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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Why Bother? 2012 - Coconut Milk & Thai Chili Sauce

I have been having pretty good luck with the challenges so far this year.  Most of the items on my list, I would probably make again.  Some of them I already have duplicated.  This time I can say with absolute certainty, I will never make coconut milk again.  I'm going to stock up on cans of coconut milk and coconut cream and never look back.  Why am I so certain?  Let me walk you through the process I went through to get 2 cups of coconut milk.

Since boyfriend and I were going out of town last weekend, I decided to make my coconut milk before we left.  We tried Whole Foods and only were able to locate young coconuts.  The flesh of a young coconut isn't what I needed to make coconut milk.  We stopped at Pathmark and surprisingly came home with two, whole coconuts!

I brought my coconuts home and drained the coconut water out.  It looked a little cloudy, but I've never done this before, so who knows what to expect!  I took out my favorite hammer and pounded on the coconut until it cracked open to reveal...  rotten, moldy coconut flesh.  It was gross.  Luckily I had gotten two coconuts at the grocery store!  I drained the second one, cracked it in two and discovered... a second rotten coconut!  Pathmark must have gotten a bad batch.

This sad turn of events meant that I was going to be making coconut water in Buffalo.  Thankfully, Buffalo is home to Wegmans and Wegmans stocks coconuts.  As a lifelong fan of Wegmans, I knew that they would not disappoint and sell me rotten coconuts.  My parents were a bit confused as to why I was making coconut milk when they sell it in every grocery store.  After three hours, I would be asking myself the same question.

Draining and opening the coconuts was the easy part.  Although my dad wondered what all the noise was about and I scared the dogs out of the kitchen.  When it came to prying the flesh out of the shell, I got a little frustrated.  Videos on youtube suggested keeping the shell whole of prying out the flesh with a knife, while others told me to break the shell into smaller pieces, then remove the flesh.  All I can tell you is, it took me over an hour to remove all of the coconut meat from the shell.

After the meat was freed, I spent the next hour and a half peeling the brown skin from the while flesh.  After spending all this time trying to get clean coconut meat, there was no way I was going to hand grate it.  The food processor was put into action and I finally was able to make my coconut milk.  Once the coconut is freed and grated, it's easy to make the milk.  Just a little boiling water and ten minutes time and it was done.  Took long enough!

One Year Ago: Italian Sweet and Sour Chicken
Two Years Ago: Raspberry-Peach Jam, Blackberry Jam, Chilled Asparagus Salad, Fusili with Walnut Pesto, Peanut Butter Pancakes

Coconut Cream & Coconut Milk

I wish that I had either a coconut grater or a coconut tool.  I just couldn't justify spending the money of specialty coconut tools for this single challenge.  Either tool would have saved me a lot of time!  Maybe next time I'm in Thailand I'll get myself one of those coconut grating stool set-ups.

1 coconut

Punch two holes in the top of your coconut with a hammer and screwdriver.  Drain coconut water into a glass.  If you want to drink it, be sure to strain it first.  I tried the water, I will not be buying coconut water in the future.

Hold the coconut in one hand.  Using a hammer, tap around the circumference of the coconut until it breaks open.  You might have to use some force!  Pry the coconut flesh from the shell with a knife or special coconut tool.  Using a vegetable peeler, remove the brown skin from the coconut flesh.

Either grate coconut flesh with a box grater, or finely chop it up in a food processor.

Place coconut in a large bowl.  Add 1/2 cup hot water and allow to steep for 5 minutes.  Pour liquid and coconut solids into a strainer, lined with muslin, set over a bowl.  Let coconut milk drain.  Gather the muslin into a ball and squeeze out the remaining liquid.  This is your coconut cream.

Return coconut to the bowl and add 1 cup hot water.  Let steep for 5 more minutes.  Drain and collect the liquid.  Squeeze out remaining liquid from the coconut.  This is your coconut milk.

Sweet Chili Sauce

I used smaller, red chili peppers.  If you can find long, red Thai chili peppers, you can use those in this recipe.  The sauce has a sweet, yet hot flavor.

7 red chili peppers
3/4 cup white vinegar
8 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Remove the seeds and stem from the pepper.  Using a food processor or mortar and pestle, pulverize peppers until a paste.

Combine vinegar, sugar and salt in a small pot.  Bring to a boil over high heat then reduce to medium.  Allow vinegar mixture to bubble for 20 minutes, until it becomes a thick paste.  Add pepper paste and stir to combine.  Cook for another 2 minutes, then pour into a bowl.

Thai Green Curry
Adapted from The Food of Thailand

This recipe calls for a bunch of unusual items that might be a little difficult to source.  My green curry paste and Kaffir lime leaves came directly from Thailand as souvenirs from my visit last fall.  The palm sugar came from a well-stocked place in midtown Manhattan called Kalustyan's.  If you are short on Asian markets in your area and aren't planning a trip to Thailand anytime soon, the internet is your friend.

1/4 cup coconut cream
2 tbsp green curry paste
1/2 lb chicken breast tenders, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 3/4 cup coconut milk
2 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp palm sugar
2 cups green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 tbsp fresh, minced ginger
7 Kaffir lime leaves

Heat coconut cream over medium heat in a large skillet with high sides, until it bubbles up.  Add green curry paste and stir until combined and fragrant.  Add chicken to the skillet and stir.  Cook for 7-8 minutes until chicken is no longer opaque.

Add coconut milk, fish sauce and palm sugar.  Stir to combine and pick up all of the curry paste off of the bottom of the pan.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.  Add green beans and carrots and cover with a lid.  Cook for 5 minutes.  Add ginger and kaffir lime leaves.  Let bubble for 2 more minutes.

Transfer to a serving dish and serve over brown rice with chili sauce.
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