Ginger-Garlic Chicken

(30-90 minutes, serves 6-8)

The timing on this is so variable because you can either do it the long way described below, the way my mother recommends, which is definitely a bit tastier — or you can do a much faster version, where you mix the spices with the chicken, skip the marinating, and then just sauté the chicken in the pan on medium-high until cooked through and serve. I use both methods, mostly depending on how much of a hurry I’m in. Regardless of which method you use, this dish is best served fresh; if it sits, the chicken will tend to dry up and not be as tasty.

NOTE: This is my daughter’s favorite chicken dish, and one she always greets with delight; she started eating it when she was about five, with no added chili powder. Over time, I’ve added a little more chili powder when feeding it to both kids, serving with milk to help them along; you can also use black pepper if you’d prefer.

1 heaping tsp ginger powder
1 heaping tsp garlic powder
1 heaping tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
12 chicken thighs, about 2 lbs., deboned and cut bite-size
vegetable oil for frying
1/2 to 2 heaping tsp red chili powder (to taste, optional)

1. Mix first four spices in a large bowl; add chicken pieces and rub with your hands until well coated. Marinate 1/2 hour

2. Heat oil on high; add chili powder (if using) and cook 15 seconds, stirring.

3. Add chicken and sear on high, turning to brown all sides.

4. Reduce heat to low and cover; cook approximately 15-20 minutes, until meat is cooked through.

5. Uncover and cook until all the liquid is gone.

6. Tilt pan and push chicken pieces to one side; allow excess oil to drain to one side for 5 minutes. Remove chicken to dish and serve hot.

 

NOTE: If reheating a day or two later, I recommend reheating in a pan with a little coconut milk; just simmer 5-10 minutes, enough for the milk to thicken with the spices into a nice sauce. Or serve dry chicken with a nice coconut-milky vegetable curry, like carrot or beetroot curry.

Chicken Salad, Sri Lankan-Style

   (10 minutes, serves 4)

You know how you’re tired and the kids need dinner, so you pick up a rotisserie chicken on the way home from work? And your family eats some of it that night, and maybe a bit more the next day, but they’re bored with it after that. But you can’t stand wasting food, so you spend a little time taking the remaining chicken off the bone?

In my experience, that results in about two cups of cooked chicken, a mix of light and dark meat, heading towards too-dry, so needing some moisture added to be tasty. Sometimes I make a spicy curry with the leftover chicken, but often, chicken salad is the way to go. Mayonnaise leaps to the rescue!

While you can certainly add a little yellow curry powder to chicken salad, I actually like it just fine without, and usually don’t bother. It’s the cashews, sultanas, green chili, and lime juice that make it ‘feel’ Sri Lankan to me.

Bonus — if you wait to add the cashews and cilantro, you can actually do everything else and it’ll freeze well. Then just let thaw in the fridge overnight, or at room temperature for a few hours (I wouldn’t try to use the microwave defrost on this, personally, for risk of the mayo starting to cook), add the cashews and cilantro, check your seasonings, and you’re ready to serve it to guests, or have it for a few days of sandwiches.

2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
1/4 c. cashews, chopped
1/4 c. sultanas, chopped
3-5 Thai green chilies, chopped
1/2 c. mayo
1/4 c. cilantro, chopped
1/2 – 1 t. fine salt
1/2 t. black pepper
1-2 T lime juice

1. Combine ingredients, adjust seasonings to your taste, and enjoy! If you let it sit for maybe 20 minutes or so, the flavors will meld a little better.

*****

(I do like a recipe with only one step!)

Instant Pot Chicken and Potato Curry

It’s going to take me a while to figure out what the Instant Pot is actually good for. For example, this chicken and potato curry isn’t really any faster doing it this way than on the stovetop — you need the same time sautéing, then the time for preheating and pressure cooking, then you need to remove the chicken and potatoes and cook down the sauce, ideally.

I think the only time I’d maybe do this is if I wanted to do the first step in the morning before work, set a timer, and then have it pressure cook the rest when I got home (or just before I got home)? Although I don’t love the idea of uncooked chicken sitting all day at room temperature. Do steps 1 and 2 in the morning, let it keep warm ’til you get home, and then do step 3? That’s a lot of morning cooking time. Just do step 1 in the morning, so you’re ready to quickly cook it when you get home? But you’re still looking at 30-45 minutes then, so….?

I am new to the ways of the Instant Pot, so feel free to opine. This works, anyway, if you really want to use one for chicken curry

******

(serves 4-6)

This is the classic Sri Lankan chicken dish; if you were just going to make one, this should be the one.

