Men Who Cook: Jason Smalley – Thai Gumbo

Another great recipe in the Men Who Cook series.  This is from Jason Smalley.  I’ll let him take it from here:

So I began cooking when I was about 15. My father had done most of the cooking throughout my childhood, with my mom supplementing hamburger helper or spaghetti on occasion. My love for cooking, like most things as a teenager, was really for purposes of exploration. I loved how you could begin with benign parts, and mold it into something coherent… and tasty. Looking back I think that both cooking and guitar were somehow meant to attract women, but I quickly came to realize there are a lot of guitarists in high school and at that age women aren’t looking for a guy who can make dinner. Le Boo!

After I moved out of my parent’s house my love for cooking bloomed. I was a poor, sometimes college student who had goodwill pots and pans and an almost obsession with eating at home. My roommate and his daughter didn’t seem to mind, and while I wasn’t buying all those specialty items that my cookbooks called for, I was learning how to wield certain techniques which could be applied to almost any dish. I learned how to make reductions and gastriques, I learned why you would braise something and why a garlic press would never be found in a real Italian kitchen. As my technique-toolbox began to be filled in, I started applying those seemingly provincial way to cook to all sorts of other dishes. I introduced honey-vinegar reductions to Cuban food and curry into my pot-roasts. Eventually I had enough experience to where I could push out a meal in under and hour with whatever I had laying around the house, which as a starving college student, finally did start to attract females… poor, hungry college student females.

I was fortunate enough to live in Denver for eight years. Denver has a large immigrant population which comes from around the world. The cuisine is modern, but rustic, which leads to fusions of bison and polenta, or bacon stuffed perogies. While I will never be a $100 plate kind of foodie, I will spend a little extra if I know the effort is there. I love going to restuarants and chatting up the chef/cook to find out what techniques or seasonings they like to use, and on occasion I have made a friend or even given someone else a good idea. Now at 28, I have become comfortable with my own brand of cooking. I experiment less these days, but I still focus on fusions of style and flavor. ‘The unexamined dish is not worth eating’

-Jason Smalley

Thai Gumbo (Chooshi)

feeds 2-4 people

  • 1 1/2 lb. chicken (you can use any meat or meat substitute, but remember this is a recipe which feeds a lot of people so plan accordingly)
  • 2 C. green beans (cut into thirds or quarters)
  • 1 red bell pepper (seeded, cleaned and sliced into 2″ pieces)
  • 1/4 C. cilantro
  • 1/2 C. cashews (crushed)
  • 1 8 oz. can water chestnuts
  • 1 8-12 oz. can of bamboo shoots
  • 1 Tbsp. white pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. green curry paste
  • 1 Tbsp. red curry paste
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 12 oz. can reduced fat coconut milk
  • 1 12 oz. can reduced sodium chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 C. jasmine rice

Cube the chicken into 1″ x 1″ pieces. Bring oil to temp. on medium heat in a 12″ skillet coat chicken with white pepper and a pinch of salt, brown on both sides for about 2-3 minutes. Add 1 Tbsp. of green curry paste and stir until paste is absorbed into chicken. Add 1 Tbsp. of red curry paste and still until mostly absorbed by chicken. Cook for another 2 min. Transfer what was in your skillet to a medium stock-pot or 6-8″ in. deep pot. Slowly add the stock and coconut milk in equal portions (you can add as much or as little as you feel is necessary, depending if you like a lot or a little sauce). Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, you will end up with a yellowish sauce. As soon as the pot begins to boil, reduce heat to medium and add all of your vegetables, reserving the salt, cilantro and cashews. Let simmer for 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and cover for 20-25 minutes while you let your rice cook. With about 5 minutes left on your rice, add the crushed cashews and remaining green curry paste, raise heat to medium and let curry dissolve while stirring. Add remaining coconut milk if you prefer a thicker sauce once the cashews have been absorbed. Salt to taste with reserved amount. Garnish with cilantro and let stand for 2-3 minutes. Pour mixture over rice.

It sounds amazing.   Thanks Jason.  Enjoy!