Indian food seems to be one of my culinary blind spots. Between my parents’ love of food, my cooking pursuits, and my years of waitressing, I have been exposed to a lot in the world of food. Somehow, Indian cuisine has not been a part of that. My brother took me to an “all you can eat” Indian buffet for lunch once; maybe that turned me off. Nonetheless, this entire cuisine is a mystery to me, and lately this lack of knowledge has been nagging at me.
I started doing a little research on curry. It seemed like a good place to start. After evaluating Mark Bittman’s* recipe for all-purpose curry powder, I realized that the flavor isn’t as unfamiliar to me as I originally thought. Peppercorns, cumin, coriander, ginger, and turmeric: what could be bad? While I wasn’t quite ready to embark on constructing my own curry powder, it seemed time to tackle cooking a curry.
Within a week or so of being in Boulder, I stumbled across some curry powder on sale, and it seemed like fate. The purchase of the curry powder occurred about a month ago, and every weekend I say I’m going to make a curry, yet it doesn’t come to pass. Whenever I open my pantry, the yellow curry powder seems to glow brighter, staring me down out of resentment and neglect. Finally, last weekend, I took the leap. I combined my own instincts with another Mark Bittman recipe and a Martha Stuart recipe to create the concoction mapped out below (forgive my recipe-writing skills, I’m a novice).
· In a large, deep skillet, brown 1 ½ pounds of boneless skinless chicken thighs in about 2 teaspoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. When browned (after a couple of minutes), but not cooked through, remove from the pan, and set aside.
· Remove oil from the pan until a tablespoon or so remains. Lower the heat to medium and sauté one medium onion, chopped with 2 cloves of minced garlic and a couple of teaspoons of grated ginger. Season with salt and pepper.
· When the onion has softened, add about a tablespoon of curry powder. Sauté for one minute. Add about ½ pound of coarsely chopped red bliss potatoes and 1 cup of water. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes, until potatoes start to become tender, but are not cooked through.
· Add ½ pound chopped cauliflower, 1-14 oz. can diced tomatoes, and chicken thighs. Stir, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes until chicken and vegetables are cooked through.
· Add about ½ cup of frozen peas. Allow to heat through, and serve over rice, rice pilaf, or couscous.
If there is an excess of sauce, increase the heat and let it reduce for a few minutes. The beauty of the chicken thighs is it won’t dry out. I like to buy them at Whole Foods. Because it’s dark meat, they are still reasonably priced, and all you need to do is eat them once to see the difference in quality (texture, flavor, and color) of a Whole Foods chicken thigh compared to a regular supermarket chicken thigh.
At first, I was disappointed. I was under the impression that curry was spicy, and this was not even in the neighborhood of spicy. So I did something that is no doubt sacrilegious to anyone in the know regarding Indian cooking: I doused it with Sriracha* and soy sauce, and I dug in. After my little makeover, I loved it. Next time, I will add some cayenne pepper with the curry powder and be a little more liberal with the salt. Overall, I ended up really enjoying this dish. The flavor continued to improve, and it made a huge quantity, so it kept me happily fed for a few days. But I must admit, I continued the use of my contextually inappropriate condiments.