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Oct 1, 2009 05:09 AM

October 09 COTM: "Indian" Chicken

Welcome to the October 2009 Chow Cookbook of the Month featuring:

Classic Indian Cooking, by Julie Sahni
Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking

Please post your full-length reviews of *Poultry and Egg* recipes here. Please mention the name of the recipe you are reviewing and the book or author and page number, if possible, as well as any modifications you made to the recipe.

This thread will encompass the following chapters-

Jaffrey, "Chicken"
Sahni, poultry and egg recipes from "Main Dishes"

A reminder that the verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is a violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

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  1. Sahni's Murgh Masala (Chicken in Onion and Tomato Gravy) from the generously provided website on the main post (sorry, I forget by whom) at:

    I made some of the changes that the person with the website had made; used oil instead of ghee, added one chopped chili, and used 3 green cardamom pods because that is what I had. My husband had told me a day or two before that he was going to be late home for dinner (which, with a toddler, means after 6:30) so I wanted something Lulu and I could start on that would still be good when he got home. The recipe mentions that this only gets better with time on the stove - perfection! I served with some store bought naan (unimpressive), a bit of plain yogurt and a little cilantro chutney. It needed neither of these toppings. This is very tasty and homey. Not killer, but good and the kind of thing that satisfies on a coolish autumn night.

    1 Reply
    1. re: LulusMom

      I made murgh masala (Sahni p. 208) for the first time earlier this week (I know, it wasn't October yet, but the book was just sitting there, and there were a dozen bone-in chicken thighs in the fridge.) Six thighs seemed like a good amount of meat for our family of four, so I halved the recipe but otherwise followed it pretty closely, using the black cardamom and canned tomatoes listed as options (because they're what I had on hand) and chicken stock instead of water to thin the sauce (because I'm morally opposed to watering down flavors).

      The dish is very tasty. It is, however, fairly time-consuming. There's close to an hour of active cooking time; one of the first steps is to caramelize a bunch of onions that form the base of the sauce, which requires pretty close attention for thirty minutes or so. Add that to the rest of the cooking - including a 45-minute simmer - and the one-hour-plus rest when it's done, and you can count on at least three hours from start to finish. Not something you start in the evening if you're planning to eat it that night. I work at home and used my lunch hour to cook, then heated the chicken back up immediately before serving. That worked well.

      Yesterday I was making cheese for palak paneer and wondering how to cook the other half of the chicken, and got two independent requests for a repeat of the murgh masala. That's high praise coming from my family. The two dishes are really too similar to be served together - the onion and tomato sauce in the murgh makhani is too similar to the tomato and onion sauce in the palak paneer. But each of them was delicious.

      Each time I served the chicken with masoor dal, cucumber raita, and plain basmati rice. This is definitely a dish that's going to make it into the regular rotation.

    2. Sahni's Butter Chicken (found in The Best American Recipes 2002-2003).

      When I saw the post with the links to some of Sanhi's recipes it set bells ringing in my head. The butter chicken recipe looked suspiciously familiar, and I realized that it is the butter chicken I've made numerous times since I bought the above mentioned book (I'm guessing not many hounds are fans of this series, but I've got them all and have found some wonderful stuff in them). I always skipped getting a tandoori chicken and just used cut up chicken thighs, but aside from that made as written. My husband's first wife is Indian, and I'm always a little nervous about cooking Indian food for him and having the food be compared to hers (and more especially, her mother's). But he raved about this enough that it went into rotation for a while. Sorry that I don't have the link here, but it is on the discussion post about the two books.

      5 Replies
      1. re: LulusMom

        Is this the link you're referring to, for Velvet Buttered Chicken?

        1. re: yamalam

          Not sure, since I have it in a book, and it has been a while since I made it. I'm guessing it is the one.

        2. re: LulusMom

          I love the BAR series too. You inspired me to go back to my 2002-03 copy and look up this recipe. Since I don't own Sahni's cookbook, I've been focusing on Jaffrey, but I'm going to make this recipe this week. Thanks.

          1. re: LulusMom

            I looked up the velvet butter chicken recipe in Sahni's cookbook, and am confused as to whether you are supposed to start with cooked or merely marinated chicken. I wonder what it says in BAR? (I have some of that series, and love it, BTW)

            The butter chicken recipe calls for chicken from the previous tandoori chicken or chickens "cooked by any recipe."-- but then she has you brown the chicken and cook in sauce.

            1. re: NYchowcook

              You're supposed to start with (I believe) a cooked tandoori chicken. I just used raw chicken parts, and I don't think it suffered at all. And the BAR notes on it suggested using just roasted chicken. Glad to find another fan of that series.

          2. Chicken in a Red Sweet Pepper Sauce, Pg 101
            Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey

            This is my second cooking foray into Indian food my first being a respectable, I thought, eggplant curry made some months ago from some now forgotten web site. This chicken dish was so easy to make yet produced such delicious flavors I can't wait to make my next Indian meal.

