Diego’s Hearts

  I had a guest around for a pre-Christmas dinner. He’s from Brazil and I had been out with him for dinner previously at one of those infamous Brazilian steak houses where he had asked for chicken hearts (a common grilled meat in Brazil). Unfortunately the restaurant was out of them at the time, so when he came for dinner I decided to serve a chicken heart appetizer (along with lamb chops). Shooting from the hip I came up with what turned out to be a tasty and inexpensive appy. 

At the end of the meal he asked what the dish was called. Since I had created it from scratch, I told him it had no name. His response was swift, “I’ll give it a name! A Diego!” Well I couldn’t argue, so I present you with Diego’s Hearts. 
Menu:

  • Diego’s Hearts (appetizer)
  • Pan seared lamb chops
  • Sauce Romaine
  • Roasted yellow mini potatoes
  • Steamed carrots

Recipe Diago’s Hearts:

  • 1 lb Chicken hearts (trimmed and rinsed)
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt 
  • 1/2 tsp hot paprika
  • 1 tsp dried herbs du Provence ( or basil, oregano, etc.)
  • Salt/Pepper to taste
  • 1-2 Tbs butter or olive oil (for sautéing hearts) 
  • 1 cup Vegetable broth
  • 4-5 Brown mushrooms finely diced
  • 1 Tbs Salted butter (for sautéing mushrooms)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream (whipping cream)
  • 1 medium Spanish onion thinly sliced and separated 
  • 2 Tbs Salted butter (for caramelizing onions)
  • 2-3 tsp Fine white sugar
  • Splash of balsamic vinegar
  • 8 Thin slices french baguette cut on the bias, toasted, and lightly buttered
  • 1 Tbs Italian parsley chopped finely
  • Crumbled Chèvre or shaved hard cheese (optional)

Method:

  1. Combine the hearts and next five ingredients and marinate for 1-3 hours at room temperature. 
  2. Create a mushroom cream sauce by sautéing the mushrooms in butter until well softened and then adding stock and cream. Simmer over low heat until slightly thickened. Keep warm. 
  3. Caramelize the onions in butter with the sugar, finishing with a small splash of balsamic. Keep warm in the oven in a heat proof dish. 
  4. Drain the and dry the hearts discarding the marinade and sauté in 1 Tbs olive oil or butter  over medium to high heat until just cooked 3-5 minutes. 
  5. Toast the baguette slices, butter and arrange 2 slices side by side on a small plate for each portion. 
  6. Top each portion of toast with a “nest” of caramelized onions. 
  7. Add the sautéed hearts into the nest of onions. 
  8. Drizzle 2-3 Tbs of the mushroom cream sauce across the stacked dish and finish with a light topping of parsley, fresh ground black pepper and optionally crumbled Chèvre or hard cheese shavings. 
  9. Serve hot. 

Notes:

Timing is the trick with this dish as all the elements need to be warm or hot. 

Serves 4.

The cheese topping is optional. I forgot to add it in my flurry of cooking, but I think it would have been a nice touch. 

Enjoy,

Aaron

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East Meets West Coast: Baked Thai Lingcod Curry

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It’s been a while since I posted anything new and interesting. Life kind of got in the way, but I came up with this dish a while ago and figured that it needed to be shared.

Some time ago I was given several large fillets of lingcod, a large white fleshed fish of the Greenling family common off the coast of British Columbia. I’ve been preparing these mild fillets in a number of ways, but I came up with this tasty and fairly easy to prepare recipe when I needed a dish to take to a dinner party.

The recipe below involves a homemade curry paste and stock, but to speed things up a store bought paste and stock could easily be substituted.

