Another idea for the name was "Bastard Curry Mac and Cheese" because this curry paste is all over the place. You could consider it derived from a Thai red or green curry, but no curry paste I know of contains beets or tomato paste! A lot of people ask me why I don't use packaged curry pastes when I cook. It seems to be a perfectly acceptable ingredient, even among some Thai people I have spoken to. The reason for me is because after you make the paste a few times, you can really begin to understand the flavor combinations. Instead of just a long list of pointless ingredients, you can actually see the purpose of each ingredient in the recipe and change things to suit your particular needs.
Last night, some friends gathered for the new season of The Office and Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Mandi and I came up with this wacky idea of a recipe (She is in town for a wedding) and cooked it as an experiment for the group. We both loved it, others thought it was good too, but a few didn't. I would say it had about a 50% success rate. Some said that the curry flavors were fighting with the cheese since cheese and curry normally don't go together.
We found this galangal at the store and were excited to try it. In the past, I have claimed that I have trouble discerning the difference between this ingredient and ginger, so I was pumped to try them side by side.
They had all sorts of ginger at the place we went. Most recipes would probably have only one of these 3 in them, but we were having fun tasting the differences and decided to add them all.
The first batch in the food processor. This also has cumin and coriander buried below.
The second batch
The second batch had beets, mostly to enhance the color.
Playing with our food.
The third batch was lemongrass, cilantro, and basil.
The forth thing in the bowl is tomato paste.
Deep, dark, beautiful red curry.
The curry fries for a minute, then add the coconut milk.
We choose manchego for a sharp bite, Blanco for a bland/sour cheesyness, and jack for creamyness.
After I removed the chicken, I whisked in the cheese.
Why am I whisking chicken?
After the pasta cooked half way in the boiling water, I added the cauliflower so it would blanch for a minute.
Halved tomatoes finish it off.
Add breadcrumbs to the top. We didn't need to add all this cheese up here, but Rich had the grater when I wasn't looking.
Bastard Curry Paste
5 large red chiles
5 small red chiles
15 dried red chiles (arbol or thai bird)
5 garlic cloves
2 inches of ginger
1 inch galangal
3 lemongrass stalks
7 sprigs cilantro, stems and all
4 sprigs basil, stems and all
zest and juice 1 lime
half small can tomato paste
The Mac and Cheese
6 chicken legs
2 cans coconut milk
2 cups cheese-blend of manchego, blanco, and jack
2 cups breadcrumbs
cherry tomatoes chopped in half
After you make the paste by blending up all of the paste ingredients above, fry the paste for 4 to 5 minutes in 2 tbsp oil in a frying pan. Add the coconut milk and bring to boil. Turn the heat low and add the chicken. Simmer for 45 minutes. Bring pasta water to a boil. Remove the chicken and reduce the sauce for 15 minutes. Pull apart the chicken and discard the skin and bones Remove 2 ladles of the sauce and reserve. Drop pasta. Slowly whisk in cheese to curry sauce. Drop chopped cauliflower into pasta water. When pasta still has bite, about 3 minutes less than it says on the box, strain it and the cauliflower. Mix with the curry sauce, pulled chicken pieces, and tomatoes. If it seems dry, add some of the reserved curry sauce. Cover with breadcrumbs and bake at 400 for 20 minutes until it is bubbly and crispy on top.