            The first thing to do is make the sauce:
            Into a food processor (I used the big one) goes a large chopped onion, an inch of peeled chopped ginger, 3 peeled garlic cloves, 3/4 lb. trimmed/seeded/chopped red sweet peppers (I used bells), 1T ground cumin, 2t ground coriander, 1/3-1/2t cayenne (I used 1t), 1/2 t ground tumeric, 2 t salt (I used 1t Kosher). Also, 2 1/2T blanched/slivered almonds are called for but I omitted them due to dietary constaints. All of this is whirred till it forms a paste.

            Into a large non-stick pan goes 7 T vegetable oil (I used corn) and when hot all the paste is poured in and stir fried for about 12 minutes. The oil forms tiny bubbles around the edge. Next, 2 1/4 lb. chicken pieces (I used 6 chicken thighs), 1 cup water, 2 T fresh lemon juice and 1/2t black pepper are added. The pan is covered and the chicken is cooked till tender... about 25 minutes, stirring a few times. It took about 35 minutes for the chicken to cook to our satisfaction.

            It's amazing how the spices in the paste melded together with the onion and peppers to create a full, rich sauce with a counterpoint of lingering subtle heat from the cayenne. Needless to say we loved it.

            I served it with steamed Basmati rice and sauteed bok choy fresh from the farm. Great first
            COTM meal!

            10 Replies
            1. re: Gio

              "1/3-1/2t cayenne (I used 1t)"


              That sauce sounds great.

              1. re: padkimao

                A pretty good recipe I thought and certainly simple but I wound up throwing in 3 slit green chiles due to blandness. Also, I did not skin my chicken thighs - the dish was improved by putting the cooked thighs under the broiler at the end and browning the flabby skin. Also cooking the sauce a little longer than specified and skimming off the excess fat (again from the skin. Im sure the leftovers will be better - they always are with these recipes.

                Served with the yellow rice, cauliflower with fennel and black murstard seed and a simple raita with cucumber, a bit of onion, a red thai chile, and a asafoetida-mustard seed-cumin seed tarka.

              2. re: Gio

                Chicken in a Red Sweet Pepper Sauce, Pg 101
                Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey

                I thought I would love this recipe, but I was underwhelmed. It was tasty enough, just not as much as I expected. But we ate it with some lime pickle and it was fine.

                I should say that I did not use all of the oil that was called for. I also didn't use the cayenne since some of my red peppers were hot cherry peppers, but I added a good squirt of siracha part way through, having tasted it and decided it needed more. I didn't grind whole spices for the coriander and cumin either, which probably would have helped too.

                Also, if I make it again, I'd be tempted to use roasted peppers that have the skins removed. It would have made the sauce so much smoother if it hadn't had those little flecks of pepper skin in it. Normally that sort of thing doesn't bother me, but for some reason it did with this dish.

                1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                  I havent had the leftovers yet, but I think this will be better (like a lot of the meat and chicken recipes) on the second day. The seasoning of this dish was very mild even with the higher amount of cayenne suggested(uncharacheristically)

                  - please note that a blender or mixie is infinitely better than a processor in making the pastes for indian recipes -you will not get those skin pieces if you use this tool. Also, I did not think the sauce was reduced/fried enough when the chicken was done. In addition to browning in the oven, I also continued to reduce the extra sauce for a while.

                  It can be important to use the full amount of oil in these recipes to get the proper fried flavor - you can always remove the excess, and I would up skimming off a large amount of chicken fat and oil at the end.

                  1. re: jen kalb

                    Interesting about the oil - I'm making the recipe that luckyfatima posted on, below, and I just could not bring myself to use 3/4 cup of oil, and so I used about half of it.

                    1. re: MMRuth

                      Yes I do the same as Jen kalb, I use a lot of oil to properly "bhunofy" the ingredients and then just pour most of it off at the end when it floats to the top of the gravy.

                      1. re: luckyfatima

                        Good to know - I'll try that next time.

                      2. re: MMRuth

                        There is an interesting discussion about the oil issue on pp. 156 - 157 of Sahni.

                        1. re: MMRuth

                          Yes indeed. Very interesting.

                          Although I'd say many South Asians are very much more health conscious than they were when the book was first published (1980?)...but tradionally, in some types of Indian cooking, the host would look like a big cheapo for using less oil and there should be several centimenters of oil floating a top a meat dish. The oil is tasty and indicates wealth and hospitality. This is very true for Pakistani cooking, too.

                          I think Sahni's suggestion of using a spoon is less efficient though than just tilting the dish and then pouring the oil into a little bowl. You can re-use the oil later, but I only would for another dish with similar ingredients and the same protein (Sahni says use it to fry onions, but I think that could transfer too much smell of meat or other ingredients and what if you don't want that smell in your next dish?). It is wasteful, but usually I just throw the oil away. I have a friend who pours off the oil, then uses a kitchen paper towel by dropping it on top of the gravy, then pulling it off to get out the last drops of oil. The paper towel doesn't pick up too much gravy. I don't mind a little bit of the oil, so I don't go that far, though.

                          1. re: MMRuth

                            I agree. The fat discussion is very interesting.

