How to curry favor with your guest


This simple chicken curry can be adapted to personal preference — scale back the heat, skip the ginger or choose your favorite Indian spice blend. It can be as straightforward as the supermarket curry powder or as elaborate as a custom masala blend from an Indian grocery or specialty shop.

Traditional recipes generally marinate the chicken in yogurt, which is a no-no for kosher diners, but this version uses nondairy milk infused with vinegar. The workaround delivers sufficient acidity and tang to break down the protein and tenderize the chicken without breaking any rules.

The masala okra is a wonderful way to showcase any vegetable.

Chicken Curry

Serves 4
Because this is so good left over, making a double batch is a great way to save time on a future meal. It also freezes well. Although it is not complicated, overnight marinating, or at least several hours, is needed to get the proper texture and flavor.

For the marinade
2 pounds boneless chicken breasts, cut in bite-sized pieces
1-inch piece of ginger, grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup your favorite nondairy milk (coconut, soy, etc.)
2 tablespoons white vinegar

For the curry
2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
1 onion, chopped
1-inch piece of ginger, grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon finely chopped jalapeno, or ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (if desired)
1 tablespoon of your favorite Indian spice mixture, such as curry powder or garam masala
2 cups chicken broth
1 bunch fresh cilantro, for serving

In a large Ziploc bag or Tupperware container, mix the chicken with the marinade ingredients and let it sit in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

When ready to cook, heat the oil in a large Dutch oven and the add onion, ginger, garlic, turmeric, jalapeno/red pepper (if using) and the spice blend. Saute until the seasonings are fragrant and the onion is soft.

Remove the chicken from the marinade and place the chicken pieces in the pot. Discard the marinade.

Sear the chicken pieces on all sides, then add the chicken broth.

Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat, cover and simmer gently for two hours or longer, stirring occasionally. The chicken will be done when it is fork tender.

Taste, add salt if needed, and serve over rice topped with fresh cilantro.


Masala Okra

Serves 4
I found some late-season okra at my farmers market recently and managed to put together this side dish using a recipe described to me by my neighbor, who is of Indian descent.

If your crew does not like okra, green beans, kale, peas or really any vegetable, can be prepared using this method. The main complaint I hear about okra is that it can be slimy; avoid this by rinsing it, then slicing it and laying it on paper towels to dry for a few hours.

2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
1 medium white onion finely diced
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 clove of garlic finely chopped
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspooon red chili powder or cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tomato, chopped
½ teaspoon salt
1 pound okra sliced into 1/2 inch rounds

Heat the oil in a skillet.

Add the onions and garlic, and sauté for two minutes.

Add the cumin seeds, coriander powder and remaining spices and sauté until fragrant.

Add the diced tomato and let it all come together for another couple of minutes. Add salt.

Finally, add the okra and stir to coat. Cook for about eight minutes until tender and serve.

A note on dessert: Since this meal has a lot of flavors and textures, I would keep dessert on the simpler side. That doesn’t mean boring, or a cop-out, but an elaborate cake, pastry or soufflé might be overdoing it. You can maintain the Indian palate without going over the top.

Consider a scoop of coconut, lime or mango sorbet topped with chopped candied ginger or a sprinkle of cinnamon. Make or buy some ginger snap cookies, chai-spiced brownies, blondies or macaroons. Fresh mint tea makes a light and lovely digestif to top off this meal.

Keri White is a Philadelphia-area food writer.

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