25 Below Zero Indian Yogurt Chicken = The Whole Chicken Cut Up

Where shall I begin? How shall I begin? I bought a whole chicken, which I would normally bake without a second thought.  There it was sitting in the refrigerator and I was in the next room feeling its presence while contemplating cutting it up the same way I had seen on the America’s Test Kitchen.  The prospect of this challenge seemed daunting.  A sudden sense of dread filled me just visualizing the carcass waiting for me to cleave it into pieces. (Do dead chickens haunt people?) I shuddered to think of this upcoming act.  (Just ripping chicken flesh off ribs is bad enough.)

As I worked, in my mind’s eye, I imagined: If someone was filming me, I am sure that they would have recorded my face going through many contortions of fear and loathing as I performed.  After first cutting off the wings – trying to find the joint – then the thigh joints and finally separating the back from the breast I found that my cleaver was not optimally sharp, but worked better than I expected.  I kept thinking this is what woman did all the time! Grabbed a chicken or a rabbit, killed it, skinned it and prepared it. (No big deal. Right?)  It was gruesome. My respect for woman of yesteryear and butchers rose up 300%.  Having been a vegetarian for about 25 years this was a threshold that I crossed, but felt like I went a little too far.

With that out of the way, I proceeded to create this dish. I had bought a pre-made package of “Sukka” spices from an East Indian grocery store. When I went to open it, I was disappointed to see that it had expired in May of last year. That went into the garbage. Instead, I threw some Indian spices and some oil into Greek nonfat yogurt* and mixed that up.  I thought the next step was to coat the chicken parts, which I did, and set them in the fridge for about one hour. It was then that I found this recipe for yogurt chicken and amended what I had done by cooking up the onions and garlic, adding the spices and then my yogurt marinade chicken pieces to it.  My freewheeling willingness to experiment with cooking sometimes is a lesson in planning – find the recipe first. Note: the remainder of the chicken was cooked in water to make you guessed it, chicken stock. I substituted canola oil for butter.

This is an easy recipe. It’s cooking now and making a nice sauce. This mild spice dish is perfect for offsetting the 25˚ below zero temperatures outside. The aromas make me think of romantic, exotic places. Taste test verifies that the chicken is tender and mildly spicy. Okay then! Success!  Richard inspired me to try cooking Indian food.

* Greek yogurt is very creamy and makes a really rich sauce for those of us who cannot eat real cream.

Indian Yogurt Chicken

Retrieved February 7, 2011 from the gutsy gourmet. http://www.thegutsygourmet.net/india-chic.html

Indian Yogurt Chicken

(Serves 4)
1 frying chicken
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 medium onions
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp cayenne (red pepper)
1 Tbsp coriander (or less to taste)
2 tsp masala seasoning (see note)
2 cups plain yogurt
1/4 cup clarified butter
2 tsp salt (or less to taste)

(1) First prepare the sauce: Slice or chop the onions. Using a large heavy frypan that has a lid, sauté the onions in the oil. When they are translucent and beginning to brown, add the garlic. When its moisture evaporates, add the cayenne, coriander, and masala seasoning. Add the yogurt. Lower heat and simmer 7 minutes, partly covered. Remove from heat.

(2) Cut the chicken into chunks. If you are feeling decadent, then remove the bones from the chicken to make this a boneless-chicken dish.

(3) Puree the onion-and-spice mixture in your food processor or food mill. Don’t make it into baby food, but make sure there are no stringy pieces of onion left in it.

(4) Over medium-high heat, heat the clarified butter until it starts to smoke, then dump in the cut-up chicken all at once. Stir continuously for 2 minutes, then sauté for 3 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

(5) Add the onion-and-spice puree to the cooking chicken. Add salt. Stir the mixture until it starts to bubble, then lower heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.

(6) Let cool until ready to serve. The longer you wait, the better it will taste.

(7) Cook some rice to go with it. Reheat over low heat, and serve.

NOTES Masala seasoning is an Indian “general-purpose” seasoning. Serious Indian cooks make their own and no two are quite the same. The word masala means something like “blend of spices”. Since this dish isn’t trying to be authentically Indian, you can use most any store-bought mixture that you like, including “Tandoori” mixtures, “curry powders”, etc. If you want to make your own, try some mixture of cardamom seeds, cinnamon, cloves, pepper, cumin, and coriander, suitably mixed and ground.
If you don’t want to use clarified butter you can use any cooking oil, but the clarified butter is very Indian.

Spice up your cooking! Stay warm.

About kunstkitchen

Visual artist and writer hunting words, languages, visions, and insight in my kitchen - connecting Art (Kunst) and culture and slow food cooking. Credits: Do not own a microwave oven and never have. Do not own a food processor. Chopped veggies in a Zen monastery for a weekend. (Seriously) Classically trained artist. Paint and draw with traditional materials. Live in the Northland where it's six months of winter. Appreciate the little things in life. Sharing food and art experiences and the lessons that my talented and generous friends have given me.
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