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Comfort of Curry

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On the eve of the deadline of this column, it was snowing in the Washington, D.C., area, where I have made my home for several years. It was just after 9 in the morning, before the flakes began to fall, and I was strolling through the aisles of my local Whole Foods, trying to decide what to make for dinner. Although snowfall amounts were unknown, one thing was certain: That night, I would need the culinary equivalent of a blanket; something warm, reliable, and - cliché be damned - comforting. A few years ago, writer Jonathan Reynolds wrote an essay in the New York Times Magazine about Indian culinary diva Madhur Jaffrey and the alchemy brought about one night by her lemony chicken curry during a massive power outage throughout Manhattan. Since reading this tale, I have made Jaffrey's curry countless times. It has become a staple on cold, dingy days. I never mind all the chopping because I know that as soon as the ginger meets garlic and chats it up with cumin, coriander and pals, the aroma takes me on a journey, far from my troubles.

Lemony Chicken Curry With Coriander
From Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking

5-6 tablespoons vegetable oil

Approximately 2-1/2 pounds chicken thighs and/or legs, skinned and seasoned with salt and pepper

2-inch hunk of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

5 cloves garlic, chopped finely

1/2 habanero chile (or to taste), seeded and diced

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

2 teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon coriander

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon salt

2 bunches cilantro, cleaned, stemmed and finely chopped

2/3 cup water

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Place ginger in bowl of food processor and blend with 1/4 cup water, until pureed.

In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat oil. When hot, but not smoking, add chicken and brown on both sides, at least 10 minutes. Remove from pot and set aside.

Add ginger puree and stir with a wooden spoon, scraping the stuck bits from the bottom of the pan. Add garlic, spices and salt. The mixture will become pasty, which is a good thing. Add cilantro and stir. Add water, lemon juice and return chicken to pot.

Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer, until meat is tender and starting to fall off the bone. This should take about 45 minutes.

While the curry cooks, make some rice to serve with the meal. Feeds approximately four curry fiends.

- Kim O'Donnel

Culinary questions? Reach CL's Kitchen Witch at kim.odonnel@creativeloafing.com.

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