Recent Dinner

Every year I give a home cooked dinner to the school’s silent auction at Parents’ Weekend, as a way of raising money for school programs that otherwise might not get funded. It’s a way to keep my cooking skills fresh, learn to make new foods, and connect with students in ways I might not normally do.

This year, the student requested that I try my hand at Thai food. Now, my cousin had given me a Thai cookbook years ago, but I’d never tried making most of the recipes before, at all. So I decided to give it a shot.

The meal opened with corn-and-crab soup, which seemed like a good way to warm everybody up. It’s simple and easy to make, but I didn’t think to take a photograph.

The other three can speak to whether the meal was worth eating or not.

The “Galloping Horses” appetizer is sweet stir-fried beef with garlic and peanuts, layered on top of sliced tangerines. It’s delicious.

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Pineapple Fried Rice. This didn’t turn out as crispy and separated as good fried rice should be. I think there’s a trick to making good fried rice, and I haven’t figured it out yet. I will, though.

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This one was the hardest, and I screwed up. It was supposed to be curried stir-fried chicken, but somewhere during the preparation I left out three or four ingredients. I think it was when my dinner guests showed up, and I got distracted. The chicken tasted good, but it was too oily and not curried enough. It’s a pity; with practice I bet this will taste delicious. I hope I get to do all these menu items again.

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Tonight was/is the festival of Peace in the old Roman calendar; I posted a hymn to Peace at around this time last year, I think, and yet I haven’t had the courage yet to go dig it out. I plan on doing so before midnight, and reading it. The world could use a little more of Peace these days.

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8 comments

  1. Key to avoiding fried rice is to use cold rice. When rice is warm, the starches and glutens are too sticky already, and the frying heat only makes it worse. Also, a foolproof way to make sure the rice stays loose would be to use basmati rice. It’s so dry, it might even absorb some of the pan juices that come out of the vegetables.

    For curried chicken, I have this suggestion: throw curry powder into the oil when it’s getting hot but before you add the chicken. Let the oil sizzle the powder for just a little bit and become infused w/ the curry flavor. Then when the stir fry is almost done, take a teaspoon or so corn starch and dissolve it completely in some cold water by mixing w/ your fingers. Then pour it into the pan and fold thorougly into the contents of the pan. The cooking heat will be able to cook the starch water, pan juices, and oils into a shiny, near-transparent thickened sauce coating the chicken. This happens pretty quickly. You’ll know it’s cooked when the starch loses its whiteness to give way to the colorless translucency.

    This’ll let you retain all the flavor from the pan juices onto the meat without letting there be oil residue dipping to the bottom of the plate once you’ve set it into a plate. The starch also somewhat mitigates the feel of oil. This simple thickener glaze is often the default method for finishing off a stir fry. In pictures or restauraunts, when you see a plate of food w/ that glistening lustre, it’s usually from this method.

    I hope it helps!

  2. Key to avoiding fried rice is to use cold rice. When rice is warm, the starches and glutens are too sticky already, and the frying heat only makes it worse. Also, a foolproof way to make sure the rice stays loose would be to use basmati rice. It’s so dry, it might even absorb some of the pan juices that come out of the vegetables.

    For curried chicken, I have this suggestion: throw curry powder into the oil when it’s getting hot but before you add the chicken. Let the oil sizzle the powder for just a little bit and become infused w/ the curry flavor. Then when the stir fry is almost done, take a teaspoon or so corn starch and dissolve it completely in some cold water by mixing w/ your fingers. Then pour it into the pan and fold thorougly into the contents of the pan. The cooking heat will be able to cook the starch water, pan juices, and oils into a shiny, near-transparent thickened sauce coating the chicken. This happens pretty quickly. You’ll know it’s cooked when the starch loses its whiteness to give way to the colorless translucency.

    This’ll let you retain all the flavor from the pan juices onto the meat without letting there be oil residue dipping to the bottom of the plate once you’ve set it into a plate. The starch also somewhat mitigates the feel of oil. This simple thickener glaze is often the default method for finishing off a stir fry. In pictures or restauraunts, when you see a plate of food w/ that glistening lustre, it’s usually from this method.

    I hope it helps!

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