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Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Red Curry Chicken with Butternut Squash Noodles

You sometimes have to be really adaptable when you cook. Cooking, like life, sometimes just doesn't go as planned. Ingredients mysteriously disappear, or spoil seemingly overnight. Plans change at the last minute and the meal you thought you had an hour to prepare needs to be on the table in 30 minutes flat, or you find a key ingredient that you planned to pick up after work is suddenly not available. Take tonight's dinner for instance. I had some skinless boneless thighs from a new poultry supplier at work called Blue Goose, (amazing company by the way, worth checking out, the chicken was awesome!) I was intending to use these lovely chicken thighs in a green chicken curry, to top some zucchini noodles made with my spiral slicer. But, there were no lovely little zucchinis gracing the shelves at work today in our produce department. I ran thru a bunch of alternatives, but had no inspiration until I walked by the display of beautiful organic butternut squash. If you can spiral slice a green summer squash, why not an orange winter one?? The texture seemed like it would go, but it added a new dilemma. The green curry that I had originally planned just didn't seem to match this squash, flavour wise, so my whole entire recipe had to change on the fly. The green curry became red, and the creamy coconut sauce with fresh basil suddenly became a wonderfully spicy and fresh coconut and tomato sauce. I threw in some baby organic spinach on a last minute whim, and this amazing dish was born. It is guaranteed to be a repeat, it was absolutely delicious. 
I guess the moral of the story is, don't stress it, and go with the flow. Like life, cooking is much better when you can relax and enjoy it. Be prepared for a little bit of improv, and you just might be pleasantly surprised!

Butternut squash noodles are the perfect base for a recipe like this. They added just a touch of sweetness and held up incredibly well, as well as being seriously easy to prepare. I can’t wait to see what else I can do with them!  I apologize for the lack of pictures with this post, but I promise to come back and add a picture the next time I spiral a butternut squash.

Red Curry Chicken with Butternut Squash Noodles

12 Skinless Boneless Organic Chicken Thighs (try Blue Goose)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp butter (or sub another tbsp coconut oil)
½ of a 400 ml can full fat coconut milk (shake to mix)
1 large red onion, cut in a fairly large dice.
2-4 tsp red curry paste (I use Thai Kitchen)
½ cup water
1 796 ml can diced organic tomatoes
4 cups baby spinach, lightly packed
Salt and pepper to taste

Squash Noodles:
1 medium organic butternut squash
1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
Salt to taste.

To prepare the squash noodles:
Cut the bulb end off the squash (the end that contains the seeds) and reserve for another use if desired. Cut the stem end off, and with a sharp knife or vegetable peeler remove all of the skin. Slice in half lengthwise, and cut into noodles on the spiral slicer, or with a mandolin.
Spread cut noodles out on a large pan with sides, like a jelly roll pan.  Drizzle with the melted coconut oil, sprinkle with salt and toss lightly to coat.
Preheat oven to 400F and set noodles aside. (do not cook yet!!)

To prepare the chicken:
In a large cast iron pan, heat the butter and coconut oil till bubbly over medium high heat. Add the chicken, Season with salt and pepper, and cook, in batches if necessary, until just nicely starting to brown, turning pieces as they cook. (They do not need to be cooked right thru at this point, almost-done is fine because they will finish cooking in the sauce at the end, and will only hang around for a wee bit before going back in.) Turn the pan down to low and leave it on the burner.  Remove the chicken pieces to a cutting board when nicely browned, and carefully but quickly cut into bite sized chunks. Place in a bowl to catch any juices, and set aside for a minute.
Your oven should be preheated by now, so throw in the squash noodles, and put a timer on for 9 minutes. If they finish before the next step is complete, just turn off the oven and leave them in, they should be done around close to the same time.
Turn your pan back up to medium high, add the diced onion, and the red curry paste. Sauté until the onion is starting to soften and brown slightly, 3-4 minutes. Add the can of diced tomatoes and the water, and stir in, scraping all the browned bits off the bottom of the pan as you go. Add the coconut milk, stir well, and add in the chunks of chicken and any accumulated juices. Stir well, bring to a boil and simmer until the chicken is cooked thru and the sauce has reduced and thickened slightly, 5-6 minutes.  Add the spinach and stir in until it is wilty. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary.

Remove the noodles from the oven, place in individual bowls and top with chicken curry mixture. It should serve 5 or 6 hungry people!

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