Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Comfort Food Like It's The 1960s

We are coming to the end of 2016 and I am delighted that NoHandle has given us the gift of another guest post:

My eclectic reading led me to a discussion of the national cuisine of Great Britain not being Fish and Chips, but rather Curry. This brought back some memories of a dish that didn’t make it into Elle’s cookbook, but was served at home at least a few times. Internet searching suggests it was somewhat commonplace into the 1960s. It was called 9-Boy Curry, where the 9 might be any number between 5 and 12, and signified the number of servants (boys) that would have been needed, in England’s far-Eastern empire, to serve the condiments that enlivened the dish, and that topped the curry after it was served. A quick survey of the Internet yielded the basic recipe, a chicken curry, and that it was traditionally served over white rice (at least in the U. S. of the period), plus an extensive list of condiments, with which you can go wild. They are listed at the end of the recipe and narrative given here.

That curry is archetypically British was already known to me. There is no curry native to Indian cuisine as such, and in fact the composition of this melange of spices, apart from the “5 Cs” and turmeric, is highly variable. The closest Indian mixture is probably Garam Marsala. Curry was composed for the British occupiers, and exported home when they left. In my brief visit to London a few years ago, I didn’t notice any particularly large number of curry shops, but I wasn’t looking for them either. My friend Butterfly spent several months in London, and assures me the British eat a LOT of curry.

With that preamble, here is a quick trip through preparing this exotic comfort food. Like curry powder, this recipe is a blend of several sources. It’s all good. The list is long, but preparation is quite simple:

2 three-lb. roasting chickens or 8 chicken breast halves
            (It has been noted that this is also a great way to consume turkey leftovers.)
1 yellow onion, quartered
4 whole cloves
1 carrot
2 celery stalks
2 Tablespoons of parsley
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
½ Cup butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons curry powder (or to taste)
½ teaspoon ground ginger (fresh ginger is even nicer, about 1 Tablespoon shredded should work)
1 teaspoon dry mustard
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon ground pepper
dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
2 green apples (Granny Smith will do) peeled and sliced
2 onions, chopped
1 14-oz. can of tomatoes with green chillies, drained
3 Tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon salt
4 Cups (reserved) chicken stock
1 lemon’s juice
½ Cup dry white wine
½ Cup half and half
Cooked rice (basmati is nice for this)


We are starting with a chicken stock, so in a deep stock pot, place whole chickens (or breasts) with the next eight ingredients (above the line above). Add enough water to cover the chickens plus a couple of inches. If you are using chicken breasts, layer the seasonings with the chicken. Cover and simmer until just tender, but not falling apart. For me, at altitude (Denver, U.S.A. area), this was about two hours from a standing start. The only attention was to turn down the heat once it boiled (about 30 minutes). Chickens cook quickly, but stock pots vary wildly. Skim the stock if foam collects. 

When done, remove the chicken to cool; skin, bone, and cut into bite-sized pieces. A pair of tongs was my most useful tool. Strain and reserve the stock. You will have lots more than you need.

Next prepare the sauce; this part takes about 45 minutes. Sauté garlic in the butter, then the flour and seasonings. This blooms the spices before the other ingredients dilute the effect. Add the onions, apples, tomatoes, and cover. Cook for 10 minutes, then add stock (4 cups), lemon juice, and wine.

Cook an additional 15 minutes until smooth and fairly thick. Divide this sauce into two batches and blend. 

Add enough cream to reach the desired consistency (fairly thick; you know, covers the back of a spoon). Restore the chicken pieces to the sauce and heat gently for 10 minutes. You could put this in a warmer on the table so people can serve themselves small portions as they mix and match the condiments. 

Serve with a side steamer of rice, and of course your selection of condiments. Pass them around, family style, or place in the center for easy access. You won’t want to try everything together, but you might choose a few, server yourself a little more and try a different selection, repeating until you have found your favorites. Some combinations will be surprisingly good; who knew that this paired so well with that? It’s an adventure!

At about the same time as you start the sauce, you will want to start the rice (unless your using MinuteRice, which I do occasionally). Here I used James Beard’s technique for “steamed” rice, done in a skillet. Cover the rice (1 cup here, but probably 2 cups or more with a full recipe) with about an inch of water, and heat to boiling. Then reduce to a simmer. Takes about 20 minutes. It came out slightly gummy.

Condiments (choose a dozen or less from this list):
Crumbled bacon
toasted coconut
grated egg yolks
grated egg whites
chopped toasted peanuts (boiled peanuts toast really well)
sunflower seeds
chopped crystalized ginger (or sweetened dried ginger slices, chopped; check Costco)
sultanas (golden raisins)
chopped celery
diced carrots
chopped onion (red or yellow)
diced pickled onions
strips of citrus zest (both lemon and lime; experiment with grapefruit)
chopped scallions
chopped toasted (or smoked) almonds
chutney (lots of choices here)
dried (or fresh) pineapple shreds
avocado pieces
chopped olives
orange marmalade

This is a great family or friends experience, seeing how your flavor palates compare, and trying new flavors from a land that is not traditionally known for rich spices. By the way, this is not bland, but neither is it as spicy as most dishes at an Indian restaurant. My wife (sorry girls ;-) is not a fan of strong spices, and she liked this a lot. Experiment with the amounts of spices too. Enjoy! ~NoHandle

No comments :

Post a Comment