Category Archives: recipes

the master plan

I’ve had a number of requests for my curried chicken recipe, but I’ve been hesitating to put it up because I wasn’t getting consistent results. Finally though, I’ve got a recipe that I’ve used three times in a row with great success, so I think I’m ready to share. 🙂 It’s a combination of the basic recipe in my encyclopedic Indian cookbook and my mom’s method of making it. Enjoy!!

Curried Chicken

3-4 tbsps vegetable oil
4 cloves
3 whole star anise
8 curry leaves (These have to be fresh! Look for them at an Asian market. They shouldn’t run more than a few dollars for a whole bag of them.)
4 cardamom pods
1 stick cinnamon
1 large onion, chopped
2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and smashed (Use a meat mallet. If you whack it gently for a while, it’ll flatten out beautifully. The more you smash it, the more it will cook to nothing in the sauce, which is good if you don’t like biting into chunks of ginger.)
4-5 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed (Meat mallet!)
4 tbsps hot curry paste (This is sold in the Asian aisle at most supermarkets.)
1 tbsp tumeric
2.5-3 lbs skinless, bone-in chicken pieces (I use dark meat, but you can use white if you really must. Just be careful not to overcook. White gets stringy really easily when cooked in sauce like this.)
1.5-2 lbs carrots, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
14 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 lb bell peppers, chopped (A bag of frozen chopped peppers works beautifully here.)
coconut cream (from 1 can of coconut milk – do not shake the can!)
salt (to taste)
cilantro, chopped (to taste)

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot (a Dutch oven type pot is ideal here), heat the oil, cloves, star anise, curry leaves, cardamom and cinnamon over medium heat until the cardamom pods swell and the curry leaves are nearly (but not quite) burnt. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger; cook until the onions are lightly browned. Stir in the curry paste and tumeric, and cook until the oil starts to separate. This will take only a minute or two and requires watching to prevent burning. Add the chicken pieces and stir to coat. If the spices are starting to burn to the bottom of the pan, deglaze with a small amount of water. Cover and cook about 10 minutes. Add the carrots, cover, and continue cooking until the chicken is nearly done (10-15 more minutes). If you like a thicker sauce, leave the lid partially open at this point to reduce the sauce. Add the diced tomatoes and the peppers and bring back up to temperature. Taste and salt as needed. Don’t worry if the sauce seems too spicy at this point; the coconut cream will absorb a great deal of the heat, so you really want the sauce to have a good strong bite to it at this point. Skim the coconut cream off the top of the can of coconut milk and add to the sauce. Heat gently and stir once or twice until the coconut cream melts into the sauce. Taste and salt again as needed. Fold in the chopped cilantro (if using) and serve hot over rice.


This is a medium spice version. It’s far too bland for a “real” Indian, but it’s probably too spicy for your average meat ‘n potatoes kind of guy. You can adjust the spice by changing the heat or amount of the curry paste that you use (look for one labelled “mild”) or by adding chilies. If you add chilies, fry them in the oil with the other spices at the beginning to bring out the flavor.

The fresh spices at the beginning are really the only way to develop the layers of flavor that need to be in a good curry, so don’t skip them. They’ll keep for about a year (except for the curry leaves, of course). Look for them at an upscale food market (Earth Fare, Fresh Market, Whole Foods) where you’ll be more likely to find them in small quantities.

The coconut cream makes a lovely smooth sauce, but you can substitute sour cream or plain yogurt in a pinch, although you’ll need to use more of it since it’s not as thick. Sour cream will make a tangy sauce which is also very good but is not as smooth since the sour cream tends to curdle if it’s not heated very, very gently. It still tastes great, but it doesn’t look as pretty.


the whatever quotient

This chicken has a very high “whatever” quotient, which means it’s perfect for those nights when that cranky old aunt comes to visit. You know the one I mean.


apple juice
apricot brandy – or tequila. or grand marnier. or wine. or whatever.
tabasco sauce
balsamic vinegar

The marinade is a big part of the whatever quotient. Just pour in enough of the apple juice to almost cover the chicken. Then add the brandy or the tequila or whatever kind of alcohol you have on hand. Then toss in some salt and some pepper and a few dashes of tabasco sauce and balsamic vinegar. Bash up some onion and some garlic and some jalepeno peppers. Or whatever your favorite savories are. You can chop them up or crush them or leave them in big wedges or beat them with a meat mallet. Or, you know, whatever. Mix it all up and let it sit on the counter and get acquainted for a while. Then go sit down somewhere and relax.

Once everything has warmed up, snuggle the chicken down in there and leave it sit on the counter for as long as you’re comfortable leaving it out. You can use any kind of chicken you like, but dark meat is my favorite. It tolerates the oven much better. Anyhow, whenever you happen to wander past the dish, give it a turn. After about three episodes of Friends, stick the broiler pan in the oven and preheat to 350 until everything is good and hot.

