Friday, April 1, 2011

Chicken in Saffron-Almond Sauce

This dish is so convenient. Ahead of time you can get the chicken steeping in the cream and saffron, chop up the garlic and ginger, and make the almond paste. When you are ready for dinner, everything is set to go and you can cook it up in 20 to 25 minutes.

1-2 pinches saffron threads
½ cup heavy cream, warmed (in the microwave)
1¼ pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch strips
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper [I used much less.]
½ cup blanched almond slivers
¼ cup water or chicken stock
1 teaspoon Garam Masala, see recipe below
2 tablespoons ghee, vegetable oil, or butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
5 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

1. In a large bowl, steep the saffron in the warm heavy cream for 1 to 2 minutes.
2. Add the chicken, cilantro, salt, and cayenne. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes but no more than 8 hours.
3. In a blender, purée the almonds, water or stock, and Garam Masala until smooth.
4. In a 10-inch skillet, heat the ghee, oil or butter over medium-high heat. Add the ginger and garlic and stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes or until golden.
5. Stir in the chicken mixture and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 12 to 15 minutes, or until partially cooked.
6. Mix in the almond paste and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink in the center.
7. Pour into a warmed serving bowl. Rice or naan (Indian bread) are great for sopping up the delicious sauce.

4 servings
Adapted from Raghavan Iyer’s The Turmeric Trail

Garam Masala
You can find jars of Garam Masala in the spice section of your supermarket or in packets at an Indian spice store. I don’t particularly like the balance of spices in these jars—the one I tried has too much allspice or cloves in it. But if you are really pinched for time, try one out. It won’t ruin your dish, but your own mixture will make it much better.

1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds (removed from the pods)
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
15 whole cloves
3 cinnamon sticks, 3 inches in length, broken into pieces

1. In a small heavy skillet, roast all the spices over medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until the spices turn one shade darker, start to crackle, and become fragrant.
2. Transfer the roasted spices to a plate to cool for 3 to 5 minutes. Grind in a spice grinder until the mixture has the texture of finely ground black pepper.
3. Store in an airtight jar in a cool, dark place for up to a month. Be sure to label the jar so you remember the contents.

Makes about ¼ cup
Adapted from Raghavan Iyer’s The Turmeric Trail

If you are interested in cooking a semi-Indian meal, here are a couple of dishes you might try to go along with the Chicken in Saffron-Almond Sauce. The carrot dip will be a hit under any circumstances. I love the chickpeas but not everyone does--and I would encourage you to moderate the hotness of it until you figure out what your palate can tolerate. You could also add rice and stir-fried spinach with garlic or a salad.

Curried Carrot Dip

Chickpeas with Mango Powder

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