This past week was filled with the usual start-of-the-semester stress, but it had two additional components that made it even more stressful: a contractor was building a new block wall in our yard, and my mom came into town for a short visit. My mom arrived Wednesday night and I wanted to make her a tasty meal, but I didn't have much time, and many of our standard quick recipes didn't work due to my mom's dietary restrictions.
We're still on our Indian food kick, so I eventually settled on Sahni's (1980) yogurt braised chicken. The dish is made by simmering chicken in an onion- and spice-rich yogurt mixture, and it was extremely flavorful, yet very easy (for Indian food). It took me, working alone from scratch, less than an hour to do all the prep work and initial cooking, and then the dish just simmered for 45 minutes while I did a little bit of last-minute cleaning.
When my mom arrived, she enjoyed being greeted by the delicious smell of the dish simmering, and after dinner reported that she loved the meal. So, this is this week's end-of-the-week recipe blogging post.
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 cups finely chopped onions
1 1/2 tablespoons garlic, minced or pressed with a garlic press
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon roasted Indian poppy seeds (they should be small and white, not the blue ones typically found in American stores; likely optional)
1 cup plain, whole milk yogurt
1/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or ~3 pounds bone-in chicken pieces)
Cooked rice, or Indian bread, to serve over
0. Plan on having some rice or Indian bread cooked by the time the dish is ready to serve.
1. Heat 1/4 cup of the oil over medium-high heat in a large nonstick pot.
2. When the oil is hot, add the onions to the pot and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to brown (~10 minutes).
3. Add the garlic to the pot and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes.
4. Add the coriander, cayenne pepper, garam masala, and poppy seeds, and cook, stirring frequently, for another minute.
5. Add the yogurt, sour cream, and water, and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes.
6. Remove the yogurt mixture from the pot and blend until smooth; we used our immersion blender in a small bowl, but a blender should also work well. There's no requirement to do this quickly, as it won't be needed for another 5 or 10 minutes.
7. Wipe the pot you were using so that it's somewhat clean (or use a new pot), add the remaining 1/4 cup of oil, and heat over high heat.
8. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and cook, turning occasionally, until it is browned on most of the sides (~5-10 minutes).
9. Add the blended yogurt mixture to the pot, mix in the salt, and simmer, covered and stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes. Sahni states that "the [sauce] should have thickened to a velvety smooth white sauce, and a glaze will be coating the chicken pieces"; you can simmer the dish for additional time, or add water or milk, to adjust the texture to your preference.
10. According to Sahni, the dish tastes best after it has rested for a while; we let it sit, covered, for about an hour, but it would probably be OK to eat right after simmering.
11. Reheat the dish and serve over rice or with Indian bread.
We have no idea how much the Indian poppy seeds add to the dish; if you don't have them, try making the dish anyway. If you can't find Indian poppy seeds at your local store, Penzeys Spices has them (here). To roast raw poppy seeds heat them in a pan over medium heat until they begin to turn brown and become fragrant.
The amount of oil included in the recipe is the full amount Sahni specifies; I suspect you could cut out a tablespoon or three of oil and the dish would be just as good.
Sahni, Julie. 1980. Classic Indian Cooking. William Morrow & Co, NY. pp. 211-213.