Thai Chicken and Pumpkin Curry
Once September starts giving way to October and pumpkin becomes, for a time, ubiquitous, it can be a stretch to find new ways to cook the fall bounty. Pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, pumpkin lattes, and pumpkin muffins are all popular but not exactly novel iterations of the beloved squash. For those who crave pumpkin but want to try something new, something savory, even, this Thai curry does the trick. Featuring cubes of pumpkin that meld with the brightness of lime juice, the potency of fish sauce, and the bite of chiles, it's a dish that feels autumnal but manages to stray from the traditional nutmeg and clove route.
- 4 chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- Salt, to taste
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 shallots, sliced
- 1 thumb-sized knob of ginger, peeled and minced
- 1 Thai bird's eye chile, minced (optional)
- One 14-ounce can of coconut milk (full-fat)
- 3-4 tablespoons red curry paste
- 1 ½ cups chicken broth
- 2 limes, zest and juice of 1, plus more to taste and a thin wheel for garnish
- 1 stalk lemongrass, outer leaves removed, cut into 3 pieces
- 2-3 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar (preferably brown sugar)
- 1 medium-sized sugar pumpkin (roughly 3-4 pounds), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 ½-inch chunks
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into thin slices
- 1 orange bell pepper, cut into thin slices
- 1 ½ cups jasmine rice, cooked
- 1 large bunch fresh basil leaves, for garnish
To begin, season the chicken with the turmeric and salt, to taste. Heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and sauté until fully cooked, approximately 5-6 minutes. Once cooked, turn off the heat and remove the chicken from the skillet to a bowl and cover with foil. Set aside.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of canola oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the shallots, ginger, and chile, if using, and sauté for 3-5 minutes until the shallots have softened and have turned translucent.
To the skillet, add the coconut milk in several additions, starting with roughly ¼ of the can. To the first addition, add the curry paste and blend into the coconut milk until smooth; adjust the amount of curry paste you use to suit your preference. (More curry paste means a spicier and more strongly flavored curry). Continue adding the rest of milk, making sure that the mixture is well-incorporated after each addition. Once all the coconut milk has been added, pour in the chicken broth.
Add the lime zest and juice of 1 lime, lemongrass, fish sauce, and sugar to the skillet. Taste and adjust the proportions as necessary: more lime juice for acidity, more fish sauce for salt, more sugar for sweetness. Let cook uncovered for 5 minutes.
Once the mixture has reduced slightly, add the pumpkin to the skillet. Let the pumpkin cook in the curry for roughly 15 minutes, until it is tender, but not so soft that it begins to melt. Return the chicken to the skillet and add the bell peppers, and cook for 2-3 more minutes. Add roughly 1 cup of basil leaves to the curry and cook for approximately 1 minute, until wilted. Taste the curry and adjust the flavor accordingly. Once the curry has finished cooking, remove and discard the lemongrass pieces.
Serve the curry over jasmine rice and garnish with basil leaves and a quarter of a lime.