Indian Chicken Curry

Ever the culinary adventurer, and inspired by my dear friend Veena, who is an outstanding Indian home chef, I decided it was well past time to delve into the world of authentic Indian cuisine.  I am absolutely fascinated by the broad range of ingredients and spices that go into this truly unique and venerable style of cookery.  I must also confess that the 2014 movie “The Hundred-Foot Journey” fired my curiosity to learn how to cook Indian food.

The biggest reason I haven’t tried this before is the availability of some ingredients that simply are not sold in the typical American grocery store.  However, here in the Cincinnati area we have Jungle Jim’s International Market, which carries pretty much every obscure ingredient a cook may ever want, so I have no more excuses.  Today’s first experiment is in a relatively simple chicken curry dish called Murgh chettinad in some language I don’t speak.

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This recipe is extremely flavorful and more than a little on the spicy side, but not overwhelmingly so.  After some modest prep work it comes together pretty quickly, and is suitable for a weeknight dinner — about an hour from start to service.  Here are your ingredients for four hearty servings:

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. black mustard seeds
  • 1/8 tsp. asafetida powder
  • 10-12 fresh curry leaves
  • 2 1/2 lb. chicken thighs
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander seed
  • 1 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. white pepper
  • 1 tsp. red chili powder
  • 1 can (13.5 oz.) coconut milk
  • 1 tsp. fresh grated ginger
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
  • Cooked basmati rice for garnish

Prepare the chicken by removing the skin and bones, and cutting it into bite-sized chunks.  If you like to make home-made stock like me, reserve the bones and freeze them for that.  Similarly, I discovered that curry leaves are decidedly not cheap — about $30 per pound — but a pretty good-sized package of leaves will be about 0.05 lb. and cost about a buck and a half, and the extra leaves will freeze well until you need them for the next dish.

Let’s get started:  In a deep skillet, heat the oil over medium flame and add the mustard seeds.  It won’t take long until they begin to pop, then add the asafetida powder and curry leaves, and sauté for about half a minute.  Add the chicken pieces and sauté for another 5 minutes.  All of the dry seasonings and spices go in together (I put them all in one dish when I measured them out), then cook for about two more minutes.  Next it’s time to add the coconut milk and simmer the dish for about 2o minutes until the chicken is cooked through and tender.

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At this point the dish is nearing completion.  Stir in the ginger and turn off the heat.  Lastly, stir in the lime juice and cilantro, and you’re ready to serve.  I recommend some basmati rice as a nice accompaniment to blend with all that amazing curry sauce.  By the way, “amazing” was the word Lolly kept using as she enjoyed this for dinner.  She has a much lower tolerance than me for spicy food but found this to be quite manageable from that perspective.  We munched it right down with a big happy grin on our faces, and I trust that you will enjoy this recipe as much as we did.  Until our next adventure:  Eat well, my friends!

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