Sunday, December 10, 2006

Moghul braised chicken (Mughalai korma)

This Indian dish features tender bits of chicken slathered in a rich creamy, yogurt-based sauce that's filled with onions, garlic, ginger, and a wide array of spices (cardamom, cloves, bay leaves, coriander, and cayenne pepper). This is packed with flavor, and is delicious when paired with an Indian pilaf (e.g., Patiala pilaf, Banaras-style pilaf, or sweet saffron pilaf). This is reasonably similar to yogurt braised chicken; Moghul braised chicken is probably a bit more spiced, but if you like one, I guarantee that you'll like the other. Since we just cooked this tonight (along with some sweet saffron pilaf), it's this week's first end-of-the-week recipe blogging post.

1 cup vegetable oil
6 cups finely chopped onions
2 tablespoons minced (or pressed) garlic
3 tablespoons minced ginger
24 whole green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
48 whole cloves
8 bay leaves
4 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (increase if desired)
2 cups whole-milk yogurt
2 1/2 pounds chicken (we used boneless, skinless thighs), chopped into ~1/4" x 2" strips
1 cup boiling water
4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup heavy cream

0a. Plan to have a pilaf (or plain steamed rice) ready by the time this dish is complete.
0b. As this dish requires near-constant stirring once it begins cooking, it can be helpful to measure (and otherwise prepare) most of the ingredients first. Specifically, chop the onions, ginger, and garlic; put the cardamom pods, cloves, and bay leaves into a small cup; put the coriander and cayenne pepper into another cup; measure the yogurt into a container that is easy to pour from; cut the chicken and get it ready; and get a pot of water ready to bring to a boil on the stove.
1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed nonstick pot over high or medium-high heat (use the lower heat if you're concerned items might burn). Once the oil is hot, add the onions and fry for 5 minutes, stirring nearly constantly.
2. Add the ginger and garlic to the onions, and continue cooking, stirring nearly constantly, until the onions just begin to brown (about another 5 minutes).
3. Add the cardamom pods, cloves, and bay leaves, and continue cooking, stirring nearly constantly, until the onions are golden brown (~5 minutes more).
4. Add the ground coriander and cayenne, and cook, stirring constantly, for 15 seconds.
5. Add ~1/4 cup of the yogurt to the pot, and cook, stirring constantly, until most of the water in the yogurt has evaporated. Continue adding the yogurt ~1/4 cup at a time until you've added all of it (this should take 5-10 minutes).
6. Add the chopped chicken to the pot, and cook, stirring nearly constantly, until the chicken has turned opaque, ~5 minutes.
7. Stir in the boiling water and salt. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked, ~25 minutes.
8. Stir in the cream and remove from the heat.
9. Let the dish rest, covered, for at least an hour.
10. Bring back to a simmer (or close to it) before serving.


Don't let the length of time (and amount of stirring) it takes to cook this recipe dissuade you from cooking it; this dish will make your house smell absolutely delicious as it cooks, and the end result is well worth the effort. We've doubled this recipe from the original source (Sahni 1980), primarily because most of the work involved in making this dish is the constant stirring required during cooking; by doubling it we get twice the tasty food with far less than twice the effort. Leftovers store and reheat excellently; the dish is even tastier the second time around.

This recipe is based on one by Sahni (1980); we've reduced the oil from the original recipe.

Sahni, Julie. 1980. Classic Indian Cooking. William Morrow & Co, NY. pp. 206-208.

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