2-3 medium onions, diced
3 TBL vegetable oil
1 tsp black mustard seed
1 tsp cumin seed
3 whole cloves
3 whole cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick, broken into 3 pieces
1-2 TBL red chili powder
1 TBL Sri Lankan curry powder
6-8 pieces boneless chicken thighs, about 2lbs, skinned and trimmed of fat
2 russet potatoes
1/3 cup ketchup
1 heaping tsp salt
water to cover
1 TBL lime juice

1. In the Instant Pot, sauté onions in oil on medium-high with mustard seed and cumin seed, cloves, cardamom pods, and cinnamon pieces, until onions are golden/translucent (not brown). Add chili powder and cook one minute.

 

2. Add curry powder, chicken, potatoes, ketchup, salt, and water. Pressure cook on high 8 minutes (allowing time for preheat cycle beforehand, about 15-20 minutes).

3. Release steam, open and remove chicken and potatoes to a serving dish. You can serve now, but the sauce will be very liquid. I recommend going back to sauté mode, stirring in lime juice, and simmering it down 10-20 minutes until it’s thickened.

Tandoori Chicken & Pasta in a Béchamel Sauce

Kavi: Can I learn to make something today?

Me: Sure? Like what?

Kavi: Maybe cooking?

Me: How about I teach you how to make a white sauce? We have some leftover pasta and tandoori chicken to use up.

Kavi: Okay!

Me: You know, this is going to make your college roommates very happy with you.

[continuing with snooty accent]

They’ll be all, “Oh, all we have is some plain pasta and last night’s dried takeout chicken. Sad!” And you’ll be all, “No problem! I’ll just toss together a béchamel!” And they’ll say, “What’s a béchamel?” And you’ll say, “Oh, it’s just one of the French mother sauces, you know. If you can make those, you can make anything!”

Kavi, barely restraining her pre-teen eye-roll: I’m sure everyone in college talks like that all the time.

Basic béchamel recipes are all over the internet, but essentially, warm milk in pan or in microwave. Then in separate pan, melt butter on medium heat, stirring (careful not to brown). Next, make the roux — add an equal amount of flour (about 6 T butter to 3.5 T flour is standard, with 2 c. milk, though I admit, I mostly eyeball it), stir until it’s a bit clumpy. Whisk in a little of the warm milk to smooth it out, then add the rest of the milk and whisk whisk whisk, stirring, until it thickens. Stir in your cooked pasta, shredded leftover chicken, maybe some frozen peas, and you’re good to go. 10-minute easy delicious & nutritious meal to feed a hungry college student and her roommates.

Curry-Poached (or Grilled) Chicken Sandwich, Two Ways

The nice thing about poaching chicken on the weekend is that you can then make really quick weeknight meals. Throw a little garlic naan in the toaster oven (I just used some frozen pre-made naan), and then you can top it with all kinds of things. In this case, I did one open-face sandwich with store-bought guacamole and mango salsa (yum), and one toasted sandwich with homemade seeni sambol (also yum). Add in a little salad or some roasted veggies, and you have yourself a very nice meal.

Curry-Poached Chicken Soup

(20-30 minutes, serves 4)

I’ve been poaching chicken breast lately, and I was curious how it would work with Sri Lankan flavors. This turned out quite tasty served as a soup (very reminiscent of rasam), with a little cooked millet and some chopped bell pepper to fill out the dish. Would make again!

(I tried serving it on a plate with the millet, but even with a little broth poured over the millet, I thought the end result was a bit dry; wouldn’t recommend. The chicken would be nice in a sandwich with seeni sambol, though!)

1 red onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 3-inch piece ginger, peeled and sliced
1 T dark-roasted curry powder
2 t. salt
2 T lime juice
1/2 c. tomato juice (from a can)
1/2 c. wine
3 c. water
3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)

NOTE: If serving with rice or millet, start that going first; it’ll be ready in 15-25 minutes, along with the chicken, making this as easy and healthy weeknight meal.

1. Combine all ingredients in a large pot; slowly bring just to a simmer over medium heat.

2. Reduce heat to low and simmer 10-12 minutes (until juices run clear when chicken is pierced in the thickest part of the meat).

3. Remove chicken to a cutting board, let cool a little, slice, and serve with the broth it cooked in. A little sliced bell pepper or scallion is a lovely grace note to the dish; you could also stir in some peas or corn.

Quinoa / Red Rice with Tandoori Chicken, Lime-Masala Mushrooms, Roasted Red Peppers, Chopped Green Chilies, and Honey-Lime-Yogurt Drizzle

These fancy bowl things have long names. Another yummy experiment, and only about 30 minutes to make (assuming you pre-marinated the chicken in a tandoori-spiced yogurt earlier in the day).

Pre-heat your grill pan, then start the chopped mushrooms sautéing in a separate pan in butter, masala powder, salt and lime juice. Five minutes in, the grill should be hot, and you can turn the mushrooms down to simmer while you roast the peppers and then grill the chicken (3 minutes each side on high). Chop some chilies and mix up a drizzle while the chicken’s finishing cooking (3 more minutes each side, on low, covered), and you’re good to go. (The chopped chilies could be served on the side so people can spice to taste; I love chomping into them.)

