I love Curry. Capitalizing the “C” in Curry. That is how much I revere Curry. As a Grad Student in the late 90s, I ate Curry. A lot of Curry. A decade later, I went to India, Thailand, Cambodia, and fell deeply in love with Curry. Something about India — the scents and smells maybe of cooking food everywhere, the sizzling meats, and musky incense — somehow shifted my brain. As cliche as that sounds. But instead spiritual awakening, mine was largely a gastro-awakening, if you will. Shifting my focus to elevate Food to join Wine and Art. Looking back, I think India is where I first started to think I wanted to Cook. Not just knowing a handful of dishes. In India, I started browsing spice markets just to smell, started taking pictures of food, and stopped to *discreetly take notes on how street vendors cooked samosas, meats, and sweets.
*Note: one stands out already as 6’1″ American gal . Openly paying attention to any male stranger was/is a big no-no, especially in India. That said, we traveled with Drag Queens mostly in Thailand and Cambodia so no one paid us much attention as women.
One meal stands out. We were traveling to India for friend Suparna’s cousin’s wedding. On the rooftop of her family’s apartment building, a man cooked a superb meal for 30 people. He had a handful of battered pots and a small flame. He wore sandals and crouched as he cooked. The pots and flame were on the rooftop itself.
The food prepared was marvelous. Simple, clean flavors. Minerally driven fish from the Ganges, flash fried root vegetables, rice, and assorted garnish. I learned to scoop neatly and eat curry by hand at that meal and NOT to ever use my left hand. It is considered “unclean” in that part of the world. That meal and our time in India still brings back memories of warmth and happiness.
Seven years later, I cook curry as much as my perfect husband and two kids can handle. There have been some real misfires is the kitchen. Curry takes timing and precision more than any other culturally based food. But this dish, is pretty much foolproof. Not too spicy for young mouths. Delicious and HEALTHY for those of us adults not wanting to sacrifice flavor for thinner waistlines.
And the best part? You can make in a slow cooker OR in your Dutch Oven.
RED CURRY CHICKEN MEATBALLS
- 1 3/4-2lbs ground chicken
- 2/3-1 cup good bread crumbs
- 5 cloves garlic
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 3-4 limes. You will use the skin of one lime for the Cuisinart. Trick: use a vegetable peeler vs a zester.
- 3-5″ piece of ginger (peeled and coarse chopped) OR 1 fresh lemongrass stalk (rough parts removed and sliced)
- 1/2-1 teaspoon red chili flakes
- 1 small can tomato paste
- 1 15 oz can Coconut milk
- 2 heaping tablespoons Red Thai Chili Paste
- Grapeseed oil
- kosher salt
Preheat Oven to 300’F.
In a small Cuisinart, chop garlic, ginger, lime skins, and half of the cilantro (stalks too). Hand mix ground chicken, pinch of salt, breadcrumbs, red pepper flakes (to taste), and this garlic/herb mixture in a clean bowl.
Next, roll out meatballs the size of large walnuts. Place on a clean plate and heat 3-4 tablespoons of Grapeseed oil in a wok (nonstick ideally).
Working in batches, generally brown the meatballs. Each batch will take a few minutes. Add oil when necessary and use a lid to protect yourself from any hot splatter.
On the last batch of meatballs? Stage your sauce ingredients. Shake and open the Coconut milk. Open the tomato paste and have spoon ready. Same for the Thai paste.
When the last of the chicken meatballs are finished, quickly add the entire can of tomato paste and 2-3 heaping tablespoons of Thai Paste to the hot oil. Stir Stir Stir Stir to thoroughly mix the pastes together. Keep stirring for about a minute or so to “brown” the pastes — the paste will start to look darker and smell stronger.
Add Coconut Milk and keep stirring to combine the pastes and milk entirely.
Once Sauce is mixed, pour over all meatballs. Use a spatula to scrape all sauce from the pan and smooth over meatballs.
Cover and cook for 3 hours at 300’F. Sauce will condense around each ball as the chicken cooks. If you are using a Slow Cooker, cook on Low for 6 hours or High for 3 hours.
Serve immediately garnished with 3-4 wedges of fresh lime per plate and chopped cilantro. My kids like this with Basmati Rice made with butter and coconut milk. Dean and I opt for carb-free version of this dish and simply serve the meatballs. Feeds a family of four or six.