Crockpot Coq au Vin

Coq Au Vin is one of those cooking preparations I’ve randomly heard about over the years but didn’t really pay much attention to — I suppose it just always sounded like a dish best left to French restaurants. It entered my radar late last year when I had a fondue version of coq au vin at a restaurant, and so when I stumbled upon a crockpot version of this preparation a few weeks ago, it piqued my interest.

A bit of research indicates that Coq Au Vin is essentially poultry braised with wine. Cooking anything in wine seems like a great idea to me; I usually find myself inventing ways to add wine to recipes that don’t call for it. Braising, as it turns out, indicates that the meat should be pan seared before slow cooking in liquid, so the recipe does sound ideal for the crock pot. Apparently this cooking method was developed specifically for tougher, less expensive (right up my alley!) cuts of meat, to break down the tissues, making them more palatable. Also inherent in the braising approach is the purposing of the braising juices as a gravy. Everyone knows I adore mashed things with gravy, and so it seemed the perfect opportunity to try a promising new recipe while at the same time pouring it over a nice root vegetable mash on a crisp October day.

Coq Au Vin with Mashed Rutabaga

Coq Au Vin with Mashed Rutabaga

SARAH’S CROCKPOT COQ AU VIN

6 oz sliced bacon, chopped
2 lbs chicken tenderloins
1 onion, chopped
1 cup dry red wine
3 teaspoons garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dry rosemary, or 3 sprigs fresh
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 lb mushrooms
1⁄8 cup water (optional)
1 teaspoon cornstarch (optional)
2 green onions, chopped

Chop up bacon and fry until crisp (I like to use my kitchen scissors to cut the raw bacon into pieces before frying). With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon from the skillet and place in the crockpot.

Reheat the bacon fat and brown the tenderloins. Remove the chicken to the crockpot once seared. Add the onions to the remaining bacon fat. Saute briefly, until onions soften. Add wine to the skillet. Scrape down the sides of the skillet and then pour the contents into the crockpot.

Add the garlic, rosemary and salt. Slow cook on high for 3 hours or low for 6 hours. Add the mushrooms about halfway through.

When your coq au vin is finished cooking, you can, optionally, turn the juice into a thicker gravy: mix cornstarch with the 1/8 cup water in a small bowl. Strain the crockpot cooking juices into a saucepan. Heat, slowly stirring in the cornstarch. Stirring often, cook until reduced and thickened.

Garnish with the green onions. Serve with a mashed root vegetable.

This recipe is admittedly not the simplest of crockpot recipes. There is a lot going on stovetop, as well. I didn’t opt to use the cornstarch for thickening, both to keep the carbs as low as possible and because I didn’t want to do one more transfer to a new pan. It worked out just as well treating the crockpot juices as more of an “au jus” gravy. There was not a ton of liquid leftover anyway, so I would say folks can certainly feel free to skip this step.

Sarah’s New Secret Recipe Chicken Parmesan

I don’t think I’ve ever even been tempted to order chicken parmesan at a restaurant. There are tons of dishes I like better at any Italian restaurant, including eggplant parm, and so I have always ordered those without having been tempted by the chicken parm.

My mother, on the other hand, is nuts for chicken parm. Perhaps it started as an affinity for veal parm… but as veal grew to have a dubious reputation she switched over to chicken. Maybe I’ve just never been enough of a meat enthusiast to see the appeal of a breaded cutlet on spaghetti, but chicken parm has always been Saundra’s thing, not mine… until recently when Saundra made a statement so bold and so shocking that I just had to respond…

She says that the best Chicken Parm she’s ever had is from the Olive Garden.

Dorito CrumbsSurely the mass produced, MSG-filled, big chain restaurant chicken parm couldn’t possibly be better than fresh, hand-made dishes from local Italian restaurants? Minutellos? Alexanders? Pleasure Bar? Nope, said Saundra, the Olive Garden chicken parm is better than all of those. I refused to stand for such a notion, and so I set out to make a chicken parm that Saundra would find better than the Olive Garden. I researched recipes, I consulted Italian home chefs, I assembled my ingredients and I was ready to go. I cooked up a batch of chicken parm, served it up to Saundra and….

