Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Curry Mania!

Hello World!  I know I've been on a long hiatus, but that is about to change.  I initially held off on posts because I had grand plans to revamp this blog into a full-blown website, but then when it came to building that website, life/work/etc. kept pushing that project further and further back.  Also, I started finding myself getting too exhausted busy to come up with creative new meals.  The most I was pulling off was how to doll up a boxed frozen pizza (as seen on FaceBook)...ugh.  However, the website build is just going to have to wait because I have had some really great foodie experiences lately and have been waiting to share them with you!

First up, I've been experimenting with Indian food.  Well, mostly just curry at this point, but I hope to develop better taste-bud skills for this region's cuisine. I never thought I would like this kind of food because the spice variations are so much different than what I grew up with, so drastically different from what my pallet was used to.  But then my friend Holli convinced me that I was missing out and forced invited me to go to the local Indian food place, which happened to be right behind my house at the time.

Photo by Joe S. from Yelp

Himalayas the very best Indian buffet in Oklahoma for sure, maybe in the country, but I have no idea because I have not visited every Indian place in the country.  But I can tell you that I am so glad this was my first experience with Indian food, because I have eaten at other Indian restaurants and have been disappointed on more than one occasion.  I tried so many new types of foods here, which broadened my pallet extensively and gave me the courage to try it at home.  It is difficult to try to cook regional dishes if you are not familiar with the spices and combinations of those flavors so I kept going back to Himalayas over and over again, you know, just to make sure I got the flavors right, that is until they moved to the next town over and then I was very sad.  This is still my go-to birthday meal place, that's how much I like it.  I especially like the masala/curry based dishes, so much so, that I felt the need to try theses kinds of dishes wherever I found them on a menu, no matter how weird I thought it was that certain restaurant types prepared them.  For instance:

Mr. Hui's Authentic Chinese Cooking restaurant here in Norman on Lindsay St., makes the most amazing chicken curry I've ever had.  I did not know hardly anything about curry before Himalayas, and maybe curry dishes are typical for Chinese cuisine, but I had never tried it at a Chinese place before and thought I'd give it a go.  I'm so glad I did!

Mr. Hui's Curry Shredded Chicken is $10.95 and comes with rice.  I always order a side of the Egg Drop Soup For Two which really means For 6, for just $4.95 extra.  This meal not only fills me up happily, but will continue to to just that for at least 3 more days.  So if you like left-overs, this is definitely a steal for the amount of meals you can get out of just under $16.  The chicken is tender, and the flavors blend together perfectly with a nice kick, but not too hot.  It is made up of chicken, peppers, onions, sprouts, and a sauce that might be a good go-to for when you are feeling stuffy or having any congestion.

In my curry excursions, I've learned that there are like a billion ways to make curry.  It depends on country, region, and even just what you have on hand in your kitchen.  There are even several different types of curry powder ranging from sweet and mild to what I call "burn-your-face-off".  This powder consists of several spices blended together and even though the rage of spices is wide, the general base consists of turmeric, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, and cumin.  The one I use also has some other elements including cayenne pepper.  I also use Garam Masala, which is a curry powder that is less heavy on the spicy hot and more weighted on the cinnamon and clove sweetness.  

Admittedly, I have only tried to make chicken curry at home a total of 3 times and each time it got better.  My last attempt the other day was very good and I am going to share my recipe in this post.  But first, I have to say that my desire to perfect curry is an exciting endeavor in that when I started checking out other recipes on the web, I found myself getting sucked down a rabbit hole.  I absolutely love researching and researching food that has such vast possibilities and variations is so exhilarating for me! So if you find my recipe too mild or hot or sweet or too complex/not complex enough, there are so many ways to adjust and add your own flare.  This one-pot meal okay, two pots if you count the rice, will easily stretch out to four days worth of meals for two people.  So it is cheap to make, depending what all you want to add to it, and is very good for you, and will feed you and/your family for a few days.  So if you love Indian food give it a try at home and save some cash, and if you have never had it, give this a try and see what you think!

2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts - cubed (you can also use dark meat)
1 white onion - thinly sliced
1 clove of garlic - crushed
1 red bell pepper - diced
1 green bell pepper - diced
2-3 Tbls olive oil
Dash of sesame oil
2 tsp. paprika +
2 Tbls. curry powder +
1 tsp. turmeric +
1 tsp. coriander seed powder +
1 tsp. cumin +
1-2 tsp. Garam Masala +
1 tsp. salt 
black Pepper (to taste)
chicken stock/broth
1/2 can Rotel Lime & Cilantro 
1 (13.5 oz) can of coconut milk
6 oz. frozen green beans
2 cups fresh baby spinach
cooked rice
Optional: 1 box of frozen Naan bread (I use Tandoor Chef brand)

First, sprinkle just a bit of all the spices over the chicken and make sure the pieces are evenly coated. NOTE:  What you use for this are not the amounts specified above, they are extra (+).  The amounts given under "ingredients" are how much you will put in the pot later. 

Next, heat up about 2-3 Tbls. of olive oil in a large pot on medium-high. When oil is hot, add sesame oil, onions, garlic, and both peppers.  Stir fry until golden (about 15 minutes).  

Add in the Rotel, all spices, and about a cup of chicken broth.  Mix together and cover, cooking for about 15 minutes until broth has been incorporated to make a paste.  Add chicken and green beans plus enough broth to cover the contents, mix together an put the lid on.  Turn the heat down to medium and let it cook for about 35 minutes.  

Add coconut milk and be sure to taste it here and add any extra salt and spices that you feel it may need.  Cook for about 10 more minutes.  Add in spinach and check consistency.  If the consistency is too thin, mix about a tablespoon of corn starch with milk or cream and add to the pot while stirring. Add in the cooked rice or just serve the curry over rice with Naan bread.  Enjoy!

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