For the past year or so, my friends and neighbors at our old loft building get together for a casual dinner on Wednesday nights. Dr. Fiance and I have continued to attend even though we have moved out of the building. Every month or so, we host loft dinner on the road, so to speak, and our friends trek the whole two blocks from the old place to the new place. This week, I was expecting a largish group, so I turned to a cookbook that my sister gave me for Christmas for inspiration.
The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adriais unlike any cookbook I own. Adria of the former ElBulli restaurant in Spain, explains how the restaurant planned, prepped and cooked daily meals for their enormous staff (up to 75 people) and then how to translate that type of meal for the home. One of the big things that the book talks about is preparing staples in bulk and how to stock a wide ranging and complete pantry. The theory goes like this: if you’re going to make pesto, why not make a huge amount of it so that you can freeze it. Then you have pesto to add to any dishes you want. Ditto tomato sauce, and chicken stock etc. This is how restaurants do it, so the home cook is only limited by the size of his freezer. Sadly mine is tiny, but still, I like the idea.
The other thing that is really excellent about the cookbook is that each recipe contains ingredient measures for 2 people, 6 people, 20 people and 75 people. The method is the same, only the quantities are different. The book is broken up into three course meals that with a little planning can be thrown together in a very short time. This made it the perfect choice for finding a recipe for loft dinner, which ranges from 10-15 people weekly. I chose to go with a Thai Yellow Curry with Beef.
This was an interesting project, mainly because I needed to source a number of ingredients that I didn’t have including Thai yellow curry paste and something called “blade steak”. My local grocery store doesn’t have either item, so headed to Whole Paycheck and World Market in search of the curry paste. World Market didn’t carry it at all, and Whole Paycheck only carries Thai green curry, in a tiny container for about one million dollars an ounce. Seriously, why is that place so damn expensive?
After asking for help on Twitter, I was referred to Jays International Food Co. on South Grand where I hit the jackpot in curry and, well, pretty much every other Asian ingredient you could possibly want. Cheap. Bingo.
Next was this blade steak business. For that I headed out of my favorite butcher, LeGrands. After some discussion and phone calls with a vacationing father about what kind of cut would be similar to blade steak, we determined that shoulder steak would work pretty well. I think in the final analysis chuck steak would have worked just as well, but the shoulder steak sure is pretty.
I bought seven pounds of beef, which ended up feeding about fifteen of us and we ate all of it. It is made in a pressure cooker and I had to make it in two batches since it was too large to fit into my 8 quart pot. The recipe called for 50 minutes under pressure, but I feel like a half hour would have been just fine. The beef was very tender, almost too tender. It’s possible that an even tougher cut of meat would work better with this recipe; the shoulder steak may have been too tender. I am a meat idiot when it comes to cuts beyond, you know, ribeye, filet and chuck.
But in the end, it made for a very tasty curry dish, more like a stew than I was thinking it would, but it was delicious. I’m going to share the recipe for the large amount that I made, but you should really check out the book for the overall techniques and the other great recipes. Enjoy!
Thai Yellow Curry with Beef
Adapted from The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adria
Ingredients (for 15 people)
6-7 pounds of beef cubed (blade, shank, or cheek, I used shoulder)
1/3 cup olive oil
2.5 oz of fresh ginger, skin on, finely chopped
1/3 cup Thai yellow curry paste
Cilantro, 12oz stems removed, divided
3 quarts of water
5.5 cups of coconut milk
Season the beef with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large pressure cooker (lid off) over medium high heat. When oil is hot, add the ginger and saute for several minutes until fragrant. Add the curry paste and stir until evenly mixed with the ginger. Cook one minute. Add half of the cilantro, stir, then immediately add the water, 3/4 of the coconut milk, and the beef. Place lid on the pot and bring the pressure up over high heat. Once the cooker is pressurized, cook for 30-50 minutes depending on how tough the your meat is. Carefully release the pressure, then simmer the curry until is starts to thicken. Add the remaining coconut milk and cilantro, and serve with rice.
Tip: This recipe was too large for my pressure cooker, so I made it in two batches, which I then combined in a regular 6 quart dutch oven to simmer and serve. Worked out great. Use less water if you want something a little less like a soup.
About the photographs
Most of the photography on this site is made using natural light in my home studio. Occasionally though, I do use some artificial light. From time to time I’m going to be posting some information about the lighting setups for my photographs over at my professional photography blog and at Google+, which I think is a better forum for lighting discussions. You can read about today’s strobist-style lighting technique here.