                            Thanks for alerting us to it!

                  2. Ande ki Kari (Whole Eggs in Spicy Tomato Sauce) Sahni p 233

                    This is halved, hard boiled eggs in a curry. Simple enough, but I managed to mess it up a bit.

                    It's a basic tomato-onion sauce: brown your onions, add ginger and garlic, then spices, then pureed tomato. Cook for about half an hour, let rest for about half an hour, then reheat and add the eggs.

                    The masala is a mix of ground and whole spices. I was out of whole cinnamon so I put in a pinch of ground cinnamon. Too big a pinch. The cinnamon overwhelmed the other flavors. I tamed it a bit by adding more coriander, garam masala, and a dash of cumin. Results weren't bad, but pretty far from what Sahni intended. I liked the combo of eggs and curry though, and will try this one again.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: padkimao

                      My Sahni book hasn't arrived yet, but there's a similar recipe in Jaffrey's which I plan on making tonight. Now I'm dying to know how similar they really are. I love to try different versions of the same recipe.

                      1. re: Gio

                        The two recipes are actually quite different. The Jaffrey recipe includes lots of cream and a tiny amount of tomato puree, while the Sahni recipe has 2 cups of chopped tomato and no cream at all. the amount of oil is also very different. Jaffrey uses only three tablespoons [but with all that cream would you want more?] and Sahni says 10 tablespoons. Oh my! Both call for 8 eggs.

                        1. re: smtucker

                          Ha! Yes, I forgot to mention that the oil was out of control. I will use less next time, for sure. Though, hmm, maybe I'll add a little cream at the end.

                          1. re: smtucker

                            SMT, I was referring to the Spicy Scrambled Eggs....

                        2. re: padkimao

                          Padkimao, I made the Sahni egg curry last night and I, too, managed to mess it up.

                          I didn't like the consistency of the sauce, so I pureed it. Then it looked like canned tomato soup! I increased the spices and added some cream. What was I thinking -- it was already filled with oil! Glad I made only half-recipe.

                          I served it with Sahni's spinach parathas, Sahni's hot lemon pickle, basmati, and cucumber raita. It tasted okay, but would have been better had I left it alone.

                          Isn't it curious that this recipe is called "WHOLE Eggs in Spicy Tomato Sauce" -- but uses eggs cut in HALF?

                        3. Spicy Scrambled Eggs, Pg. 107
                          Indian Cooking, Madhur Jaffrey

                          This was delicious! And so quick to make....
                          A chopped onion is sauteed in either butter or oil (I used EVOO) and when soft ginger, chili (I used a jalapeno), chopped cilantro, tumeric, cumin and a chopped tomato are added and cooked for about 4 minutes. After beating 6 eggs add them and stir to scramble as you like. I served this with Cauliflower with Fennel and Mustard Seeds and "Dry" Potatoes with Ginger and Garlic. Perfect for our meatless Friday night dinner.

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: Gio

                            Here's an interesting question for you all....are the egg dishes, e.g., scrambled, a melding of British cooking with Indian (e.g. Kedgeree-type thing), or something Indians had been doing for years?

                            1. re: oakjoan

                              do you really need a recipe for scrambling eggs? eggs break pretty easily and make a quick cheap protein meal. There are scrambled egg recipes in persian cuisine too to Id imagine that in general they are not derivative of british cuisine.

                              1. re: oakjoan

                                No way, anday ki bhurjee (scrambled eggs broken into very very small particles and seasoned with a spicy gravy folded in) and the Muslims' khagheena (eggs scrambled with chopped flavoring veg like tomato, chiles, cilantro, etc) are authentic South Asian dishes. They had eggs in India before the British. A lot of Indo-Pak people I know have sunny side up eggs and toast for breakfast. That is definately a foreign influence!

                                1. re: luckyfatima

                                  Is khagheena anything like ekuri? My Parsi friend from Mumbai and I grew up eating the same spicy scrambled eggs with cilantro, tomatoes, ginger and seasonings. From her I learned they were a Parsi specialty.

                                  1. re: JungMann

                                    I don't know the dish ekuri. Khageena is basically spicy scrampled eggs as described above, though. The name is Farsi origin (I believe Iranians call the same dish kuku or khageena), so I am guessing it was brought by the Persians.

                                    1. re: luckyfatima

                                      Ekuri turns up on page 83 of "Indian Cooking." It seems to be the Parsi name for the khageena. I'll have to ask my father what he called them back home.

                              2. re: Gio

                                Made this for breakfast (brunch? lunch? what do you call the first meal of the day when it's eaten at noon?) today, and they were pretty good. I think mine needed more hot pepper and maybe more tomato - cooking for one I made 2 eggs rather than 6, and while I did my best to approximate 1/3 of a small tomato, etc, there's only so precise you can get. How many shakes make 1/3 of 1/8 of a teaspoon of turmeric, anyway?

                                1. re: Emmmily

                                  1/3 of an 1/8 is a dash. And yes, I have a dash measuring spoon. Bought a set with Pinch, Smidge and Dash as a joke, and use them all the time!