Tuesday, February 10, 2015

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If there is one consistent theme throughout this blog, it's that I am far too lazy for my own good. If there are two consistent themes throughout this blog, it's that I am far too lazy for my own good and I have a serious curry habit.

No matter where I go, one of my first goals is to find the place that serves the best curry. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail miserably. The AUH has no shortage of curry possibilities thanks to the massive number of South Asian people living and working here. Still, as the saying goes, if you want something done right, sometimes you have to do it yourself. It's taken months of experimenting and a few notable failures, but I think I've hit upon a good, basic curry rice recipe that is both tasty on its own and leaves the cook options to improvise or enhance where desired.

The recipe is below the fold. As far as I can tell, it's vegetarian- and vegan-friendly. If I'm wrong, vegan friends, please let me know in the comments and I will adjust as necessary.

The traditional approach to Japanese curry rice involves beef, but I'm not convinced that's entirely necessary. That's partly because the dish tastes just fine without any meat at all, and perhaps partly because not springing for beef appeals to my cheap and lazy instincts. This recipe can stand on its own, but if you want to include beef, chicken or another source of protein, you can easily do that without too much effort.

2 medium onions, diced
2 medium potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 carrots -- you can cut whole carrots into medallions, but I prefer to buy two regular-size bags of baby carrots and halve each carrot
2 apples, cut into bite-sized pieces (optional) -- Fuji apples are best as they're more tart and hold their shape better when cooked
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 450g bag of frozen peas
2.5 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3.67 cups of vegetable broth -- feel free to substitute beef or chicken broth, if you prefer
Soy sauce
Bulldog sauce -- Worcestershire sauce will do if you can't find Bulldog sauce
1 block of curry roux

You should be able to find some variety of curry roux at your local supermarket. If the Hy-Vee in Papillion has it, most any store with an Asian or ethnic food section should. House and Vermont are popular brands, but the one I happen across the most is Golden Curry. Choose according to your personal spice tolerance; just know that Japanese curry is much milder than, say, Indian or Thai curries.

1. If you're like me and don't want too many plates spinning when it comes to cooking, make your broth first and set it aside for later. If you have a bag or box of pre-made broth, feel free to ignore this step. Also, if you prefer to keep things orderly, set up your ingredients in an assembly line so you know what should be added when.

2. Get a large pot or Dutch oven and place it on the stovetop, setting the burner to high. You'll know it's hot enough when a drop of water skitters on the surface rather than vaporizes.

3. Pour in just enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom of the pot -- we're going to be sauteeing, not deep frying. If you're going to use beef, this is when you should brown it before removing it to a plate to rest. If you're not using beef, move on to...

4. Drop in the diced onions and sautee them for 7 to 9 minutes or until the onions are translucent and fragrant. Make sure to stir the onions and keep them moving so they all cook properly.

5. Add the carrots to the onions and sautee for about 5 minutes, again keeping everything moving.

6. Add the garlic and curry powder and sautee for 1 minute.

7. Everything else joins the party. Add the potatoes, peas, broth, apples and curry roux to the mix. Your beef, prawns, tofu, shredded chicken or other protein source should also go in at this point. Lastly, pour in the ketchup, soy sauce and Bulldog sauce -- 2 tbsp should do the trick, but go ahead and eyeball it and/or adjust to your taste.

8. Stir to combine, pop on the lid and reduce the heat to low. Let the mixture simmer for 30 minutes before removing from the heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately over freshly cooked rice or divide the curry into batches and stow them in the fridge for future consumption.

That will get you a curry that's flavorful enough for everyone yet mild enough to satisfy less-adventurous eaters. If you want to ramp up the spice and savoriness, leave out the apples and Bulldog sauce and instead add Sriracha (far left in the above photo) or your preferred hot sauce.

There you have it -- my go-to recipe, approved by family and co-workers alike. It's a little more involved than your usual slow-cooker recipe, but the extra time and effort are worth it. Curry rice is perfect for warming up on a cold, winter day or just as comfort food in general. If you give this recipe a try, or if you have your own go-to recipe, let me know in the comments below.

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