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Saturday, July 26

spicy coconut curry w/ chicken, potatoes, and sweet peppers

Adapted from a Madhur Jaffrey book, and then bastardized terribly.

1 large red onion, sliced thinly into half rings
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 potatoes (yukon gold would be faboo), cut into medium chunks
2 sweet peppers (we're talking the smaller pale ones, not big bells), sliced into rings
1 big tomato, diced
1 lime
1 can of coconut milk
1-2 lb of chicken parts (I did organic free-range thighs that I boned and skinned and cut into medium chunks) - I had about a lb of chicken so I made up for the rest of the poundage with the potatoes
mushrooms if you have 'em
cooking oil (I like rice bran; it has a high smoke point and is very neutral)
1 tsp. black mustard seeds
1 cinnamon or cassia stick, small
1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1.5 tsp. salt

3 T. coriander seeds
1/4 tsp. whole fenugreek
2 tsp. black peppercorns
1 large pinch cumin seeds (I added these because I love toasting them)
small cast iron pan for toasting these

So, heat the cast iron pan to a high heat, then turn it down, and throw in the coriander, fenugreek, peppercorns, and cumin. When you can smell the seeds toasting it is time to shake around the pan a bit. If they smoke, turn the heat down further and toss them around in the pan. Anyway, when they're looking darker and smell warm and toasted, they're ready.
I grind mine with a mortar and pestle, but you can use a spice grinder, too. Grind as fine as you can.

Heat a large skillet (cast iron is perfect, or big heavy-bottomed stainless will be good, too - no teflon), coat the bottom with your oil (I think I do roughly 2-3 T.), and toss in your black mustard seeds and the cinnamon stick, and have a lid handy. When the seeds start to pop (and pop they will when the oil is hot enough), quickly shove the sliced onions in there and put the lid on. When the popping has slowed some, turn down the heat a bit, and stir around the onions. It'll take about ten minutes at a medium low flame, but you're looking to brown the onions, not just wilt them to translucency. When they're browned, take out the cinnamon stick, toss in the garlic and let that cook a few minutes. Add the tomato and peppers, and let that cook a few minutes.

Stir in the toasted and ground spices, then the turmeric and cayenne, and open up your can of coconut milk. Pour the liquid into the pan, leaving behind the cream which is usually solidified (more on that later). Add the chicken pieces, and your potatoes. Squeeze in the lime juice, and toss in the salt. Stir, cover and let simmer 25 minutes. In the cookbook, she says to add another can of water before setting it to simmer, but boy, this is liquidy enough when I work with just the coconut juice from the can.

About a half hour later, stir in the coconut cream that was left in the can, turn off the heat, and you're ready to serve.

Tonight I had to improvise because I forgot salad fixings. So, I served the curry on a bed of baby spinach leaves, alongside some sliced tomato and avocado. The spinach wilted nicely. I'd also forgotten to buy naan (Trader Joe's has some stuff that passes fairly well if you heat it up), so I warmed up a stack of white corn tortillas. Fusion cuisine, ha. But it went together fine.

Next time, I would serve this with rice cooked with some peas thrown in, a salad of red vegetables (radishes, tomatoes, maybe some beets), some plain yogurt on the side, and I'd probably do the spinach beneath the curry again.

Veggie variations!

Do carrots and a bunch of mushrooms in lieu of the chicken. You could add some cooked chickpeas. Dice up a sweet potato in there; that would be great hot v. sweet contrasting. Zucchini and green beans would be great, etc.

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