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Contest-Winning Napa Cook Tries ... Curry

Afraid that I was getting complacent with my cooking, I've decided to dabble in new ingredients.

Last week, I talked about how I was , using the same ingredients over and over in my dishes.

While those ingredients (! ! !) will still remain an important part of my recipe repertoire, I’m committed to experimenting with other ingredients: , and . I’m hoping you’ll take this challenge with me, so we can learn how to be better cooks - and eaters!

This week, my challenge ingredient was curry. I’ve used curry before, but only in very small amounts with other spices, to round out the flavors. I love the smell, but am not well-versed in the spice’s uses.

According to Wikipedia, curry is “a generic description throughout Western culture to describe a variety of dishes.....analogous to soup or stew.....meat or vegetables cooked with spices.”

The definition goes on to explain that “curry” is really just a generic term, more of a concept than an absolute description.

So, one can basically throw any sort of Indian or Asian ingredients together, stew them a bit, and call it a curry.

This was a little vague to me, so I looked into the specifics of curry powder. I had always thought that curry powder was curry powder, but it turns out that there are many, many varieties.

Along with the traditional blend of tumeric, coriander, cumin, fenugreek and red pepper for the base, curry powder can also include spices such as ginger, garlic, cinnamon, clove, mustard and nutmeg -- sometimes a dozen or more.

I was intrigued, but a little nervous. This is a major spice compound, with a pungent smell and taste. Using too little would be a waste of my efforts, but using too much could ruin the meal entirely.

There was also the question of how to use it. Should I just dump it into a sauce? Should I just sprinkle it onto some meat?

I decided to use it both ways, with two different variations of curry powder, to make an actual dish of curry (as described above).

Boneless beef ribs have been on sale this week, and I had a box of rice noodles in my pantry. I also had some items in my fridge that would be approaching the expiration date, so I’d throw them in as well. But first, I needed to prep the protein.

You may have read that I have a . I decided to use it in this case so I could really fuse the curry powder to the beef, and to tenderize said beef.

I rubbed the ribs with basic, yellow curry powder and sealed them in a vacuum-pack bag. Dropped into the sous-vide, I’d let it go for about 24 hours.

The next evening, I prepared dinner.

For the curry sauce, I sauteed some crushed garlic, chopped tomatoes, chopped peppers and diced onions.

In a small bowl, I blended some plain Greek-style yogurt and spicy red curry, then added it to the vegetables in the pan. (Coconut milk is usually used for this step, but The Husband hates it.)

I kept the heat on medium low, and stirred a few times, cooking it for about ten minutes more. The house smelled divine, and I eagerly anticipated this dinner.

After my pot of water began to boil, I dumped in some rice noodles to cook for about five minutes.

Working quickly, I took the ribs out of the sous-vide, snipped open the bag, and dumped the contents onto a cutting board. I shredded the beef with two forks, then shook just a little more red curry powder on it.

The noodles were now cooked, and after I drained them, they were added to the simmering curry sauce. A quick stir and the noodles were decanted onto dinner plates, followed by the beef, then a garnish of chopped tomatoes and cilantro.

Dinner was very good, and The Husband was impressed that I'd stepped out of my comfort zone. I’ll definitely cook with curry again, trying different iterations of classic dishes.

You can certainly make this dish without a sous vide machine, either by stewing the beef and curry powder in a slow cooker with some broth, or simply slicing and sauteeing it in a pan.

This has been a great learning tool for me, and I’m anxious to hear your thoughts.

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