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Cooking with Larry: Thai Chicken Red Curry

On a random Wednesday four years ago, my coworker, Jeff, and I were about to make the most difficult decision of the day. What was for lunch? Pizza? Chinese? Mediocre deli food from the cafeteria down the hall? And then, in an instant, Jeff had a eureka moment.

"You have to try the red curry from the Thai place, but get it with the garlic sauce."

That's exactly what we ordered, and it was delicious. From that moment on, I became obsessed with figuring out how to make this dish. After a few months time (and about four or five preparations) I finally nailed it.

And now, I present to you my variation of Thai Chicken Red Curry.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Coconuts (you didn't think we were using that canned coconut milk nonsense, did you?)
  • 2 cups of 2% milk
  • 1 each red/yellow/green bell pepper
  • 2 medium sized shallots (they should be a little smaller then a baseball, otherwise 3 smaller shallots should do the trick)
  • 1 12 oz. can of Bamboo shoots
  • 10 cloves of garlic (adjust this amount to fit your own palette)
  • 2/3 cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 3 Tbsp red curry paste (this amount can be adjusted based on your tolerance for spicy food)

One of the key ingredients of this dish is the homemade coconut milk. Sure, you can buy the canned variety, but making your own coconut milk will take this dish from good to superb.

Finding a coconut isn't as hard as it sounds. Every major food store near me carries them, so if you can't find one just ask someone in the produce section. When selecting your coconuts, you want to make sure they're ripe. The best way to do this is to pick up the coconut and give it a shake. If there is a lot of water on the inside, choose that coconut. You want to hear a good amount of sloshing when you shake it.

The coconut has three eyes. Use a power drill to drill through the eyes of the shell. If you don't have a power drill, you can use a hammer and nail. Heat your oven to 400 degrees and let the coconuts bake for about 45 minutes. After 45 minutes has elapsed, check to see if there are visible cracks in the shell of both coconuts. If there are no cracks, leave them in the oven longer. If they're cracked, take them out of the oven and allow the coconuts to cool for 15-20 minutes.

Once the coconuts are cool, use a meat cleaver to hack away at the shell. We want to separate the shell from the meat of the coconut. Sometimes this is easy and sometimes this process takes a little elbow grease.

Once the white coconut meat is separated from the brown part of the shell (you don't want any of that brown skin on the coconut meat either), dice the coconut into one-inch cubes until you have 2 cups worth of coconut. Place the coconut meat in a medium sized sauce pot, along with two cups of milk. Bring the mixture to a quick boil, and then let simmer for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, transfer the mixture over to a blender or food processor and let it sit until it's cool.

Now's a good time to start slicing and dicing your vegetables. After finely chopping your garlic and shallots, slice your peppers into one-inch slivers. If you can manage it, try to keep all of your sliced peppers one universal size; it will make for a more pleasant dining experience.

Our goal here is to build flavor in different layers. Place your garlic in a dutch oven with two tablespoons of butter. If you don't have a dutch oven, a frying pan that has a good amount of depth will also work. Once the garlic is slightly toasted, add the soy sauce and let this mixture reduce to about half. This is where my recipe strays from the more traditional versions of Chicken Red Curry, but the flavor is amazing.

Once the mixture has reduced, add your shallots, peppers, and bamboo shoots and saute until the peppers and shallots are somewhat soft and translucent.

At this point we want to start searing our chicken drumsticks, so turn the heat on your dutch oven to low. Sprinkle the drumsticks with salt and pepper, and sear the meat until the skin has a nice brown caramel color. Be mindful to not overcook the chicken; we want a little bit of pink on the inside of each drumstick, at least for the time being. We're not done cooking the chicken.

Once you have seared the chicken, place each drumstick in our vegetable soy mixture, continuing to leave the burner on a low setting.

Now the time has come to make the coconut milk. If the milk and coconut has adequately cooled, blend the mixture until smooth. After that, add the coconut milk to the vegetable mixture by holding a strainer over the Dutch oven and pouring the contents of the blender directly into the strainer. You'll see quite a bit of coconut pulp in the strainer - this is normal.

Tired yet? Almost there.

Add the red curry paste to the Dutch oven and stir the contents of the pot four or five times. Throw in the basil leaves, cover the Dutch oven, and cook at 300 degrees for an hour. You can also go "lower and slower" if time allows. I prefer that approach. If you're using a frying pan, cover and simmer for an hour or so, and be sure to check the mixture often to ensure nothing is burning.

After an hour, take the dutch oven out of the regular oven and let it sit uncovered for 15 minutes.

Once slightly cooled, serve the mixture over your favorite type of rice. I prefer basmati, but that's just how I roll. Remember that coconut water we saved from earlier? I like to strain that and use it to boil the rice in.

This should serve 4/5 people, or two very hungry Larrys. Enjoy!

Have you ever tried a recipe like this? How did it turn out?

About the Author: Larry is a friend of House Party. Larry currently resides in the East Bay region of California. He enjoys all things wine related, and spends a lot of his free time in Napa and Sonoma learning about wine. Larry is also a Mixed Martial Arts enthusiast. He enjoys practicing, watching, analyzing and commentating on all things MMA. Larry also enjoys cooking, fine dining, entertaining and hanging out with Maximus, his Jack Russell Terrier.

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