18
May
10

Coriander Calling

Everyone has a favorite food, don’t they? Or a favorite kind of food, flavor combination, or texture?

If I had to choose a country and spend the rest of my life eating nothing but food from there, it would be a toss up between Italy and India. The flavors, the textures, the aromas can be transcendental. In Indian food, the spices take center stage. Grind coriander with yellow lentils, toasted chiles, ginger and coconut milk and you’ve got the start of a delicious curry. This is what Jeff and I were hungry for yesterday. But first, I needed a couple more ingredients from the international market.

If you haven’t been to an international market, you should go. Most cities and towns have at least one. St. Louis has about a dozen, with at least two larger markets with food from around the world. I love shopping at these. The prices are phenomenal. You’ll find fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices you can’t find anywhere else. I went there to buy curry leaves and tamarind pulp concentrate. Tamarind is used to flavor foods in East India much like lemons are in western culture. The pulp adds tartness.

This was my first stab at this recipe. Loooooved it. I know, the looks of this dish won’t win any beauty contests. That is why I didn’t lead the blog post with this photo. The smell and taste, however, were wonderful.

Tart Chicken with Roasted Chiles, Tamarind and Coconut Milk
660 Curries
, via Best of the Best Cookbook Recipes

4 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon yellow split peas (chana dal) picked over for stones
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 dried red Thai or cayenne chilis, stems removed
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt
3 lengthwise slices fresh ginger (each 2 1/2 inches long, 1 inch wide and 1/4 inch thick)
4 large garlic cloves
1 chicken (3 1/2 pounds), skin removed, cut into 8 pieces
1 medium red onion, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon tamarind paste or concentrate
12 to 15 medium-size to large fresh curry leaves
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet (I used a saucier) over medium-high heat. Add the split peas, coriander seeds and chilis, and roast the blend, stirring constantly, until the split peas and coriander are reddish brown and the chiles have blackened slightly, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and use a slotted spoon to skim off the spice blend and transfer it to a blender jar. Set the pan aside.

Add 1/2 cup of the coconut milk to the blender jar, along with the salt, ginger and garlic. Puree, scraping the inside of the jar as needed, to form a smooth, creamy yellow, red-speckled paste.

Transfer the nutty-smelling marinade to a medium-size bowl. Add the chicken pieces and thoroughly coat them with the marinade. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 30 minutes or as long as overnight, to allow the flavors to liven up the chicken.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the skillet containing the residual spice oil and heat it over medium-high heat. Add the onion and stir-fry until its edges are light brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the chicken pieces in a single layer, saving the residual marinade. Lower the heat to medium and cook until the chicken is browned on the underside, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the pieces over and brown on the other side, 3 to 4 minutes.

Pour the reserved marinade into the skillet and add the remaining 1/2 cup coconut milk and the tamarind paste. Stir, making sure the tamarind is thoroughly mixed in with the liquid. Lift the chicken pieces to ensure that the sauce runs underneath. Scrape the bottom to deglaze the pan, releasing all the cooked-on chicken bits, spices and onion. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the skillet, and braise the chicken, basting it occasionally and turning the pieces every few minutes, until the meat in the thickest parts is no longer pink inside and the juices run clear, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the chicken and arrange it on a serving platter.

Stir in the curry leaves and cilantro into the sauce and raise the heat to medium. Simmer vigorously, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the curry is gravy-thick, 5 to 8 minutes.

Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve. Serve with basmati rice.

Serves 2 hungry people, or 6 people in a multiple-course meal.

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