Chicken with Sliced Lemon and Fried Onions; Pooris; leftover Potato Patties

This wasn’t one of my most successful meals to date, but it was still damn delicious.

This particular chicken recipe jumped out at me when I was flipping through the cookbook last night, trying to decide what to make. It sounded so good, I couldn’t wait to get home and make it. And after the last wildly successful round of pooris, I was looking forward to more.

I made the poori dough first thing when I got home from work. It needs at least an hour and a half to rise. I figured dinner would take about an hour, so I had half an hour to chill before starting to cook in earnest. Joe and I were both getting hungry, so I broke out the two leftover aloo-ki-tikiya from the other night. We browned them in the cast iron pan and got a nice crust– they did, however, turn bright yellow, which tells you just how much turmeric I’ve been using in that pan lately. Seriously, turmeric is powerful stuff. My cuticles have been yellow since I started this blog! And even my Tide Pen, the most amazing stain remover known to humanity, isn’t removing the yellow stain from the sauce I spilled on my knee tonight. I got myself a nice laminated apron with extremely cute cherries on it to cook in; guess I’d better start wearing it when I eat!

Anyway. The potato patties held together much better after having the benefit of a couple of days in the fridge. We split a Flying Fish Belgian Dubbel with them and it was an excellent snack.

And when we finished… time to start cooking. I got the chicken from Godshall’s Poultry in the Reading Terminal Market— I went for the naturally fed free-range chicken, and had them cut it into piece when I bought it. I have to say, the quality was high. You have to skin it; apparently Indian cuisine, at least as interpreted by Jaffrey, who’s from Delhi– isn’t big on chicken skin.

Onions, garlic and ginger go into the blender with a bit of water. We’ve been calling this “Indian mirepoix”– mirepoix (yes, we had to look up the spelling) being the mixture of onions, carrots and celery that forms the base of so much French cooking. It seems like most of the North Indian recipes in this cookbook use onions, garlic and ginger as a mirepoix. It’s a wonderfully flavorful base, and I’m violently allergic to celery so I like this one much better.

Next: fry some onions in oil the bottom of a stockpot, and get them good and brown and crispy. Mine came out perfectly, I was very proud. Take them out and put them on a paper towel. Next, the chicken pieces– I had to do mine in two stages to give them room to move around. What you want to do here is brown them without totally cooking them through, because they’ll be simmering for half an hour later. Jaffrey says to do this quickly over high heat. In the end, though, my chicken was a bit underdone, so next time I think I’ll take a bit more time browning the chicken.

Remove the chicken and put on a plate with a paper towel. Now for the fun part: the sauce. First, take your mirepoix and fry it for ten minutes or so, till it’s nice and golden brown and your eyes no longer fill with onion tears just from looking into the pot. Then add the next classic spice blend, another one that is becoming routine for me: coriander, cumin and turmeric, with the coriander/cumin ratio about 2:1. Fry that. Then two tbsp of yogurt go in, one spoonful at a time. I added the spoonfuls and then whisked quickly– it’s not in the recipe, but it seems to do the trick when it comes to keeping yogurt from curdling over the heat. (Thanks, Joe.) Then a tablespoon of tomato puree (I actually used paste), whisked in the same way. Then your warm spices: cinnamon, ground cloves, cayenne and salt, plus 3/4 of a pint of water. Mix it, bring it to a boil, lower the heat, pop on a lid and go chill for ten minutes.

Next problem: I did not spend this ten-minute period chilling, as I should have. No, I thought it would be a good idea to plan ahead and roll out my pooris ahead of time, so that after I got the chicken simmering we could just fry them up and be done. I rolled out my pooris nice and thin, laid them on (spelt) floured parchment paper, and then went back to the main dish– I added the chicken and lemon slices, a tablespoon of sugar and some pepper, mixed it, and put it on to simmer.

Joe really likes to fry the pooris, and I’m kind of a wimp about large quantities of boiling oil, so I like to let this be his job. (He also gets to chop the onions, so I owe him.) He got the oil nice and smoking hot, just like Jaffrey says, but had a hell of a time getting the pooris to puff up. Last time it was like magic– this time, not so much. They kept coming out flat and hard. We speculated about what might be different this time– and all we came up with was that last time, I was rolling the pooris out while Joe immediately fried them. Maybe they were drying out in the intervening ten minutes? Joe took a rolled-out poori, balled up the dough, and re-rolled it, and it puffed better than anything had so far. I took the few remaining ones and did the same. They still weren’t beautiful like last time, but they did start to puff.

Fortunately, poori duds still taste really good. We ate them with the chicken, which had cooked down to a nice, thick, lemony sauce. The chicken was a bit underdone– not enough to cause alarm, but next time I’ll let it simmer longer. Still, it was really tender and flavorful, and I was glad I’d gotten the good stuff. And that sauce? Holy shit, you guys. That sauce was really good. We served it with rice and “poori chips” and Belgian Dubbel, and it was satisfying and tasty.

Lessons for next time:
-buy good chicken that actually grew up eating normal chicken food;
-don’t let Madhur rush you on the browning;
-simmer for more like 25 or 30 minutes;
-don’t roll out your poori dough until you’re ready to drop it into the hot oil;
-don’t spill anything that contains turmeric onto your favorite tan pants.

Yum.

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