It was good, she said, but Olive Garden was still better.

What!? How was it possible that my from-scratch, fresh-ingredients, straight-from-the-oven chicken parm could still be eclipsed by Olive Garden?

“I don’t know what the difference is,” said Saundra. “There’s something about it… you just can’t stop eating it. It’s addictive… like Doritos!”

And that was when I got the idea to make chicken parm with Doritos in the breading! Saundra declares this recipe to be a contender against Olive Garden; I suspect she may never concede Olive Garden completely, but in the meantime:

SARAH’S DORITO CHICKEN PARMESAN

Chicken ParmesanBreading

equal parts
– plain bread crumbs
– grated parmesan cheese
– Dorito crumbs

eggs
milk
flour
salt

The Rest of it

1 to 2 lbs. chicken breast, cut and pounded thin
vegetable oil
pasta and red sauce
additional cheese, shredded parm or provolone (optional)

If you have particularly large chicken breasts you may have to cut them cross-wise through the middle (like slicing a bagel) as well as cutting them in half. You want to pound the breast thin, and pounding the entire thickness of the breast is not only a lot of work, but it’s going to leave the breast meat too pulverized to work with. Chicken breast falls apart more easily when pounded than does pork or beef, so I thin it out first with a cut and then with a light pounding.

Lightly salt the pounded breasts and set aside.

Prepare the breading first by crumbing the Doritos. Place them in a large freezer bag and use a rolling pin to crush them into as fine a crumb as you can. Transfer them to a new bag (the one you used for crumbing will inevitably incur damage and holes in the process) and add an equal amount of plain breadcrumbs and grated parmesan cheese. I used a cup each of Dorito crumbs, bread crumbs and parmesan the last time I made it.

Beat a couple eggs with a splash of milk and pour it into a wide bowl or plate.

Put some flour in another freezer bag. I like to use gram flour (i.e. garbanzo bean flour) in order to keep the glycemic index low for Saundra, but any flour should work okay. Add a little salt and/or pepper to the flour if you like.

Toss a few cutlets at a time with the flour. When they are thoroughly coated, dip them in the eggs and then in the crumbs. You may find it easier to do the crumb layer on a plate, rather than in the bag.

Repeat with each cutlet. Stack them with parchment or wax paper in between to avoid sticking. Refrigerate while getting the other items assembled. If you are making red sauce from scratch, you might want to start it now; if using a jar, just put it over a low fire to warm.

Heat about an inch or so or oil in a wide skillet. Have a few baking sheets and an old kitchen towel standing by. Fry the breaded chicken cutlets in the hot oil. There should be enough oil to cover the cutlets when a few are in the pan. Turn the cutlets to make sure they are getting done evenly on both sides. When cutlets are golden brown, place them first on the old kitchen towel (just to absorb some of the excess oil) and then on the baking sheet. Once you get enough cutlets to fill the baking sheet, you can put some additional cheese on top before putting them in the oven to keep warm. Keep them at 200 or 250 degrees, again, just to keep them warm while finishing the meal.

When all cutlets are fried and in the oven, finish dinner preparations, i.e. the pasta and red sauce and/or other side dishes. Check on the cutlets often and turn down the temperature if you have to leave them in awhile, as you don’t want them to get dried out.

Serve with pasta and plenty of sauce on the side.

Ethiopian Peanut Curry

After a recent visit to Abay, where I had the good luck to arrive on a day (for the second time) when chicken with peanut butter sauce was on their specials list, I found myself bit by the bug to attempt cooking some Ethiopian cuisine. My previous attempts to educate myself in Ethiopian cookery failed by virtue of the poor Ethiopian cookbook selection within the wider Carnegie Library borrowing system, and so I took to the internet in search of recipes. Chicken with peanut butter sauce was at the top of my list.

