Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Bit of the Exotic

Every time I make curry I wonder, “Why don’t I make curry more often?” When O1 was still living at home, I only made it when I knew she wasn’t going to be around (not a big fan), but O2 does like it, so I’m not sure why it’s not more of a staple in our house.

First off, there are so many wonderful variations on it, and it can make for a fantastic and quick weeknight meal. Pick up some curry paste (green and red are my two favorites) at your local grocery store, cook up your favorite meats/veggies, toss in a tablespoon along with a can of coconut milk and serve over rice. Simple, quick, delicious.

Anyway, when I was a college freshman I was invited to someone’s house for some African style curry. The buffet table held a huge pot of this amazingly fragrant chicken curry, another huge dish of rice, and then a spectacular array of condiments. We were instructed to spoon some rice in the center of our plates, ladle the chicken curry over the top, and then make little piles of whatever condiments interested us around the outside edges. That allowed us to try different combinations and flavors.

It was amazing and one of my favorite memories of college.

With G’s official birthday just around the corner, I’ve invited Carley and him over in hopes of recreating this memorable meal. In the meantime, I’ve gotten the curry bug (Hmm. Sounds like something that you have to vacuum out of your carpet.)

I caught an episode of Nigella Feasts a few weeks ago, and she happened to be making Mughlai Chicken, which looked simply amazing. O2 was off to the prom, and I thought I’d try out the recipe for a night on my own. I followed her recipe to the letter (although I added a few more of the sultanas than the recipe called for), and the aroma was incredible. The taste was pretty amazing as well. I think the only thing I’d change the next time around would be to use a mortar and pestle and grind up some of the spices. I followed her instructions and tossed everything in the pan, which made for a really rustic presentation, but the cardamom seeds were a bit much to bite into (for me). Everything else was large enough to fish out.

To accompany the chicken, I made a batch of gingered coconut rice and some flatbread, which are quickly becoming my favorite go-to bread.

Mughlai Chicken

1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp dried chili flakes
4 Tbs ground almonds
1/2 cup water
5 cardamom pods, smashed
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
2 bay leaves
4 whole cloves
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 lb boned chicken thighs, cut into pieces
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 cup low sodium chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sultanas (golden raisins)
1 tsp garam masala
1 Tbs sugar
1 tsp salt
Toasted almonds to garnish

Put the ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander, the seeds from the cardamom and chili flakes into a food processor, or into a mortar and pestle, and blend to a paste. Add the ground almonds and water and then blend again, set aside.

Heat the oil in a large pan and add the chicken pieces (cook in batches to avoid crowding the pan). Sear on both sides and remove to a plate.

Add the spices (including the cardamom pods - you can fish out later) to the pan and turn them in the oil. Add the onions and cook on medium-low until softened and lightly browned, stirring frequently.

Pour in the blended paste and combine well. Allow to cook 2 or 3 minutes, stirring often. Add the yogurt a bit at a time, stirring as you go, then stir in the stock, cream, and sultanas.

Put the browned chicken back into the pan, along with any juices. Sprinkle over the garam masala, sugar and salt. Cover and cook on low heat for 20 minutes, testing to make sure the meat is cooked through. Serve over rice and sprinkle with toasted almonds.

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