From Bank Jean-Georges in Houston
1 stalk lemongrass
1 tablespoon canola, corn, or other neutral oil
1 medium or 1/2 large onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons Thai red-curry paste
6 1/8-inch-thick slices of galangal or ginger, not peeled
3 lime leaves (available at Asian markets; dried are fine)
4 cups chicken stock
12 ounces boneless skinless chicken breast
2 cups shiitake mushrooms
1 thirteen-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
juice of 2 limes
2 tablespoons nam pla or nuoc mam (Asian fish sauce)
3 scallions, trimmed and minced on the diagonal
1/4 cup minced cilantro
Trim the lemongrass of its outer sheath and hard ends, whack it in a few places with the back of a knife, then cut it into 2 or 3 pieces. In a deep skillet or medium saucepan, combine the oil, onion, and garlic and turn the heat to medium. Cook a minute, stirring, then add the curry paste, lemongrass, galangal, and lime leaves.
Cook, stirring, for 3 or 4 minutes, then add the stock. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to medium and cook at a moderate boil for about 15 minutes. (You may prepare the recipe in advance up to this point; refrigerate in a covered container for up to two days before proceeding.)
While the broth cooks, cut the chicken breast into 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes. Remove the stems from the shiitakes and discard or reserve for stock; cut the caps into quarters or eighths.
Add the coconut milk, then the chicken and the mushrooms. Cook about 5 minutes, or until the chicken is done.
Stir in the lime juice and nam pla; taste and adjust the seasoning. Garnish with the scallions and cilantro and serve. You may remove the galangal and lemongrass before serving, or leave them in; they are delicious to gnaw on at the table.