Ethiopian cuisine was fresh on my mind when Sabrina and I went to Tamarind’s Greentree buffet (keep your eyes peeled for a future blog on that experience) for lunch. Sabrina has already attempted delving into Ethiopian, but the persistent difficulty she reported was in creating a good berbere. For those who may not know, berbere is an Ethiopian spice mix, occupying a place in its cookery not unlike garam masala does in Indian cookery. That is to say, it is persistently mysterious, as seemingly everyone and every region does it differently, and yet it is ubiquitous as practically every recipe calls for it. Sabrina reported special difficulty making her own berbere because most of the recipes she found called for an inordinate proportion of paprika over other spices. Now, I’m a firm believer in the ethic that everything tastes better with paprika, but I believed Sabrina when she said that these recipes called for so much, that even such a mild, sweet spice overpowered most other flavors in the berbere. All in all, she found that her attempt to cook Ethiopian turned out edible, but no where near the flavors she had come to expect from Abay.

In the past, I have often made and enjoyed African peanut soup, which calls for no spices at all, let alone berbere, so I had confidence that I could find and make a peanut curry that would be tasty, whether or not it stood a chance against Abay’s chicken in peanut butter sauce. In my search, I found, as expected, many different variations on berbere, from spice mixes that were simple and straightforward, to mixes comprised of a laundry list of ingredients. After combing through a number of recipes for peanut chicken and berbere, I finally found one that looked intriguing and came with a relatively simple berbere recipe. Simple was definitely a selling point here, as I was looking more for a recipe that wouldn’t scare my parents (I mentioned in some recent recipe postings that I have been attempting to introduce my parents to recipes containing ginger, as it is purportedly of specific health benefit to my mother) than I was for a recipe that could stand up to Abay (two goals that might be mutually exclusive). Heeding Sabrina’s warning, I adjusted the proportions of the spice mix to be lighter on the paprika and heavier on the other spices than I originally found it.

SIMPLE BERBERE

2 tablespoons paprika (or hot red pepper)
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Toss all spices together in a plastic bag or sealed container. Store with your spices, enjoy in your recipes.

I mixed this simple berbere at home and took it over to my parents’ house to tackle the rest of the recipe.

AFRICAN PEANUT CURRY

3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 onions, chopped
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon berbere
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 lb chicken pieces, tofu, vegetables, etc.
1/2 cup chicken stock
3 oz. tomato paste
1/3-1/2 cup peanut butter
3-4 hard boiled eggs
extra water

Hard-boil the eggs and set aside.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan or large skillet. Saute the onions, garlic and ginger for a few minutes until onions are softened. Add berbere and pepper and cook at least five minutes longer, adding a splash of water if the ingredients in the pan get too dry. If using chicken or other meat, then add the chicken pieces, the stock and enough water (or additional stock) so that the meat is submerged. Extra liquid may be necessary for stewing, and because this recipe contains ground nuts, it will thicken up easily later on. Still don’t go crazy; we just need enough to stew the meat. Tomato paste can also be added at this stage. Cover and simmer long enough for the meat to reach desired doneness. Follow the same procedure if using fresh vegetables, but go easy on the extra liquid.

Add the peanut butter, and stir in until combined. Heat through; sometimes it takes a little heat for the peanut butter to get thoroughly stirred in. Add extra water if the sauce gets too thick. Cut the eggs into halves or quarters. Pour the curry into your serving dish and arrange the eggs on top. Serve with rice or flatbread or all on its own.

This recipe does not taste like Abay’s chicken with peanut butter sauce, but it was quite tasty in its own right, and was enjoyed by all three of us. I especially liked the use of hard-boiled eggs as a curry ingredient, as I’m frequently looking for low-cost, low-carb items on which to enjoy curry sauce (and meat unfortunately doesn’t fall into low-cost). I enjoyed this recipe so much that I made it again for myself the next day, this time using chopped cabbage instead of chicken, a combination that also turned out swimmingly. I also attempted a recipe for Mesir Wat, Ethopian lentils in a more complex berbere sauce, but the consequences of that recipe will have to be a topic for another day.

