This dish started out as a butter chicken, but as I read about the confusion of this dish with Chicken tikka masala, the only conclusion I could come to was that neither one was a traditional Indian dish before about sixty years ago. Both dishes were adaptations of traditional Indian dishes to British tastes. One origin story for chicken tikka masala is a chef in Scotland, although this is disputed in Punjab.
Figuring out these dishes is a project for another week. Curry, however, “something” in a spicy sauce covers a wide range of traditional and non-traditional dishes. Since I am using chicken as my base, this is a simple—relatively in terms of curries—chicken curry.
For this Sunday, I decided to just follow my heart and make my own chicken curry and not worry about being traditional. I am making this main dish to go with palak paneer and a carrot and lentil dhal. Normally, I would make some pilao rice to go with this, but Miriam is on the the Atkins diet, so I will be serving store bought naan for the starch eaters.
After Dinner Note: This was very tasty, just the right amount of bite. Do not add any extra liquid or your sauce will turn “soupy.”
Karl’s Chicken Curry
1 Tbs. cumin seeds
1 tsp. coriander seeds
2 chicken breasts, skin on
2 chicken thighs, skin on
2 Tbs. ghee
1 medium onion, diced
2 tsp. Kosher salt
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
2 Tbs. tomato paste
3 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 Tbs. fresh ginger root, grated
2 Tbs. curry powder (my preference is for mild, rather than super hot)
½ Tbs. paprika
½ cup low sodium chicken broth
2 tsp. garam masala
¼ cup fresh cilantro, minced
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbs. yogurt
1. Put the cumin and coriander in a small dry skillet and toast them for two minutes.
2. Let the seeds cool, grind them to a powder and reserve.
3. Remove the skin from the chicken and reserve in a large bowl covered in plastic wrap in the refrigerator.
Tip: One problem with frying the chicken to get the rich tasting fond, is that it tends to leave the chicken pieces over cooked and dry by the time the dish is finished. Cook’s Illustrated solved this problem in their recipe for Coq au Riesling, by removing the skin entirely and then browning it well separately. Cooking the browned skin in the simmering sauce gives you all the well developed flavors of the caramelized skin, but it is easy to fish out and discard when you are ready to serve.
4. Cut the chicken into one inch pieces and set the m aside in a bowl.
5. Heat the ghee in a large skillet and brown the chicken skin well.
Tip: If you are watching your fat intake, remove all but two tablespoons of the grease left in the pan.
6. Add the onions and salt and sauté the onions until they are well caramelized, about 10-12 minutes.
7.Add the pepper and tomato paste. Sauté for two minutes more, until the peppers start to soften and the tomato paste has darkened.
8. Stir in the chicken skins, tomatoes, ginger, curry powder, paprika, and chicken broth.
9. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook for twenty minutes.
Tip: Do not add any water or broth, even if it looks like the sauce is drying out too much.
Note: When you add the chicken pieces they will release enough moisture to thin the sauce. Any additional liquid risks making the sauce “soupy.”
10. Remove and discard the chicken skins.
Tip: Rinse the skins with no more than two tablespoon of water, if you wish to recover the sauce sticking to them.
11. Pour three cups of boiling water over the chicken in the bowl and stir to reach every surface of the chicken pieces.
Tip: When you put raw chicken into a pot of hot sauce the proteins in the juices on the outside of the chicken pieces clump together to make an unattractive scum on the surface of your dish. This pre-treatment of the chicken does more than just get rid of the scum. It causes the surface of the chicken to tighten, keeping more of the chicken juices inside of the meat while it is cooking.
12. After two minutes, drain the chicken and rinse off any scum still clinging to the meat.
13. Stir the chicken into the sauce and cook, stirring occasionally for another five minutes.
14. Stir in the garam masala and continue simmering for 5-8 minutes, until the chicken is just cooked through.
15. Stir in most of the cilantro and the lemon juice.
16. Transfer the curry to a serving bowl and garnish with a dollop of yogurt and the remaining cilantro.