Menu

  • Baked Thai Lingcod Curry
  • Coconut Rice
  • Sesame Garlic Brocolli
  • Cut Fresh Fruit

Recipe: Baked Thai Lingcod Curry

Curry Paste:

  • 2 Tbs Canola or Peanut oil
  • 1 Sm Spanish or red onion chopped
  • 6 Sm Cloves of garlic chopped
  • 1″ Ginger root minced
  • 2-3 Tbs Sambal Oeleck to taste
  • 1/2 Tbs Shrimp paste or Anchovy paste
  • 2 tsp Dried red chillies ground
  • 2 tsp Cumin ground
  • 3 tsp Coriander seed ground
  • 1/2 tsp Turmeric ground
  • 1 tsp Dried lemongrass ground
  • 1 Tbs Spanish paprika
  • 2 Tbs Fish sauce
  • 1-2 Tbs Water
  • 10-15 Cashews
  • 3 Lime leaves centre stalk removed chopped

Curry/Fish

  • 2 Tbs Canola or peanut oil
  • 1 Med Spanish or red onion halved and sliced finely
  • 4 Sm Cloves of garlic sliced
  • 1-2 Tbs Sambal Oeleck
  • 3-4 Tbs Curry paste to taste
  • 1-2 tsp Fish sauce
  • 1-3 tsp Brown sugar to taste
  • 1 c Thai style fish stock, plain fish stock or low sodium Chinese style chicken stock
  • 1 c Coconut milk
  • 4 Lime leaves
  • Water for thinning while cooking
  • 1 Tbs Fresh Lime juice
  • 2-3 Tbs Fresh cilantro finely chopped
  • 1-2 Tbs Thai basil coarsely chopped
  • 2-3 lbs Lingcod or other firm whitefish fillets cut into chunks

Method

    Part 1: Curry paste

  1. Heat oil in wok or heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Add onion and sauté until soft and starting to lightly brown.
  3. Add garlic, ginger, shrimp paste and sambal and cook stirring for one to two minutes until the garlic is fragrant.
  4. Add the dried spices and cook stirring for another minute.
  5. Add fish sauce, water, cashews and chopped lime leaves and continue to cook until well combined (about a minute more).
  6. Remove from heat and transfer to a food processor or blender and process to a paste adding a little oil if necessary to create a thick paste.
  7. ——–
    Part 2: Curry and fish

  8. In the same wok or pan used to make the paste add oil and heat over a medium-high heat.
  9. Add onions and sauté until translucent.
  10. Add garlic and sambal and sauté for two minutes stirring frequently.
  11. Add curry paste reserving a little to smear on fish pieces (about two teaspoons) and cook for another minute or two.
  12. Stir in stock, coconut milk and lime leaves and bring to a low boil.
  13. Reduce heat to low and add fish sauce and brown sugar to taste.
  14. Simmer for 20 minutes to allow for the flavours to combine adding additional water if necessary to keep the consistency medium.
  15. Remove from heat, stir in cilantro and lime juice and let cool.
  16. Cut lingcod into small serving chunks (about 1″x3″) and arrange in a lightly oiled casserole dish.
  17. Smear a little of the reserved paste over the fish and evenly sprinkle the Thai basil over the pieces.
  18. Pour the cooled curry over the fish and bake in a preheated 375 f oven for 20 minutes.
  19. Serve hot or warm.

Notes: I found the finished dish a little on the mild side and if you do you can always add a small handful (4-6) whole fresh red Thai chillies to the simmering curry to kick it up a notch (I usually just slit them with a single cut lengthways down the centre). The chillies also add a nice visual touch to the dish as well–just be sure to warn your guests.

Serves 4-6

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Tamarind Fish Curry (or how to keep your fish from falling apart)

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Have you ever tried adding a softer fish pieces to a curry or thick stew? Usually you end up with finely broken pieces of fish swimming around in the sauce. Annoyed by it? Me too.

Unless you are extremely careful when adding and stirring, fatty cuts of salmon, cod, soles and other whitefish have an unfortunate habit of not staying together when added to sauces–and even with care the chances of the fish pieces staying intact are poor at best.

I encountered this when I first started making fish curries–in particularly an otherwise excellent Salmon Curry by author Das Sreedharan. In it he instructs the reader to add cubed salmon to the finished curry until cooked then to stir in coconut milk to finish. I tried to make this dish several times, only to be met with tiny bits of fish spread evenly through the curry instead of the rich savoury salmon chunks shown in his accompanying illustration.

