Thursday, August 26, 2010

Suma's Chicken Curry

Suma teaching me how to make Chicken Curry

My sweet friend Suma is a wonderful cook.  She bakes, tries out all kind of recipes and makes the best lasagna I've ever tasted.  I especially love the spicy Indian food she makes.  For some time now, she has promised to show me how to make some of the traditional Indian dishes she and her family have enjoyed for generations.  So last Saturday night Suma honored us with a wonderful dinner that included chicken curry, fried catfish, spicy cauliflower, lentil stew and rice.  So many delicious dishes, I hope that I'm not forgetting anything. 

Beautiful and delicious spices used in her Chicken Curry

I came to her house early so that she could show me how she prepared each dish.  The first step in making the chicken curry was showing me the traditional spices used in the dish.  I think the combination of spices is beautiful; all the colors looked like fall and smelled divine.  On the plate above you can see the ground coriander, turmeric, chili powder,  and garam masala.  Suma told me that her mother makes the garam masala (far right in picture) by roasting and grinding cinnamon, cardamom and anise.  The chili powder we used is not the same as the kind we might buy in the grocery store.  It's not as hot which allows for more powder in the recipe imparting flavor, color and thickness to the dish without too much heat.

We sauteed the onions after the mustard seeds
 popped in the dutch oven.

I also learned that curry is a generic term used to describe a variety of dishes in various Indian and South Asian cultures sometimes identifying the spices like coriander or the fact that the dish is "wet" with gravy or sauce.  Suma cut a whole chicken into pieces for the dish, but I asked her if you could make a faster version with chicken breast.  She said that of course the bones and skin of the chicken add a lot of flavor to the dish, so it wouldn't taste exactly the same.  This is one reason I usually buy chicken breasts with the bone and skin.  One option is to marinate the chicken breasts in buttermilk beforehand to tenderize the meat and add flavor.  Another option might be to buy bone-in chicken breasts, cut them into smaller pieces and substitute for the whole chicken.

SPICE ALERT:  This dish is probably a little spicy for the kids.  You can reduce the amount of spices but it will affect the taste and consistency a little.  My kids love what they call "sticky rice" so we served the chicken on the side without a lot of extra sauce.

Suma adds the garlic-ginger puree to the roasting spices.

Suma's Chicken Curry
3 heaping teaspoons of ground coriander
2 heaping teaspoons of chili powder
1 heaping teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
4 cloves garlic
1 inch (about) of peeled, fresh ginger
1/2 large onion, chopped to a small dice
1 tomato, chopped to a medium dice
2-4 lbs chicken, cleaned and cut
1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/4 cup vegetable oil (enough to coat the bottom of your pot)
1 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt

Before you start the dish, puree the garlic and ginger together in a food processor and set aside.

Pour oil in a large pot or dutch oven, enough to coat the entire bottom of the pot and place on stove over medium-high heat.  When oil is hot, add the mustard seeds and let them "pop" open to impart flavor.  When you hear the "popping" sound, add the onions and saute until golden brown.  Add the first four spices  and let them roast them on low heat, stirring them into the oil and onion mixture.  When thoroughly combined and after a few minutes of "roasting" add the garlic-ginger puree.  Remove pot from heat and add chopped tomato.  Add chicken and coat in the seasoning my mixing with a large wooden spoon until all the chicken is covered in the spice.  Return to low heat and add enough water to cover just chicken, approximately 1 1/2 cups.  Add salt, stir well and let cook, covered with a lid for 20-25 minutes (checking and stirring occasionally).  Remove the lid and let the dish cook an additional 10-15 minutes which will allow the sauce to thicken.

Remove from heat, transfer to a big bowl and serve while hot over rice.  Enjoy!

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