Squash Curry

When I have seen curry listed in the title of a recipe or on a menu selection I’ve quickly dismissed it as an option for myself. Not because I didn’t like it, but because it was unknown and mysterious to me. What is curry anyway? It’s a quite general word to describe Middle-Eastern and Eastern dishes flavored with a combination of spices and dried or fresh hot chilies.

That leaves the door open for many dishes to fall under the “curry” category! My first adventure in experiencing curry was at a Laotian restaurant in Madison, Wisconsin. Madison has a large population of Hmong people who come from Laos. We were in the mood for Asian and stumbled upon this fun restaurant on Willy Street.

Let’s digress — my hesitation to try curry is a lot like my hesitation to befriend internationals. Other cultures are mysterious, unknown. But in reality internationals are the ones living in the midst of mystery. They have left their familiar and are living in our familiar. I spent 3 months abroad in college living in Brazil. The most wonderful moments were when the Brazilians embraced me and guided (sometimes forced) me through their culture. Jesus made a point to break cultural barriers in his life on earth. So let’s challenge our taste buds and hearts to breach the unknown!

Here’s a close version from the one I ordered at Lao-Laan Xang Laotian Restaurant. Omit the half and half for dairy-free or less calories.

Squash Curry

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced
1 med onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbs canola oil
1 1/2 Tbs red Thai curry paste*
1 14 oz can coconut milk
1 c chicken broth
1 Tbs fish sauce*
1 1/2 c sweet potato cubes
1 1/2 c butternut squash cubes*
2 tsp fresh lime juice
1/2 c half and half, optional
3-4 Tbs fresh, chopped cilantro
cooked rice to serve with

*(see Ideas and Advice below)

1) Saute chicken in oil until no longer pink. Remove from skillet.
2) Saute onions and garlic in skillet for 2 minutes. Add curry paste and stir.
3) Whisk in coconut milk, broth and fish sauce. Bring to boil.
4) Add squash and sweet potatoes, and lower heat to a simmer. Cook until tender, about 20 minutes.
5) Turn heat to low. Remove 2 cups of cooked squash and sweet potatoes to food processor. Process until smooth and return to pan. (Thickens mixture).
6) Add half and half and lime juice; stir. Add chicken.
7) Get ready for an explosion on your taste buds!
8) Serve over rice and sprinkle cilantro on top.
9) Let me know what you think.

Ideas and advice:
*Red curry paste usually comes in a small can or jar. You won’t use all of it for a single recipe, so freeze 1 1/2 Tbs portions in ice cube trays. Once frozen pop out into a freezer bag and voila!, they are ready for the next time you make this dish!
*Fish sauce is stinky! But that’s okay, it adds great flavor. Store unused sauce in a cool, dry place for up to a year.
*If you buy a whole butternut squash be aware that cutting it up is an adventure. You might lose a finger if you aren’t careful! Try this:  http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/how_to_peel_and_cut_a_butternut_squash/   or else you can buy already diced squash at Walmart or Sam’s. Freeze any unused squash for your next recipe. I got three squash curries out of one squash.