Saturday, November 08, 2008

 

Currying favor with kids

For the "you may be a hippie if..." file. My son has a friend overnight. I ask our six-year-old guest what he would like to have for dinner expecting the answer to be "hot dogs" or "spaghetti." His response: "can you make chicken curry?"

He may have had my Burmese curry chicken stew once before and remembered it, I'm not sure. But I look for any excuse to make the stew I've loved since I was a toddler. I got the recipe from Mahbi Gill, a woman of Burmese origin who has been like an aunt to me since I was born. She lives in a Victorian on Eureka Street in the Castro, where she has lived since prior to my birth. Her home was my first stop after I left the hospital following a birth I resisted until they had to cut me out. She is a caterer and an excellent cook, famous for her patented stew, the recipe for which she gave me when I left for college (I had thought it had to be read from a tablet of stone, but the recipe is simple!).

There were many occasions where my mother dropped me off at her home for a day, and I remember the many occasions on which she cooked the stew all day the smell of curry would permeate the entire home all day and I'd be looking forward to dinner the whole time. From these memories, curry became my comfort food and I put it into everything from my egg salad to a curried vinagrette salad dressing.

Ingredients:

One medium to large chicken - including the giblets if you like (I do).
One very large onion, or two medium onions. Or more maybe.
Three or four large cloves of garlic or the equivalent.
One bell pepper.
One six ounce can tomato sauce.
Two slightly heaping tablespoons of curry (more to taste later if you like).
Two slightly heaping tablespoons of cumin (yes, I know there's already cumin in most curries).
A little salt.

Heat up some olive oil and a touch of toasted sesame oil if you have it in a large pot, preferably a cast iron or something like it. Dice up the onions, garlic, and pepper and saute until onions are translucent. Then dump in the spices. It's important to do this before you add the tomato sauce because you want to cook the spices a little bit directly, stirring constantly to keep it all from sticking because the spices dry out the onion mixture a bit. When the smell of curry/cumin reaches the farthest corner of your home, pour in the tomato sauce and reduce the heat.

Cut up the chicken into pieces and add to the mixture, stirring it in so that all of the chicken is coated with curry stuff. Cover and cook at a low heat stirring every ten minutes or so until the moisture leaves the chicken and creates a broth. There should be plenty of liquid after awhile, but if there isn't you can add a little chicken stock or broth if you like. Not too much!

Cover and cook for an hour or so, then uncover slightly and cook for another hour or even longer. Don't worry that the meat starts falling off bones, it tastes fine. Remember to stir semi-frequently, unless you transfer the whole thing to a crock pot at some point. Maybe even then, I don't know how to cook with a crock pot. Let the aroma spice up your house.

Serve over basmati rice and serve with steamed broccoli and a hearty dry red wine. You won't have my associated memories, but you can create some for you own kids.

Comments:
This made me smile. I just came in from the kitchen where I made a curry chicken soup. It is almost the same. My thoughts:

No tomato anything :)
Horseradish and a pinch of cinnamon.

Trying different curries is good too. I have found one blend I really like on the Internet. Different families make different blends in Indian culture. I don't like the moist kind that goes in the fridge and I don't like the common stuff you find at Safeway (unless I have no option).
 
The coop has a pretty good powder, when it hasn't been sitting around for a long time.
 
Oh, and try the tomato sauce. It gives the curry a unique body which just can't be beat.
 
Do you ever make your own curry?
 
I haven't made curry powder per se, but the Vegetarian Epicure has a couple of recipes of curry from scratch involving some wet ingredients. It's good, but not the flavor I look crave for comfort food purposes.
 
I've tried many Indian curry recipes and can never duplicate great curries (like from fabulous restaurants like Amber India).I'll try yours, though, Eric. It's my absolute favorite food in the world.

The Korma chicken at Samraat is delicious.
 
I made chicken soup today too, nothing nearly as fancy, just the basic. Must be a chicken-soup kind of day. I love curry too, by the way.
 
I've had Eric's curry stew and it's to die for!
 
Curried chocolate coconut ice cream. Mmmmmm!
 
I make a similar recipe its easy and good. I usually add some ground red pepper and garlic because it like it hotter. Also sometimes throw in some cabbage or chopped eggplant near the end to make it more of a one dish meal.

Not to be a food snob, but if you really like curry, making your own spice mix is vastly better than the premixed yellow curry powder. The powders have too much tumeric, its the cheapest spice.