Brasserie 33: What the Hell?

The silver lining is, it’s always more enjoyable to write — and read — blogs about things that suck.

 

Oh, Groupon.  There was a time when you were a wonderland of cheap, delicious meals.  I think restaurants caught on to what a bad deal that was for them, though, and now it may be the case that only embattled and benighted eateries like Brasserie 33 offer Groupons.  Alas.  Alas!

 

The wine was actually crisp and pleasant. And the label was adorable.

Our Brasserie Groupon was about to expire, so on Monday night, we made reservations for this French restaurant in Shadyside, on Ellsworth.  The space itself is quite well done, with a lovely marble bar and an open kitchen.  The food was OK – Good (though overpriced) even.  But the service.   Ay yi yi.

 

Problem one: the menu is printed on paper, which would be fine if they offered a new, seasonally inspired menu every day, but they don’t.  After being handled many times, the pathetic, wilting sheet I was handed was damp, wrinkled, and soiled — not particularly appetizing.  Nor were the wine and water glasses placed on our table, which had water marks and fingerprints all over them.

 

We were sat promptly, but then waited for many minutes before our server came over to greet us.  I was also given no wine list.  I finally hailed down the food runner to bring one to us, and he brought it over a moment before the server finally arrived.  Our server, it turned out, was actually French.  And friendly.  Too friendly.  Look, if I’m in some mom ‘n’ pop diner, and the sassy woman behind the counter wants to call me “Hon”, that all just makes sense.  But at a semi-fine dining establishment, I’m not there to make a new friend.  I expect the service to be courteous, competent, and efficient.  I don’t want to banter with the server.  I want him to have a good working knowledge of the wine list.  Ours didn’t.  He also — and I know I’m a dick for bringing this up — had truly terrible teeth, yellow and rotten, which, I’ve gotta tell you, is not the most appetizing thing to be faced with when choosing your appetizer.

 

So anyway, the server arrived a moment after the wine list, though after many minutes of waiting, and when I told him we needed another moment with the list, he disappeared again, after some more friendly prattle.  Great.  When he finally returned, he seemed unable to tell me much about the Cote du Rhone blanc I asked him about, and told us we should order all of our food at once, if we wanted it to come out of the kitchen in a timely fashion.  Right.  Right.  He also promised us bread was on the way.

 

The oysters tasted nice and fresh, though they got a bit overwhelmed by the butter.

To start with, we ordered the oysters rockefeller, which was good, if perhaps a bit greasy.  The arrival of this appetizer, by the way, took probably 25 minutes.  No small plates were given to us, so we used our bread plates — naturally, the bread arrived after the oysters, and by then our plates had been overwhelmed by shellfish drippings, making them useless as bread plates.  We were so hungry at that point we just spread our butter and ate our bread without putting it down; it was a good thing the bread was warm, because the butter was ice cold and hard as a rock.  Our server finally reappeared, bent down towards the plate with the oyster shells on it, real close like, stood up, made a “cuckoo” finger-rotating hand motion against his forehead at Ted, and walked away, without taking the plate.  I shit you not.  I said to Ted, “I think there’s a bit of oyster left in one shell.”  I was just trying to guess what action would result in my plates being cleared.  Ted ate the wee morsel, and when the server returned, he took the plate — but not the wee soiled bread plates, nor did he offer us more bread.  Those soiled bread plates remained on the table for an hour.

 

More waiting, more waiting, more nursing of our bottle of wine.  Another server came over and refilled our water, and began to tell us, apropos of nothing, about how the air conditioner broke last week, and all the trouble that caused.  What the fuck, people?  I want my goddamn entree, not to chat.

