Some years ago, a group from the place where I worked at the time headed out to a Thai restaurant for lunch. While I can’t remotely remember what I ate that day, I do remember a co-worker’s meal very well.
This gentleman ordered the hottest item on the menu. As the server passed me with his plate, the aroma of spice wafted over and just about made my eyes water. And, as he ate, his face got redder, he began sweating profusely and his eyes did what mine just thought about. But, he ate every single bit and relished each bite.
I can’t do that. I would love to have a palate for heat, but just can’t handle too much of the stuff. Armenian cooking uses a glorious range of spices, but very few recipes include a high amount of any kind of chile or pepper.
Because of my desire to grow my palate’s tolerance for spicy food, Dudette has been given the opportunity to have her heat resistance developed at an early age. We’ve already seen the changes in her tolerance. When I gave her a Spicy Gingerbread Twig this week I didn’t bother mentioning that there was a hint of cayenne pepper in the cookie. And, it didn’t matter. She’s devoured them.
Last night, even Hubby expressed a little concern about her ability to eat this meal as he watched me add cayenne to the curry. I wasn’t worried. Much.
I am a curry fan so even though I was trying to decide whether to make this dish or the Roasted Tandoori Chicken in the Fine Cooking Comfort Food Cookbook, I think in the back of my mind I knew this was what I was going to make all along. The fact that I was able to have this on the table within 45 minutes (without a 12-hour marinade like the other required), helped too.
The process is relatively easy, though it did keep me close to the stove most of the time. It begins with caramelizing onions. With them nice and golden, the rest of the dish’s base is built by adding ginger, garlic and chiles.
I did not use the hot green chiles. Knowing I’d be putting in cayenne pepper, I decided to use just one source of heat. Getting a palate used to spicy food is a process. Killing the taste buds in one fell swoop, not in my plan.
Once the aromatics are heated, the chicken is browned, then the rest of the ingredients are added, the pan is covered tightly and the simmering commences.
Oh my gosh. The three of us devoured this. It’s absolutely fantastic. Yes, Dudette noticed the heat, but no, it didn’t bother her (much). She thought it was delicious. We all did. There is so, so much flavor in this.
Is it comfort food? Heck, yes. Spicy, hot comfort food. It’s also very addicting in that ‘I wonder if 9am is too early to have a plate of leftovers’ kind of way. I would buy this cookbook just for this one recipe.
What I’d Do Different Next Time
Not a thing.
- 2 tablespoons canola or peanut oil
- 2 cups finely chopped onions (from 2 medium onions)
- 1 cup plain nonfat yogurt, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 to 2 fresh hot green chiles (preferably serrano), minced
- 4 lb bone-in chicken thighs (10-12), skin and excess fat removed
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¾ teaspoon ground turmeric
- ¾ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, chopped, with their juices
- ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves; more for garnish
- Kosher salt
- 1½ teaspoon garam masala
- Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or a deep, wide saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and stir to coat with the oil. Spread in an even layer and cook for 2 minutes. Stir well, rearrange in an even layer again and cook for 2 minutes; the onion should have begun to brown at the edges. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is a rich brown, another 10-12 minutes. Lower the heat if necessary so the onion caramelizes but doesn't burn.
- Meanwhile, put the yogurt in a small bowl, stirring until it's creamy. Add the cornstarch and mix well.
- Add the ginger, garlic and chiles to the onion. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes so they melt with the onion. Add all the chicken thighs and cook, stirring occasionally, until they lose their raw color and begin to brown, 5-6 minutes. Lower the heat to medium low and add the coriander, cumin, turmeric, and cayenne. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom of the pan.
- Add the tomatoes and their juices, the yogurt mixture, the chopped cilantro, and 2 teaspoons salt. Stir well, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, 20-25 minutes. Remove from the heat and taste for salt.
- To serve, sprinkle on the garam masala, transfer to a serving dish, and garnish with cilantro.