Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Red Chicken Curry

Each Wednesday is the food day in the Washington Post. Last week they had a brand comparison on Garam Masala, a dry spice mixture. Paired with the comparison was a recipe that I thought sounded really nice. So tonight, I made it. Pretty Tastee.

Parsee Red Chicken Curry
4 to 6 servings
There's only a small amount of garam masala in this curry dish, and, as is customary, it is not added until just before serving. But many of the spices that constitute garam masala are included in a paste that infuses the chicken with its pungent flavor. For convenience, we've substituted prepared coconut milk for grated, soaked and strained coconut.

We're giving a wide range of chili peppers so you can achieve a sweet-heat balance you're comfortable with. If you can stand the heat, use all 10 chili peppers and don't discard the seeds from some of them. Too much heat? Dilute the sauce with water. Serve with basmati rice. Adapted from "50 Great Curries of India," by Camellia Panjabi, a 1996 book that has just been released in paperback by Kyle Books.

5 to 10 red chili peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
3 whole cloves
6 black peppercorns
1-inch cinnamon stick, broken into pieces (may substitute 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon)
3 cardamom pods
3/4 -by- 1/2 -inch piece ginger root, peeled with a spoon and coarsely chopped
4 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup onion, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup vegetable oil
6 skinless, bone-in chicken thighs (about 1 3/4 pounds)
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
One 13.5-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon garam masala

Place the chili peppers, cumin, coriander, sesame seeds, cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, cardamom, ginger, garlic and onions in a food processor. Pulse, scraping down the sides as necessary, to form a paste (don't worry if it isn't smooth), adding 1 to 2 tablespoons
water if necessary. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a medium pot over medium to medium-high heat. Add the spice paste and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Add the chicken and cook for 5 minutes, turning once, until brown on both sides. Add the tomatoes and salt to taste and cook for 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk and reduce the heat to medium-low so that bubbles just break the surface. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through (an instant-read thermometer inserted into a piece of chicken should register 165 degrees).

Add the vinegar and garam masala. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve immediately.

The finished dish. It could look better.

This is the onion/spice/ginger/garlic mixture. It had an incredible aroma!

I had 1/2 a pound of boneless skinless chicken breasts, so that's what I used. The rest of the recipe I followed pretty much as is and thought it was very nice. I didn't grind up the cinnamon stick or the cloves in the food processor, but I did add them into the mix prior to cooking. I was apprehensive about the cinnamon stick and cloves grinding properly in the food processor and not having small hard bites swimming in the sauce. Blech! Oh, one other thing that was different, I used on can of diced tomatoes, drained. I did give the tomatoes a whirl in the food processor, it was already dirty from making the paste, so I thought it would be an ok thing to try. I don't think it was a problem. Oh, remembered another note, I had my pan on the stove over the flame, with the oil in it...but it got too hot, so I poured out the oil, leaving just a thin film of oil...it was enough, so don't use 1/3 cup that is called for in the recipe.

The final note...I used all 10 of the peppers, and I didn't seed them! Wooeeey! This was a little HOT! But not in a bad way. But it does need something to cool it down, I'd really suggest a yogurt sauce. We didn't have that so it was a little dollop of Daisy.

Served with jasmine rice.

More from the Washington Post:

What makes one garam masala different from another? Freshness and the right flavor balance. The literal translation for the Indian spice -- which typically includes ground cinnamon, clove, coriander, cumin, cardamom and fennel -- is "warm spice blend." Garam masala is most often sprinkled lightly over a finished dish such as curry.

Garam Masala Test:

McCormick, 1.7 ounces, $4.49.
This was bulked up with coriander, a less expensive spice than the others. It lacked a
strong aroma or flavor.

The Spice Hunter, 1.8 ounces, $6.16.
Still quite aromatic with a lot of cumin.

BEST OVERALL (This is the one that I used!)
Whole Foods, 1.56 ounces, $4.79.
Redolent with cinnamon, cloves and cardamom; had the most traditional flavor.