If nothing else I can be a bit stubborn, so I modified the dish with a simple trick and the result was fantastic–so much so that my family won’t have it any other way. The trick, which I’ve applied to other delicate dishes, is to shallow fry the fish pieces (after marinating and a light dusting of chana flour) before adding them to the finished curry. The fish chunks come out moist and just burst with flavour in the mouth. Along the way I’ve tweaked the curry a bit to create a very memorable if somewhat different dish from what Sreedharan originally created.

Menu

  • Tamarind fish curry
  • Basmati rice
  • Spiced peanuts
  • Garlic green beans
  • Fresh cut strawberries
  • Milk for the kids, Malbec for the adults

Recipe: Tamarind Fish Curry

Marinade and Fish:

  • 1-2 Tbs Light cooking oil (Canola)
  • 1 tsp Cummin seed, ground
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric, ground
  • 1/2 tsp Hot Indian paprika or ground chilies
  • 2 tsp Amchur powder
  • 1/2 tsp Sea salt (optional)
  • 2-3 tsp Palm or white vinegar
  • 3/4-1 lb Salmon, lingcod or other whitefish cut into 1″ cubes (see method/notes)
  • Cooking oil for frying

Flour:

  • 1/4 c Chana (chickpea) flour, or bleached wheat flour (the latter is not GF of course)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Curry:

  • 1-2 Tbs Light cooking oil (Canola)
  • 10 Kari (curry) leaves
  • Pinch Fenugreek seeds, whole
  • 2 tsp Black or brown mustard seeds, whole
  • 1 Med Onion, Finely diced
  • 4-5 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1″ pc Ginger root, minced
  • 1-3 Tbs Sambal oelek or 2-3 small fresh red chilies minced
  • 2 tsp Cumin seed, ground
  • 3 tsp Amchur powder
  • 1/2 tsp Tumeric, ground
  • 1/2 tsp Chilies or Indian paprika, ground
  • 3/4-1 c Tamarind liquid (see method/notes)
  • 1 12oz can Stewed or diced tomatoes, or 2 whole tomatoes diced
  • 1-4 tsp Palm or brown sugar to taste
  • Salt to taste

Method

    Part 1: Fish

  1. Prepare the fish with an optional 15 minute salt cure (see notes)
  2. Cut fish into approximately 1″ cubes and set aside
  3. Whisk together remaining marinade ingredients in a medium bowl
  4. Add the cubed fish to the marinade and stir lightly to coat
  5. Transfer fish and marinade into a plastic bag, remove air and seal
  6. Let fish marinate for at least 20 minutes. While the fish marinates prepare vegetables and other ingredients for the curry
  7. Setting the fish aside, combine the chana flour, salt and pepper in a shallow soup bowl or similar container
  8. Remove fish cubes from bag, wipe off excess marinade, roll in flour mixture to lightly coat
  9. In a wok or medium saucepan add cooking oil for shallow frying–approximately 1/4″ deep, and heat over a medium-high element
  10. When oil is hot, carefully add the fish cubes (about 6 at a time) and fry on all sides until golden brown
  11. Transfer cooked fish pieces on to a plate layered with paper towel to absorb excess oil and place in a warm oven (approximately 175 F)
  12. Repeat process until all the fish pieces are cooked
  13. ——–
    Part 2: Curry

  14. Add 1-2 Tbs oil to a wok or deep bottom saucepan and heat over a medium-high element
  15. When the oil is hot, add kari leaves, mustard seeds and fenugreek and cook for about 30 seconds until the leaves and mustard seeds stop spitting
  16. Lower the heat to medium and add the onions, sauteing until soft or lightly brown (about 10-20 minutes)
  17. Add garlic, ginger and sambal and stir for a minute or two
  18. Add remaining dry spices and stir for another minute
  19. Add tamarind liquid and tomatoes and stir until well combined
  20. Reduce heat and let simmer until the tomatoes are well softened and the flavours have combined (about 20 to 30 minutes) adding water as required to prevent the dish from drying out
  21. Taste and add sugar as required to balance the sourness of the tamarind
  22. After the curry is finished add the fish pieces, stirring gently to combine and heat
  23. Serve the dish in a suitably sized bowl

