June 26, 2008

Thai for Molly and Me

Speaking of family. What do you do when your babygirl gets nauseous from your French cooking? Switch to Thai, of course. When she loves Thai and so do you. See, fats just do not agree with her, and she doesn't like eggs. I know, there is plenty of French cooking based on fresh foods. But she loves the flavors of the Thai, the sweet-salty of from the play of palm sugar and fish sauce, the tang of the wild lime. These flavors are unique to the far east, and a far cry in another direction from even the most perfectly roasted vegetable.

So off I went tonight to take cookbook author Naam Pruitt's Thai class at Kitchen Conservatory. It was my first class there. It was pretty fun. The food definitely rocked.

This is Naam Pruitt with her lovely cook book, in the also lovely Kitchen Conservatory kitchen.

She looks sweet, but you should see her swing a clever!

We began with a Green "Papaya" (som-tom) salad.

Since somehow the shopping before Naam arrived went astray, and several "wrong" ingredients were brought back, what would have been green papaya in the salad became cucumber, the long beans were left out (ickily aged), and there were no dried shrimp (when you go to get your own, be sure to get the little tiny unshelled ones, not large ones in the shell, which Naam sampled and pronounced to taste "like fossil"). Nonetheless, the little salad, now with cucumber and cherry tomato as the main veggies, and the flavors of palm sugar, fish sauce, garlic, fresh lime juice, and peanuts was in spite of all the grocery glitches, fantastic.

Northeastern (Essan) Beef Salad (nua-naam-tak)

This delicious collage of fesh mint, cilantro, shallots, green onions, garlic, fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, dried chilis, and grilled steak was quite yummy. Naam put the beef in a bowl to cool after taking it off the grill, then used the juices that bled out in the dressing. Anything that has so many fresh herbs in it is called by Thais a "salad." For us it would probably be a main course. In Thailand, though, meals tend to be lots of little dishes set out, eaten with the fingers together with sticky rice. I like it!

Grilled Chicken (Gai-yang)

This simple dish was fantastic. Whole chicken was marinated in a scant coating of sugar, light soy sauce, white pepper, and garlic, then flattened on a rack and broiled on both sides. Naam let it cool, then attacked it with the clever (see above). She served it with sticky rice. I was, really, juicy and perfect.

Sticky Rice and Mangos (kao-neow-mah-muang)

Coincidentally, I tried making this wonderful rice pudding at home over the weekend. I don't know for sure what my guests thought of it, but I feel hard in love. (I seem to have a thing for coconut, if you haven't noticed.) I used the black glutenous rice the other recipes I'd seen called for. Poor Naam was surprised by a Japanese sushi-style rice in the kitchen, but I have to say she managed to get it just right, just the same. It wasn't as dramatic looking as the black rice (which is purple and makes a purple broth), but it was every bit as flavorful. I mean, really, this is just about the most comforting thing I've ever eaten outside of my mother or grandmothers' kitchens.

No, I take that back. The most comforting outside of. I learned a trick or two of course watching Naam prepare it. The method is simple: cook four cups of sticky rice; boil a can of coconut milk and a half cup of sugar; set aside a little bit of the milk to pour over; add the rice to the rest of the coconut milk and let it cook until it thickens a bit. Now serve this in bowls, with chunks of mango and, if you want, some freshly toasted sesame seeds. In Thailand this is a summer dish (March and April; April and May? which did she say?). That's it. I have some in my fridge now. I'm going to have it for breakfast!

I want to get Naam's book. So should you. She's a sweetie, and I watched her overcome several obstacles, including a little bit of spaciness (just like mine!) to produce some fabulous, authentic Thai food. The bonus? She learned these recipes from her mother. Let your imagination take you to how many generations back those "recipes" might go. They weren't recipes until Naam wrote them down, of course. They were teachings. And now I will teach them to my daughter. And help her tummy. And her taste. And her understanding of how much I love her.


Anonymous said...

The class sounds wonderful! By the way, the rice coconut pudding you served Sunday was superb. Are you going to post the recipe on your site?


Ms Unseen/MsF/Redlotusblossom said...

Why yes, i think I will post the recipe. It's very similar, actually, to the one I talk about above, but I suppose I could stop being lazy and do an actual recipe recipe!

PRSC said...

teach me! let's start at the shopping. still haven't gotten self over to intnl grocery, but have had v. innerestin meeting with first lover after 20 years. mostly that involved iced chai, his sister, and some chocolate.

lily o'valley said...

This must have been an adventure for your (and Miss Molly's) tastebuds. Thank you for sharing with such detail.
By the way, Melissa's submission about her Mama's strawberries was touching, thank you, Melissa. What a pleasure, coming to this blog. It ALWAYS makes me smile.

Anonymous said...

This site is lovely and lively, just as you are. It seems in this blog that social gatherings appear when food gathers, rather than food appearing when people gather. I like it.

Anonymous said...

Why tank you, oh Two Anonymi. and Lily. And P. I think I'll be anonymous, too, as long as everyone else is, almost. :-)