 

Our main courses finally arrived.  I ordered the half a roast chicken with frites.  The thigh was perfect, moist and tender, with a nice crispy skin covered in a peppery pan jus.  Naturally, therefore, the drumstick and breast were hopelessly dried out and overcooked.  I appreciate that this is the great problem of chicken roasting: since the breast meat finishes cooking before the thigh meat is safely up to temperature, how do you keep the breast from drying out while you wait on the thigh?  This has plagued home cooks since time immemorial, so it’s not that I don’t understand the problem.  But for $22, I expect a restaurant to have had this problem solved.  The frites were fine, but nowhere near as good as Point Brugge’s.  (Or Park Bruges’s, for that matter.)  Ted ordered the coq au van, and he liked his meal a great deal. I tasted it, and it was good, though I thought it was a bit heavily seasoned and a bit too rich for a hot June night.  There was absolutely nothing seasonal on the menu, and many of the offerings, like lamb shank, beef bourguinon, and the coq au van, were heavy, wintertime dishes.  I realize that these are staples of French cooking, but I don’t believe for a moment that the French don’t eat lighter fare in the summer.

 

Tasty in the center, dried out at the edges. Meh.

Anyway, we finished our meals, all of our plates were finally cleared, and then … we sat.  No appearance from our server.  Ted was determined to order the chocolate mousse, so eventually we flagged down the chatty water woman to put our order in.  The food runner brought the mousse out, and at that point, we hadn’t seen our own server for almost an hour.  Ted finished his dessert, and still no appearance.  We waited another 20 minutes for our French waiter to reappear.  He took my Groupon information, and came back with our check … which he hadn’t deducted our Groupon from.  He had also, natch, disappeared again.  So again we flagged down the woman, who acted confused by what she was seeing on the check, even though I spelled it out for her quite clearly.  “Here is our appetizer, here are our entrees, he didn’t charge us for our dessert, here is our bottle of wine.”  She took the check, and finally our waiter reemerged, to chastise me.

“I was trying to give you a free dessert.  You don’t want a free dessert?”

“I want my Groupon deducted.”

“But you turned down a free dessert.”

Are you fucking serious?  Fuck your $7 dessert, I want my $40 discount removed from the check.  He goes, “But you’re religious, I respect that.”  You see, our priest had stopped into the restaurant, quite by happenstance, and been assigned the table next to ours.  When we told him about the service, he decided not to order anything, though he did chat with us for a while.  When the server had looked at me quizzically, I had volunteered, “That’s our priest.”

 

Look, Buddy.  Monsieur.  Too familiar, and way unprofessional.  What the fuck?  In the end, he charged us for the dessert, but did subtract the $40.  We still ended up paying, with tip, a hundred bucks, and with that money could have gone down the street to Soba or up the street to Casbah and had an infinity better experience, both food- and (especially) service-wise.  I will not be returning to Brasserie 33, and you shouldn’t go there, either.  I honestly don’t know what the hell whoever owns that place is thinking.  There are reviews all over Yelp and Urbanspoon about how bad the service is, and how the food is overpriced for the quality, as it turns out.  (Here’s one by my friend, Carley, for example.) You’d think eventually a restauranteur would take action to remedy such imminently remediable problems, but nope!

 

Ugh.  Just ugh.

Brasserie 33 on Urbanspoon

Chicken Cacciatore

I make this recipe all the time, and decided I should finally blog it, since it’s tasty and works every time. What I find interesting about the recipe is how the ingredients are very simple, but getting it right involves patience and technique. Strictly speaking, I don’t think I use all of the traditional cacciatore ingredients; but another nice thing about the recipe is that it’s very forgiving about the vegetables you can use, which I always think is a plus, and anyway, fuck tradition or whatever.  I present it to you with the vegetables I like to use the most. Oh, and another nice thing about the recipe is that it’s a one-pot meal – well, two pots, since you’ll want to be making rice or pasta simultaneously. But still.  The following makes enough for my husband and I for dinner, and enough leftovers for at least one of us to have lunch the next day.

Chicken thighs, frying away.