Notes: It took a while to write this one up because of the steps involved, but it’s really less work than it would seem. Salt curing the fish before cooking is an optional step, but one that changes the texture and firms the fish up. I’ll write more about this in a separate post, but essentially it involves lightly covering the fish pieces with kosher or pickling salt, wrapping them in absorbent paper towel or cloth for about 15 minutes, then rinsing the salt off under cold running water. It adds very little salt to the finished dish, but changes the texture and allows the fish soak up any marinade it’s placed in. The tamarind liquid is made by placing 2-3 Tbs of tamarind pulp in a cup of boiling water. Leave it to soften for 5 to 10 minutes before breaking it up with either fingers or a fork, then strain the water and pulp through a fine sieve pushing as much pulp as possible through the sieve. You’ll end up with slightly less volume than you started with, but the result is a delicious sour-sweet liquid called for in many South and Southeast Asian dishes.

Serves 4-6

Aaron

Basic Lamb Curry

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Lamb is a bit of a staple in our house. When I see a good deal at our local market I like to take advantage of it. This past Saturday I happened upon a couple of inexpensive lamb shoulder chops marked down by an extra dollar each. My plan was to do them “slow braised” and divide them in four for the family, but a surprise guest (a friend of my daughter) showed up for dinner and I had to extend them to feed five. I decided on going with a simple lamb curry. This killed to birds with one stone, as my daughter has been bugging me to make lamb curry since the last time I prepared it.

Menu

  • Lamb Curry (for 5-6)
  • Braised carrots with butter and cardamom
  • Rice
  • Cut watermelon
  • Milk for the kids, wine for us

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Lamb shoulder chops are highly underrated by most North Americans, who when they hear chops almost exclusively think of the tasty, tender and hellishly expensive loin chops. But shoulder chops are an incredible deal, delivering far more flavour at a fraction of the price. The trick with the shoulder chops (which admittedly are a tougher cut) is a long moist-heat cooking time. As a cooking method, curry is a natural for such cuts–drawing out the rich flavour inherent in the meat, fat and bones.

Recipe: Basic Lamb Curry (Tomato based)

  • 2 tsp Cumin seed, ground
  • 2 1/2 tsp Coriander seed, ground
  • 2-3 tsp Amchur powder (dried green mango)
  • 1/2 tsp Tumeric, ground
  • 1/2 tsp Indian paprika, ground
  • 1 tsp Chilies, ground (optional)
  • 1 tsp Cumin seed, whole
  • 1 x 2″ pc Cinnamon bark
  • 2 Black cardamom,  lightly crushed
  • 2-3 Bay leaves
  • 1 Tbs Light cooking oil (canola)
  • 2-3 Lamb shoulder chops
  • 2 med. Onions, diced
  • 4-5 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1″ Ginger root, grated
  • 2 -3 tsp Sambal oelek (optional)
  • 12 oz Can diced tomatoes and juice (or 2 good quality lg fresh tomatoes, chopped)
  • Salt
  • 2-3 c Water

Method

  1. Liberally salt lamb chops on both sides
  2. In a large wok or deep heavy bottomed pot, heat oil over medium-high heat
  3. When hot, add prepared lamb chops and fry until nicely browned on each side (about 3-4 minutes a side depending on temperature)
  4. Remove lamb from pot and set aside to cool
  5. Add chopped onion to pot, lowering the heat slightly, and saute
  6. While the onion is cooking, chop the lamb into very small pieces, trimming off the fat and reserving the meat and bones
  7. Set the meat aside and add the larger bones to the onions, continue cooking until the onions just start to brown
  8. Add garlic and ginger (and sambal if using) to pot and saute for a minute or two, stirring to prevent the ginger from sticking to the pot
  9. Add dry spices (first six ingredients), plus cinnamon, bay leaves, and cardamom to pan and cook for a minute or more stirring to make sure that the spices cook lightly but don’t burn
  10. Add reserved meat, stirring to coat it in the onions and spices
  11. Add a cup and a half of water and stir to deglaze the bottom of the pot
  12. Add  tomatoes and bring to boil
  13. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook until the lamb begins to soften (20-30 minutes or more)
  14. Add water through the cooking process keeping the curry thin enough to simmer the lamb, letting it thickening just prior to serving
  15. Salt to taste
  16. Remove any bones, bay leaves, cardamom, and cinnamon prior to serving
  17. Serve in a large ceramic bowl

