This paleo stuff isn’t for the weak-willed. Carb cravings sneak up on you when you least expect them. To survive, you need some serious substitutes—dishes that make you forget the fact that bagels, cheese, candy, crackers and every other guilty pleasure you can imagine are no where in your near future.
For me, one of those dishes is this paleo curry.
I was highly skeptical of the “rice.” Dave, true to form, was skeptical I could get him to like cauliflower. Lucky for both of us, this carb-substitute came through in the clutch.
If you are going grain-free, paleo, gluten-free, or any other variation of this carb-free torture, this will be your saving grace when your worst hankerings kick in.
Note: I used bone-in chicken breast, and I’m convinced it adds flavor and depth to the dish. The only problem is, the meat gets so tender in the crockpot, the breasts virtually disintegrate, which means you’ll have to comb through with a fork and pick out the bones. If the prospect of accidentally feeding your family/eating partners a neglected chicken bone makes you nervous, go with boneless breasts. I was willing to take the risk—and subject Dave to a potential unpleasant surprise—in the name of taste. Fortunately, I managed to find and remove all of the bones.
Paleo curry with cauliflower rice
2 bone-in chicken breasts (see my note above about the bones)
2 carrots, diced
1 cup mushrooms
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2/3 cup curry powder
2 cans coconut milk
1 cup chicken stock
1 head cauliflower
This dish is pretty chicken heavy—if you prefer more veggies, I would use only one breast and double, or even triple the veggies. It will seem like a lot, but they shrink considerably during cooking.
First, brown the chicken breasts in olive oil over medium high. Place in crock pot with cut veggies, minus the cauliflower.
Mix curry powder, coconut milk and stock until blended and pour over chicken and veggies. Cook on low, covered, for 8 hours.
For the cauliflower rice, process the cauliflower with a grater, blender or food processor. You want the cauliflower bits to be about the size of grains of rice. Steam in the microwave (no added liquid—the moisture in the vegetable will do the work), in a covered dish, until tender, stirring every few minutes. It took mine about 10 minutes total.
Serve curry over hot rice.
The only reliable thing about Chinese food delivery is the fortune cookie at the bottom of the bag. Wait, no, I take that back. I recall a traumatizing meal in which, after finishing my mediocre orange chicken dish, I reached into the takeout bag only to feel napkins and chopsticks. The memory is burned into my brain.
Assuming you do get your prophetic little treat, your meal isn’t totally ruined. But everything else is a crapshoot. Soggy egg rolls, chewy mystery meat, limp veggies, dry rice: all potential land mines packed neatly in gleaming white takeout boxes.
Forgo your next round of Chinese Takeout Roulette, spring for some real chicken and heat up the frying pan. And for the love of God, don’t forget the fortune cookies.
Better-than-takeout Orange Chicken
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast or thighs, cut into 1-2-inch pieces
1 12-oz beer
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Extra flour for dredging
Vegetable oil for frying
2 cups orange juice
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons cornstarch or flour
1 tablespoon dark corn syrup
1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper (if you don’t like a touch of spice, leave this out)
1 clove minced garlic
1 tablespoon honey
Combine all sauce ingredients in a saucepan on medium-high heat. Stir and heat for several minutes until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat and set aside.
Heat oil (enough to cover chicken pieces completely once you put them in) in a pot to 375 degrees. Prepare beer batter by mixing beer, flour and salt. Set up your batter station close to the fryer so you can bring the chicken immediately out of the batter and into the fryer. This can get a little messy.
First dip chicken in flour to coat, then, using tongs, dip chicken pieces in the beer batter, then put them immediately into the hot oil. Here’s an important tip: slowly submerge each chicken piece in the oil for a second or two to let the batter firm up before you release the piece into the oil. This will prevent the chicken from sticking to the bottom or sides of the pan. Be careful though, you might get spattered with specks of hot oil. All in the name of homestyle faux takeout.
Cook chicken pieces in batches for about 3-5 minutes in the oil, or until golden brown. Cut a piece to test for doneness and gauge cooking time. Place on a plate with paper towels.
When the chicken is almost all fried, re-heat your sauce, if necessary. Toss fried chicken pieces in hot sauce or drizzle over the top of the chicken. Serve over a bed of rice and garnish with sesame seeds and green onions.
