Recipe: Chicken with Potatoes

Once again, Laura is stepping in this week to share another recipe... and some more of her thoughts on what's fast becoming her cooking specialty: Indian cuisine. Enjoy!

A discussion of Indian cuisine is not complete without a mention of spices. The spices! Oh how my nose runs, my eyes water, how I love that burn in the back of my throat.

In my previous post, I mentioned I was the lucky recipient of two fantastic Indian cookbooks. And a spice grinder.

But why, I asked myself that Christmas morning, would I need a spice grinder to make Indian food? Mystified, I flipped through the recipes in both cookbooks. It didn't take long to realize that nearly half of all the ingredients in each recipe were spices. And though many recipes called for whole spices, just as often the spices were ground. Coriander, cumin, peppercorns... all these can be bought whole--but ground when needed--to bring out their full, fresh flavors.

Clearly, I would be using the spice grinder a lot. But where to get whole spices, and more importantly where to get them at a reasonable price? Our solution, one discussed elsewhere at Casual Kitchen, was to visit a local ethnic market in our community. Try it yourself and you’ll be blown away by the quantity and quality, as well as the price!

Several years ago I did just that, lumbering home from a Parsippany Indian grocery store with two enormous grocery bags of spices for about $50 total. It may seem like a lot of money to spend on spices, but years later we are still using them to make incredibly delicious food.

And: Don't forget the old lie about throwing out old spices, particularly if you buy spices in whole form rather than ground.

Though this week’s recipe is more involved than in my previous post, it can easily be doubled and savored for longer. I hope you enjoy it!


Chicken with Potatoes
From An Invitation to Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey

3 medium potatoes
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
5 Tb water
1 ½ lbs chicken thighs, skinned
5 Tb canola oil
1 inch cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
4 cardamom pods
2 whole hot dried red chili peppers
2 whole black peppercorns
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ cup tomato sauce
2 cups chicken broth
½ tsp salt

1) Peel and quarter potatoes. Boil potatoes for 25 minutes, drain and set aside.

2) Place onion, garlic, ginger and 5 tablespoons of water in a blender, and blend to a smooth paste. Set aside.

3) Rinse chicken and pat dry. Heat oil in a large, deep-sided skillet over medium-high heat. Add cinnamon, bay leaf, cardamom, whole red peppers, and peppercorns. Cook 1 minute, then fry chicken pieces quickly on all sides until golden brown. Remove chicken with slotted spoon and set aside.

4) Pour the paste from blender into skillet, add turmeric and stir for 3 minutes. Add tomato sauce and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then cover and lower heat, simmering gently for 15 minutes.

5) Add potatoes, salt and browned chicken pieces to the sauce. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on low for 20-25 minutes until chicken is tender, stirring occasionally. Serve over rice.

Serves 4.

A final note: Many Westerners associate Indian food with curry. But did you know that curry is not even a spice? Rather, it is a blend of ground spices that varies from one household to the next. As Madhur Jaffrey bluntly says in her classic cookbook An Invitation to Indian Cooking, "no Indian ever uses curry powder in his cooking."

Garam masala, like curry, is a spice blend called for in many Indian recipes, and you can create it yourself with a trusty kitchen spice grinder.

READ NEXT: Why Spices Are a Complete Rip-Off and What You Can Do About It

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