Sunday, August 9, 2009

Erachi Olathiyathu – Sautéed Chicken Fry

…oru kozhi-kku….randu savala…’oru pidi’ thakkali arinjathu….’korachu’ malli-podi…..’ethiri’ kurumulaku podi……………ellam kazhinju avasanam ‘kurachu’ andi-parippu arachu chertha nalla ruchi kittum….

That’s pretty much how my mother gave me the recipe for a chicken curry when I was newly married and had the intense urge to impress CJJ by serving the dish he had relished a lot from my mother’s kitchen. For someone like me who always wondered how the curried chicken got its brown color just by adding in some powdered spices, attempting to make a chicken curry with just two weeks of experience in kitchen was a challenge in itself. For someone of that range, translating a recipe by “ a handful”, “ a little bit of that…” or “ a pinch of this..” or atleast balancing the proportion of ingredients for a very subjective term like “ one chicken” which can be anywhere from 1kg to 3kg was as stupid or funny as asking an illiterate to translate something from Greek or Latin or for that matter, something from his own mother tongue to writing!!!!

I t-r-i-e-d to translate……….. and the result was an unfortunate chicken that got mutilated, tortured and humiliated in my kitchen , which finally rested on our dining table with a heart breaking and embarrassed look. Yet, CJJ ate that dish and when asked how it tasted, with great difficulty, he uttered, “m….mm….Oo….kkkk…ei” and later revealed that it was not only horrible but uncooked too!!!! An unforgettable chicken curry in our life and an unlucky chicken which am sure literally cursed its fate and prayed for a rebirth as a worm or broomstick or something else.

Over the years, I learned to decode her culinary language into something that I can relate to, in terms of the nature of ingredients and utensils lying around in my kitchen but recently I am faced with a different challenge. Now that she knows that her daughter has gained the common sense to balance the ingredients, she shares the recipes with an element of ‘scope of learning’, as I would like to call the new phenomenon. About 6-8 months back, when I had an overdose of chicken and fish curry in pursuit of satisfying the “gravy lover” husband, I approached my mother with a request for some “dry” preparation which I could have with a side of Pulisseri/ Moru Kachiyathu or any other simple yogurt based curries and there came the answer for a simple Erachi Olathiyathu, a spicy and aromatic dry preparation with meat. After explaining the basic recipe, she went on to add stuff , as follows:

…..if you re lazy to dry roast the powdered spices, u may add them directly to the herb mix and cook in mild heat for 15 minutes……but dry roasting makes it more tasty.. OR if you don’t have time, you can skip marinating the chicken and add the spices directly ….but I suggest marinating…….OR if you want to save time, you can pressure cook the chicken and later add it to spices and herbs and combine everything till it is dry but I recommend the other method……OR……..” She would continue to give three or four more variations of the same dish, with the same set of ingredients and a different cooking process and by the end of such calls, I am always left with a confused mind! Though I noted down this preparation long back , I got around to trying it only last week and this morning when I showed her the picture, she commented, “……….I think adding some roasted coconut to this dish would be a good idea too”. !!!!!! Versatility in kitchen, huh?

Well, dear readers, you re free to try any of those combinations suggested by my mother. The one noted below is how I prepared it , to suit our taste buds. CJJ , though a lover of gravy based dishes welcomed the changed pleasantly and suggested to make it again. For this chicken preparation, my mother uses the regular spices and herbs available in the kitchen but the predominant difference is by the addition of semi-caramelised onions towards the end of the cooking process which brings in a distinct flavour to an otherwise humble and ordinary dish. That way, the taste of the caramelised onions doesn’t get lost in the sea of spices and other herbs.