 

You’ll need:

4 chicken thighs
Oil
All-purpose flour
1/2 large white onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2/3 cup white wine
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 bunch red kale, destemmed and torn into small pieces
1 small BPA-free can of diced tomatoes (I use Muir Glen Organic), or 4 fresh roma tomatoes if they’re in season, diced
1/2 – 1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (or 1/4 teaspoon regular old salt)
1/2 – 1 teaspoon dried oregano
Brown rice or pasta

 

 

Get a heavy-bottomed lidded pot or deep skillet. I have Le Creuset Dutch oven that’s coated cast iron and it is worth every single cent of the $150 it cost and more – I use it constantly. But the point is, you’ll need a good heavy pot or deep skillet with a lid. Heat it over medium heat, and add enough oil to coat the entire bottom. Olive oil adds a nice flavor to the chicken, but canola can be heated to a higher frying temperature, so a mix of both is ideal, but failing that, if you use olive oil keep the heat at medium, but if you use canola you can go to medium high.

CAN YOU SPOT THE DORITO BAG?

Coat your chicken thighs in flour, and then fry them gently until they’re golden brown; it takes about 5 – 7 minutes per side. Set them aside on paper towels. Pour most of the oil out of the pan, but leave a little.

Dice half a large white onion and crush four garlic cloves and add them to the oil, turning down the heat to medium low. Sautee until golden brown, about 10 minutes. When everything’s starting to carmelize (don’t burn the garlic!) deglaze with the white wine. Bring the wine to a simmer.  Drink the remainder of the open bottle of wine – remember, NEVER cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink.

Add the can of tomatoes* and juice. Chop the red bell pepper and add that along with the pepper, salt, and oregano. Stir and bring to a simmer. De-stem and chop your red kale into bite-sized pieces (you can do this while the chicken is frying) and put that into the pot – cover it and allow the leaves to wilt, about five minutes.

Nestle nestle.

Give everything a good stir, and then nestle your chicken thighs back into the mix. Turn the heat to low+ – somewhere between low and medium low – and cover the pot or skillet most of the way, but make sure steam can escape. Braise the kale and chicken thighs this way for 45 minutes.

Traditionally cacciatore is served with pasta, and that’s perfectly tasty, but I personally like to serve it with brown rice because I think that the rice soaks up the sauce better. My husband insists that this recipe should also be served with grated parmesan cheese – I might put a few red pepper flakes on the table as well.

Look at all that glistening health!

*If Muir Glen Organic seems pricey (though they’re not so bad, maybe $0.25 more than store-brand for just the small tomatoes), Hunt’s also offers BPA-free can linings, I hear.  Because it’s better not to get cancer, you know?  Oh, and FYI, Muir Glen’s canned tomatoes are BPA-free, but their other canned goods aren’t, so don’t like, assume the beans are non-carcinogenic just ’cause the tomatoes are.  Of course, @javelinwarrior shamed me about canned beans so often that I bought some damned dried beans, so the point’s moot in my house now.

 

Speaking of @javelinwarrior, I submitted this recipe to his made-from-scratch noms blog:

 JWsMadeWLuvMondays

Butter Chicken Adventures

Apparently, it’s White Girls Making Indian Meals Day here on the blog. Hurrah!

A while ago I tweeted that I’d like to take a look at 50 Great Curries of India by Camellia Panjabi, as it was recommended by Francis Lam, who’s writing I’ve enjoyed on Salon.com and who is also very nice on Twitter. Turned out Sarah owned this book, and she lent it to me.

I have tried in the past to make curries, both Indian and Thai, from recipes gleaned from the Internet; all of them my husband has hated. This is an impediment, surely, since, y’know, that’s half of my cooking audience, generally. One of the problems with cooking for myself and my fuzzier half is that we have very different taste buds, or so it seems. He has a very sensitive palate, and is laid low by what I consider to be very mild levels of spiciness. On the other hand, I prefer very strong flavors and very spicy dishes. He thinks that my taste buds are in some way lacking in efficacy, and he may well be right, but I think this has its advantages: I genuinely like the taste of those bitter, dark green vegetables that one is always being told to consume for health, I can appreciate a good peaty Scotch, and I never look like one of those Middle American, Golden Corral patron-types when I go out to dinner to an “ethnic” restaurant. (A related aside: Nick and I went to lunch at Taste of India last week. There, we overhead one of said Middle Americans lecturing the Indian waiter, “Well, y’know, we Americans like middle-of-the-road stuff – nothing too spicy.” Sigh!)

