Cold day. The kind of day when you just want something like chicken soup with all the soul-warming goodness, but with that little extra something called a kick of spice. A-ha! Chicken curry it is. A little extra spice and nothing clears out a stuffy nose better.
Now there is a reason why the post is so ambiguously named Chicken curry (i). That is a ridiculous description you say. But I'm not sure what else to call it. There are so many versions of chicken curry, I have to differentiate them somehow. There are curries that use different cuts of chicken, different spices, different cooking methods, yikes! Look for Curry (ii), (iii), etc in forthcoming months. Maybe you all can vote someday on your favorite one.
The one I describe below is one of my favorite recipes. I'm not quite sure how I narrowed it down to this exact recipe, but it is a keeper. It has just the right combination of heat and warm spice, and is quite a no-fuss recipe. You could simmer it for a few hours on the stove-top, or if you've been listening to me, by now you're the proud owner of a state-of-the-art Kuhn Rikon pressure cooker. I'm telling you, you've all got to get yourself one of these things. They are fantastic. If you're thinking of eating more whole foods - dried beans, whole grains, etc you will be so happy when your lay your hands on a pressure cooker. This chicken curry took me all of 20 minutes in a pressure cooker - how awesome is that? The meat is so tender, it almost falls off the bone. Sold?
Oh! I know what you're thinking. Yes, there are recipes out there that use chicken breasts, and yes the curry does cook really fast, and sure, I have made curry using breast meat myself. But dear friends, this is a whole another beast. What we have here is a classic homestyle chicken curry that uses a whole chicken cut-up into 8 serving pieces. I have become very partial to using whole chickens. I've even mastered the art of swift and skilful chicken
hackery butchery. It takes a little bit more time that buying pre-cut chicken parts at the grocery store, but I have found that most local farms that sell organic free-range (true free-range) chickens ony sell whole chickens. That is certainly true of my meat purveyor. And here is what I have found. True free range chickens really hold up well to long cooking. Probably has to do with all that nice lean muscle on these guys that happily foraged and roamed. That said, if you want to make do with pre-cut parts, you could. Just take the skin and excess fat off. Whatever you do, please do not use all breast meat. A velvety chicken curry does breast meat not make. And the bones really do add a certain depth of flavor that just makes this curry divine.
Chicken Curry (i)
Serves 4 - 6
1 whole chicken, skinned, cut into 8 parts
6 cloves garlic
1 inch piece ginger
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cinnamon sticks
2 black cardamom pods
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp red chili powder
3 small tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp sugar
10 sprigs cilantro, stems and leaves, chopped
2 tbsp coconut powder (optional)
1. In mini food processor, pulse together onions, garlic, and ginger into a coarse paste. Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and add the whole spices - cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom. Saute a minute or so. Add onion paste. Saute on med-low heat, stirring frequently, till the onions are a light brown. Be patient - this step is key to the curry and will take about 15 minutes. If the onions don't cook through they impart an unpleasant bitter taste to the gravy.
2. Add the turmeric, cumin, chili, and coriander powders. Saute a few minutes till fragrant. Add tomatoes, salt and sugar. Cook another 10 minutes till tomatoes are well incorporated into the onion mixture. Add chopped cilantro (stems and leaves) and coconut powder, if using.
3. Add chicken pieces. Stir well to coat with spice mixture completely. Saute a few minutes on med heat till chicken changes color. Add just enough water to cover the chicken pieces. I would err on the side of caution because you don't want the gravy to get too watery.
4. If using a pressure cooker, cook on high (15 psi) for 15 - 20 minutes. If using a pan, cook covered, approximately 1 1/2 hours, stirring every 20 minutes or so. If the gravy is too thick, thin out with water or chicken broth to desired thickness. If gravy is too thin, cook on med high uncovered till excess water evaporates.
5. Serve over basmati rice or with flatbread of your choice. I particularly like tandoori roti or naan. Leftovers are excellent. In fact, I almost like the curry better the next day.