Dean & Deluca, 1.5 ounces, $4.25.
The yellow color indicated the presence of curry powder and turmeric -- flavors not usually found in garam masala.

Nirmala's Kitchen Guyanese garam masala, 1.6 ounces, $6.95.
The spices were dark and over-roasted, producing a bitter, pungent flavor.


cavacavien said...

Hi ScottE!
I send this message from Tokyo.
May I book mark your blog?

Let me ask how did you cook "Jasmin rice"? It smell delicate and gorgeous. I want to try to cook by myself in my small kitchen!
For me,curry is one of my favorite recipe.(I posted my own on last sunday)But I have not yet eaten curry with "jasmin rice" ...

ScottE. said...

Hello Cavacavien! Welcome and thank you for visiting and leaving a comment.

My jasmine rice was just prepared on the stove top in a small saucepan. Nothing special, just a pinch of salt in the water.

The flavor of the rice doesn't really come through with this curry dish, but it does tame the heat from the peppers a small bit, so although the delicate flavor of jasmine rice is lost, it works wonderfully with this spicy dish!

ScottE. said...

PS: please bookmark and visit often! I try to update several times a week with new recipes.

ScottE. said...

I meant to look this up and work it into the post somehow, but what is the "Parsee" is Parsee Red Chicken Curry?

Here ye go:

Parsee: Follower of the religion Zoroastrianism. The Parsees fled from Persia after its conquest by the Arabs, and settled in India in the 8th century AD. About 100,000 Parsees now live mainly in the former Bombay State.

Zoroastrianism: Pre-Islamic Persian religion founded by the Persian prophet Zoroaster in the 6th century BC, and still practiced by the Parsees in India. The Zend-Avesta are the sacred scriptures of the faith. The theology is dualistic, Ahura Mazda or Ormuzd (the good God) being perpetually in conflict with Ahriman (the evil God), but the former is assured of eventual victory. There are approximately 100,000 (1991) Zoroastrians worldwide; membership is restricted to those with both parents belonging to the faith.

Beliefs: Humanity has been given free will to choose between the two powers, thus rendering believers responsible for their fate after death in heaven or hell. Moral and physical purity is central to all aspects of Zoroastrian yasna or worship: since life and work are part of worship, there should be purity of action. Fire is considered sacred, and Ahura Mazda believed to be present when the ritual flame is worshipped at home or in the temple. It is believed that there will be a second universal judgment at Frashokereti, a time when the dead will be raised and the world cleansed of unnatural impurity. The Parsee community in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) is now the main centre of Zoroastrianism, but since conversion is generally considered impossible, the numbers in India have been steadily decreasing at the rate of 10% per decade since 1947. Parsee groups, mainly in Delhi and outside India, have been pushing for the acceptance of converts, but the concern of the majority in Mumbai is that their religious and cultural heritage will be lost.

Brunette said...

Too bad the Post didn't seem to like Nirmala's garam masala - I've used it a couple of times and have really liked it. The "bitter" flavors didn't really register with me; I actually thought it was quite smooth but flavorful.

To each his own, right?

Brunette said...

And... I should've read more carefully. I used Nirmala's Kashmiri Garam Masala; the Post reviewed the Guyanese variety. Clearly there's a difference.

ScottE. said...

This was my first time using Garam Masala, so I went with the WaPo's recommendation. I liked it! NOW...I might not have actually gotten what WaPo tested, mine appears to have been a bulk spice put into small plastic "deli" containers and it wasn't a packaged/jarred spice....so.....!?!?!

cavacavien said...

>My jasmine rice was just prepared on the stove top in a small saucepan. Nothing special, just a pinch of salt in the water.

Ok,I'm gonna cook it next sunday.They gave me chinese jasmin tea leave.Don't you think that cooking rice with jasmine-tea...taste good?

Chilefire said...

I use my coffee grinder to grind my spices - instead of a blender (which does leave chunks). Cleaning it is pretty easy as well, just grind a half cup of rice between spices and/or coffee and wipe it out with a damp paper towel and you are good to go.
ginding your own spices is the way to go - I have been meaning to make my own 5 spice - another project for this summer.