Friday, October 23, 2009

Slow Supper Sundays - Nigella's Mughlai Chicken, Lightened Up

Truthfully, you need to make this on Saturday to eat it on Sunday, as the flavors deepen and make friends as it sits in the refrigerator. And if I'm completely honest, I actually think it tastes best after a good two days of time out in the fridge.

Mughlai Chicken is an Indian dish that is unusually mellow for Indian cuisine as well as extremely rich. Traditionally this richness is achieved with heavy cream and full fat yogurt but my thighs don't let me follow this tradition. Nigella also stresses the importance of using dark meat chicken which stays moist over the long cooking process, but I stuck with chicken breasts. Now that I've tried it, I would advise the thighs as she does. They're not that much more fattening and do stay tender, although my husband was happy with the white meat.

I'm not going to lie to you - this one is quite the homework assignment. Not difficult, but with many steps, so only take it on if you're in the mood for some kitchen therapy. Again - I LOVE things I can make ahead and know I've got in the fridge ready to roll. This helps me get off my lazy butt and into the kitchen.

Nigella's Mughlai Chicken, My Way
Serves 8.

1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled
4 cloves garlic, peeled
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes
4 tablespoons ground almonds (I buy the blanched, splintered kind and pound them in a ziploc)
1/2 cup water
3 cardamom pods, bruised
1 small cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
4 cloves
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 pounds boned chicken thighs, each cut into 2 OR 3 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 " chunks
2 heaping cups chopped onions
1 cup 2 % Greek yogurt
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup sultanas (golden raisins)
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup flaked almonds, toasted, to garnish
cilantro, for garnish

Put the ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander, and chili into a food processor, or into a mortar and pestle, and blend to a paste. Add the ground almonds and water and then blend again, set aside.

Heat the oil in a large dutch oven and add the first batch of chicken pieces (you'll probably need 3 batches so that they pan fry versus stew.) Season with salt and pepper and cook them just long enough to sear on all sides becoming slightly golden, then remove to a holding dish. Repeat with the rest of the chicken and set aside.

Add the spices - the cardamom pods through the cloves - and turn them in the oil in the pan (you may need to add a dash more oil if you were using chicken breasts and the pan has become dry.) Add the onions along with 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt and cook them until softened and lightly browned - about 12 minutes, but keep the heat gentle and stir frequently, to avoid sticking. Pour in the blended paste, stirring well to remove and browned bits from the bottom and cook everything until it begins to color, about 8-10 minutes. Add the yogurt, half a cup at a time stirring it in to make a sauce, then stir in the stock, half and half, and sultanas.

Put the browned chicken back into the pan, along with any juices that have collected under them, and sprinkle over the garam masala, honey, and salt giving a good stir. Cover and cook on a gentle heat for 20 minutes, testing to make sure the meat is cooked through.

It's at this stage, that I like to take the pan off the heat and leave it to cool before reheating the next day or even the day after.

So either now, or when you've reheated it, make rice to serve with it scented with cilantro and sauteed onions (optional) and garnish with additional cilantro and additional slivered almonds. Don't forget when serving to pluck out the bay leaves and cinnamon stick and cardamom pods, if desired.

* To reheat, put in the oven with the lid on for 30 minutes at 350.

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