Saturday, September 6, 2008

The easiest chicken curry evah!

This is a recipe request from my little sister, who wanted me to do a recipe for chicken "like Mom makes." Tall order to fill! :D

When I'm doing one of my recipe recreations or experiments, I'm never quite sure how to name the dishes. I hate just using something generic like "chicken curry" because it sounds like a cop-out, but my Bangla skills aren't up to par enough to create a cool sounding name for the dish. I could be a smart-ass and just call it "cheecken" because that's probably how we just referred to it at home. :P

I will also admit that when she first asked how to make the chicken I totally did the recipe the desi way and told her what to put in it and how to cook it but without the measurements -- invoking the art of "andaaj." So here is my attempt at making chicken like we had at home and writing it all down so anyone can do it.

Some notes/tips:

1) I like to add a couple spoons of hot salsa to the gravy just before you put it to simmer -- it adds a little body without making the gravy too tomatoey.

2) Once the chicken is finished, sprinkle a little garam masala and some dried methi (fenugreek) leaves. Just a little. Adjust for salt and let the flavors meld.

3) Don't add too much water or else you'll spend the last 6 minutes with the lid off and heat on high, frantically boiling off the excess water so the gravy isn't watery.

4) You can add less turmeric to lessen the "Indian manicure" effect if you eat with your hands desi-style.

5) Feel free to add some potato chunks before you simmer -- maybe tinker with the spices a bit more in this case.

Chicken Curry

2 tbsp. oil
1 onion, finely sliced
4 cardamom pods (optional)
1 bay leaf (optional)
1 tsp. ginger paste
2 tsp. minced garlic (I use the kind in a jar)
2 chili peppers (serrano or finger chilis, optional)
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/4-1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1/2 tsp. cayenne powder
salt to taste
1.5 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into chunks
1 tbsp. hot chunky salsa (optional)
garam masala
dried methi leaves

Heat a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the oil and heat for a minute or so. Add the onion slices and stir constantly for a few minutes, coating with the oil. Spend about 10 minutes or so monitoring the onions and stirring -- you want them to start browning and cooking down a bit. Now add the cardamom pods and bay leaf. Add the garlic and ginger, stir for a couple minutes. Add the chili peppers.

Take the ground spices in a bowl and slowly add a little water at a time so that you have a thick paste. Add the spice paste to the pan and mix.

Now add the chicken pieces and raise the heat a bit more, trying to coat the chicken pieces with the spice/onion/garlic/ginger. Add salt -- maybe start with 1/2 tsp. Now add the salsa, combining everything. Add about 1/2 -3/4 cup water and bring heat up to high. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.

Towards the end, check the pan to see if it needs water or if you need to cook off the water. Taste and adjust for salt. When chicken is almost done, sprinkle the garam masala and methi leaves, combine, and cook a couple more minutes. Taste again and adjust salt or seasonings as needed.