Thai barbecue: Complex flavors in an easy recipe

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 5, 2012

By J.M. Hirsch
AP Food Writer
A few years ago I created a recipe for a killer barbecue sauce. It was exactly the way I like it – thick, rich, a lot savory, a little sweet and bursting with cumin, smoked paprika and so many other delicious seasonings.
Like most homemade barbecue sauces, it’s so much better than anything you can buy. And yet I almost never make it.
Admittedly, it’s because I am lazy and generally short on time. Though barbecue sauce is hardly difficult to make – dump everything in a bowl and mix – gathering up the many ingredients my recipe calls for too often is simply too much work.
So I usually just reach for a bottle of whatever brand is handy and make do with that.
Until recently, when I reached into the cabinet and discovered we were out. Worse yet, we didn’t have the ingredients to make my usual recipe.
I did, however, have a jar of Thai red curry paste, a Southeast Asian seasoning. Red curry paste is a delicious mash of red chilies, coriander roots and leaves, shrimp paste, lemon grass, garlic, shallots and galangal (a relative of ginger). It smells both tomatoey and exotically heady with spicy aromas. The flavor is warm, but not biting, with tastes of ginger and garlic.
That night, all I did was thin it with water until it had a barbecue sauce consistency, then tossed chicken in it and slapped it on the grill. It was crazy good. The next night, I tried it again. But this time I doctored it a bit, bringing it just a bit closer to traditional barbecue sauce. But I still didn’t want to turn it into a grocery list of ingredients; I could just stick my original recipe if I was willing to do that.
So I mixed the curry paste with water, peanut butter and lime juice. That’s it. It was incredible, tasting equal parts spicy barbecue sauce and peanut satay. I’ve since used the same sauce on beef, chicken and turkey. It even would be good mixed into ground beef or turkey.
Thai Peanut Barbecue Turkey Cutlet Burgers
If boneless, skinless chicken breasts are more your style, slice them thin and substitute for the turkey tenderloin in this recipe.
Servings: 6
1/2 C. mayonnaise
1 to 2 tsp. hot sauce, to taste
Zest and juice of 1 lime
12-ounce package shredded broccoli slaw mixture
Salt and ground black pepper
2 Tbs. Thai red curry paste
1 C. smooth peanut butter
1 1/2 pounds turkey tenderloin
6 hamburger buns or other sandwich rolls
In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, hot sauce and lime zest (reserve the juice). Add the broccoli slaw and mix well. Season with salt and pepper, then set aside.
In a large bowl, mix together the curry paste, peanut butter and lime juice. Mix in just enough water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to achieve a barbecue sauce consistency. The amount of water will vary depending on the thickness of the peanut butter you use. Set aside.
Cut the turkey tenderloin crosswise to form 6 round cutlets. Add the cutlets to the curry paste mixture, turning to coat well. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the grill to medium-high. Use an oil-soaked paper towel held with tongs to oil the grill grates.
Reduce the grill to medium and set the cutlets on the grill and cook for 6 minutes per side, or until they reach 165 F at the center. Place each cutlet on a bun, then top with some of the broccoli slaw.