After hearing Andrew Tropicana, I mean Andrew Glass, praise Madhur Jaffrey to the skies for the millionth time, I realized that she was published by the house I work for, and I picked up An Invitation to Indian Cooking. Needless to say, it took me many months to cook from it, but this weekend was the weekend. My excuse was that I wouldn't try to make a spice paste without a Cuisinart; now that I am nicely nested, Cusinart and all, I gave it a go. After all, there's only so much buttery, Frenchy food I can cram down a boy's throat.
I have never had a Cuisinart before. For me it is associated with my mom and pie dough, altogether too adult an implement for me to own--an impression only reinforced by the terrifying warnings the Cuisinart people slip into their packaging, apparently (correctly) imagining that I will slice off my fingers the first chance I get. It was Nigel Slater's lovely descriptions of green curry in Appetite that convinced me I had to have a food processor, and so here I am, hauling it down from a high shelf to make chicken bits.
The seductiveness of Madhur Jaffrey's writing surprised me. One forgets that cookbooks were, at one time, written, not just churned out with headnotes about how "awesome" the recipe is or relating some authorial anecdote that feels false. I chose this recipe because Jaffrey promises that "its taste is heavenly, lightly but definitely spiced" and "it tastes as good cold as it does hot." How could I resist?
Though it was not what I would refer to as "lightly spiced," it was very yummy. I am always surprised and delighted that it is so easy to make something "exotically" (sorry) fragrant at home; the first time I cooked with fresh ginger--six years ago--I thought I was an absolute genius. Anyway, I cut her recipe in half, down to the proportions I've listed below. Some notes: she says to cut the chicken into 1.5 or 2 inch pieces, 1/2 inch wide; I did this and found that it cooked much too quickly (I removed it after 12 minutes, not 20, and it was dryish). Perhaps my broiler differs substantially from hers, but I will do stir-fry size chunks next time. Though I cut the recipe in half, I forgot to cut the oil and vinegar in half. It was still delicious, but I suspect the effect is different (i.e., even better) with the correct proportions. She says ground coriander, by which I imagined she meant dried coriander; now I'm not so sure. In any case, dried coriander--boy, is that musty or what? Because I had no tomato sauce, I used a dab of tomato paste. And I used a whole teaspoon of cayenne--it didn't seem like much, but the finished dish was so spicy I wished I had used only a heaping quarter teaspoon.
1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast
2.5 tbs vegetable oil
2 tbs red wine vinegar
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1/2 head of garlic, cloves peeled and chopped
a small piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
1 tbs whole fennel seeds
1 tbs ground cumin
1tsp ground coriander
seeds from 4 cardamom pods
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 whole cloves
10 black peppercorns
1/2 tsp cayenne (for a slightly heated dish)
1 tsp salt
1.5 tbs tomato sauce
Pulse everything but the chicken in a food processor until it forms a smooth paste. Cut the chicken into bite size pieces and marinate in the paste in a plastic bag for four or five hours. Preheat your broiler. When the oven is heated, line a baking sheet with tin foil, spread the chicken over it, and cook for 10 minutes. Flip and cook for 10 more minutes or until the chicken is lightly browned. Serve with rice (or, if your cooktop isn't working and you don't know how to make rice in the oven, on a kaiser roll. Ahem).