Friday, January 16, 2009

Swad is best brand

Day 5: Chicken curry

Day 5, and I'm trusting you still have a bit of chicken left in the fridge. If not, we'll go another route.

My man in India - actually, at a place called Laxmi: Spices of India, in a strip mall off of 41st Street - took an interest in my cooking a few years ago. On my first trip to Laxmi, I loaded up: basmati, bay leaf, chilies, beans, and about six pounds of spices.

"Cooking is good hobby," my man said. "The best hobby."

A curry is a hobby, since it's almost a sport. Or, at least a game. Each ingredient in the dish must go in at the right time, like substituting a power forward for a shooter. The foundation of vegetables - onions, garlic, sometimes ginger - must be well cooked before the masala (your spice mix) goes on. I'd say it's all in the timing, but that makes it sound like science, which it is and isn't. Curry is science with gray edges, let's say.

Use some leftover stock to form your sauce, which you can thicken with butter, yogurt or coconut milk. Add salt at the end, to be safe. Since your chicken is cooked, incorporate it in the last few minutes, merely to heat it through.

Coconut milk will take your curry to the sweet side. Tomatoes to the acidic. Cream to the velvety. Choose your strategy and implement your weaponry - paprika, chili powder, coriander, clove, turmeric, cumin - with restraint. Taste for balance. Stock up on containers before you go to Laxmi, otherwise you'll end up with opened bags all over the kitchen, leaking sensory goodness but otherwise dusting up the place. The man sells spices in bags, not little jars, but the value is unbeatable. I use old peanut and jam jars.

Oh, if you are indeed out of chicken, buy some chickpeas and go vegeterian. Chickpeas or eggplant. Or okra. Or whatever.

Day 6 ... Spanish tortilla.

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