Notes: Our dinner guest didn’t strike me as being very heat tolerant so I added very few chilies to the curry. My family members (except for my youngest) suggested that it could use more heat, and were it not for the guest I would have included at least the optional chili based ingredients indicated in the recipe above. Even with these additions it would qualify as a mild heat. As you can see the this curry is tomato based and tends to favour Northern Indian spices–but there are quite probably hundreds of “lamb curry” recipes from across South and Southeast Asia.

Aaron

Mirepoix Stock Base

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Mirepoix is the basis for so many stocks and sauces that it really deserves a bit of discussion.

At its most basic it simply represents a collection of finely cut vegetables sautéed in oil or butter. Traditionally the three main components are onions, carrots and celery, but other flavourful vegetables such as bell peppers, asparagus, garlic, mushrooms or zucchini can be added or substituted. Another addition that I like to include is fresh chopped parsley or chives. Your choice of components comes down to an intuitive understanding of what will go best with the finished dish.

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I try and keep the proportions of cut vegetables fairly even (maybe a little heavier on the onion) and scale up or down as required. The example shown above involves a single small onion, a medium to large carrot, a stalk of celery and a good hank of flat leaf parsley. Unless used in a dish where the finished vegetables will actually be eaten whole, the chopping doesn’t have to be particularly precise–just small enough to saute easily and quickly. The only vegetable that needs to be cut finely is the carrot–mostly because it takes the longest to cook and soften.

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Melt the required amount of butter in a non-stick or regular heavy bottomed saucepan over a medium heat. If the recipe calls for caramelizing or browning the vegetables a regular pan is best, because it can take the heat required and works better for deglazing. Olive oil can be used if you are concerned about saturated fats in your diet, but nothing beats the flavour of butter (in my humble opinion).

Add the vegetables to the butter and saute to soften. The length of time required will vary with the amount of heat applied, the quantity of vegetables and even the size of pan used so I can’t offer a definite guideline, but I would plan on at least 20 minutes or so–longer if you plan on browning the vegetables. On that note I would recommend sauteing the vegetables until almost done before increasing the heat a little to brown. This will prevent the butter from browning before the vegetables have finished cooking and will reduce the amount of water in the mirepoix. You’ll just have to experiment a little and find what works best for you (standard operating procedure in my kitchen).

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Next comes the wine. What’s traditional french cooking without the wine? As I note on my condiment page, a simple unoaked sauvignon blanc is my cooking white wine of choice. It has lots of fruit flavour and for the most part low tannin and acid. If you’ve ever had cream curdle with the addition of wine, you’ll understand why a low acid wine is best. I also like the subdued flavour profile of sauvignon blanc because it doesn’t overpower a dish–cooking wine should be a supporting character and not the star of the show.

Add the wine to the now cooked mirepoix for a little softening, a little flavour and to deglaze the brownings if any. Add enough to moisten the vegetables, but not drown them if you will be eating the finished vegetables in a dish, add more if it will form the base for a stock. Saute the vegetables and wine at least until the alcohol in the wine has evaporated, but before it begins to lose flavour. If using for a stock, I like to add a little water or bullion at this point. Alternatively, when you go to strain the vegetables in the next step, hot water can be used to rinse the finished mirepoix and extract more flavour. You can “finish” the mirepoix at this point with the addition of fresh chopped herbs, salt, pepper, etc. if desired.

Straining the mirepoix into a heatproof container is the final step in producing your base stock. I’m fortunate enough to have a traditional metal cone-shaped sauce strainer (another thrift store find courtesy of my wife), but if you don’t, fear not–simply line a fine sieve with a cheesecloth slightly larger than the sieve, add the vegetables and when mostly drained gather up the edges to create a ball and (when cool enough) squeeze as much liquid from the ball as possible.

