If I eat another bowl of beef bourguingnon this winter I'm going to pop. Besides the sun is finally flirting with Paris and my winter waistline needs some downsizing. This recipe combines the French love for tender langoustines and spicy homemade yellow Thai curry. Langoustines resemble overgrown shrimp and are next in kin with crayfish but, their flavor is closer to lobster which makes them highly sought after in France.
Preparing live snappy langoustines makes my stomach do back flips. I often substitute jumbo shrimp so I don't have to watch them squirm while I hold down the thorax (so they can't pinch or run away) and twist their middle tail fin, like a key, pulling out the green filled intestine in one long strip. Apparently they don't feel pain, or so French chefs like to say, but anyone who has seem them writhe after the disembowelment would disagree. Well, they sure are darned tasty anyhow.
Seriously, use shrimp, it's much easier.
Once you get past the pinching langoustines, this is a surprisingly simple dish. Some of the ingredients might seem exotic, but they should be findable at big grocery stores. I've included substitutions just in case.
Langoustine aux Curry Thaïlandaise
serves 4 people
3 T peanut oil
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 Kaffir lime leaves (substitute a squeeze of lime juice at the end of the recipe if you can't find these)
2 T Fish sauce (nam pla)
1 1/2 pounds langoustines, about 2-3 per person depending on size or substitute with jumbo shrimp
1 bunch Thai basil (bai horapa)
1/2 bunch chopped cilantro
salt and brown sugar to taste
6 red chilies
2 stalks lemon grass, sliced
1/2" knob galangal, peeled (substitute ginger if it's not available)
2 tsp chopped kaffir lime leaves (1 teaspoon lime rind finely grated)
3 sprigs coriander leaves
10 black peppercorns
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried shrimp paste
1 tsp ground turmeric
1. Prepare and clean langoustines by holding their thorax flat against the counter and twisting the middle tail fin like a key pulling out the green intestine in one strip. The langoustines will be shelled after they are cooked because it's easier. If using shrimp de-vein and peel them leaving the tail fin on for decoration.
2. Combine paste ingredients and grind until fine either with a mortal and pestle or a Cuisinart.
3. Heat oil in a skillet on medium high heat and sauté paste until it's fragrant.
4. Stir in coconut milk little by little and chicken stock. Add kaffir lime leaves, fish sauce and simmer. Season with salt and sugar to your taste. The oil in the sauce will separate a little, but that's okay, it's part of the look.
5. Add langoustines and cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Remove langoustines and let cool for a few seconds before removing their shells. Place langoustines back into curry sauce to simmer for 2 minutes..
6. Add chopped fresh basil to curry and serve up!
Note: Removing langoustine shells can be tricky. I squeeze them on both sides to crack the thorax shell, then press down and crack the tummy shell. Once these are both cracked it is easier to pull of the thorax shell off in segments. Twist the heads off of leave them on for presentation.