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What chefs cook to wind down and relax

This was the subject of an article on the Huffington Post food pages. Chefs cook to a certain degree for every meal they eat, but their choices were interesting, and one of them was a chef who likes to make curry when he eats at home.

The first thing I do when I have decided to make a curry dinner is be sure that I have some chutney around. Then I put some organic brown rice into a 350-degree oven with twice as much water as rice, and set the timer for one hour. By the time the rice is done I will have the curry to go with it.

The basics of curry are this: it is an Asian dish that goes back for centuries. The celebrity chef Bel Arneson deals with the flavors of Asia in her excellent program The Spice Goddess, and through her I have learned about Garam Masala, which is the basic curry flavor that you can get and then learn how to modify it to your taste. Use it sparingly at first and adjust how much you use and whatever flavors you think are weak or missing.

Otherwise you can get prepared curry powder or paste. Curry is similar to Mexican Mole sauce in that it is a regional flavor that is made many different ways. The great divide among curries is: yellow for mild curry and red for hot curry. Hot curry can be very hot indeed, as people learn when they visit the Bangkok Cafe in Tucson, for example, or an Indian restaurant where curry is used as a general flavoring for vegetables or other side dishes.

I always buy yellow curry powder or paste, and then at home I begin chopping an onion and place it into a saucepan to sweat, along with some minced garlic. Give this time to become translucent over medium heat.

The next thing to do is to place 1 Tablespoon of your curry powder into the onion-garlic mixture and stir it in well. As they all get friendly, you will need to place some cornstarch or flour into about two cups of organic broth, stock or (what I use) a mixture of broth and coconut milk. Get the organic "light" coconut milk that is not sweetened and has the consistency of half and half or cream.

You mix up the liquid with 2 Tablespoons of flour or cornstarch (or shake them up in a covered jar) and add them to the curry mixture. This will heat up and thicken. It is your basic curry.

Next, you may opt to add some ingredients such as chicken or shrimp, a tender cut of cubed beef or vegetables such as cooked squash, chopped seeded tomatoes, or whatever you like. You make sure that everything is heated through and then I'll bet you still have to wait for the rice to be done, because making curry is not a mysterious process but rather a home-cooked Asian comfort food that deserves to be on America's tables more often.

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