Making your own combo takes more effort to have the ingredients handy, but its really a lot better. The taste of fresh spices and less turmeric makes all the difference. The co-op and herb stores stock the whole spices you need. I use a morter and pestle to grind. You can just put it in a paper bag and smash lightly with a hammer too. Don't need to grind it up all the way to a powder. really doesn't take much time at all. After a few times you can adjust the porportions to get the flavor you like, or add other flavors like cinnamon. Here's a link to some recipes:

http://www.articlesbase.com/recipes-articles/curry-powder-recipes-indian-curries-and-garam-masala-505568.html
 
Curry is one legitimate reason to support Pakistan against its neighbor!
 
Nice post Eric. I'll try out the recipe!
 
Why grind 'em?

Curry for me is:
whole mustard, and cumin seeds, freshly shredded ginger root, plenty of finely chopped hot green peppers, garlic, turmeric, coriander, garam masala (MUST HAVE) and a good bunch of fresh cilantro.

dilute with coconut milk, tomatos ...or not. Use it with lentils, potato, broccoli, onions, carrots, what have you; its all good.
 
Tomatoes
 
Isn't garam masala a mixture of its own?
 
Yes, it's a mixture of 6 or 7 spices, varying, depending on the cook.
 
I think I know who that kid is!
 
It would have been much easier to run down to the Chevron Station and picked up a nice selection of already prepared Henny Penny fryer cutlets and grabbed some of those easy-open ranch dressing containers, a bottle of Tabasco sauce for flavor, a sixpac of Dr. Pepper and said, "Hey kids, tonight we're gonna dine with a theme...I got a DVD of Larry, The Cable Guy at the video store and we're going to pretend we're from another culture....Redneck Americana. It will be fun emulating people we don't quite understand, but we sure like their colorful culture more than our own.......you know, kind of like the local Caucasion West African dance people."

(Don't fly off the handle now, I'm just poking fun)

Eric, for a hoot try this:

COCA-COLA Chicken

1 chicken, cut into serving pieces
1 pkg. dry onion soup mix
1 (12 oz.) can Coca Cola
3 tbsp. flour

Put chicken into baking dish. Mix Coca Cola, soup mix and flour together. A whisk does a good job. Pour over chicken. Cover and bake in 350 degree oven for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until done. Serve with rice or potatoes. The sauce makes its own gravy.

You may or may not be able to purchase the Coca-Cola at the Co-op, I'm not sure where they are in their boycott status of the company.
 
Eko, I'm pretty sure Rednecks watch Star Wars. Isn't that kind of a universal. We have all six movies and I don't think my son nor his friends would tolerate watching something else. Honestly, I've now seen or heard all six so many times I can probably recite them. Lots of discontinuities in the movies by the way. Lucas didn't clean them all up by the last movie.

As for the recipe, I don't think the Coop sells Coca Cola. Would Hansen's Cola ruin the recipe? I don't suppose root beer would work.

I'm trying to imagine what it would taste like and what I'm coming up with is a sweeter version of the Sesame Chicken served at Lieu's, sans the sesame seeds.

My kids doesn't know what a redneck is yet, but we did have a little bit of a pizza shocker with him. He asked if we could go to Round Table Pizza in Fortuna, having been there once because the library was giving out coupons for pizzas for reading a certain number of books over the summer. He's had very good pizza including the kind his mother made so we were concerned that perhaps we were going to have to relent on the "mainstream" food stuff with him (He hasn't been to McDonald's yet, although he has been to In-N-Out).

Turns out it wasn't so much the food as the video games.
 
Ah yes, the video games.....BuuuuHaaa Haaa Haaa Haaa Haaaaaa! We have him now!
 
Hey Eric, thank you for the recipe. It was indeed very good. Heres a couple additions I recommend.

Instead of adding chicken broth if it's too dry, I recommend people add celery. It's a very Cajun addition to what is very similar to a Cajun dish. Celery is composed mostly of water.

Since it is becoming the winter months and the cold season, I recommend adding just a few slices of ginger, very thinly sliced. It doesn't take much.

Also, a dash of flour will help thicken the sauce, instead of spending an hour reducing the dish.
 
Thanks for the suggestions! Yes, onions, peppers, and celery, the "Cajun trinity." Makes sense.

I'll try the ginger too.

My mother thickens the sauce, but Mahbi never did, so I don't. She always served it in a bowl.
 
OK, that curry has a great flavor, but the tiny bones from the long-stewed neck and wings turned off the wife.

From a child of a boneless, skinless world.
 
Hmmmm. Well Bruce, I suppose they can be removed, but don't remove them before cooking. I think the marrow plays an important role having tried boneless pieces before. One possible option would be to separate the meat from the bones ahead of time and put them into a mesh so they can be removed easily.

Or you can just make sure they don't get into her serving. Me, I like the bones!
 
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