Every once in awhile you get a craving for a specific restaurant dish and wish you could make it at home. I get a hankering like that for Indian food all the time.
Last night I made some Chicken Curry that tasted like I had ordered it and had it brought to my table, fresh from the hard-working hands of a team of real life Indian folks in the back kitchen. And complete with a bill of $12.95 (each!) at the end of dinner. Except mine costs less than that for the whole darn batch and I got to eat it in my living room.
One of the great things about this particular curry is that, although it tastes very authentic, it doesn’t require any terribly unusual ingredients. If you haven’t cooked Indian food before you may have to pick up one or two spices, but they can be found at the grocery store in most cases. And once you have them on hand, you have no excuse not to make Indian food any ole time you’re in the mood for it.
For all you veggie-haters out there (you know who you are), you’ll love this one because all of the veggies (except the mushrooms, which you can leave out) are pureed smooth, creating this yummy sauce. You won’t even know they’re there.
Chicken Curry with Onion and Tomato
(adapted from Indian Home Cooking, by Suvir Saran and Stephanie Lyness)
4 chicken thighs, cut into bite size pieces
3/4 tsp. turmeric
3/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 large onion, roughly diced
5 garlic cloves
A 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into a few pieces
3 tbsp. canola oil
1 cinnamon stick (about a 2 inch piece)
12 green cardamom pods (find in the Asian section of the grocery store)
9 whole cloves
9 black peppercorns
2 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms (optional)
1 cup water
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Juice of 1 lemon
To cook the rice, bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add the rice you want (I use 1-2 cups for a batch) and boil for 8 minutes. Drain the water, put a lid on it and set aside until you are ready to eat. It will be perfect, with the grains separate, every time!
Combine the chicken, 1/2 tsp. of turmeric, 1/2 tsp. of cayenne and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Stir to coat the chicken and set aside while you make the sauce.
In a food processor or blender, finely mince the onion, garlic and ginger. Set aside.
Combine 2 tbsp. oil, the cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and peppercorns in a large skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, until the cinnamon unfurls, 1-2 minutes. Add the minced onion mixture and 1 tsp. salt. Cook, stirring, until onion starts to brown around the edges, about 10 minutes.
Remove and discard cinnamon and stir in the remaining 1/4 tsp. turmeric and 1/4 tsp. cayenne. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and cook, stirring, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Set aside.
Heat the remaining 1 tbsp. oil in the same pan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add the yogurt, 1 tbsp. at a time and stir well after each addition. Cook, stirring, for 2 more minutes. Add the mushrooms and stir to combine.
Add the pureed tomato mixture and bring to a boil. Stir in the water. Return to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the chicken is cooked through, 20-30 minutes. Stir occasionally to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Then uncover and cook a few minutes more to reduce and thicken the sauce. Stir in cilantro and lemon juice. Taste for salt and serve hot over rice. Serves 4.