Your mirepoix based stock is now good to go. It can be used as is in any number of dishes or as the base for other more elaborate sauces. For use in some sauces where colour is important, using neutral coloured vegetables such as parsnips and white mushrooms in place of the carrot and parsley is suggested–but I personally don’t bother too much with such considerations.

One last thing. I hinted above that the resulting mirepoix can be eaten rather than used as a stock base. While I won’t provide a recipe here, at some point in late summer or early fall when the Pacific salmon start to run, I will post a recipe for saumon au papillote that uses the soften vegetables as a key ingredient.

Aaron

Moules et Frites (Mussels and Fries)

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My wife and I have a special place reserved in our hearts for Moules et Frites–it was the first restaurant meal we shared at the long since closed Santo’s Bistro in Vancouver. For me they also bring back fond memories of my time as a student in Montreal, where cheap mussels were a staple at home and in the bars that lined Saint Laurent Boulevard.

We serve mussels on special occasions and this time it was for my wife’s birthday. Cooking mussels can be as simple as steaming them until they open and serving them with a little garlic butter, but we like to go the extra distance.

Menu

  • Mussels in Cream Sauce
  • French fries
  • Balsamic glazed snow peas
  • Sliced mango
  • Crusty baguette for dipping
  • Milk for the kids, Lillet and soda for the adults

Recipe: Mussels in Cream Sauce

  • 2 lbs Wild or cultured Mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded
  • 4 tbs Butter, salted or unsalted
  • 1 c Mirepoix (finely diced onions, carrot, celery, peppers, parsley, etc.)
  • 1 c White wine
  • 1/4 c Red or orange bell peppers, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 c Baby asparagus tips
  • 4 cloves Minced garlic
  • 1 Tbs Flat leafed parsley
  • 1/2 c Whipping cream (or to taste)
  • Fresh ground black pepper to finish

Method

  1. In a medium sauce pan melt 3 Tbs butter and saute the mirepoix to soften
  2. Add white wine and five mussels in the shell and bring to a high simmer
  3. Remove the mussel meat when the shells open and return the shells to the pan, reserving the meat
  4. Simmer the stock covered for a few minutes, uncover, add a cup of water and bring to a boil
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and strain into a heat proof bowl squeezing as much liquid as possible from the cooked mirepoix
  6. You should be left with approximately 1 1/2 c of stock, if not add a little water or wine to extend
  7. In a deep saucepan large enough to hold the finished dish, melt 1 Tbs of butter and lightly saute the garlic, and remaining vegetables for one to two minutes
  8. Add the stock and whipping cream to the pan, stir to combine and bring to a low boil
  9. Add the mussels and stir to combine
  10. Cover and cook until the mussels open
  11. Remove from heat immediately and add reserved parsley, mussel meat and pepper
  12. Transfer to a decorative bowl and serve hot

Notes: The cooking process essentially involves 2 steps: making a stock and cooking the mussels. If you wish to use a mild fish stock or a low sodium chicken stock you can skip to step six above, but you should add a half cup of sliced onions along with the peppers and asparagus tips before adding the stock and whipping cream. I’m a bit torn between using unsalted butter or salted butter in this dish. The result is naturally quite salty due to the liquid released from the shells when they open. If you prefer less salt then definitely use unsalted butter in the rest of the cooking process. The mirepoix is a thing of personal preference, but it almost always should include carrots and onions. Normally I would include celery, but I had none on hand.

Serves 4-6 depending on appetite.

Aaron

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Dinner on the patio

Curry in a Hurry (sort of)

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Another day, another weekday meal.

Thursday’s are family split days. My wife heads off to yoga, while my daughter heads off to art class. I’m usually forced to make at least two separate meals–one before 6:00 pm when my daughter leaves and one after 7:00 pm when my wife returns. Keeping with the family tradition of always eating with at least one other family member, I usually prepare the kids an early meal and my wife and I a late one.

After a quick kids’ meal (today’s was fried ramen), I put on a pot of rice and dropped my daughter off at class. After returning home, I poured myself a drink and set to making a curry. I had chicken backs in the refrigerator,  so I went with that as the base.

