Dry red curry of beef and pumpkin

Another variation on a David Thompson recipe, this seasonal dish uses pumkpin, though any squash could potentially be used. If using pumpkin, select a small, heavy “pie pumpkin” over the large ones used for jack-o’-lanterns. Pierce from top with a heavy knife, then carefully carve into two pieces. Scoop out the inside and separate the seeds from the pulp. Discard pulp. Roast seeds on an oiled tray, salted, in one layer, in preheated 325-degree oven for about 25 minutes. Stir and turn after 10 minutes, and several times thereafter. They make a nice snack.

Carve half of the pumpkin into lozenge-shaped pieces, about an inch by an inch square, and about a half-inch thick. Be sure to remove the peel. Soften in a pot of boiling salted water for about 5 minutes or less.

The paste for this curry is relatively simple and very adaptable to different recipes, so make a bunch and save in the fridge – it will keep for months:

10 dried long red chiles (seeded, soaked in cold salted water and drained)
large pinch of sale
1 1/2 tbs chopped galangal
3 tbs chopped lemongrass
2 tsp finely grated kaffir lime zest
1 tbs chopped & scraped coriander root
1 tbs chopped red shallot
2 tbs chopped garlic
2 tsp shrimp paste (first loosely wrap in foil, then roast in a 450-degree oven for 5 minutes)

Pound each ingredient in a mortar and pestle until it becomes a paste, then add the next one, continuing until you have a fine paste.

You will also need:

1-2 lbs nicely marbled shell steak or ribeye, chopped across the grain and diagonally into 1X1X1/2″ pieces
oil for deep frying
large pinch of white sugar
2 tbs fish sauce
1/2 cup stock or water
5 kaffir lime leaves, finely minced
bunch of coriander leaves

Deep-fry the steak in 350-degree oil for about 10-15 seconds – you don’t want it cooked. Discard all but 5 tbs of the oil. Fry 3 tbs of the curry paste in the oil over medium heat until fragrant – about 5 minutes. Season with the sugar and half the fish sauce. Add the steak and stir until cooked – probably only 2 minutes at most – add the pumpkin pieces just before the steak is done, and stir thoroughly. Moisten during this process with stock or water if necessary – it’s probably not necessary, you should not have a “sauce” with this dish, which is why it’s called dry. It should be extremely oily and fragrant. Taste and adjust for seasoning – it should taste salty, hot, rich and slightly sweet in that order – add up to the remaining half of the fish sauce if needed to balance the flavor, being very careful not to overdo it.

Stir in the kaffir lime leaves and the coriander leaves and serve with jasmine rice, nam pla prik and other sides.