Monday, June 23, 2014

Thai Bolognese

In a three day period, Mr Minx and I dined at Bobby Flay's new restaurant, Gato, had a 7-course lunch at Le Bernardin, another multi-course lunch at Ma Peche, and dinner at Harold Dieterle's Kin Shop. With all of that good food behind us, it was hard to come home to a fridge full of nothing. Right away we went to the grocery store to stock up on fresh veggies and dinner fixins. I figured a spicy Asian-style meal would be a good segue from fancy NY food to home cooking, and the first night home whipped up a pasta sauce that was part laab, part Bolognese.

I wanted to use ground pork, but the store we visited had none. Instead, I used ground turkey and made sure to season it well to get rid of, well, the turkey flavor. There's always an assortment of Asian condiments in the fridge (miso, gochujang, hoisin, chili bean paste) so I combined my favorite Thai chilli with basil paste and red curry paste, plus lots of fish sauce, lime juice, and coconut milk powder to make a richly flavored yet light sauce. You could use liquid coconut milk, but I find it doesn't keep well if you don't use the whole can right away. Instead, I always have packets of dried coconut milk so I can use a little or a lot and then store the rest in a zip-top bag in the cupboard.

While the dish wasn't Kin Shop-worthy, it was still pretty darn delicious.

Thai "Bolognese" Sauce

1/2 large onion, chopped
Vegetable oil
The innermost leaves of 1 stalk of lemongrass, bashed with the side of a knife and minced
1 lb ground turkey or pork
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tablespoon Thai chilli basil paste (Maesri brand)
1 tablespoon red curry paste (Thai Kitchen)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
4 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons coconut powder
1/4 cup water
Juice of half a lime
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
Chopped cilantro
Thai basil
Chopped scallions
Fresh mint

Cook onion in vegetable oil over medium high heat until translucent. Add lemongrass and ground meat, breaking up meat with wooden spoon. Cook, stirring constantly, until meat is mostly cooked through and beginning to brown. Stir in garlic, chilli basil and red curry pastes, and 1 tablespoon of the fish sauce.

Combine the coconut powder, water, and lime juice in a bowl. Pour over meat mixture in pan and stir well. Add sugar and remaining fish sauce. Turn heat to low. Cook mixture until ground meat doesn't taste strongly of turkey or pork but has taken on the flavors of the pastes and fish sauce, 5-10 minutes.

Serve over pasta or rice, garnished with plenty of fresh herbs and scallions. Alternately, you can chill the mixture and eat it like laab (Thai ground meat salad), rolled in fresh lettuce leaves.

Serves 4-6.

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