Last week we began a three week look at ghee, the buttery ingredient so popular in the Indian subcontinent. Howies stocks this quality ghee from Frentel.
The second part of our dinner is Shahi murgh, "Royal Chicken" (literally "chicken for the King"), derived from Persia. It was adapted from The Encyclopedia of Indian Cooking by Khalid Aziz. Serves 4.
1 3 1/2 lb chicken, cut into 8 pieces, skinned
or an approximately equal number of chicken thighs, skinned
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp salt
1 or 2 green chilies such as serrano or jalapeno
1 large onion
4 oz (or 115g) ghee
or an equal amount of cooking oil
1 2" piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
10 cardamom pods
2 tsp yogurt
pinch of saffron
4 oz. blanched almonds, sliced
4 oz fresh cocunut, thinly sliced
or equal amount of unsweetened dessicated coconut
1 TB cilantro leaves, chopped
Crush the garlic together with the salt to make a paste. Rub it all over the chicken. Wrap the chicken tightly in plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for about 4 hours.
Chop the onion and chili together into fine pieces.
Heat the ghee (or oil) in a heavy pan. Look at how rich and delicious it is:
Gently fry the onion/chili mixture for a minute or so. Add the ginger, cardamoms and cloves and cook or another 2 minutes to bring out the scented oils of the spices.
Add the chicken and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, turn pieces over and cook another 5 minutes. Add the yogurt and saffron, cover the pan and simmer until the chicken is cooked.
TIP: Some recipes might tell you to cook the chicken for something like 45 minutes. This is far too long. We always use an instant read thermometer, cooking breast meat to about 165 degrees and thigh meat to about 185 degrees. Since white meat will cook faster than dark, we suggest removing it when it has come to temperature and setting it aside.
Fifteen minutes before the chicken is done, add the almonds and coconut. If you are using relatively small pieces and carefully watching the cooking temperature, you may find that 10 to 15 minutes is all you are going to need, so it won't hurt to just add them when you cover the pot to simmer the chicken.
When done, the sauce in the pan should be fairly thick. If it isn't, remove the chicken and over relatively high heat cook out most of any remaining water. You don't want it completely dry, however. If any or all of the chicken has been removed, return it to the pan to coat it with the sauce and, if need be, gently warm it.
Sprinkle the cilantro leaves on the chicken when serving.
NOTE: For ourselves we halved the recipe above and used 4 meaty chicken thighs. We prefer them for their flavor and because they are far more forgiving than breast meat when it comes to cooking.