Tuesday, April 13, 2010

thai basil chicken (gai pad krapo)

gai pad krapo
as someone who grew up
deathly - not an exaggeration -
allergic to eggs, it is kind of
weird for me to realize that two
posts in a row, not only involve
eggs, but feature them front and center.

but lest you worry about my
need for benadryl or a hospital
(i was lucky enough
to lose the allergy by college),
my cholesterol (we actually ate these
dinners over a week and a half apart)
or this blog becoming an
egg-obsessed one,

this recipe is all about the tender,
fragrant, basil-laced chicken.

and chicken?
that's not something i speak
so much about. seriously,
the last time i wrote about chicken,
it was july. so, be assured - if i'm
telling you about this recipe, i'm committed.

the egg?
just a coincidence.

i often have restaurant guilt -
not necessarily because it's so bad
to treat yourself to a night out,
but because i often find myself thinking,
isn't a perk of being able to cook
that you don't have to go out to dinner?
yes, there are dishes i'll never have the
desire to try at home, like...
ok, i'll admit that i just had to consult larry.
it just took us five minutes to come up with
something i'd never ever attempt to make.
we landed on shrimp tempura
(i am not a deep fryer, but probably
my arm could be twisted in the
right situation),
a wedding cake (see: name of blog)
and haggis (which i'd also never eat).

ok, i know that even though,
a night out is about much more than
even the food,
like getting out of the house,
not worrying about timing
five different elements of one meal,
my point is this:
i like to try to make new things.
and this:
often it's a much cheaper,
more satisfying experience.

so when i came across this
year-old thai recipe on serious eats,
i was instantly in.
it had everything i need for
a weeknight dinner:
serious flavor,
a better-than-the-restaurant possibility
and a bonus: meat for larry.

and even though
neither of us had ever ordered
gai pad krapo
in a restaurant, i felt
assured that it is something
we could have ordered.

the good news:
this dish was incredibly
restaurant-worthy and
absolutely satisfying.
string beans, trimmed
after some basic prep work:
slicing shallots,
chopping garlic,
mincing two serranos,
trimming and shortening
green beans,
i was ready to go.
sliced shallots, garlic, chopped serranos
sauteed string beans, shallots
as the first three ingredients
sizzled in the skillet,
i got the chicken ready,
pulled out the sugar and
flipped the cap off the fish sauce.

that was kind of it.
basil, ground chicken, string beans
this dish came together simply
and as expected, with one exception.
as the chicken browned -
a very curious thing happened.
the whole mixture turned
a very dark brown,
most closely resembling
ground beef. i fished the
package out of the garbage
to make sure i hadn't made
an accidental purchase, but
no, it said chicken.

when larry walked in a
few minutes later,
he told me that everything
smelled good and then he
looked down at the skillet
and asked, is that beef?
that felt like victory to me.

somewhere in the prep,
i had also gently fried two eggs,
kept an eye on a simmering
saucepot of brown rice and
made a fish sauce-based
dipping sauce, which i'll give
you the recipe to,
but i understand if at this
point you think i've
gone overboard with
fish sauce sauces.
maybe because of

to serve,
my eye traveled back
and forth from plate to bowl.
but, when we sat down to eat,
i was glad for piling the
rice, egg and chicken
on top of each other, rather than assembling
everything onto a plate.
it wasn't so pretty,
but, it tasted like comfort food
and like so many other cozy dishes,
it belonged in an unpretentious bowl.

i turned to larry, curious
what he would think of this
take on takeout.
after his first bite,
he turned to me and said,
this is good. this is really good.
i would order this in a restaurant.
and just like that:
a restaurant dinner at home.
over-easy egg, thai basil chicken, brown rice
thai basil chicken (gai pad krapo)
adapted from serious eats
i doubled the recipe so that we'd have leftovers - but it was one of those running around in a grocery store trying to do math and sometimes failing situations. i upped the shallots from one to three (purposely), only went with two serranos instead of four to six (purposely), upped the sugar by one and half times the original (gladly) and only bought one bunch of basil (accidentally). next time, i will probably add another serrano or two and i will absolutely use more basil. but it's up to you to decide how much you love basil and how much spice you can handle.

instead of placing it all on a plate, i opted to smoosh it all together in one bowl. i started with brown long grain rice, topped it with an over-easy egg and then, the chicken. to me, it made sense to eat them all together, but if you like your food separate, plate it up. also, about that egg, i'm not quite sure why i flipped it...it was good, but sunny-side up would have been, too.

2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3-4 serrano peppers, halved, seeded and finely chopped (you could also use less of red thai chilies if you can find them)
3 large shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
6 large cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2/3 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2" lengths
1 pound ground chicken
1/4 cup fish sauce, plus more if desired
1 tablespoon sugar, plus more if desired
2 bunches basil, leaves only

in wok or large skillet over high heat, heat oil until shimmering. add serranos, shallots and garlic and cook 1 minute, or until nearly golden, stirring constantly. add green beans and cook 3 minutes, or until softened, but still crunchy.

add grown chicken; using wood spoon or spatula, break up the meat into small pieces. cook 5 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through, stirring often.

add fish sauce and sugar to pan; stir to combine. add more fish sauce or sugar, if desired.

add basil leaves; reduce heat to medium-low. cook 1 minute, or until leaves are completely wilted.

you could serve this on its own, but brown rice (or white) and an egg with a runny yolk will make it a complete meal. once it was on the table, we drizzled with the fish sauce mixture, below.

nam pla prik (chili fish sauce)
it almost seems silly to give you yet another fish sauce dipping sauce, but they're all a little different and you never know when you'll stumble upon one that's perfect for you. i left out the chilies, that were supposed to be in this one (but i'm keeping in the recipe), and also added garlic. and this one, really wasn't even a recipe as much as a guideline - which can sometimes be fun. if your finished sauce is too intense, add water.

3 to 4 parts fish sauce
1 to 2 parts lime juice
1 chili, finely chopped (or more)
1 shallot, thinly sliced (or more)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped (or more)

whisk together all ingredients; taste and adjust seasoning.