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Friday, July 29, 2005

Secret Chicken Curry

I've taken my mother's recipe (which she will not give me) and changed it quite a bit. My version of chicken curry is a bit more like Irish Stew, but with French and Asian elements thrown in. Now just a recommendation: if you can, make your own curry powder, fresh, just before you cook. It beats the taste of prepackaged curry powder. Look for the posting "Make Your Own Curry Powder", elsewhere in this blog. And as with all cooking, follow the rule of "Mise en Place", pronounced "meez awn plass". It simply means have your ingredients prepared, cut, sliced, diced, or whatever, and ready to go. Don't turn the stove on until you do! This is especially important if you prefer to add your curry powder before the liquid, as it'll burn very quickly, make you cough uncontrollably, and set off your fire alarm. Not fun, but I do this every once in a while when I don't have one or more ingredients prepared.

Ingredients
Vegetable mixture:
  • Vegetable oil - preferably canola or even olive oil (However, olive burns faster)
  • Butter
  • Onion - slivers or large triangles. Choose an amount comfortable to you. Some people prefer large pieces of onion, a la Oriental stir fries. My mother does not add onions to the curry since they are already in her "Secret Garlic Ginger Paste", mentioned later in this posting.
  • Celery - diced. Large or small, it's up to you.
  • Carrot - small or medium dice. Again, up to you. Some restaurants serve curry chicken with carrots as large as 1.5 inches in length. I love Irish stew, and if I add carrots, I make them big chunks.
  • Green and/or red bell pepper - large dice. Large dice is better if you have diners that do not like bell pepper, as it's easier to remove.

Curry:
  • 4-6 cups water or stock (vegetable or chicken), depending on how much broth you want
  • 1 large skinless chicken breast (bone-in or deboned), frozen or fresh.
  • Curry powder
  • Pre-boiled, extra-large-diced potatoes (any type, but preferably firm in texture)
  • Pinch of salt
  • Mom's Secret Garlic Ginger Paste (see blog posting of the same title)
  • 1 tbsp oriental black bean garlic sauce [optional]
  • Corn or tapioca starch, dissolved in an equal amount of water first to prevent lumps
  • Parsley or cilantro - whole or loosely chopped, larger stems removed

Instructions
If you do not want a curry "stew", you can skip the celery, carrots, and bell peppers. Or you can make them a smaller dice. (Alternatively, you can make the celery, carrots, and bell peppers a small dice and prepare them with the steamed rice instead of the curry.) My mother does not like to add potatoes to her chicken curry. Instead, she prefers to make a simple potato curry (see posting elsewhere in this blog).

Start by adding oil and butter to a medium or large cookpot, depending on the desired quantity. When the pot is hot, add the vegetable ingredients indicated above and let them sautee for 2-3 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Do not over cook the vegetables, as they'll have a mushy texture by the time the curry is finished.

Now work quickly, first by removing the vegetable mixture to a glass or ceramic bowl and set aside. Without turning off the stove, add all of the water or stock to the same cookpot. Add the chicken breast. If you will not be using the Oriental black bean garlic sauce (which is very salty), then add a pinch of salt if you want. You may need to add more later, but that's better then over-salting. (I prefer to add salt, if any, near the very end of the cooking process. Usually, I find that other flavours are far more palatable when they are not overwhelmed with salt.) You can cover the pot partially with a lid if you want to speed up the process.

This method poaches the chicken, which in turn infuses the water with chicken flavour. This will make your curry richer tasting. If your chicken is frozen, you only need to poach a bit longer. Know, too, that poached chicken is much healthier than frying in oil. When the chicken breast starts to float, it is ready.

You may need to skim some of the fats and foam that commercial, frozen chicken breasts tend to release. At the same time, remove the chicken to a cutting board and let rest for a minute or two. In the meantime, to the pot, add the vegetable mixture you set aside, plus the curry powder, potatoes, and Garlic Ginger paste. Stir the ingredients until they are well mixed. Cover the pot partially with a lid and leave for 2-3 minutes.

Now slice the chicken against the grain. For curries with a lot of broth, it's best to cut the chicken into small pieces, say no more than an inch in length. Small strips are even better. (If you dice the chicken too fine, however, the pieces will fall apart and may become unpalatable.) Add the chicken back to the pot, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, and let simmer for 20-30 minutes.

In the last 5 minutes, you can add salt or the oriental black bean garlic sauce, if you have not already added salt. Let simmer for 2-3 minutes.

Dissolve corn starch (preferable) or tapioca starch in an equal amount of water, using a fork to mix the two ingredients. Set aside. Remove the lid on the pot, increase the heat to high, and wait until the liquid starts to boil. Give the starch mixture one last stir with the fork, then slowly pour half of this liquid all around the pot. Set aside. Using your wooden spoon or a ladle, stir the starch mixture evenly throughout the pot until its whiteness disappears. When the curry broth thickens to the desired consistency, give it all another stir or two, then turn off the heat and remove the pot.

Presentation
Serve curry over steamed rice (see elsewhere in this blog for a recipe). You can either add the parsley or cilantro on top of the curry while it's in the pot, or wait until it is ladled over the rice.

(c) Copyright 2005 Raj Kumar Dash, http://curryelviscooks.blogspot.com


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  • I'm blogslinger
  • From Canada
  • Writer, author, former magazine editor and publisher, amateur photog, amateur composer, online writer/ blogger, online publisher, freelancer


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