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Friday, June 10, 2011

Chicken Curry

Photos by Russ Turner Photography
In The Curry Cook's Assistant, from 1889, the following recipe is given:
One good-sized Chicken (about a pound or more).

Other ingredients same as for Madras Curry, No. 4. Now cut up the chicken in half of each joint. Keep it to a side. Now fry the onions, sliced, in a stew-pan, with a large spoon of butter. When the onions are nice and brown, just fry the chicken in it less than half done. Take it out and keep to a side. Now fry the Curry Powder till it is nice and dark brown, then add the chicken, more onions, and other things into the frying Curry Powder, etc., and add half-pint of good gravy, and set it on a slow fire for 20 minutes. When serving, add two large spoons of cream. If it is very dry, add little more gravy to it. A few drops of lemon will flavour it, but I recommend to make the chicken into a “moley,” as No. 29. Much nicer to be eaten with rice or treated as an ordinary entree, and the curried fowl (whole) nicer as a joint.
Madras Curry (No. 4) reads as follows:
No. 4.—BEEF CURRY (Madras).

For a Pound of Beef.
2 Tablespoons Coriander Powder and 1 of Rice Powder.
1 Saltspoon Saffron and a Pinch of Cumin Powder and Fenugreek.
½ Pint of Milk or good Gravy.
1 Large or few small Onions.
A bit of Cinnamon, 2 Cloves (if you wish spices).
½ Teaspoon Green Ginger chopped up fine.
A Small Garlic chopped up fine.
1 Large Spoonful of Butter (fresh); Salt to taste.

N.B.—This Curry is made in Madras with or without Cocoanut, but little Tamarind will flavour this Curry better than Lemon Juice. Vinegar, Curry Leaves, etc., are used in Madras and Ceylon. This is a first-class Curry if carefully prepared.

Mode.—Have the meat ready cut in half-inch squares; then slice the onions; put a good stew-pan on the fire, add the butter; soon as the butter gets hot put in the onions and Curry Powder, but not the ginger, garlic, and spices. When the onions, Curry stuffs, etc., are nicely browned, add the meat, garlic, ginger, spices, and give it a turn. Let it stand for a few seconds, then add the milk or gravy, salt, etc.; set on slow fire for about 20 minutes. When sending to table add a few drops of lemon or good pickle vinegar, but tamarind is best. Add little cayenne if preferred hot; a hot Curry is considered always nice and healthy, the cayenne to be added when preparing.
Now, being as I am a modern-day chef, I don't necessarily put each spice into the dish on its own in turn; I like curry powder, and I'm happy to use it.

Therefore, my recipe is much simpler, and looks like this:

Chicken Curry
1 Chicken Breast half (about 1/2 lb or 226 g), cut in cubes of 1 inch (2.5 cm) or so
2 small Onions, about 1 1/2 - 2 cups' worth (355 - 473 ml), julienne
2 cloves of Garlic, minced
2-3 tsp Curry Powder
a dash Cayenne (optional)
Chicken Stock
Olive Oil or Butter

1. Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat and add oil to cover the bottom. Sear the chicken until lightly browned on all sides, then remove from the pan and set aside. Season lightly whilst searing with salt and pepper.

2. Add more oil if necessary, and turn down the heat to medium. Add the onions, and cook until softened and beginning to become translucent. Add the garlic, and cook until the onions have taken on a brown color and are soft.

3. Add the curry powder, cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste. Sauté until deeply aromatic and beginning to brown on the bottom of the pan.

4. Deglaze by adding chicken stock, enough to cover the pan by about a centimeter's depth, and stirring well to release all the bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer, then add the seared chicken. Reduce heat to keep a simmer but not a boil, and cook, uncovered, until the chicken is done through, 15 or so minutes (depending on the size of your chicken chunks.) Stir frequently to keep the curry from sticking to the pan, and add more chicken stock if necessary.

5. Test seasonings and add more salt, pepper, cayenne, or curry as needed. Cook, and stir well, after any addition for a few more minutes to allow the flavors to fully develop.

6. Serve over boiled rice—remember how to do that?

Creates 4 servings of appetizer size.

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