Saturday, February 20, 2010

curry, spice, and everything's nice

I don't remember ever disliking Indian food. Instead I remember asking to go to the Clay Pit, Austin's finest Indian restaurant, for more than one birthday as a child, always loving the heavy smells and dim lighting, feeling so mature with my mango lassi. I thought lamb korma was the height of culinary perfection, creamy cashew deliciousness and tender meat. Don't even get me started on naan and raita

Moving to Chicago changed my relationship with Indian food a bit. There seems to be great Indian food restaurants everywhere, a few I've been lucky to eat at, but the prices are beyond my minuscule budget. Was Indian food this expensive when my parents were paying for it? (Thanks, Mom and Dad!)

I've always been a little timid at the thought of cooking Indian food, it seems so daunting, so complicated, so much better when someone else brings it to you with a warm basket of garlic naan. Alas, with the recent purchase of a plane ticket and my lack of financial planning, this is not an option. At the suggestion of my mother for a quick dinner, I made chicken curry. Awesome chicken curry. Heavily fragrant, intensely flavored, just rich enough to leave me sleepily full, awesome. 

And so easy! Not at all the laborious process I imagined. It's less work and more of a dumping everything delicious into a skillet and watching as it bubbles seductively, diffusing your house with curry smells. Pretty pleasant. And pretty cheap. Enough for you, another, and yourself again for lunch. You probably already have most of these ingredients languishing in your pantry and fridge. They're begging for you to use them, to take them off the shelf and transform them into something crave-worthy. 

Chicken Curry
adapted from Gourmet 2007

makes enough for 3 or 4

-1 1/2 pounds chicken drumsticks
-1 tsp salt
-2 Tbs olive oil
-3 garlic cloves chopped
-2 Tbs curry powder
-1/4 tsp cayenne (or to taste)
-1 14 oz. can light coconut milk
-1 14 oz. can stewed tomatoes
-3/4 cup fresh cilantro

(if you're feeling healthy, the original recipe calls for 1/4 cup currants and  1 10 oz. package of frozen okra.)

Pat chicken dry and sprinkle with salt. 

Heat oil in large skillet until hot but not smoking.  Brown chicken on both sides, about 5 minutes. Move chicken with tongs to plate. Stir garlic, curry powder, and cayenne into remaining oil before adding coconut milk and tomatoes with their juice. Bring to simmer, add chicken back into skillet. Briskly simmer about 20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and sauce has slightly reduced to a thick, heavenly consistency. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with basmati rice or naan. And a healthy dollop of raita. Feast. 


-1 1/2 cup yogurt ( i used Greek)
-1/2 a large cucumber, peeled
-1 tsp salt
-1 tsp cumin
-2 Tbs freshly chopped cilantro

Chop cucumber into 1/2 inch sized chunks. Mix with yogurt, salt, cumin, and cilantro.  

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

craving spring, the south, and shrimp & grits

The first (perhaps I have blocked all the others out?) snow storm of the winter is here. Well the first major, snow down the side of your boots, shovels scraping the sidewalk, I don't wanna leave my apartment, snow storm. I'll admit (begrudgingly) that it's actually kind of beautiful. Winter wonderland aside, what I really want right now is home. The South.

As if my natural inborn southern longing wasn't enough, with the saints winning the super bowl, and taunting phone calls from a friend eating beignets and fried oysters in New Orleans, I have been pushed over the edge. I need warmth. Or at least some remoulade sauce.

I settled for shrimp and grits. I take that back, I indulged in shrimp and grits. The creaminess, oh the creaminess. Non-southerners seem to have their doubts about shrimp and grits. It does seem odd: breakfast grains cooked with cream, topped with tomatoes and shrimp. If you have any doubt to the deliciousness of this dish, just trust me. I trudged through the afore mentioned blizzard to the grocery store to get the ingredients for this. 60 minutes, mild frostbite, and a few sour words for the CTA's bus reduction later, I was totally glad I did.

But seriously. This is so good. Stick to your ribs, make you think you're in New Orleans good. Make it tonight, pretend you're not cold, and thank me tomorrow.

Shrimp & Grits with Pancetta
adapted from Chris Hastings via Bon Appetit November 2000

makes a filling meal for 4, or half in for yourself + leftovers

-4`1/2 cups chicken broth
-3/4 cups half and half 
-5 Tbs butter
-1 garlic clove, minced
-1 cup corn grits

-3 Tbs butter
1/3 cup finely chopped shallots
-1 1/2 pounds deveined and clean shrimp
-2 garlic cloves, minced
-1/2 cup dry white wine
1 14 1/2 ounce can of diced tomatoes
-2/3 cup pancetta, or diced bacon/prosciutto
-1/2 cup chopped parsley

for the grits:

Combine chicken broth, half and half, butter and garlic in large saucepan and bring to boil. Gradually whisk in grits. Return to boil while whisking. Turn heat on low and continue to simmer uncovered until grits are thick, stirring often, about 15 minutes.

for the shrimp:

Melt butter in large skillet over medium high heat. Saute shallots and garlic until tender, about 4 minutes. Add pancetta, saute another minute. Add wine to skillet and boil until reduces to glaze, about 5 minutes. Add shrimp, cook until no longer translucent, then add tomatoes and cook through until all is warm and tomatoes have slightly reduced, about 3 minutes. Stir in chopped parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon grits into a shallow bowl, topping with shrimp mixture. Garnish with remaining bits of parsley. Enjoy.