Anyway. Trying to appease Ted’s delicate taste buds, and trying to make things easy on myself by picking a recipe I already had almost everything for, from Camellia’s cook book I chose Butter Chicken. Here is the recipe as I found it:

2 lb. chicken, skinned quarters, smaller pieces on the bone or boneless pieces (tikkas)
4-5 tablespoons oil

For the marinade:
2 cups plain yogurt
6 cloves garlic
1/2-in square of fresh ginger
2/3 teaspoon red chile powder or paprika
1/4 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon garam masala powder
a tiny pinch of tandoori coloring (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons lime juice

For the makhani sauce:
1&1/2 lb tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
[Sarah gave me a bag of these – yes, it appeared as though I had a huge bag of weed in my purse.]
3 oz. chilled butter [This amounts to 5 tablespoons, FYI.]
1/2 teaspoon paprika
few drops of vinegar
1/4 teaspoon garam masala
salt
1&1/2 fl oz of light cream
[About 2 tablespoons.]

My kitchen as I made my chicken curry, rice, and veggies.

Butter Chicken in process

I didn’t follow the recipe completely exactly. For one, Camellia wanted me to drain my yogurt in cheese cloth, which I don’t have, and didn’t feel like trying to track down. For two, she has very specific instructions for like, adding spices – “Add such and such, wait 30 seconds, add such and such, stir for a minute, add such and such …” – there’s something about this that just … I don’t know, I’m impatient: the spices went in all at the same time. Finally, instead of fresh tomatoes I used canned crushed tomatoes, since there aren’t any good tomatoes available this time of year anyway, and it saved me the effort of scalding and peeling and smooshing the substandard supermarket tomatoes. Oh, and I omitted the oil from the chicken, because it just didn’t seem necessary.

 

Basically, you put everything in the marinade, mix it well, insert the chicken (I used some free-range, vegetarian-fed, air-chilled, boneless, skinless thighs) and let it sit over night. Then you cook the chicken in the marinade, and make the tomato sauce at the last minute, pouring it in with the marinade-y chicken right before you serve the dish. I also made basmati rice and a mess of vegetables to go with the curry. Ted and friend Roger were my guinea pigs.

A pot full of simmering chicken in yogurt sauce.

The chicken as it cooked in its yogurt marinade.

Some trouble arose. I don’t know if it’s because I didn’t drain the yogurt through cheese cloth, but the marinade became VERY watery as the chicken was cooking, such that, though Camellia said to cook the chicken low and covered, I ended up uncovering it and boiling off quite a bit of liquid. Also, I think in the future I would use a leaner cut of meat, as the thighs gave off quite a bit of fat that I had to skim off – actually, I think in the future I’d just make this with chickpeas, but that’s a different point.

 

So how was it received? Well, Ted loved it. Seriously. Roger also seemed to be very much in favor of it. I found it … bland, frankly. I knew that it wasn’t going to be spicy, of course, as I’d specifically picked a recipe that wouldn’t be spicy for Ted’s sake. But mild is not necessarily unflavorful. I felt as though all of the spice measurements should have been doubled. But perhaps that’s just my disabled taste buds talking. It was also a bit too tomato-y, perhaps because I’d used canned tomatoes instead of fresh – fair enough, in the future I suppose I’d try to track down a decent green house tomato or several.

I wish I had a picture of the final dish for you: I took one, but my phone’s camera decided not to save it, in a fit of pique. The dish comes out a creamy, orangey pink, and it presented well: had I had some fresh cilantro, that would have been a welcome vegetal note to add as a garnish.

So, judge for yourself: two yeas and a meh. I’m going to take a run at another curry, I think, before returning to this one, perhaps one that involves a little less dairy. And upon returning to this recipe, which I think Ted will insist upon, I think I’ll try increasing the spice measurements by 50% – perhaps Ted and I can find a happy medium.