May 12, 2009

curry: it may stain your bamboo utensils

I have to start out by saying that Ryan kept an amazingly open mind when I decided on "curry night." After spending two days reading the "Indian Curry Master Recipe" from Cooks Illustrated (I signed up for a free trial and love it so much that when the trial is up, I will actually pay for the service--how's that for a testimonial!?), thinking that if I read it enough I'd memorize it.

Not so.

But reading it over and over did give me the confidence I needed to make the dish. I set out to get the things I needed, and to no one's surprise forgot several things. 

Here is my oh-so-altered Master Curry recipe. I changed Cooks Illustrated's recipe to reflect exactly what I used. However, this resulted in a soupy dish; I think adding the vegetable (potato, zucchini, dal, etc.) would have made it a lot better. Ryan offered the idea that he'd rather have grilled chicken to top it off, rather than boiled chicken. 

So for the next time, we'll make those changes. For now, here's my beginner recipe, served with basmati rice for a well-balanced and flavor-filled dinner. But the bamboo spoon I used to stir the curry will, sadly, never be the same. 
Whole Spice Blend (Optional)
1 1/2cinnamon sticks (3-inches)
8black peppercorns
1bay leaf
1/4cup vegetable oil ( or canola oil)
1medium onion , sliced thin
4large cloves garlic , pureed in a minichopper with 1 tablespoon water (about 2 tablespoons)
1tablespoon fresh ginger , pureed in a minichopper with 1-2 teaspoons water
3chicken thighs, skinned
1 1/2teaspoons curry powder (Central Market Organics blend is delish)
1/2teaspoon table salt
3plum tomatoes (canned), chopped, plus 1 tablespoon juice, 
1pound fresh spinach, stemmed
1cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
2cups water
1jalapeño chile , stemmed and cut in half through the stem end
2 - 4tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves (use the lesser amount if you've already added the optional cilantro)


  1. 1. Heat oil in large deep skillet or soup kettle (or dutch oven), preferably nonstick, over medium-high heat until hot, but not smoking. If using whole spice blend, add to oil and cook, stirring with wooden spoon until cinnamon stick unfurls, about 5 seconds. If omitting whole spice blend, simply add onion to skillet; sauté until softened, 3 to 4 minutes, or browned, 5 to 7 minutes.

  2. 2. Stir in garlic, ginger, selected meat (except shrimp), ground spices, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and tomatoes; cook, stirring almost constantly, until liquid evaporates, oil separates and turns orange, and spices begin to fry, 5 to 7 minutes, depending on skillet or kettle size. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until spices smell cooked, about 30 seconds longer.

  3. 3. Stir in optional spinach and/or cilantro. Add the water and jalapeño and season with salt; bring to simmer. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until meat is tender, 20 to 30 minutes for chicken.