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01/13/2014

~ Easy Indian Chicken Curry in a Hurry w/No Worry ~

IMG_0354I watched The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel twice over the weekend -- thanks to this movie, I want a bowl of Indian curry in a hurry!

I do not profess to knowing a lot about India or being an authority on authentic Indian cuisine.  I have never had the opportunity to travel there, however, I have had the pleasure of having been entertained, on several occasions back in the early 1980's, in the home of neighborhood friends, Prashant and Bharti.  Bharti was an excellent cook, and, while I did get some hands-on training from her, back in the '80's, without a local Indian market here in Happy Valley at the time (internet shopping didn't exist then either), a lack of ingredients prevented me from pursuing it seriously.  I did, however, develop a taste for well-made, real-deal Indian food, and, learn from Bharti's explanations and stories why cooking Indian fare confuses so many of us Americans:  

IMG_0338India is very complex culturally, geographically and religiously.  Over the centuries, Indian food has been influenced by many foreign cuisines due to invasions and the rules imposed by those governments.  During times of upheaval, it was often necessary for large populaces (who for generations had lived their entire lives in one region of India with their religious culture and cuisine) to migrate to another region.  This slow, logistical cross-pollination of religious beliefs and food tradition, mixed with the 'politics du jour', makes it difficult for us Westerners to decide 'right or wrong' when it comes to preparing many Indian dishes.  In a nutshell:  In India, cooking styles vary not only from state to state and town to town, but from home cook to home cook.  

IMG_0184A bit about curry and curry powder: "Curry" is a catch-all English term used in Western cultures to denote stewlike dishes from Southern and Southeast Asian cuisines that are cooked in a sauce containing herbs, spices and chile peppers, and, in Southern India, "kari" is the word for "sauce".  Curry powder (the commercially marketed blend of spices we buy in our American markets) doesn't exist in India.  The closest thing to Western curry powder in an Indian kitchen is garam masala (ga-RAHM mah-SAH-lah).  It's a pulverized blend of dry spices, the amounts of which vary to suit the palate of each family or cook.  It's said that garam masala is the precursor to curry powder, having been prepared by Indian merchants and sold to members of the British Colonial government who called it "curry powder".  I purchase a very good brand at my Indian market.

IMG_0412Dishes called curry are relatively easy to prepare and can contain meat, poultry, fish or shellfish. Seasonal vegetables can be included, or, the dish can be made of vegetables (vegetarian). Curries can be "wet" or "dry".  What is common to almost all wet curries is the use of cream, coconut milk or yogurt, and occasionally stock, to prepare the sauce.  They don't tend to be overly-thickened (gravylike), and, they aren't spicy hot (although they can be).  This style of cooking evolved out of necessity.  Water was often scarce and/or its use in cooking had to be avoided, so, the "creamers" were used as a silky, rich, substitution for water, not as a thickener. Dry curries are cooked in very little liquid in sealed pots.  Almost all of the liquid evaporates during the cooking process, leaving the ingredients heavily coated in the spice mixture.

IMG_01762  pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of large pieces of fat, cut into 1 1/2"-2" chunks, about 6 large thighs after trimming (Note: boneless chicken tenderloins may be substituted, but, I rather enjoy the fuller flavor of chicken thighs in this curry.)

2-3  tablespoons canola, coconut, corn, vegetable, peanut or sunflower oil, just enough to thinly coat the bottom of the pan, not olive oil

1  1/2-2  cups medium-diced (about 1/2") yellow or sweet onion

3-4  tablespoons finely-diced (about 1/8"), fresh garlic cloves

3-4  tablespoons finely-diced (about 1/8"), fresh ginger

2  teaspoons garam masala

1  teaspoon amchur (mango powder) (Note:  This powder, made by drying tart green mangos and powdering them is going to add a pleasant sharpness to this curry.  It is available at all Indian markets.)

1 1/2-2  teaspoons Madras curry powder (optional) (Note:  I like to add this for a bit of heat and earthy undertone.)

1/4  teaspoon turmeric (optional) (Note:  I like to add this for a bit more earthy undertone and its pretty yellow-orange color.)

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

1  14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained

1 3/4  cups (14 ounces) heavy or whipping cream (coconut milk or plain yogurt may be substituted)

1/4  cup minced, fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

6  cups steamed basmati rice, 3 cups uncooked basmati rice (1-1 1/2 cups steamed rice per person)

IMG_0200 IMG_0188~ Step 1.  In a 5 1/2-quart chef's pan, place just enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan.  Prep and add the onion, garlic and ginger to the pan.  Adjust heat to medium-high and saute, stirring frequently until the mixture is steaming, sizzling and the onion is beginning to soften, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes.  Do not brown.

IMG_0203 IMG_0209~ Step 2. Reduce heat to low and stir in the spices, optional spices and salt, until thoroughly incorporated.  Add and  incorporate the chicken into the mixture.  Return heat to medium-high and cook until chicken is no longer pink and is starting to firm up, about 6 minutes.

IMG_0236 IMG_0223                                         ~ Step 3. Add the tomatoes, adjust heat to gently simmer and cook until the chicken is just cooked through, about 3 minutes.  Stir in the cream and cook until mixture is steaming hot and just beginning to simmer, about 3 more minutes. Turn the heat off and cover the pan.

IMG_0415Note:  I like to allow my curry to "steep" for about 30 minutes prior to serving to allow all of the flavors to develop.  I used this time to steam the basmati rice in my rice cooker!

To serve, make a bed of rice in 4-6 shallow bowls.  Using a slotted spoon, portion chicken onto the rice.  Ladle sauce over the top and garnish with freshly, minced cilantro leaves: 

IMG_0274Easy Indian Chicken Curry in a Hurry w/No Worry:  Recipe yields 4-6 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 5 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides & lid; spatula; electric rice steamer (optional); slotted spoon; ladle

IMG_8913Cook's Note:  To learn about Thai curries (which shouldn't be confused with Indian curries), as well as get my recipes for making them, check out my post ~ Demystifying Thai Curries: Green, Red & Yellow ~ in Categories 8, 13, 15 & 16.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014) 

Comments

Thank-you for the kind comment! I will have to try it with the fried rice noodles next time -- thank-you for the suggestion!

This chicken curry looks so nice. We always like to have chicken curry serve with fried rice noodle, the curry sauce mix with rice noodle, it is extremely good. I like curry with coconut milk, it is just so good. Oh! When cooking curry, potato and eggplant are always added in my house. Actually, I like Japanese curry too, specially serve with tempura and rice. :)

Thanks (again) Teresa! This curry is so delicious and easy-to-make, I've decided to make it for my 51st Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV shoot today. Now that my pantry is stocked with Indian spices, I am also planning to share a few more of Bharti's recipes "a la Mel" in the very near future!

This is really an exceptionally beautiful blog, Mel. Indian cooking has just the most amazing spice combinations of all cuisines, I think. I'm not familiar with amchur. I will be looking for it. :)

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