|A bowl of sweet, creamy, spicy, peanut-studded, herb-topped perfection.|
Sometimes, around Denver or in the ski towns, one sees restaurants advertising themselves as "Colorado Cuisine." Generally these fall into three categories.
1. 'Colorado-style' pizza.
I'm from California, where there also exists a bullshit regional pizza style--'California pizza' sometimes has avocados and grilled chicken breast on it. Or pesto and shrimp.
So Californians have no legitimacy when criticizing another region's pizza. But I'll say it: California-style and Colorado-style pizza both suck. From what I can tell, Colorado pizza means it has a thick, bread-y crust and a soggy, saucy middle, and you're meant to pour honey over the leftover crust and eat it as dessert.
Not a fan.
2. Anything smothered in pork green chili.
I have no idea why all burritos purchased in this state come covered in gray-green, not-spicy, slightly viscous sauce. Why do you want your burrito soaking wet?
3. "Colorado Cuisine".
These restaurants tend to be more expensive. Usually this means there is Colorado lamb and trout on the menu, bison steaks, and various food that connotes the mountains, like juniper berries. These restaurants seem more like a gimmick---the flavors are more about the theory than the taste, and nobody eats this way at home. You see restaurants like this near the gondolas at Vail or Beaver Creek, catering to rich gapers from Dallas.
So as far as I'm concerned, there is no existing definition of Colorado cuisine worth respecting. Thus, I think I have as much claim as anyone to define it myself.
So, in my opinion, true Colorado cuisine must meet two criteria--
a. Something you'd want to eat in a blizzard. Warm, hearty comfort food.
b. Something you'd want to eat when you're really high
A wide range of things would qualify---French-style wine-braised short ribs, chorizo black bean soup, shrimp etouffee over rice, etc. Something delicious, comforting, unpretentious. What you want to share with the people in your ski house and eat in your socks and thermals, while everyone is utterly and legally stoned.
Well, this massaman curry is a shining example of the genre. Very rich and sweet from the coconut milk, salty and funky with fish sauce, a slight burn from chilies. The sauce is studded with crunchy peanuts, and the potatoes soak up the sauce, becoming soft and lush and completely, totally delicious.
I got this recipe from BonAppetit, but altered it. My version is certain to be better--theirs, egregiously, omitted peanuts.
This is so, so fabulous.
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 3 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into chunks
- Kosher salt
- 4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes (about 1½ lb.), cut into smallish pieces
- 2 medium red onions, chopped into large pieces
- 4 large carrots, chopped
- ¾ cup Massaman Curry Paste (click for recipe)
- 12 oz. Belgian-style wheat beer
- 3 13.5-oz. cans unsweetened coconut milk
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (or water)
- ½ cup fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
- ¼ cup fresh lime juice
- 3 tablespoons palm or light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 3 hot chilies (I used thai chilies, but any kind is fine. Or you could use chili oil or chili powder)
- 3/4 cup whole unsalted roasted peanuts
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Cilantro, scallions, and cooked rice (for serving)
- Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and cook in batches until golden brown (do not turn), 8–10 minutes.
- Add onion, carrot, chilis, and potatoes to the pot. Cook for about 5 minutes (everything will simmer to doneness once the liquid has been added, so things don't need to be cooked through now)
- Add curry paste to pot and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 4 minutes. Add beer. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until reduced by half, 5–7 minutes. Add coconut milk, peanuts, and broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until chicken is very tender and potatoes are cooked through, about 20 minutes.
- Remove from heat and mix in fish sauce, lime juice, palm sugar, and soy sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning. Top with cilantro and scallions. Serve with rice.