Recipes from Nancie McDermott

April 4, 2013

Dear Friends,

Who is this Nancie McDermott and why are her recipes so good? I know I’m late to the party, but since discovering McDermott’s 2004  cookbook, “Quick and Easy Thai,” in my unruly cookbook collection, I’ve come to admire McDermott. I usually consider myself lucky if I find one or two outstanding recipes in a cookbook, but every recipe I’ve tried from this slim paperback has been a winner.

According to her website (http://www.nanciemcdermott.com/about.htm), McDermott is a Chapel Hill, N.C. cooking teacher who learned to cook Thai as a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand. She is a kindred soul because, like me, she specializes in streamlining complex recipes. Lots of cookbook authors try to do this, but most subtract the flavor while simplifying the ingredients and techniques. Not McDermott, at least in this book. (She has written a handful of other cookbooks, including “Quick & Easy Vietnamese,” which I intend to buy and try.)

The latest recipe from her book that I’ve fallen in love with is Red Curry Shrimp with Pineapple. She dumps coconut milk and Thai red curry paste in a skillet, adds some water, fish sauce, sugar and pineapple, and then finishes it by simmering raw shrimp in the fragrant sauce for a couple of minutes, until they’re cooked.

How could a recipe that easy taste so good? I couldn’t believe it, so I added another layer of  flavor by sautéing the shrimp first in oil, and tossed in some asparagus just because it’s spring. I’m sure Nancie’s version is fine as is, so if you’re pressed for time, add the raw shrimp at the end as she does.

The recipe  can serve as a template for all kinds of Thai seafood curries. Nancy writes, “Follow this as a guideline for making a curry with seafood or fish and any curry paste you like.”

I will. After you try this delicious, ridiculously simple curry, I bet you will, too.

RED CURRY SHRIMP WITH PINEAPPLE
    •    2 tbsp. vegetable oil
    •    1/2 lb. asparagus, tough ends trimmed and stalks cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths
    •    3/4 lb. large raw shrimp, shelled
    •    1 1/2 cups coconut milk
    •    2 tbsp. Thai red curry paste
    •    1/2 cup water
    •    2 tbsp. Thai fish sauce (nam pla) (I used 1 tbsp. fish sauce and 1 tbsp. soy sauce)
    •    1 tbsp. sugar (2 tsp. Splenda)
    •    1 cup bite-sized fresh pineapple chunks
    •    6 wild lime leaves, quartered (I used 1 tsp. fresh lime juice)

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir-fry asparagus until tender-crisp. Remove from skillet and set aside. In same skillet, stir-fry shrimp, turning, until opaque on both sides but still slightly raw in the interior. Remove from skillet and set aside.

In same skillet, simmer one-half cup of the coconut milk over medium-high heat, stirring often, until thickened and fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the curry paste and cook a minute or two, whisking until the paste is dissolved. Stir in remaining 1 cup coconut milk, the water, fish sauce, sugar, pineapple and lime juice. Bring to a gentle boil. Simmer gently two to three minutes longer, until mixture develops a depth of flavor. Add the  shrimp and asparagus and simmer one minute more, just until shrimp are cooked through.

Serve over steamed rice or rice noodles. Makes 3 to 4 servings.
Recipe adapted from “Quick  & Easy Thai” by Nancie McDermott.

HELP U COOK

A block of tamarind pulp is handy to have in the cupboard if you like to cook Asian or Latin American cuisines. It usually comes in a fairly large square that looks like dark, thick fruit leather. When processed into a liquid, it adds a distinctive fruity, tart flavor to dishes. The liquid may also be sweetened judiciously and served chilled as a summer quencher, as it is in the Dominican Republic.

To use the tamarind pulp, you break off a hunk and soften it in hot water for a half-hour or so, squeezing the pulp occasionally until it is pliable and releases it flavor. Then the liquid is strained into a container and the pulp is pressed through the strainer into the container. The mixture is covered and refrigerated for up to a week (the flavor becomes stronger the longer it is kept). The block of tamarind pulp will keep in your cupboard for years, as long as it isn’t subjected to moisture or overly hot temperatures.

Thai cooks often use distilled white vinegar or lime juice in place of tamarind liquid, according to author Nancie McDermott. Other good substitutes in Thai recipes, she says, are Indian-style tamarind chutney, or a mix of equal parts white vinegar, sugar and soy sauce.

THE MAILBAG

From Kathi:
How long can I keep homemade pickled eggs in the refrigerator? I usually throw away the leftovers after a week, although they still look and smell good.

Dear Kathi: Your instincts are on the mark. Pickled eggs should be stored in the refrigerator and eaten within a week, according to the American Egg Board. The high acidity will prevent bacteria from growing for longer than a week, but the acid begins to break down the egg itself. Unopened commercially packaged pickled eggs in brine will keep for several months, but should also be used within seven days after opening, according to the Egg Board.

Tony has been on a pickled egg binge, so I’ve been making them for the last month. He likes the Amish mustard pickled eggs with garlic. I like regular pickled eggs with beets, so I made just three for myself for Easter. They won’t last a week, and neither will the dozen mustard pickled eggs I made for Tony. Here’s the recipe I use for Tony’s pickled eggs (I created it to his taste). Also, I can’t resist sharing a recipe for Ada Boni’s Sardinian-Style Hard-Cooked Eggs that I found in a cookbook recently. To chefs and savvy  cooks, Ada Boni is the ultimate authority on Italian cooking.

TONY’S MUSTARD AND GARLIC PICKLED EGGS
    •    1 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar
    •    1/2 cup Splenda granular (or 3/4 cup sugar)
    •    1/2 cup water
    •    1/2 tsp. powdered mustard
    •    1 tbsp. yellow prepared mustard
    •    5 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
    •    1 dozen hard-cooked eggs, peeled

Combine everything except the eggs in a saucepan and bring almost to a boil. Pour over the eggs in a tall, narrow container. Cover and refrigerate for at least two days (if possible) before eating. The brine may be used again for another batch.

ADA BONI’S SARDINIAN-STYLE HARD-COOKED EGGS
    •    1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    •    4 tsp. red wine vinegar
    •    1/4 tsp. kosher salt
    •    6 large hard-cooked eggs, peeled and halved lengthwise
    •    2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
    •    1/2 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
    •    1/2 tsp. minced fresh thyme
    •    1 garlic clove, minced
    •    1/3 cup fresh soft breadcrumbs
    •    Fresh-ground pepper

Combine the oil, vinegar and salt in a large skillet. Add the eggs and cook over low heat, carefully turning the eggs once or twice until the vinegar has evaporated, leaving just a film of oil in the pan. Transfer the eggs, cut side up, to a heated serving dish. Cover with foil to keep warm.

Add the parsley, rosemary, thyme and garlic to the skillet and cook over low heat, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the bread crumbs and cook, stirring until golden, about 3 minutes more. Add the black pepper.

Carefully spoon the breadcrumb mixture over the eggs. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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