Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Aloo Matar with Chicken
Indian cuisine purists, look away now. I know aloo matar is not "supposed" to have chicken, but in an attempt to get my husband to eat this for dinner with me, I added in the protein. Don't kill me!
Aloo Matar with Chicken
1 1/4 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
4 teaspoons ground cumin
4 teaspoons ground coriander
4 teaspoons garam masala
2 teaspoons turmeric powder
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne (or to taste)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons grated ginger
4 large cloves grated garlic
2 large bay leaves
2 large Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 cups water
1 14-oz. can petite diced tomatoes, with juices
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
Fresh chopped cilantro and crushed red chile, for serving
Cooked basmati rice and/or naan, for serving
Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the chicken and cook until browned and nearly cooked through, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove to a bowl, leaving the pan coated with the chicken fat. Set aside.
Turn the heat down to medium and add the mustard seeds. As soon as they start popping (which should happen pretty quickly), add in all the other spices. Stir in the onions, ginger, garlic and bay leaves. Cook until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes (see cooking notes). Add the potatoes, stir to coat with the spices, then add 4 cups water, scraping the bottom of the pan until all the cooked spices are mixed in.
Cover the pan, return to the heat to medium high, and gently boil until potatoes are halfway done, about 10 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, sugar and salt. Continue simmering, covered, for another 10 minutes or so, until the potatoes are soft but still holding their shape. Return reserved chicken to the pan. Add peas and simmer until peas are bright green and tender, another 1-2 minutes.
Remove bay leaves. Serve over rice and garnish with fresh cilantro and crushed chile as desired.
Oh my. Oh my oh my oh my. This was savory and complex and wonderful and just every dang thing I wanted it to be when I set out to recreate aloo matar at home - not an easy task.
I often order aloo matar (potato and pea curry) from the place my sister and I meet for lunch every other week (India Chaat Cafe) and have been so impressed with their version I wanted to replicate it for inclusion in my lifelong repertoire. My first attempt was, um, mediocre. Dry, bland, not right. I was frustrated and perplexed.
I went through the recipe I used with one of the staff members I frequently chat with at the restaurant, to determine what I could have done differently. The only clue I got out of it was to add bay leaves. Noted, but still not the whole story. I ordered it once more that day and tried to commit to memory everything I loved about it. I was on a mission!
I went hunting online for a recipe that fit my wants (if you cook as often as I do, you "know it when you see it," know what I mean?), but turned up nothing. So, like my Thai red curry chicken, I took the next necessary step and created my own recipe, a fact of which I am intensely proud. Adding bay leaves was a great idea. So was adding ground coriander. However, I think the biggest issue was the paltry amount of seasoning I used the first time. I mean, hey, there are times cooks should use a light touch... but heaven knows one of those times is NOT while making Indian curries.
I'm thrilled that I finally have a viable second option for Indian at home (the first being my chicken tikka masala). Now if I could just get vindaloo right...
1. You will find that during the step where the onion, garlic, etc. are cooking in the pan, everything gets pretty dry and the bottom of the pan will probably have a coat of dry spices sticking to it. Feel free to add a bit of oil if this bothers you, but I prefer not to and I am able to scrape everything up when I pour in the water. Why add oil if you don't need to, right? That's my philosophy, anyway.
2. If you want to make this a true aloo matar, no chicken, you could heat a couple of teaspoons of oil over medium heat and start with the mustard seeds step. Voila. Vegetarian entree.