I consider myself a pretty savvy tequila drinker—after all, I did learn from the best (thanks dad). I got an early education and managed to avoid the requisite Jose Cuervo binge in college that’s resulted in a whole generation of young adults who gag at the slightest whiff of tequila. So obviously, I jumped at the chance to attend a tequila tasting at Sunda sponsored by Tres Generaciones tequila.
As a self-respecting native Arizonan, and Tucsonan specifically, I have a discerning taste for the stuff. Like a fine wine or scotch, good tequila has a unique and complex flavor profile that should be savored slowly. I know the basics of enjoying a good tequila, but even I learned some new tips and tricks.
Here’s the room before we started dancing on tables and hanging from the rafters in a tequila-induced frenzy. Just kidding—only functional, self-respecting drunks in this bunch.
Armando, or Mando as we like to call him, a national tequila ambassador from Tres Generaciones, was our host for the evening. Tequila neophytes, listen closely—there are a few things you should know about good tequila:
- Good tequila comes from 100% blue agave. This is true for all of my favorite tequilas—Don Julio and Oro Azul, specifically—not only Tres Generaciones.
- There are three types of tequila: Blanco (or Plata), Reposado and Anejo:
- Blanco is an un-aged, clear tequila and you will probably favor this type of tequila if you like gin or vodka.
- Resposado is aged in oak barrels for at least four months, no longer than 11. You may like this type if you like rum.
- Anejo is aged in oak barrels for at least 12 months. Being a whiskey drinker, this is my personal favorite.
- Tequila by law must be double-distilled, and some tequilas are triple-distilled, including Tres Generaciones. Some say triple distillation isn’t necessary, or that it takes away some of the agave flavor, but Mando made me a believer. After more than five shots I woke up without the slightest trace of a hangover.
We started the night with some cocktails, conversation and appetizers. Here was my personal favorite, the Pina Reposado:
Spicy Raw tuna with jalapeno on top of crispy rice. YUM.
Indo corn fritters, also fabulous.
We met some great people at the tasting—Melissa and Enrique from Factio (I loved them even more after we saw them hightail it to the sushi bar after a forgettable salad and beef entree. If you go to Sunda, skip anything from the land. I repeat: order the fish and sushi. They are WORLDS better.); Matt from Thrillist Chicago; Jennifer from Second City Soiree; and four lovely ladies from Oprah Radio and the Chicago Tribune whose names are escaping me …
Anyway, they served three courses, each with a different Tres Generaciones tequila. Before we began, we got a lesson on how to properly taste tequila from a very passionately animated Mando:
How to sip a tequila:
- Swirl the tequila to release the scent, part your mouth slightly, and inhale deeply (just don’t snort the tequila, because that would be really painful).
- Bring the glass up to your lips and let the tequila touch the tip of your tongue. This is where you taste sweetness, so you’ll get notes of agave first.
- Then take a small sip and let the tequila run down your tongue and around your entire mouth—don’t swallow immediately.
- Swallow only after the tequila has coated your entire mouth.
For those of you who are vomiting in your mouth at the thought of prolonging a tequila shot, I promise you, it’s smoother and much more enjoyable when consumed this way. But that’s assuming it’s a good tequila, so don’t try this with Jose Cuervo.
For our first course, we had the Southeastern Chop Chop Chicken with the Plata:
Again, very forgettable, but not completely inedible. At least it came with a shot of tequila.
Then the shaking beef wok, even more underwhelming than the salad.
Again, it didn’t hurt to have good tequila to wash it down with:
In a favorable twist of fate (for Dave and me, at least), the wonderful woman sitting next to me was a non-meat eater and had a gluten allergy, so she was unable to eat her fish dish (it had soy in it, which apparently contains gluten). I honestly felt awful for her, but how could I resist when she shoved the plate our way?? I mean, if you’re gonna twist my arm about it …
This was the most delicious cod I have ever had in my life. It just melts in your mouth. I’m still salivating over it. Amazing how a restaurant that serves this could also serve the Benihana-style mediocrity that was the salad and beef. OK, I’ll stop bashing Sunda—as I said, they deserve major praise for the fish and sushi. Go there for that. Also, the dessert, avocado mousse with lychee shave ice and avocado coulis wasn’t bad at all:
All in all, a fun time. As always, Dave and I were the first to show up and the last to leave. You can count on that when tequila’s involved.