Monday, June 21, 2010

The Exotic Cuisine of Thailand, featuring Grilled Duck with Red Curry Sauce

Our Coronado Concert in the Park Culinary Challenges continued last evening with The Exotic Cuisine of Thailand. Thai cuisine places emphasis on lightly-prepared dishes with strong aromatic components, and is known for its balance of the five fundamental taste senses in each dish or the overall meal: hot (spicy), sour, sweet, salty, and (optional) bitter.  A Thai family meal normally consists of rice, paired with several dishes designed to form a harmonious contrast of ingredients and ways of preparation. The dishes are all served at the same time.

I’ve said this before, but I find it amazing how our group always prepares such a harmonious offering of drinks, appetizers, main courses, and desserts. We've talked about trying to coordinate dishes and courses, but it's more fun being surprised as the dishes are unveiled on the picnic table.

Last night, our Thai spread featured a glorious balance of cocktails, wine, Spicy Roasted Coconut Cashews, Grilled Duck and Red Curry, Pineapple Fried Rice with Prawns, Thai Fish Cakes with Cucumber Salad, Waterfall Beef, Pork Satay, and Grilled Pineapple with Coconut Sauce.

Alec & Nina started us off with a giant My Thai cocktail, made with light and dark rums, Disaronno Amaretto, Grand Marnier, Triple Sec, and pineapple and orange juices.  We sipped our cocktails and nibbled on John's spicy Roasted Coconut Cashew Nuts.

We had two grills going, one for my duck breasts and the other for Jim and Carmen's Pork Satay. I've been salivating at duck recipes for quite some time, and used this opportunity for Grilled Duck with Red Curry Sauce.  I served the sliced duck on grilled Sweet Potato Rafts, a presentation inspired by a photograph in Big Small Plates (my Grilled Duck with Red Curry recipe appears at the end of this post).

A few slices of grilled sweet potato...

Followed by a few slices of grilled duck,  and a spoonful of red curry over the top...

Plating and photographing in the park has its challenges, but we often have curious visitors standing on the sidelines...

Olivia stepped in as Jim's sous chef and helped grill the pork satay...

Kai presented two dishes, Thai Fish Cakes with a Cucumber Salad, and Waterfall Beef.  One of my inspirational bloggers, Jen at Use Real Butter, just posted a beautiful Thai Cucumber Salad recipe, here.

Mom, tempted by Elissa's Chocolate Marble Cheesecake with Coconut, Lemongrass and Kaffir Lime, ultimately opted for Pineapple Fried Rice with Chicken and Prawns, a signature dish of Thailand.  With inspiration from Almost Bourdain's recipe and presentation in a beautiful pineapple boat, Mom made her own version with the addition of red bell peppers, green onions, and cashews.

For dessert, Carmen served Grilled Pineapple with Coconut Dipping Sauce.

Alec & Nina's Sonoma, and Kai & Hill's Olivia - our precious and charming girly-girls...

Olivia may be growing up a bit too fast, but she's learning to appreciate fine food and wine at a young promoted from Jim's sous chef to our after-dinner wine connoisseur ;-)

A handsome sailor, from the Navy Southwest Band, belted out America the Beautiful....

We closed down Spreckels Park, and enjoyed every last drop of daylight...and Dean's wine!

John and I devoured the leftover Duck with Red Curry for dinner tonight. We added some roasted chicken, sweet potatoes, onions, red bell peppers, and peas, and served it over rice. On the spice scale, this is a 7/10. You can reduce the curry paste to 2 tablespoons if you're a bit timid. We like it hot, baby!

Grilled Duck with Red Curry Sauce
Adapted from Williams Sonoma
Serves 6


1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tbs. granulated sugar
1 Tbs. rice wine or dry sherry
2 tsp. light soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp. Asian sesame oil
1 tsp. dark soy sauce
1 tsp. peeled and minced fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder
1/2 tsp. salt, plus salt, to taste
6 duck breast halves, each 4 to 6 oz.
2 cans (each 13 1/2 fl. oz.) unsweetened coconut milk
2 to 3 Tbs. Thai red curry paste
1 to 2 Tbs. Thai fish sauce
1 Tbs. palm sugar or dark brown sugar
8 fresh or frozen kaffir lime leaves
4 red chilies, seeded and sliced
1 cup diced fresh pineapple
1/2 cup fresh Thai basil or sweet basil leaves, plus leaves for garnish
Freshly ground pepper, to taste


In a large glass bowl, combine the garlic, granulated sugar, rice wine, light soy sauce, sesame oil, dark soy sauce, ginger, five-spice powder and 1/2 tsp. salt. Using a fork, prick the duck skin at 1-inch intervals. Add the duck to the bowl and turn to coat evenly, rubbing the marinade on both sides of the breast halves. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours.

Meanwhile, open the cans of coconut milk without shaking them. Spoon the thick layer of cream on top into a bowl. In a wok over medium-high heat, combine 1/2 cup of the cream and the red curry paste and cook, stirring frequently, until the cream is aromatic and beads of oil float on top, about 3 minutes. Add the fish sauce, palm sugar, lime leaves, chilies and the remaining coconut cream and milk. Cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in the pineapple and 1/2 cup basil leaves. Remove from the heat and keep warm while grilling the duck.

Prepare charcoal or gas grill.  When medium-hot, remove the duck from the marinade, discarding the marinade, and place directly on the grill rack, skin side down. Grill until the fat is rendered from the skin and the skin is crisp, about 8 minutes. Turn and grill until the duck is fully cooked and, when pressed, feels firm to the touch on the other side, 3 to 5 minutes (internal temperature of 165 degrees F).  Cut the duck across the grain into slices 1/4 inch thick.

To serve, arrange one sliced duck breast half on each plate. Spoon the curry sauce over the top and garnish with the basil leaves.



bunkycooks said...

These flavors, dishes and great photos are enough to make me book a ticket to come for your next weekend of food festivities! I love that the children are participating and hopefully, they will also have a great appreciation for food and wine later in life.

We hope to share some of the fun with you all in person at some point in the future!

Carmen said...

Another GREAT concert! The duck was AMAZING ... so tender ... and the curry had just the right heft and heat and Carolyn's rice was the perfect compliment.

Denise said...

We'd love to have you! I bet you can guess what I'm making for Challenge New Zealand ;-)

Thank you - Your pork satay, cauliflower salad and pineapple skewers were wonderful too. What a great Concert season thus far!

Kai said...

All right, who's making a hangi? (Looking at you, John.) Anyone think we can dig a pit?