Today's post is about a curry...in the oven. You heard right. A chicken curry, in the oven.
I am not so much a fan of the idea that any Indian food that features a mix of spices, with or without a gravy, is referred as a curry. Because it is simply not the case. Just as anything from China is not a stir-fry and all coffee drinks aren't cappuccino. I say this with fair bit of confidence, because I am from India, and I know for a fact that if you told anyone in India--at a restaurant or to a person-- that you wanted curry, there would be only one kind (with mild variations) that you would get! And it would be this recipe, that I am going to share in a short time. And no matter how hard you tried, you could not get anything else :) Different terms for different dishes.
For our curry, the trick will be of course be, (a) use of oven-which to my knowledge is an unheard of technique in the making of a curry, and (b) use of tomato paste. Tomato paste is an Italian import, mostly southern Italian. The tomato is sun dried and then made into a paste. Calabrians have some phenomenal use of tomato paste. For those of you who may not know, Calabria is a part of southern Italy which has some of the best uses of tomato and pepper and eggplant. The sun is abundant and the soil is perfect for tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. Some other day we would talk about sun drenched southern Italy. But today we are talking of a spicy curry from India. That too, the only authentic curry that you will find in India. With possible regional variations, of course.
Amazing how a modern kitchen technique, an age old paste of Italian origin and spices from India can give you such a truly authentic curry. Back in the days, India was the destination for spices. Just the other day, I was reading up on all the voyages that were directed towards India in earlier centuries for spices like cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cloves and all things fragrant. So much risk, such long lonely voyages. Such distant land, cultures. All for spices. And if you are sitting at your desk with your coffee (as I am doing now), you may wonder what was all that allure.
I urge you to assemble this recipe and you will know why. Cumin, garlic, ginger, coriander, turmeric and tomato paste...all coming together in a cast iron skillet to give you a sense of what drove hordes of men across oceans and mountains to the east in search of spices that add to life to food.
Thankfully nowadays we can get this done pretty much hassle free.
Watch...err read :)
Chicken curry in an oven
A quick note: You can probably do this in the microwave. I am confident if you have a convection mode in the microwave or you know, just your regular OTG (oven-toaster-grill), this technique will work. Just use a friendly vessel for where you do it. Of course this recipe is fine on a stove top. But the oven gives you a depth of flavor and its hands off too! well, largely
Okay enough Talk. On with the recipe
Chicken: I used 6 thighs with bone in, skin removed. You can use a whole cut up chicken, drumsticks, whatever has a bone in it.
1 big potato-- cut of coarsely. A small would be halved. A medium maybe quartered. You get the idea
1 medium sized onion. Chopped
1 tsp of freshly grated garlic
1 tsp of freshly grated ginger. Fresh is really important. You can use the ginger garlic paste. I urge you not to.
6-8 tbsf tomato paste. Half a small can. You can substitute with two tomatoes pureed and mixed with 2 tsp of ketchup. But tomato paste is heavily recommended
2 cups of chicken stock. Or warm water.
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
A pinch of cayenne. You can use it to taste. I like it mild.
I do not like the use of garam masala here. I find it way over powering and really the tomato paste packs a lot of flavor that is pretty much drowned by garam masala. But if you must, you can throw in 1/2 tsp of that as well.
3-4 tbsf oil. You can use any. Does not matter
salt and pepper
Cilantro for garnish.
These are the typical ingredients you will find in any curry. With the exception of tomato paste and maybe chicken stock. But the stock adds a ton of slow cooked flavor to this rather quick curry.Anyways, use a Cast Iron skillet. That will go into the oven and the stove top with ease and will also serve as a serving bowl. Its phenomenal and you should get one. Otherwise you can use a Dutch oven. Or a regular metal pot. Anything that you can use within the oven and on a stove top.
So turn your oven to high. 425-450 F. Preheat the oven with the skillet inside the oven. Yes, you are heating up the skillet in the oven. Takes about 10 min or so. Take out the skillet. Careful. Very hot. Put half the oil in it and place the chicken and potatoes on it. Try not to have a lot overlap. Drizzle with the remaining oil. Salt and pepper action. Mix around with tong. Stick into the oven for 20 min or so. Turn and again in for another 15 min. So totally about 45-50 min including the heating time.
When juices start to run clear, take out the skillet, turn on your stove and place the skillet on heat. Leave the oven running. On the skillet add the onions. Saute everything together for 3-4 min. Add the garlic-ginger and spices. Saute for a min or so. Now add the tomato paste. Mix everything well. Maybe a minute or two. De-glaze with the stock or water. Now comes a balancing act. Take the whole skillet and place it back into the oven. no mean feat taking a heavy skillet with liquids into the oven, but really do able by yourself. Leave at high temp for 15 min till everything is bubbly. Then, lower the oven temp o 350 F and finish cooking for 30-35 mins.
Take out, check for seasoning. Garnish with cilantro and serve with hot or warm with rice. One must have rice. Kidding. You can totally do with bread and some Merlot. I did and it was amazing! You can bring the skillet to the table. A very homey and rustic way of serving this simple fare.
How easy was that? no mess, no stress no traveling :) Just a good old real time chicken curry. But I tell ya, this one would be worth all that trouble of running around the world :)
Happy eating, healthy living!