Coconut Curry Shrimp: The Global Quest

Coconut Curry Shrimp

Over the past several years and in multiple countries (France, 2008; Aruba, 2010), I’ve sporadically encountered an irresistible shrimp curry. I racked my brain about how I could duplicate its flavors, but I haven’t known where to start. And then I made this shrimp curry recipe, straight from the pages of a magazine dedicated to India. As I read the magazine, I noticed that several of the recipes used fresh coconut, an ingredient I hadn’t cooked with before. I got my hands on a coconut (more on that story below) and made this recipe simply because it used many of the ingredients I already had. As the curry simmered, I stuck in my finger and gave it a taste. And EUREKA! I had unwittingly made the curry I’d been lusting after all these years. The universe did me a solid favor, and now I pass that favor on to you.

Coconut Curry Shrimp

If you haven’t guessed by now, fresh coconut is the secret ingredient. You can find fresh coconut meat already removed from the shell in the freezer at your supermarket, but it was too expensive at Whole Foods. I bought a Whole Foods coconut instead and opened it up, but it was over-ripe and tasted like lemon Lysol. A nasty surprise. I then bought a second coconut from a roadside produce stand in Delaware, from their half-off table. I didn’t have high hopes, but this coconut was fantastic, albeit stubborn.

Assuming that your coconut isn’t an impenetrable fortress, you can open it up by holding it in one hand, and whacking it around its equator with the back of a chef’s knife several times until it cracks. Let the coconut water drain into a bowl (drink it), then open the coconut and use a butter knife to pry the meat away from the shell. If brown skin comes off with the meat, you can use a vegetable peeler to remove it. Then, grate the coconut and use it here (freeze any extra).

On to the recipe! In addition to the coconut, you’ll need 3 chiles de árbol (smallish red chiles) and 1 pound of medium-sized shrimp, without the shells or tails. If your shrimp are frozen, let them defrost.

Coconut Curry Shrimp

Add 1 cup of the fresh coconut and the 3 de-stemmed chiles to the bowl of a food processor. Also add in 1 teaspoon of cumin, 2 diced plum tomatoes, 6 of the shrimp, and 2 tablespoons of water.

Coconut Curry Shrimp

Run the food processor until the ingredients are well-combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary. Have you realized what just happened? SHRIMP ARE IN THE SAUCE!

Coconut Curry Shrimp

Dice 1 medium onion. Then, heat a 12 inch skillet over medium-high with 1/4 cup of vegetable oil. To the skillet, add 5 cloves, 4 green cardamom pods, 2 bay leaves, and 1 halved cinnamon stick. Toast the spices for 1-2 minutes until they become fragrant.

Coconut Curry Shrimp

Add the onion to the skillet, and let it cook until it browns, stirring it occasionally.

Coconut Curry Shrimp

While the onion is cooking, prepare your next batch of spices. To a small bowl, add 1 tablespoon of ground coriander, 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric, and 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper. Set a microplane grater over the bowl, and grate in 2 garlic cloves and a 1-inch piece of ginger. When the onions are brown, add these spices into the skillet, and cook them for 1-2 minutes until they become fragrant.

Coconut Curry Shrimp

Then, add in your coconut shrimp paste from the food processor. Let it cook for 8-10 minutes until it starts to dry up. Stir the paste occasionally to prevent it from burning. Next, pour in 1 can of coconut milk (avoid low-fat coconut milk at all costs; it’s just watered down coconut milk), and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. The coconut milk will turn a beautiful color.

Coconut Curry Shrimp

Let the coconut milk reach a boil, and then reduce the heat so that it simmers. While the coconut milk heats up, thinly slice 1 serrano pepper and chop up 1/2 cup of cilantro. Once the coconut milk is simmering, add in the pepper, 1/4 cup of the cilantro, the rest of the shrimp, and 2 teaspoons of sugar. Cook the curry for a few minutes until the shrimp are pink and the sauce has thickened slightly. Season the curry to taste with salt.

Coconut Curry Shrimp

Serve the curry over rice, garnished with the remaining cilantro. I am not sure that I have properly expressed how happy I was to eat this meal. As for spiciness, the peppers provide a definitive heat, but not enough to make my nose run.

