Monday, July 9, 2012

Fish Curry: Continual improvement, not pats on the back

For RH and BS who put up with me every June

Come every June, when the California Department of Education posts its annual API reports...I become a madwoman.  Friends who are higher up in education fear my phone calls as it usually means I will yell incoherently about something and my temper is so afire that nothing can put out the blaze.  It is a fearful time to be in education and my friend.  Just over the weekend, I had an extremely heated conversation with a friend in the middle of a relaxed farmers' market Saturday.  His wife, his child and Children looked on as I stood in the middle of beautiful stone fruit and berries and had a mini-temper tantrum about the state of education.

You might ask, what's the problem?  The answer is not a simple one.  I'm speaking for me, my situation at my school right now - I want less "We're doing great" and more "We can do more."  Our school on paper looks great, and we score very well on the STAR test.  However, when I break down the data, look at other schools, and study the overall state of California education, let's just say there is a whole lot more that we can be doing.  I'm also not interested in doing it just for Children, because I could simply just educate them the way that I think they should be by supplementing their work at home (which I already do a little.)  But that isn't what I want.  I want to see my SCHOOL improve.  I want all 716 or so students at Children's school to get more from their hours at their school.

The problem is that too many people are ready to say that they've done enough, or they don't have any more to give.  I get that, because I get in that place.  But if we just could change the conversation from, "We're doing just great" to "Let's do a bit more" I think I could relax.  The time for praise and self-congratulations is over and it's time to buckle down and do more, make it better, improve.

Some might say I'm being harsh or mean.  But I know that if we could just change the outlook more can be done.  I say it to my students all the time - you can always improve.  It can always be rewritten again.  It can always get more editing.  It can always grow.  I tell it to the girls when they practice piano - you can make this better.  You can grow this.  You can improve this.  You can add more dynamics, more feeling, more tone.  It can always be better.

I say this to myself often as well.  Recipes get pushed around and tried again until I'm happy with it.  I'll make something and if it isn't tasty, I won't post it.  I made a fish curry dish a couple months back which Children enjoyed.  But for me, it was definitely missing something and I couldn't figure out what it was.  I kept thinking about it and contemplating how I could make it better, how I could improve it and grow it.  So I kept at it, and this is the result.

It can be spicy (if you use a lot of the chili paste) so be aware.  It is fantastic however with the spice and a great one pot meal if you've got the patience to see it through.  The flavors need to be built up in stages, but once you get there - wow - things just sing on your plate.  I might be able to make it better later, so I'll keep experimenting, but I have to say that this version is yummy.

And as for what I'm going to do about Children's school - I'm not quite sure yet.  But I'm tired of being unheard and brushed aside.  I'll be saying something and I'm sure I won't be popular, but I know I want to do more for more than just Children.

Fish Curry
Makes 6 to 8 servings

2 tablespoons curry powder (I used Trader Joes)
2 tablespoons chopped shallots
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon ground chili paste (use less if you’re concerned about too much
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
3 lemongrass stalks, cut into 3-inch pieces and bruised with the flat side of a knife
1 (2-inch) piece ginger, peeled, cut into 5 slices and bruised with the flat side of a knife
1 1/2 cups fresh chicken stock or store-bought low-sodium chicken broth

3 carrots, peeled, cut on the diagonal into 2/3-inch pieces
1 yellow onion, cut into wedges
½ lb small potatoes, cut into large pieces (I used gold potatoes, and sliced them in half)

13.5 or 14 oz can of coconut milk

1 lb asparagus, cut into 2 inch spears
1.5 to 2 lbs firm white fish, such as halibut or mahi mahi, cut into 2 inch pieces and seasoned with salt

¼ cup cilantro chopped
¼ cup basil chopped

Measure and prepare all ingredients. In small bowl, add chopped shallots, garlic, chili paste, curry powder. Set aside. In another bowl combine fish sauce, sugar, lemon grass stalks, ginger, and chicken stock. Set aside. In a large bowl have carrots and onion and potatoes ready.

Heat the oil in a medium pot over moderate heat. Add the shallot, garlic, chili paste, curry powder mixture and cook until fragrant and beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Add the fish sauce, sugar, lemongrass, ginger and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, reducing and concentrating flavors, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots, potatoes and onions and cook for 15 minutes. Add coconut milk and simmer for an additional 2 minutes. Add fish and asparagus cook until asparagus is tender and fish is fully cooked.

Transfer to a serving bowl, garnish with chopped cilantro and basil. Serve with white rice.

Printable recipe
The push for continual improvement 

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