Monday, February 2, 2015

Chicken, Better Than I've Ever Known Before

What meat-eater doesn't love chicken? While top chefs might balk at the idea of the Colonel's meat-of-choice having any true culinary value - unlike beef, lamb or even duck, with their complex age-able flavours - the capacity of chicken as a vehicle for flavour is worthy enough for celebration. These were my thoughts after cooking the, aptly named, 'Bademiya's* Justly Famous Bombay Chile-and-Cilantro Chicken'.
*A quick Google search for 'Bademiya' brought me here and while the NYT recipe doesn't use milk/cream ('malai') in the marinade, 'Chicken Malai Tangdi' on the menu is my best guess at this dish's inspiration. Safe to say that Bademiya is also now on my 'Places to visit in India' list.

This page in my copy of The Essential New York Times Cook Book has been bookmarked since day one and I was stoked to finally try it out. It's list of ingredients is fairly basic, and if you have ever cooked any simple Indian recipes before, you'll most likely have what you need for the chicken in your pantry already.

And while not essential (a quality hot sauce would be a fine accompaniment), the Cilantro Sauce included in the recipe takes this dish above-and-beyond already finger-lickin' delicious - yet in an unexpected direction, given the slight bitterness and textural aspect of the walnuts.

Bademiya's Justly Famous Bombay Chile and Cilantro Chicken

Bademiya's Justly Famous Bombay Chile and Cilantro Chicken with Cilantro Sauce serves 2 to 4
// Slightly adapted from The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser //
Be warned, the marinade packs an awesome punch, however for the flavour without the heat, simply trade the cayenne pepper/hot paprika for good-quality sweet smoked paprika (V, I'm thinking of you!). The recipe calls for 4 chicken legs, however I was able to stretch the marinade to 6.

1 1/2 Tbsp coriander seeds
2 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp cumin seeds
6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
One 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
3 Tbsp grapeseed or vegetable oil
1/4 c water, or as needed
1 Tbsp cayenne pepper or hot paprika (if spice-shy, see note above)
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 c cilantro (coriander) leaves, chopped
4 whole chicken legs (see note above), skinned, or one 1.8kg chicken, cut into 8 pieces, and skinned

Toast coriander seeds, peppercorns, and cumin seeds in a small dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a coffee/spice mill or mortar and pestle and grind to a fine powder. Combine the ground spices, garlic, ginger, oil, cayenne, lemon juice, and salt in a blender and puree to a paste, loosening with water as needed. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the cilantro. Add the chicken and thoroughly coat with the spice paste, massaging in with your hands. Marinate in the fridge for 4 to 6 hours, and if you remember, give them a mix-around half way through.

To cook, barbecuing the chicken (over a charcoal fire or gas grill for 10-15 minutes each side) would produce some great results, however I simply cooked mine under the oven grill/broiler, which turned out beautifully. Preheat oven to 180degC/350degF on fan grill* and set rack about 5 inches from grill/broiler. Place chicken on grill tray with lined oven tray underneath, and cook skin-side up for 8 minutes, 4 minutes with skin-side down. Return chicken to skin side up and continue cooking on the fan bake function for 8 to 10 minutes, or until clear juices run from a knife/skewer being inserted at the thickest part of a piece of chicken.
*If your oven has separate grill/fan-forced functions, grill as directed and when finishing the chicken on the fan-forced function, it may need 5 more minutes than stated in the recipe. If in doubt, test for doneness as described.

For the Cilantro Sauce (recipe makes around 1 cup)

1 c chopped cilantro
3 cloves garlic
1 jalapeno pepper, halved and seeded or not (pickled/jarred jalapenos are perfectly acceptable)
1/2 c walnuts
1/3 c fresh lemon juice (from about 2 lemons), or to taste
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp fine sea salt, and extra to taste
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c water and/or 2-3 Tbsp natural unsweetened yoghurt (optional, but a good addition for the spice-shy)

Combine all ingredients, except water/yoghurt, in a blender or food processor and blend to a puree. Add water to loosen, and/or add yoghurt, to reach desirable consistency. Taste for seasoning.

To Serve
The NYT recommends sliced red onion, thinly sliced limes and lemons, tamarind concentrate for dipping, and naan bread for bringing it all together; I enjoyed the chicken with cooked brown rice, wedges of lime, slices of pickled jalapeno and green onion, and freshly cooked flatbread. Next time, I'm keen to add simply roasted carrots (sliced lengthwise), or a carrot/leaf lettuce slaw with toasted sesame seeds and a lime dressing, for a more 'complete' meal and to provide additional colour, matching the bright, powerful flavours of the chicken.

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