Hello again! I went on another flat-out cooking binge last night-- three recipes straight from Madhur Jaffrey. This was the most successful effort yet!
I'd initially intended to make just Chicken Korma for Anthony and Gagan, but Gagan had to bail, and then Amy came and she's a vegetarian, so I decided to do the potatoes. This was a wise move on my part- they were delicious and I think this recipe might become a standby.
The recipe actually calls for lamb or beef in the korma, but I had neither. Having done it, I see now that a very flavorful meat like lamb would really shine in this dark, rich sauce. But chicken wasn't half bad.
I did the parathas first. The recipe calls for whole wheat flour, so once again I used spelt flour. I was very happy with it, but I've had white-flour parathas that were amazing, so I'd like to try these with white gluten-free flour sometime. Parathas are like chapatis but with a few crucial differences. There's a bit of vegetable oil and some salt in the dough-- you knead it for 10 minutes or so and let it rise for half an hour, just like chapatis. You split the dough into 8 balls and roll it out into 5-inch circles, just like chapatis. Then-- here's where the magic happens-- you brush it with melted butter or ghee (we're out of ghee, so it was butter this time). Fold it in half and brush that with butter, then fold it in half again and roll it out flat until it's really, really thin. Brush your smoking-hot cast-iron pan (or, if you're more Indian than I am, your tava) with butter and throw a paratha in there. Let it get bubbly and turn it over, until it's nice and bubbly and brown in spots. Do this with all of your parathas, then wrap them in foil and throw them in a warm oven ten minutes before dinner.
I'm absolutely shocked that my initial experiments with Indian breads are going so well. I thought there would be lots of failures before I got anything edible. I have a feeling that this is the sort of recipe that's easy to do passably, but very difficult to perfect.
I started on the potatoes next. The dish, Maya's Potatoes, is named after Madhur Jaffrey's sister-in-law, according to the cookbook. Well, Maya, if you're reading this out there in Delhi, this post is dedicated to you. Those potatoes rocked.
To make these potatoes, you start by making the fried potatoes that Joe and I always make when we have steak or some other good piece of meat. Peel your potatoes and cut them into 1/2-inch to 1-inch chunks. Boil them, if you are so inclined (it can't hurt). While they're boiling, grind your spices. Both the korma and potato recipes called for onions and garlic (and in the case of the potatoes, ginger) to be ground to a smooth paste in the food processor, so you can do that ahead of time too. Get your mise en place together before things get chaotic. (And before your guests come, if possible, so you don't get distracted while measuring.)
Get your cast iron pan nice and hot. (Yes, I'm a cast-iron junkie.) Get about 1/4 inch of vegetable oil, maybe even more, hot in there. Throw in the potatoes, make sure every chunk is touching the pan, and then WALK AWAY. Don't stir them, don't touch them. Sprinkle them with salt and then let the cast iron work its magic. When they get nice and golden brown to brown on the bottom, turn them over and leave them alone. Once the potatoes are good and brown, take them out with a slotted spoon and set them aside.
Now for the sauce. Drain out most of the oil, but leave a few tablespoons. Add the asafetida, mustard seeds (careful, they pop!), bay leaf and dried red chilies. (The recipe also called for fenugreek, fennel seeds and onion seeds, but we didn't have any. Clearly, it's time for a field trip to Edison.) Fry that for a bit. Add your onion-garlic-ginger mixture, mix well and fry for five minutes. Then add your tomatoes-- you can put fresh ones in the blender, but we were out so we used crushed ones from a can, along with water, salt and sugar. Fry a minute. Then add the potatoes, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Turn the potatoes and simmer for 10 more minutes. By this time, the water will have cooked off and you will have nice tender potatoes coated with tomato mixture.
I was making the korma simultaneously with the potatoes, but I failed to calculate the cooking time, and realized that, though the potatoes were done, the korma would be another 45 minutes. Which meant it was Amy the vegetarian's lucky day-- first course was potatoes and parathas, served with (of course) Yard's Saison. By the time I got to the table people were exclaiming, and when I tasted it I was happy too. Easy and seriously yummy. I plan to make this regularly!
As for the korma... well, first I made the rice. I threw a cinnamon stick into the rice cooker, which made the whole thing aromatic. The first step in the korma is to make fried onions for the topping-- just cut them into thin half-rings, as though you're making fajitas, and fry them in oil. Be careful not to burn them. Ours were in a bit too long, but still tasty. Then remove them with a slotted spoon, and add the chicken (chopped into 1-inch pieces). Brown it but don't worry about cooking it through. Remove to a plate, and let the pan juices and oil cool for a while.
Once it's cooled down, stir in the onion/garlic paste and turn the burner back on. Fry for ten minutes and then add coriander seeds, cumin and turmeric. Fry, then add tomatoes and the warm spices: mace (we substituted allspice), cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Fry that for 5 minutes. Then add water, salt, cayenne and black pepper, then the chicken. Simmer for half an hour.
Either before you start or during this simmering period, put 10 pecans and 1/4 cup blanched almonds into the blender with some water. (You can blanch almonds by boiling them in water for a few minutes until the water is brown.) Blend to a smooth paste. Once the half hour is up, stir this into the pan with 2 tbsp yogurt or sour cream (we used yogurt). Interestingly, I had no problems with the yogurt curdling this time around. You can simmer this for up to half an hour; however, if you're using chicken, it'll be tender enough well before half an hour is up. I was able to serve this after simmering for ten minutes. I just spooned it onto the rice and served with the rest of the parathas. It was GOOD. Seriously. I'm bringing Gagan some leftovers tonight to get the opinion of someone with an Indian palate, and I'll be curious to hear what he says, but just subjectively-- it was GOOD. Even our vegetarian had to try the sauce.
So: yeah, this was definitely a success. Main lesson: read the recipe carefully and calculate your cooking time before you start.