I have to be honest, though, chicken breast doesn’t excite me. It’s just a little dry, even when you marinate it in overnight. But the roasted peppers, sautéed mushrooms, and yogurt drizzle did do a nice job balancing that, esp. with a little lemon squeezed over the top. Personally, I like breast better when it’s chopped in more of a chicken salad sort of thing, so it stays really moist. But truly, if I made this particular dish again, I’d use chicken thighs instead.

 

(As a side note, while the bowl looks very pretty like this, it would be easier to eat if you cut the chicken and bell pepper into smaller pieces. And that slice of grilled lemon on the top is purely decorative!)

Curried Chicken Livers with Onion

Note to self — on a day when you had a fair bit of blood drawn (routine check-up stuff, not to worry), maybe it’s not the brightest choice to a) eat lightly and then b) go workout with the trainer at the gym. I had to sit down partway through because I got light-headed! It’s all fine; a few minutes of rest put me right.
 
Then I came right home and made myself a quick batch of curried chicken liver — high in iron, rich and fortifying. You could eat it with rice, but I like it best on buttered toast. Small portions would make a great (intense) appetizer. I’m feeling much better now.
 
Curried Chicken Livers with Onion
(15 minutes, serves 2)
 
1/2 medium onion, sliced
1 T butter or ghee
1 t. red chili powder
1/2 t. Sri Lankan curry powder
3/4 t. salt
1/8 c. ketchup
1 T lime juice
1/2 lb. chicken livers
1/4 c. coconut milk
 
1. Sauté onions in butter on high, stirring, until golden.
 
2. Add chili powder and stir about 30 seconds, then turn heat down to medium and add curry powder, salt, ketchup, lime juice. Stir to combine, then add chicken livers and fry for a few minutes, stirring very gently.
 
3. Stir in coconut milk and simmer about 5 minutes more, until livers are cooked through. Serve hot with rice or bread.
 

Spicy Chicken with Carrots and Sultanas

(2 hours, serves 6)

This came out SO GOOD. I adapted this from an America’s Test Kitchen Moroccan tagine recipe, amping up the chili powder to my taste, reducing the sweetness, increasing the tang, and switching out sultanas for apricots. The result is somewhere halfway between Sri Lankan and Moroccan food, and absolutely delicious served over couscous. My daughter loved the chicken (though she is not yet a couscous fan). It only has about 30 minutes of active cooking; after that, you’re mostly just letting it simmer while your home fills up with incredible aroma. Clementines for dessert finish this meal off nicely!

4 pounds bone-in chicken thighs
salt and pepper
2 T olive oil
1 large onion, diced small
peel from half a lemon, cut into strips
1 t. chili powder
1/2 t. cumin powder
1/2 t. ginger powder
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. ground coriander
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
2 c. chicken broth
2 carrots, peeled and cut into diagonal chunks
1 c. sultanas
3 T lemon juice

1. Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper (about 1 t. each). Heat oil in extra-large frying pan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add half of chicken and cook until well-browned, about five minutes per side; transfer to large plate. Repeat process with second half of chicken. Pour off all but one tablespoon of fat from the pan.

2. Add onion and lemon to pan and cook, stirring, for about five minutes. Stir in spices and cook a minute or two ore, then add broth, scraping up any browned bits. (If you wanted to add a cup of white wine here, it wouldn’t hurt.)

3. Add chicken to pan along with any accumulated juices and bring to a simmer. Reduce hat to medium, cover, and cook twenty minutes.

4. Stir in carrots, return to simmer, and then re-cover and cook on medium-low for another 40 minutes, until carrots are cooked through.

5. Transfer chicken to a bowl tented with aluminum foil and let rest while finishing your sauce. Skim off any excess oil. Discard the lemon peel, stir in the sultanas, and cook about five minutes. Add lemon juice and return the chicken and any juices to pan, simmering a few minutes more to combine. Serve hot over couscous or rice.

Fusion Food: Tamales with Beef Curry

I was a little frustrated yesterday when I steamed a dozen frozen tamales (handmade by a local mom) for a potluck we were hosting, and discovered after steaming them that we were out of tomatillo sauce.  I’d sworn we had at least half a bottle left in the fridge, but no, there was no tomatillo sauce to be had for love or money.  I was craving that tangy flavor, and I knew that my tamales would be a little sad and dry without it.  But then I had a flash of what I swear is brilliance — I had a little beef curry left, and it was also beautifully tangy.  Could I possibly combine it with the tamales?

Dear reader, the answer is yes.  Chicken tamales pair fabulously with a tangy slow-cooked, meat falling off the bone beef curry, topped with a generous dollop of sour cream.  Guess I know what I’m having for my next few meals…