Thai Red Curry with Chicken and Butternut Squash

This weekend some friends and I migrated over to Savannah (again) for a day of shopping. Of course, we had a good time. Savannah has got to be one of the best cities in the world; it never fails to make me happy. We managed to make it to Fresh Market, where I picked up some much-needed Thai ingredients for making quick curries: green and red curry pastes and fish sauce. Tonight I used the red curry paste to make a curry inspired by several of Nigella Lawson's quick curry recipes. I took her idea of using squash, which initially I thought would take forever to cook, but instead it was tender within 15 minutes. I have been trying to work my way around making Thai curries without the appropriate ingredients for so long I was pleasantly surprised to have a curry that tasted pretty darn close to something I would get at our local Thai restaurant.

Here's something to keep in mind: not all curry pastes are created equally, so if you're shy of spiciness, add a little paste in the beginning and then build upon it until you get it to the desired spiciness. Also, while at the store I found this cool stuff called wok oil, which is great for quick Asian cooking because it's a light-colored oil (and thus can take a lot of heat without smoking) that is flavored with garlic and ginger. It's perfect for when you want to slam together a quick dinner. If you don't have wok oil, just add a little minced garlic and ginger (or galangal, if you can find it) along with the shallot and peppers.

Thai Red Curry with Chicken and Butternut Squash

1 tbsp wok oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 bell pepper, any color or a combination of colors
2 tbsp prepared Thai red curry paste, or to taste
1 lb chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 13.5-oz can lite coconut milk
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 tsp demerara sugar or brown sugar substitute
1 tbsp fish sauce (nam pla)
1 stalk fresh lemongrass (or 1 tsp dried lemongrass)
10 oz butternut squash, peeled and cut into small chunks (optionally, use pumpkin)
1 lime, for garnishing

1. Heat a large pot over medium heat; add the oil and allow it to heat through. Then add the scallion and bell pepper and cook until they are tender. Blend in the curry paste.
2. Add the chicken and stir to coat it with the curry paste. Brown the chicken on all sides, about 2 minutes.
3. Shake the can of coconut milk to combine the solids with the coconut water, then pour over the chicken. Add the broth, sugar, and fish sauce.
4. Take the stalk of lemongrass and bend it to bruise it, then submerge it into the coconut sauce.
5. Submerge the squash pieces into the coconut sauce, then cover the pot with a lid. Allow the curry to cook for about 15 minutes, or until the squash is tender.
6. Once the squash is tender, remove the lid and allow the sauce to evaporate and thicken. Once the sauce has thickened slightly, blend in a little lime juice and check for seasoning. Once the seasonings are to your liking, serve immediately, with rice.

Servings per recipe: 4
Per serving:
Calories: 332
Fat: 14.1 g
Saturated fat: 6.7 g
Cholesterol: 84 mg
Sodium: 857 mg
Carbohydrates: 17.7 g
Fiber: 2.1 g
Sugar: 2.2 g
Protein: 33.8 g

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