For marinating the meat:
  • 1.25 lb ( around ½ kg) chicken cut into small pieces with bones, thoroughly washed
  • 2 ½ to 3 tbsp coriander powder, lightly roasted
  • 2 tsp red chilly powder, lightly roasted ( as per taste)
  • ½ to ¾ tsp black pepper powder, freshly ground
  • ¼ tsp turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste
For Sautéing:
  • 3-4 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 to 2 ½ cups big onion, thinly sliced ( 1 really large size big onion)
  • 2 sprigs of curry leaves
  • ¼ cup ginger, minced
  • ¼ cup garlic , minced
  • 4 Indian green chillies, minced
  • 1 tsp + ¼ tsp homemade masala powder/garam masala
  • Marinate the chicken pieces with the ingredients listed in the first section and leave it on the kitchen counter for 30 minutes. (Note: I dry roast a very small batch of chilly powder and coriander powder and store them separately in an airtight bottle, to avoid roasting each and every time and to speed up the cooking. A tip I learned from our friend R whom I met after coming to US.)
  • Meanwhile, heat oil in a large pan and sauté thinly sliced big onions, in low-medium heat, till it reaches a golden brown shade and starts getting that caramelised smell. At this stage , throw in leaves from 1 sprig of curry leaves and fry along with the caramelised onion for a minute and remove everything with a slotted spoon and keep it aside in a plate. (Note:-This is a slow process taking extra care not to burn the onion , so will take about 20 minutes depending on the heat. I start at a low heat till they turn very soft and then increase the heat a bit for mild browning, that way the process does not consume much oil.)
  • To the same pan, in the remaining oil, add minced garlic , ginger and green chillies and cook till soft and begin to turn golden. Now add the marinated chicken and combine thoroughly with the rest of the ingredients in the cooking pot. If there is some leftover marinade in the bowl, use 1-2 tbsp water and wipe out the spice mixture and add to the pan. In medium heat, cook the chicken covered for about 20-25 minutes, by the end of which chicken would have produced some water and fat from its bones/flesh. (Note: If using boneless meat, add ¼ cup water , along with chicken to get some gravy initially, else it might stick to the bottom). To this boiling mixture, add leaves from 1 sprig of curry leaf and 1 tsp homemade masala powder/garam masala and blend everything well and adjust salt; cover with a lid, reduce the heat to low-medium and let the slow cooking process begin. Continue slow cooking till chicken is ‘almost’ cooked (about ¾th cooked, the phase before the fully cooked stage) and at this stage, add the sautéed and semi-caramelised onions and curry leaves kept aside and blend gently with rest of the dish. The fragrance from the caramelised onion blending into the dish is really enticing. Keep stirring often to avoid the meat sticking to the bottom of the pan. Cook till chicken is cooked to perfection and spice and herb mixture is well coated on the meat. Now, remove the lid, sprinkle ¼ tsp homemade masala powder/garam masala , gently stir into the dish without breaking the chicken pieces and by this time the gravy/sauce produced earlier would have reduced/dried up and coated well on the meat, if not, cook uncovered till dried , in very low heat, until the masala is dried up and sticks to the meat thoroughly.
  • Let it rest for atleast 15-20 minutes before serving with rice or flat breads. It tastes better with rice and mildly spiced yogurt based gravies.
Note: This dish had a bit more dark brown colour but because of too much of brightness, it lost its original colour in the photo. Please keep that in mind while trying out this recipe.

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On a different note, with so much of talks and reviews floating around the blog world, we had to watch Julie & Julia, especially with a plot revolving around food and food blog. I am someone who watch a movie with a non-critical attitude and I found the movie very pleasant but couldn’t help noticing that it was a bit slow/dragging for my taste and some of the location settings looked a bit artificial too. No doubt, Meryl Streep steals the show! She is a pure joy to watch as Julia Child. The character of Amy Adams as a blogger realistically portrays the obsessions and meltdowns a food blogger goes through and the ecstasy of the getting that very first comment . I must say the movie also throws light into the plus and downside of food bloggers’ spouses in general :P

Definitely a light movie to watch on a weekend and though a typical chick-flick, your spouse might enjoy the movie if he is a foodie or a fan of either of these women and my only problem was CJJ got intrigued by French Cuisine and as we were walking to the parking lot, I heard him saying, “…I want to taste beef bour……gi…….nn…nnon” !! I was expecting to hear that somewhere in the middle of the movie itself :)


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