chicken stew that is fresh, fragrant and very comforting. The stew need about 15 minutes of hand-on time and then simmers unattended for the rest of the time.
- 11/2 tablespoons finely chopped lemongrass
- 1 2 inch sized peeled fresh ginger
- 3 red chilies (adjust to heat)
- 1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
- 1/2 cup minced cilantro roots (base with the tips chopped off)
- 3 pods garlic
- Juice of a lime
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (such as grapeseed)
- 3 shallots finely chopped
- 2 pounds skinless chicken, (I used boneless chicken thighs)
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 medium carrots, (peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces)
- 1 medium yukon gold potato (peeled and cut into wedges)
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 3/4 cup coconut milk
- 8 to 10 kafir lime leaves
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro or basil to finish
- Place the lemongrass, ginger, chilies, coriander seeds, minced cilantro roots, garlic pods and lime juice in a blender and blend until smooth. This might need some scraping to get this to work to a smooth consistency and if needed add a little more water.
- Heat the oil and add in the shallots and cook for about 5 minutes, until soft and begining to turn golden.
- Add in the chicken and the fish sauce and saute for another 4 to 5 minutes.
- Stir in the spice paste and cook for 3 more minutes, add in the carrots, potato and the turmeric and mix well. Stir in the coconut milk, lime leaves and about 1 cup water and cover and simmer for about 45 minutes.
- At this point the sauce should be thick and the vegetables and chicken very tender. If desired, discard the lime leaves. Garnish with the cilantro and basil and serve with rice.