Thursday, August 9, 2012

Chicken Korma

Curries do not necessarily have to be garishly red, or yellow. Nor is it always spicy. Chances are if you have only tried curries in restaurants you have not experienced the full depth and breadth of flavor that mild, creamy curries like this can bring.

The Chicken Korma is the regal version of curries. Brought to the Indian subcontinent by the Mughal empire, it is subtle, even understated but brimming with flavor. The complexity of this dish comes from the use of nutmeg, mace and poppy seed paste as well the typical spices like coriander and cumin. Although I use milk instead of cream to make it a little healthier, this recipe has deep roots. It comes from my aunt who has been lovingly cooking this dish for us for as long as I can remember.

Chicken Korma (Other than the chicken, ingredients are listed in the order that they are added)

2 lb chicken
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon oil
1/2 cup onion thinly sliced or minced
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garam masala powder
2 tablespoon ginger paste
2 tablespoon garlic paste
1 tablespoon cumin powder
1 tablespoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika/ chili powder
1/2 teaspoon crushed black pepper
1/4-1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon powdered mace
1 tablespoon poppy seed paste
4 green chilies
1/3 cup water
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 tablespoon rose water
1/2 tablespoon kewra water

First off, heat up oil in a 3 qt pan that has a tight lid. Fry the onions till you begin to see caramelization around the edges. The key is to stir the onion from time to time so that the edges turn a rich golden brown. This will take some time, close to 10 minutes but the flavor they provide is essential to good curries. Make sure to add salt at this stage so that the water is steeped out of the onions helping them brown evenly.
Starting to get caramelized. Needs to be cooked for a few more minutes
Now add all the spices up to the black pepper powder all the while cooking over a slow medium heat. You do not want to add water at this stage unless your spices start to stick. The "masala" mixture should be lightly sauteed adding tablespoons of water only if it's absolutely necessary.
A light brown color after all the spices have been added 
Now add the chicken pieces and cook on low medium heat for 10-15 more minutes.

You want the pieces to be evenly coated with the spice mixture.
Evenly coated bone-in pieces of chicken  
Now add 1/4 cup water and continue cooking. The chicken will release its own juices and stew in it. If you want you can definitely use boneless, skinless chicken but chicken pieces, bones and all produces a stock that enriches the sauce. Plus cooking the meat on the bone makes it very succulent.

Not much longer now. We are nearing the end,After 15-20 minutes this is what the dish looks like. When spice mixture becomes thick add nutmeg, mace and poppy seed paste. The poppy seed paste is something that you have to make at home from whole poppy seeds. You have to dry roast the poppy seed and blend with water to make a smooth paste. I can not stress how essential it is for the paste to be smooth. If you feel that the paste is grainy, strain the paste before adding it. You can also choose to leave it out if it is too hard to find but it does add a new dimension to the meal.  

Now add 1/3 cup more water, milk and whole green chilies and cook covered for 10 more minutes.

5 minutes before you take it off the heat add in sugar, salt (do a taste test and only add salt if you think it needs it), rosewater and kewra water.

Serve with a side of naan or polau (rice fried and cooked with whole spices). It doesn't get more authentic than this. :)

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