This might seem a little crazy, but, I like cleaning up after dinner. It gives me a moment to reflect on the food, the chat, and the people I shared my evening with. It happened to be a great night at our house for a few reasons, well two reasons to be specific; the food and the company! This is a winning combination, and sometimes, you can’t have one without the other.
Let me talk about the food first: I was told I needed to talk this dish up! I had been thinking about a curry powder I had bought in New York City a week earlier (yes, I ponder over things like this!) at the best spice shop I have ever been in. When I stepped inside I went weak at the knees when confronted with hundreds of shelves neatly piled with bags of spices and spice combinations, jars of condiments, teas, all kinds of rice, dried chilis, and on and on. It made my head reel and I didn’t know how I could leave the place without buying a little sample of everything. I walk down the aisles of a place like that and wonder how on earth I could ever learn to incorporate all of these very special and specific ingredients into my food. It would take a lifetime. I was very disciplined and only bought three things; some dried Morita chilis, a dark musty Syrian curry powder, and a bright yellow vindaloo curry powder.
I know that it is more authentic to make up your own spices to go into a curry, and I certainly have done it many times, but, when you are given the chance to buy it from purveyors who really know how to pick spices which reflect the taste of a dish from an exact region (in this case, India) I for one am going to give it a try. I was not disappointed.
The vindaloo curry has an overall feeling of hot sweetness. The heat comes from the cayenne, ginger and garlic, and the sweetness from the cinnamon, cumin and nutmeg elements, not to mention a hint of mango powder. I really thought hard about what ingredients would best compliment the flavor of the curry powder. I liked the idea of chicken because it really absorbs and imparts great flavor. I wanted to highlight the sweet element, but not make the overall dish saccharine tasting. I decide on big slices of onion, lots of mushrooms (another great flavor absorber) and a timid amount of carrots, along with some golden raisins. These ingredients would keep the dish brightly colored while adding a sweet background.
I know that most curries are simmered on the stove-top without searing meat etc but, I wanted the dry heat of the oven in a heavy pan, and I wanted to sear the dark meat to shorten the cooking time and intensify the flavor. I took my chances and used a hefty tablespoon of the curry powder. I really wanted to taste it. To balance the heat I served it with sour cream and avocado, which I think are great foods for the job. It turned out to be hot, but very tolerable for any palate. My daughter is not as fond of heat as the rest of us but she completely loved this dish and checked the pan to make sure there were leftovers (sadly, no).
Now to talk about the other specific reason that completed my lovely evening; the company. It goes without saying that I best enjoy my dinner with my husband and children. They are the reason to cook, the reason to make the effort, the reason I am excited to don the apron and cook something that will have us all sitting together and being close. This is an absolute given.
The other company I relish is that of my friend Tom. He loves to cook, and eat, and drink wine, and collect old books, and build things, and, he loves his family as much as I love mine! He popped in last night with two bottles of wine he got at some newly discovered wine shop about 10 miles from the airport (he got stuck waiting for his wife to arrive for 4 hours and he didn’t want to spend his time in the dreary terminal area). Instead, he headed out and explored the area, and happened upon a great little wine shop.
He also brought some treasures he picked up at the flea market, one of which turned out not to be the masterpiece painting he was hoping for! We sat and tried the wine and talked, and then dinner was served. Tom told me it was the best thing I had made that he had ever tasted. It may have been true, or, it may have been that it was late and he was starving? Either way, I was greatly complimented, and I am now in love with my little 1/4 lb bag of Vindaloo Curry Powder!
You will need: a variety of chicken pieces, such as 5 drumsticks, 5 boneless thigh cutlets, 2 chicken breasts (or some variation of this – you need some dark meat to up the flavor factor), 4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, 2 med/large sweet onions, cut in half & sliced, 1lb white mushrooms, sliced (about 6 cups when sliced), 3 carrots, sliced (fairly thick), 1 tbs unsalted butter, 1/3 cup golden raisins, 1 tbs vindaloo curry powder (or any fairly hot variety), 1 cup chicken broth, 3 1/2 cups water, 6 Thai basil leaves (optional, ie. if you have them), 6 to 8 cups cooked good quality basmati rice (I use Swad Dehraduni Aged Basmati Rice – type Swad in search box for more info.) 2 Haas avocados, sliced, (optional), 6 tbs sour cream or plain yoghurt, (optional).
Preheat oven 375*
1 – Season all chicken pieces with coarse salt (I used Maldon sea salt flakes, but coarse kosher can be used) and freshly ground black pepper. Put big saute pan on high heat. Add 2 tbs of oil, and, when it is very hot sear all meat EXCEPT the chicken breast, (breast does not need any extra cooking time before it goes into the oven) in batches until browned (between 4-6 minutes per batch). You will need to add more oil as you go. Don’t crowd the pan, or, your meat will steam, and not turn a lovely brown! Set meat aside.
2 – Turn heat down to medium/low and add the onions (you may need to add more olive oil). Break the rounds up and cook for 5 minutes. Turn heat up slightly and add the mushrooms and butter. Continue to cook for another 10 minutes, stirring regularly.
3 – Add carrots and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the curry powder and stir into vegetables. Cook for about 1 minute before returning the chicken, including the breast, to the pan along with the water, broth and raisins. Turn heat up to high and cook until liquid starts to bubble. Cover and place in oven for 1 hour
Cook rice while curry is in the oven!
4 – Remove from oven and stir in Thai basil (if using). Let the curry sit for about 10 minutes to allow the flavors to meld and settle.
This can be served over basmati rice, or, you can do what I did, and top with some lovely cooling elements like sliced Haas avocado and sour cream, or yoghurt (or either of those).