Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Red Curry Coconut Halibut in Banana Leaves

I feel so exotic! I've never used banana leaves before, and they're fun to work with. We found them, and the red curry paste, at a tiny Asian market. The coconut curry sauce is very versatile; you can make it hotter or milder to taste. If you can't find banana leaves, just broil or pan fry the fish and pour the sauce over the fillets with a wedge of lime and sliced pineapple on the side. We had it with Mango Cucumber Basil Salad

Serves 3-4 but the sauce makes enough for 6, so you can easily increase the quantities of fish, lime & pineapple for more people. You can also use the sauce to make a chicken dish - see end of recipe.

1 lb halibut, haddock, or any firm white fish, cut into 4 equal size pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 banana leaves, thawed (they come frozen in packages of 4-6, just put the rest back in the freezer)
1 T fresh ginger, sliced paper thin
1 med shallot, sliced paper thin
2-3 tsp coconut oil
1/2 c whole organic coconut milk
1/4 - 1/2 tsp red curry paste (I used Maesri brand "Kaeng Kua Curry Paste")
1 tsp curry powder (mild or Madras)
4 paper thin slices lime
4 thin slices pineapple

Optional: dab of raw honey

Steam basket large enough to hold the fish packages.

Pat the fish dry with paper towels and season one side with salt & pepper. In a small saucepan over medium heat, saute the ginger and shallots until soft but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the curry paste, curry powder, and coconut milk.

Note: I'm not a fan of super spicy food, so I used 1/4 tsp red curry paste and mild curry powder, especially since this was an experiment. However, the red curry had SO much delicious flavor, next time I'm going to use 1/2 tsp, doubling the heat, but will keep the curry powder mild. If you are going to make yours extra hot, say using Madras curry as well, add a dab of raw honey. The sweetness will offset the heat.

Stir to combine and set aside to cool.

Now for the fun part: the banana leaves are huge, at least 5 feet long. From the center (widest) part of the leaves, using a pair of kitchen scissors, cut 4 squares about 12" long. I got 3 squares from 1 leaf. You want the square to be big enough to fold over the top of the fillet and then tuck the sides under. Rinse the squares under cool running water and pat dry.

Bring your steaming water to a boil in a pot on the stove while you:

Lay the banana leaves out on the counter & put a fish piece in the center of each banana leaf. Put a slice of pineapple on each fish and spoon a generous amount of sauce over the top, dividing the shallots and ginger evenly. You'll have some sauce left over, but if you are serving 6, you'll use it all up. Top with 1 slice of lime. The picture shows 2 slices of lime. Two slices threw the flavor proportions off balance; the ones I did with 1 slice were perfect, but I didn't take a picture of them. (Click on any photo for a closer view.)

As you look at the picture above: wrap the left and right sides of the leaf over the fish and tuck the top and bottom sides under. Place the packages in the steam basket, alternating the direction of each layer.

Put the lid on the pot and steam for 10 minutes. Use tongs to remove the fish to plates. Jeff had his over jasmine rice, so you don't get to see that picture, LOL (no grains allowed!) I just put mine on my plate and folded the sides of the leaf in, like this:

By the way, we both tried one fillet topped with fresh basil and one without. As much as we both love basil, and it's such a staple in Thai cuisine, we agreed it was better without.

Ok, now for the chicken option:
Follow the instructions above for making the sauce, but increase the amount of coconut milk to 1 cup,  the red curry paste to 1/2 tsp, and the curry powder to 2 tsp. Add 2-3 c cooked, shredded chicken (at least room temperature, not cold!) to the sauce and stir to coat. Taste for salt & pepper. Bring to a high simmer, remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes so the chicken absorbs all the lovely flavors. Serve as you would if you broiled the fish, with wedges of lime and sliced pineapple on the side.

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