On the menu: Thai Chicken Curry with Potatoes
I feel that I may have misrepresented myself the last time I wrote. Yes, things are cray right now. But they’re also really good. I published my last post after writing a few iterations that I couldn’t stand. I was frustrated and out of words. I’d like to try again.
During the first three semesters of my PhD program, I was constantly looking for other professional opportunities. I never wanted my PhD. I knew early in my college career that I was going to need a Master’s, and I knew then that there would be no more school after that. I mean, seriously. I can’t throw down with the big guys. I’m just little old me, with a simple mind and simple wants. I want to work. I want to have a family. I want to watch shitty TV every night and not feel bad about not doing homework or reading the latest research papers. I don’t want to push the limits of my brain to their maximum, and then keep pushing.
Last fall I applied for my dream job. I wanted so badly to quit school before it was too late and start doing something every day I was truly passionate about. The opportunity was perfect. It was near the town we moved to last May, so my weeks on someone else’s couch would come to an end. I had an in: I had worked for them before. They knew me. But my professional experience was too limited, and in the end I was passed over. It was a soul-crushing blow. I spent the rest of the semester wallowing in my failures and dreading the challenges ahead.
Well, those challenges are upon me. 2014 will be the year I present my dissertation proposal and take my qualifying comprehensive exams. And I’m not sure exactly how it happened, but somehow I’ve really gotten into this being a doctoral student thing. My thoughts have drifted from “What am I going to cook for the blog this week?” to “How much programming can I finish before dinner?” It’s absurd. I think a lot about my professional identity; how to market myself as a future person with a PhD, what my career opportunities might be, and most importantly, what I should be doing now to get there.
I’ve been making serious effort to improve my biggest weaknesses: productivity, time management, and casual discussion of my work. The improvements I’ve made in just 8 weeks are nothing short of remarkable. It’s not all been great: I’m still recovering from making a complete dumbass of myself to some really important people a few weeks ago. But it’s a learning process, and holy shit, I’m learning. Some days I read so much I swear I can feel my brain expanding to fit all that new information in. Yes, there are still those frustrating moments where I can’t remember things, but all in all, I’m totally thrilled with what I’m doing. So I’m just going to keep on doing it.
Thai Chicken Curry with Potatoes
adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, March-April 2014
For the curry paste:
6 dried New Mexican chiles
4 shallots, unpeeled
7 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1/2 cup chopped fresh ginger
1/4 cup water
4 1/2 teaspoons lime juice
4 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon five spice powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
For the curry:
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 1/4 cups unsalted chicken stock
1 13.5 oz can coconut milk
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 onion, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 teaspoons grated lime zest
chopped fresh cilantro, for serving
Jasmine rice, for serving
For the curry paste:
Heat oven to 350ºF. Place chiles on a baking sheet and roast until puffed and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Transfer chiles to a plate and let cool.
Preheat the broiler. Line the baking sheet with aluminum foil and arrange unpeeled shallots and garlic on it. Broil on the middle oven rack for 8 minutes until charred and softened.
When cool enough to handle, remove stems and seeds from the chiles and tear into medium sized pieces. Grind in a blender or food processor until finely ground, about 1 minute. Peel shallots and garlic and add to the food processor along with all remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth, about 2 minutes.
For the curry:
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 cup of the curry paste (freeze leftovers for later use) and cook, stirring constantly, until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in broth, coconut milk, potatoes, onion, and salt, scraping up any browned bits. Bring to a simmer and cook until potatoes are just tender, 15 minutes.
Stir in chicken and continue to simmer until chicken is cooked through, 12 more minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in lime zest. Serve with cilantro and jasmine rice.