Pull out the broiler pan – don’t touch it! it’s really hot – and stick that chicken on there. Space it out evenly so that the pieces aren’t touching. That way they’ll get all nice and browned instead of staying wet and kind of steaming each other. Using a slotted spoon, scoop up the veggies from the marinade and top the chicken with them. Then pop her in the oven, and let her go for about 30 minutes. If it’s not done yet, turn the oven up to 375 and turn the pieces over. Once the chicken is nearly done, turn it back over if necessary, brush it with a little butter of olive oil or whatever you like to use to brown things, switch the tray up to the rack near the broiler and finish it off!

one more just for fun

I call this one chicken stewli ’cause it’s not really a stew and it’s not really chili. But it is alllllll good.

Chicken Stewli


olive oil

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken pieces (white or dark)



chili powder

2 large onions, chopped

garlic cloves, chopped

1/4 c flour

2 c. chicken broth

2 c. half and half

dash Tabasco

ground cumin

32 oz canned white beans, drained and rinsed

canned mild green chilies, drained and chopped (substitute jalapenos if necessary)

In a dutch oven large enough to hold everything, heat a few tablespoons each of olive oil and butter. Season the chicken on both sides with salt, pepper, and chili powder. Don’t be timid. 🙂 Sear on both sides, reduce heat, and continue to cook until just cooked through. (Don’t overcook at this point, or the chicken will be tough later.) Remove from the pan and allow to sit for at least ten minutes.
In the same pot, add a few more tables spoons of butter and the onions. Sweat until soft. Meanwhile, chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Add garlic and cook uncovered at medium heat until garlic is soft but not browned. Remove from pan.

Add 6 tbsps of butter and melt. Whisk in flour and cook for three or four minutes. Stir in onions and garlic. While whisking, add 1 cup broth and all the half and half. (Add to taste: more half and half for a creamier, richer dish; more broth for a thinner, lower-fat soup.) Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until thick and bubbly. Add more broth as needed to bring the thickened mixture to your desired consistency.

Add cumin, tabasco sauce, beans, chilies, and chicken and heat through. Taste for salt and heat and add more salt and chili powder if needed. Serve with sour cream, shredded cheese, chives, tortilla chips, fresh tomatoes, avocado slices, etc.

(adapted from:

Presbyterian Pot Roast

This dish is amazingly warm and hearty and comforting. Perfect for a snow day at home.

Presbyterian Pot Roast

beef roast
hot hungarian paprika
bay leaf
bottle of red wine
big can of fire-roasted crushed tomatoes

Put the beef in a large oven-safe dish. (I used a dutch oven.) Sprinkle well with salt and pepper. Add paprika to taste and a dash of cinnamon. Toss in onion and garlic (large chunks are fine), bay leaf, and two whole cloves. Pour wine over all. (Use something drinkable, but don’t waste money on this. Two Buck Chuck from Trader Joe’s works beautifully. Also, if you don’t like the acidity of that much wine or if you want to have some wine left to drink with dinner, cut it half and half with beef stock.)

Roast covered at 250 for four hours.

Uncover. Taste for salt and add more if needed. Pour crushed tomatoes over all. (Definitely use a good brand of tomatoes; the wine is already acidic, and you need a sweeter tomato to balance that out. I use Glen Muir.) Roast uncovered at 325 for another hour. Sauce should be thick, rich, and bubbly.

Chop carrots and celery into whatever size you like to eat. Add to the pot and roast at 375 until veggies are tender. (You could add potatoes at this point if you wanted to make it a stand-alone dish, but be sure to add more salt and more liquid to compensate for what the potatoes will absorb.)

Serve over brown rice.

(Adapted from

New foodie blog

Everybody run quick and check out the new foodie blog I found, Roots and Grubs. It’s by a guy named Matthew Amster-Burton, who wrote the book I’m currently reading, Hungry Monkey. I’m going to try to remember to put up a review when I’m done reading it, but it’s gotta be the best read I’ve had in a while. He’s funny, his descriptions of his daughter are priceless, and his recipes look great. This one is a keeper for sure.

Saturday morning hash browns (aka “Queen of the flippin’ hashers”)

A couple of weeks ago I picked a zucchini and a squash and some tomatoes out of my garden and really wanted to eat them for breakfast. I thought about putting them in my scrambled eggs, but that seemed a little boring, so here’s what I did instead:

1 medium zucchini, sliced into medium rounds
2 roma tomatoes, diced small
frozen hash browns
3-4 strips of bacon
your favorite shredded cheese

Pre-heat the oven to 400.

In an oven-safe saute pan, fry the bacon until it’s as done as you like it. Pull it out and put it on a plate to drain, but keep the bacon grease in the pan. Add enough butter to the grease to give you a good turn of the pan’s worth of fat. Pour in a decent layer of hash browns, and season with salt and pepper. Chop (or crumble) the bacon while the hash browns are cooking. Fry the hash browns without stirring until golden on the bottom, then slide them in one piece onto a plate. Add more butter to the pan. Lay in the zucchini rounds. Sprinkle on the bacon. Take the plate of hash browns and flip it over into the pan so that the uncooked side of the hash browns is directly on top of the bacon and the cooked side is facing up. Sprinkle with cheese and tomatoes and stick it in the oven until hot and melted. Enjoy! 🙂

One medium pan’s worth is enough for two people to eat for breakfast without needing anything else. Add eggs, toast, and fruit, and you have enough for three or four.