This recipe is from Saveur Magazine, the India Issue.

Shopping list:

  • Shrimp- 1 pound, size medium
  • Coconut- 1 cup, shredded, fresh
  • Chiles de árbol- 3
  • Serrano chile- 1
  • Plum tomatoes- 2
  • Onion- 1, medium
  • Vegetable oil- 1/4 cup
  • Cloves- 5
  • Green cardamom pods- 4
  • Bay leaves- 2
  • Cinnamon- 1 stick
  • Cumin- 1 teaspoon
  • Ground coriander- 1 tablespoon
  • Turmeric- 1 teaspoon
  • Black pepper- 1/2 teaspoon
  • Garlic- 2 cloves
  • Ginger- 1-inch piece
  • Coconut milk- 1 can (14 ounces)
  • Cilantro- 1/2 cup
  • Sugar- 2 teaspoons
  • Salt
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Harvest Cookie

Harvest Cookie

I’ve been working on a harvest cookie for this entire year. After falling in love with the harvest cookies at Prêt à Manger and the ranger cookies from Nordstrom Café, I set out to make my own fully-loaded versions. For a while, though, all of my attempts were utter failures. Then, I signed up for that cookie science class in an attempt to figure things out. But before I could really experiment, life took a turn for the better when my friend let me borrow his America’s Test Kitchen cookbook, and I came across their oatmeal cookie recipe. With a few adaptations and lessons learned, behold: a crispy-chewy oatmeal cookie loaded with chocolate, coconut, pecans, cranberries, and a delightful hit of salt. SWOON!

Harvest Cookie

To make these cookies, let 1.5 sticks of butter (12 tablespoons) soften. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper, and preheat your oven to 350° F. Then, add the softened butter into a bowl along with 10.5 ounces (1.5 packed cups) of brown sugar. Beat the butter and the sugar together with an electric mixer until the butter looks aerated. Then, mix in 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 1 egg. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.

Harvest Cookie

In a separate bowl, weigh out 4.25 ounces of all-purpose flour and 2 ounces of whole wheat flour (in total, about 1.25 cups of flour). You could use all white flour, but everyone who tasted my cookies commented (oddly) that they tasted healthy, so I’ll attribute that to the whole wheat element. To the flour, add 3/4 teaspoon of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon of granulated sea salt. Stir the dry ingredients together. With the mixer running on low, add the dry ingredients in thirds and allow them to mix until they are just barely combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.

Harvest Cookie

To the separate bowl, add 1.25 cups of rolled oats, 1/2 cup of flaked coconut, 3/4 cup of chopped, toasted pecans, 3/4 cup of dried cranberries, and 3/4 cup of chocolate chips. Stir those ingredients together, and then, with the mixer running on low, pour them in and allow them to combine into the cookie batter. Again, scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.

Harvest Cookie

Use a 1/4 cup measure to scoop 8 mounds of cookie dough onto each baking sheet. Roll each mound into a ball, and then press down on the ball until it’s about 1 inch thick. Space the cookies about 2.5 inches away from each other, because they will spread.

Harvest Cookie

Bake the cookies for 12 minutes. Then, rotate the baking sheets around so that they change oven racks and face in the opposite direction. Bake the cookies for approximately 8 more minutes. The cookies are done when they look dry but when the cracks in the cookies still appear shiny. Remove the cookies from the oven, and let them cool and set. If you bake the cookies past this point, they’ll be crispier (but still delicious).

This recipe is adapted from Cooking at Home with America’s Test Kitchen

Shopping list:

  • Butter- 12 tablespoons
  • Brown sugar- 10.5 ounces (1.5 packed cups)
  • Egg- 1
  • Vanilla extract- 1 teaspoon
  • All-purpose flour- 4.25 ounces
  • Whole wheat flour- 2 ounces
  • Baking powder- 3/4 teaspoon
  • Baking soda- 1/2 teaspoon
  • Granulated sea salt- 3/4 teaspoon
  • Rolled oats- 1.25 cups
  • Flaked coconut- 1/2 cup
  • Chopped pecans- 3/4 cup
  • Dried cranberries- 3/4 cup
  • Chocolate chips- 3/4 cup
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