Monday, December 30, 2013

Luisa's (Delicious) Raj Curry

Adapted from The Wednesday Chef and Real Fast Food by Nigel Slater

For a while I have been trying to come as close as possible to the Anglo-Indian curry I used to eat at the Devon House - a restaurant that used to be located on the northwest corner of Madison Avenue at 93rd Street.  It was not in the basement, but a few steps down, in a beautiful brown building.  The staid dining room had blue walls with cream trim; the mahogany tables were covered in crisp white cloths; and the servers were all women who wore grey skirts and navy blazers.  Inexplicably, I always felt as if I passed through a portal into a dining room in Bermuda when I went there. 

I didn’t eat there often.  Money was tight; the restaurant was expensive; and I like to cook at home.  But I did go whenever we were eating out, and I got to choose where.  If I didn’t eat the curry, which was cream-based and studded with pieces of boneless chicken and shrimp and maybe a little mango chutney,  I ate faultlessly-prepared Dover sole, and it was always a conflict which dish I would order.  On a perfect night I would get one, and a companion would get the other, and I could taste both.  

Every time I pass Number 1316 Madison Avenue, I realize how sorry I am the Devon House is not still there and think longingly of the evenings I spent eating good food in that lovely room.

Thanks to the always dependable Luisa, who told us about this on February 6, 2012, I do have a recipe for chicken curry - not the same as the curry at the Devon House, but very good - to tell you about.  It comes from that Nigel Slater.  He calls it Chicken with Spices and Cream, but I call it Luisa's Raj Curry.

Luisa’s Raj Curry
Adapted from The Wednesday Chef and Real Fast Food by Nigel Slater

4 to 6 chicken thighs, either bone-in/skin on or boneless/skin off
2 tablespoons butter (if you keep clarified butter hanging around, which I don’t but always threaten to, use it here)
1 tablespoon peanut oil
A lump of butter the size of a walnut
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons curry powder (Madhur Jaffrey recommends Bolst’s Hot Curry Powder, which is very good - and not very hot.)
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon (I like Vietnamese, often called Saigon Cinnamon)
1 cup chicken stock
½ cup heavy cream
Juice of half a lemon
Black pepper

If you know in advance you’re going to cook this for dinner, rub salt into the chicken, and let it sit in the refrigerator on a rack for a couple of hours.  If you haven’t done this, don’t fuss, just rub the salt into the chicken right before cooking.

If you are using boneless/skinless chicken thighs, dredge them with Wondra Flour.  It's granulated and will coat it lightly.

Heat the butter and oil in a skillet; I use cast iron.   Add the pieces of chicken, and cook, turning over, until the skin is taut and golden or the Wondra Floured chicken has browned.  In another pan (I use a  stainless steel sauté pan), add a lump of butter the size of a walnut and the onions, and cook until they are soft – about 6 minutes; add the garlic, and cook until it is fragrant but not burned – 2 minutes more - stirring occasionally.

Stir in the curry powder and cinnamon, and cook, stirring, for about 4 minutes so the spices “bloom” and are not raw when you add liquid to them.

Add the tomatoes and the chicken stock, and mix to blend.  Let it get warm.  Add the chicken and cook until the chicken is done – about 15 or 20 minutes.

Stir in the cream.  Cook for just about 2 minutes to let it mingle and thicken a little.  Taste the sauce, and add salt to taste, if necessary.  Stir in the lemon juice, cook for a minute more, turn off the heat, add black pepper to taste, stir once again, then serve.

Print recipe.

Luisa recommends serving this with basmati rice; I usually make the Basmati Rice Pilaf from Cook’s Illustrated and buttered green beans or chopped cabbage sautéed in butter  If I have the time, I fry some pappadams.  In a pinch, I will serve really good, high-quality potato chips (don’t laugh until you've tried it – you will like them).


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