Confessions Of A Kitchen Whimp

Coconut Curry Fish

I grew up eating bland food.  Very bland food.  The only spices I remember being in the house were salt, pepper, cinnamon (sugar), and poultry seasoning.  So it has taken me a while to dip my toes into the vast ocean of spices.  The folks at Penzey’s do their part to expand my palate with paprika, cumin, and cayenne pepper.  But one thing I have yet to fully embrace is curry.  My taste buds have not been trained to savor the complex flavors, or potentially blinding heat, of curry.   Call me a one note gal, or a wimp, but I don’t enjoy food that sets my mouth on fire.

In an attempt to move past my flavor prejudices, I have stared making dishes that bring some heat.  Of course, I try and balance the burn with something soothing like coconut milk, yogurt, or sour cream.  But I’ve got to tell you, I don’t think there’s enough milk in the world that can get me to bite into one of those fiery red chiles from the Asian market ever again.  My wimpy taste buds and I can live without repeating that experience.

I’m much happier enjoying some curry heat when I can tame it.  Thai Style Fish with Coconut Curry Broth does this beautifully.  And for those of you with asbestos coated taste buds, simply add more curry paste to get the level of heat you desire.

Thai Style Fish with Coconut Curry Broth

Adapted from Ellie Krieger

BAH Note: 5 cups of baby spinach sounds like a lot but when it is steamed, it will wilt down substantially.  Unless you have a bowl big enough to hold all that spinach, and a microwave big enough to hold that bowl, work in batches.

  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons red curry paste
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup coconut milk, well shaken
  • 4 fillets firm white fish such as Halibut, Talapia, Cod, Orange Roughy, or Red Snapper
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 scallion, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 5 cups baby spinach

Place the spinach and about a tablespoon water in a microwave safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave for approximately 2 minutes and set aside.

Heat the vegetable oil over medium high heat in a large, nonstick skillet.  Add the shallots and cook for approximately 4 minutes, until they begin to brown.  Add the curry paste, stir, and cook for 30 seconds.  Add the chicken broth and coconut milk.   Bring the liquids to a boil then lower the heat and cook for 10 to 15 minutes until the sauce is reduced by half.  Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the fish to the pan, cover, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes until the fish flakes easily with a fork.  Stir in the green onion and cilantro.

Place some steamed spinach in the bottom of a shallow bowl.  Top with a piece of fish and sauce.

{printable recipe}

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8 Responses to Confessions Of A Kitchen Whimp

  1. This one sounds really good Wendi! I too grew up in a bland household, Noel’s really responsible for forcing my taste buds to wake up!

    • Wendi says:

      Beth, I really did like this dish a lot. I think one reason is that we used full fat coconut milk because that’s all we could find at the store. So the broth had a wonderful rich feel.

  2. I’ve made that recipe several times and really like it. It’s a keeper!

  3. I think my mother must have put Old Bay on my pacifier. I love heat.

  4. Emily Revere says:

    Wendi, sometimes you say things that make me think way back to being a kid. this is another one of those.

    Talk about bland———- my gosh, I think the raciest thing I ever saw in the cupboard was a shaker of season salt. Otherwise, ther was salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder. I think poultry seasoning made the scene about a week before thanksgiving.

    I thought everyone ate stuff that tasted like wall paper ( let’s not go to te fish or the Catholics will hold a Bingo game!)

    On the few occasions we DID have something flavorful, it was either Dad’s Sour Beef, or the meatless spaghetti sauce he invented so I did not have to be force fed every Friday.

    But then, there came the pot roast. Chuck roast, in aluminum foil, including carrots and potatoes, covered with onion soup mix and mommy’s special sauce ( can of cream of mushroom soup), roasted until the smell permeated the neighborhood if the windows were open.

    This was Sunday fare only and the best one could hope was that there was a small piece left over for a special school lunch on Monday!

    We never told my brother what was in the special sauce. He did not like mushrooms not even the sound of the word. If he had known there was mushroom soup in that sauce he woulld have thought he had been poisoned!

    I recall my father telling me what a good cook my mother was. then I left home and discovered the many spices NOT featured in our repertoire at home!

    One time I made garlic mashed potatoes and brought them over to the house for my father to taste ( since he thought himself such a gourmet). they were in fact good. After his first taste he admonished me with something like, next time don’t ruin them with garlic. the same went for the homemade cannoli that I worked so diligently on. SIGH!

    the spouse likes curry so I may just try this….BTW I did offer to make the orange rought for my mother…..when she heard the words, lime, and garlic in the saqme sentence she demurred……when I said oven and aluminum foil I got the LOOK……Fish it seems is only to be fried!

    • Wendi says:

      Emily, did you have the big red and white shaker of Accent?

      It’s so funny that after a lifetime of eating the same things, people think that different is bad. I’ve never met a mashed potato that was ruined by garlic.

  5. Kathy T says:

    Penzey’s is rescuing me from that same childhood of blandness. I had been carefully ordering from their catalog for a while but the first time I went to the store in Rockville, I think I spent about $150. I credit them entirely for my current obsession with cumin. I am also in love with their Zatar Seasoning. I have no idea what it is but it is heaven on fresh flatbread.

    • Wendi says:

      Kathy, the Penzy store in Rockville is so worth the trip. But I agree that you’re likely to buy way more than you plan on just because everything is there to smell. We’re running low on a few things here and I need to decide whether to order online or drive down to Rockville.

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