Recipe: Andhra Pradesh Chicken

Spice Blend:

  • 2 tsp Amchur powder
  • 2 tsp Coriander, ground
  • 2 tsp Cumin, ground
  • 2 tsp Hot Indian paprika (or 1/2 to 1 Tsp dried chilies ground)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon, ground
  • 1/4 tsp Nutmeg, ground
  • 1 tsp Sea salt
  • 1 Tsp Tumeric, ground

Marinade

  • 3 heaping tsp spice blend
  • 1 Tbs Light cooking oil
  • 1 tsp White vinegar
  • 1 Tbs Brown sugar
  • 1/2 Tbs Sambal oelek

Sauce

  • 4 Medium to large pieces of chicken, skinless bone in
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1″ pc Ginger, peeled and grated
  • 3-4 Tbs light cooking oil (canola)
  • 10 Kari (curry) leaves
  • 2 Medium onions chopped
  • 1/4-1/2 c of finely chopped red bell peppers (or other vegetables)
  • 1-2 Tbs Sambal oelek (optional)
  • 1 15oz Can of diced tomatoes (or 2 lg tomatoes, chopped)
  • 1 c Chicken stock
  • Water
  • 2 Black cardomen pods, lightly crushed
  • 1/2-1 tsp Black pepper, fresh coarsely ground
  • 1 tsp Black mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp Cumin seeds
  • Balance of spice blend

Method:

  1. Prepare spice blend
  2. If using skin-on chicken remove skin and reserve
  3. Mix Marinade ingredients in a small bowl
  4. Combine chicken and marinade in a plastic bag, remove excess air and work the bag to distribute marinade evenly over the chicken and marinate for 1-4 hours
  5. Remove chicken from bag and grill or BBQ over medium heat until fully cooked (I usually do 10 min. bone side down, 10 min. meat side down and if necessary 5 min bone side down)
  6. While chicken is cooking start the sauce
  7. In a wok over a medium-high element heat oil
  8. Add kari leaves, cumin seed, and mustard seed and saute until the begin to crackle (a minute or two)
  9. Add onions and saute until just beginning to brown
  10. Add garlic and finely chopped bell peppers if using and saute one to two minutes more
  11. Add remaining spice blend, grated ginger, sambal, and cardamon pods and stir for one to two minutes until well combined
  12. Add tomatoes and combine
  13. Add a little water and a 1/4 c of the stock and bring to a low boil and cook for approximately 20 minutes adjusting heat as required
  14. Add stock as required during cooking process to keep the sauce consistent
  15. Taste and adjust salt level and acid balance if required (use a very small amount of brown sugar if the sauce is too sour)
  16. Add grilled chicken to the wok, coat it in the sauce, and add fresh ground black pepper
  17. simmer for five minutes, and serve

Notes: I’ve modified this recipe so much from its original form it bears only a passing resemblance to it–originally it called for cooking the chicken in the sauce and adding much more water to it, but I found the recipe above makes for a much more flavourful and richer curry. The above recipe calls for a long marinating time, but mine only sat in the bag for only 20 minutes while I prepared the vegetables–just do your best. I don’t mention it under the methods section, but if you have reserved chicken skin you can add one or two pieces to the sauce during the cooking process to add some depth–just remove it before serving. If you want to drop the heat level, reduce the amount of sambal and/or substitute Spanish or Hungarian paprika for the Indian Paprika (which is very hot). I would still add a 1/2 teaspoon or so of the ground chilies, as the flavour is essential for this dish. Keep in mind that the spice blend shown is more or less a personal preference. You can use garam masala in place of the cinnamon, nutmeg, amchur powder and some of the ground cumin and coriander if that’s your preference as well–I don’t because I find the cloves used in most garam masala to be too much for the chicken.

Tip: Always add fresh ground black pepper to a dish in the last ten minutes or less of cooking to preserve its delicate fresh flavour.

This dish serves four. Pair with a dry Belgium style blond ale (i.e. Fin-de-Monde) or a crisp spicy Indian lager (i.e. Kingfisher).

Adapted from Das Sreedharan, Indian Shortcuts to Success, “Marinated chicken with hot pepper sauce,” pp. 128-129, 2005.

Aaron