On the final episode of 2017, we talked to Sri Rao on the Feast Meets West podcast. Sri is the author of Bollywood Kitchen: Home-cooked Indian Meals Paired With Unforgettable Bollywood Films.
He has generously shared one of the recipes from his new cookbook with FMW listeners. Make this homestyle chicken curry, throw on a Bollywood flick, and enjoy a cold winter's night at home!
Homestyle Chicken Curry from Bollywood Kitchen by Sri Rao. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Photography by Sidney Bensimon.
Homestyle Chicken Curry
In keeping with the bucolic setting of Dor, I present this rustic, comforting dish. This classic entrée is what Indians mean when they say “chicken curry.” There are countless variations from region to region and household to household, but the fundamentals of every homestyle chicken curry are the same—bone-in chicken swimming in a luscious tomato gravy. This particular version is distinctive because of its ground nuts, which provide a rich sweetness to counterbalance the tangy tomatoes. This is the kind of meal where you take the pot straight to the table and everyone digs in, family style. With homestyle chicken, it’s all about the gravy. There’s nothing more satisfying than basmati rice soaked in it, or soft roti sopping it up. After dinner, you’ll feel like sitting around a desert campfire and telling stories in the chilly nighttime air.
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
8 bone-in chicken thighs (about 3 pounds), skin removed (of course, you’re welcome to leave the skin on if you prefer)
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1½ teaspoons salt, divided
2 bay leaves
2 Indian green chillies, cut in half (or an additional 1/2 teaspoon Indian red chilli powder or cayenne)
3-inch cinnamon stick, or 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, added with other spices
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons garlic paste (or minced garlic)
1 heaping tablespoon ginger paste (or minced ginger)
1/2 teaspoon Indian red chilli powder (or cayenne)
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup peanuts
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt (2% or whole)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon ground coriander
Cooked basmati rice or Bagara Annam, for serving
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a very large braising pan or Dutch oven (ideally, the pan should be wide enough to fit all the chicken thighs in a single layer) over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, season the thighs with the turmeric and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Place the thighs in the pan, meaty side down, and sear for 7 to 10 minutes, then flip and sear for 3 minutes on the other side. Remove the chicken to a plate.
In the same pan, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add the bay leaves, green chillies, and cinnamon stick. Allow them to begin infusing the oil, about 30 seconds.
Add the onion and cook, stirring, until deeply browned, 3 to 5 minutes.
Add the garlic and ginger pastes and cook, stirring, for 1 minute, reducing the heat if necessary to prevent burning. Then add the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, the red chilli powder, and the cloves and allow the spices to bloom for another minute.
Stir in the crushed tomatoes. Cover and simmer until droplets of oil separate from the sauce, indicating that the tomatoes are well cooked, 7 to 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, pulse the peanuts in a spice mill to create a fine powder.
Add the peanut powder to the sauce and stir well. Add the yogurt and stir to create a creamy paste. Then add 1 cup hot water and stir to create a sauce. Bring the sauce to a bubble.
Place the chicken pieces back in the pan, nestling them into the sauce. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, occasionally rearranging the thighs, flipping them, and spooning over the sauce.
Add the cilantro and coriander. If you’re making the dish a day ahead (which I highly recommend), stop at this point. Cool completely and refrigerate.
Cover the pan and simmer until the sauce has turned from red to deep orange-brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Adjust the seasonings to taste. If it’s too spicy, simply add another spoonful of yogurt. Remove the green chillies, bay leaves, and cinnamon stick. Take the pan directly to the table and serve family style over basmati rice or Bagara Annam.