I have loved the taste and tang of a good Indian curry since the first time my lips burned delightfully from the taste experience that changed my life forever – and for the better, I might add.
As a child, my mother served the Americanized version of middle eastern curries, as taught by the likes of the iconic 1950s television chef Julia Child. For her, the dish was all about the condiments. She enslaved – I mean enlisted – me to chop onions, scallions, hard-boiled eggs, and bacon. We ground peanuts in a nut grinder. She served these items along with raisins, shredded coconut, canned pineapple chunks, chutney, and orange marmalade in small glass bowls.
Mom went all out, that’s for sure. She slow-cooked the spicy stewed meat and served it over the traditional basmati rice or couscous. Nobody left that table hungry, I can tell you that. This was one of my dad’s favorite dishes.
Years later, I still adore a pungent curry soothed by sweet and salty sides. But who has the time these days to compulse over – I mean, perfect – Curry With Everything?
No worries. Darwin said, “Adapt or die,” and I’m still kicking.
Here’s an easy way to oven-bake delicious, never-fail curried chicken. The spice combination can also be used on other meats and vegetables. Alter the exact quantities and ingredients to suit your taste and supplies on hand.
- Heat the oven to 410F.
- Prepare chicken parts or whole chicken for baking and lay them out in a pan, skin-side down.
- Sprinkle seasonings to taste, covering the exposed chicken side.
- Put the uncovered pan in the hot oven and immediately reduce the heat to 350F. DO NOT FORGET THIS STEP. YOU COULD BURN THE HOUSE DOWN. AND WHO WANTS THAT?
- After 20 minutes, remove the pan from the oven, turn the chicken, and sprinkle the seasonings on the other side of the meat.
- Cover the pan loosely with aluminum foil to allow some steam to escape.
- Reduce the oven heat to 325F (for moister chicken – but if you are in a hurry, hold the heat at 350F and reduce the cooking time).
- After about an hour of cooking, I like to remove the pan and drain off any excess fat (in a jar or down the sink while running hot water to flush it) before returning the pan to the oven. If you forget this step, it’s no big deal. I just don’t like my meat swimming in grease, thank you very much.
- About 10-15 minutes before the chicken is done, carefully remove the foil cover from the pan and set it aside to crisp the skin.
- Ideally, cook until the tender chicken meat falls off the bone. (I hate to eat undercooked chicken that has bloody, red joints. Yuk!)
The following dried seasoning suggestions are divided by flavor strength, the idea being to use less of the more powerful herbs and spices:
HOT / STRONG SPICES
(NOTE: Using fresh herbs and spices are perfectly fine if you have them.)
Serve the baked meat over your favorite starch: rice (jasmine, basmati, white or brown), couscous – even mashed potatoes. Let your imagination go wild.
The more traditional way to prepare Indian curry is to begin by heating enough oil (preferably olive oil) to cover the bottom of a skillet over a medium-high flame (or electrical element).
When a drop of water flicked into the pan (from a safe distance) sizzles, add the spices and stir them into the hot oil. You should smell a fabulous burst of exotic aromas. Turning on the exhaust fan at this point is optional.
Cook the spices for about 5 minutes and don’t let them burn.
Lower the heat to medium-low and add fresh, chopped onions, garlic, and/or scallions and cook for two more minutes.
Add the chicken, water, and vinegar, reduce the heat to very low, cover, and simmer for 90 minutes. Add coconut milk and heat thoroughly.
Serve over basmati rice with your preferred toppings.
All this talk of savory seasoned poultry is making me hungry!
Please excuse me now – I see it’s time to uncover the baked curried chicken out of the oven and start the 5-minute couscous. Catcha later.