[Also published on KQED’s Bay Area Bites.]
Holidays are the ideal time for big family dinners followed by days of leftovers. But by this time, you may have eaten your fill of turkey sandwiches, turkey soup, turkey chili, and turkey casserole. After a few days of eating all things turkey — and pie! — I have an urge to dig into either pork or beef. As an added measure, I like to make it a bit spicy to wake up my palette. So if you’re also a bit tired of holiday leftovers, Pork and Pumpkin Coconut Lemongrass Curry may be just the antidote you’re looking for.
As an Italian girl whose blood flows with as much olive oil as hemoglobin, I am not a confident curry maker. But after a trip to the market where the butternut squash was beautifully stacked and the organic pork shoulder looked so tempting, I decided these were the perfect curry ingredients and so gave it a try. Because I didn’t have a recipe on hand, I was forced to shop with just my imagination as a guide.
It seemed to make the most sense to pick up some lemongrass, which has such a lovely fresh flavor, along with cilantro, coconut milk and green curry paste to go along with my pork and squash. If you are not a cilantro fan, you could just as easily use Thai basil.
Once I got home, I wanted to make the cooking process as easy as possible, so decided to let my blender do most of the work. This is the type of meal that simmers on your stove for a good hour or more, but making the dish itself is fairly quick. If you like to use a crock pot, you could easily pull this meal together in the morning and then let it simmer all day. Whichever route you take, the result is a rich, aromatic and flavorful bowl of curry goodness — just the remedy for turkey leftovers.
Pork and Pumpkin Coconut Lemongrass Curry
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 cups butternut squash or sugar pumpkin
1 medium onion chopped
2 lbs pork butt or shoulder cut into 1-inch cubes
1/8-cup finely chopped lemongrass
1/2 cup cilantro or Thai basil 1-inch chunk of ginger peeled and cut into pieces
2 large garlic cloves
1 large or two small shallots, or 4 green onions (only the white part)
2 Tbsp fish sauce
4 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp green curry paste
1 can coconut milk
2 1/2 cups water to cover the meat
1. Sprinkle salt on the pork cubes and set aside.
2. Heat a large stew pot on high. When the pot is nice and hot, add the oil and then carefully drop the pork into the pot, leaving at least a 1/4-inch space between pieces.
3. When the meat carmelizes on one side, turn each piece over and brown the meat on each side. Note: If you do not leave room between the individual meat pieces, they will steam instead of sear. This means you will probably need to brown the meat in two batches.
4. When the meat is browned, place all of it in the pot along with any juices that have collected.
5. Add the onion, stir it in, and let it cook for about 2 minutes with the meat on medium heat.
6. Add enough water to the pot to cover the pork and then scrape the bottom of the pot to incorporate the browned bits.
Note: If you are using a crock pot, you would now start to put all the ingredients into the main basin. Just put everything in (including the curry paste mixture and pumpkin) and then simmer for 6-8 hours on low.
7. Place the lemongrass, cilantro or basil, ginger, garlic, shallots, fish sauce, curry paste, and 4 Tbsp water in a blender and blend until everything is fully chopped and incorporated so you have a runny paste.
8. Stir the paste into the meat, add the coconut milk, and then simmer for at least a half hour (although preferably an hour) with the cover on.
9. While the meat simmers, peel the butternut squash or cooking pumpkin and then cut it into 1-inch cubes.
10. Add the pumpkin to the meat and continue to simmer until the pumpkin is soft.
11. Serve over rice.