Monday, December 05, 2016

One of My Signature Dishes: *Kanga* Nadu* Chicken* Surprise*

Very rarely will I actually toast and grind my own spices. I leave that for special occasions. Normally, I rely heavily on good quality spice blends from either Kalustyans, Penzeys, or Shaan, all of which EXCEED my needs.

Disclaimer: This is my own creation, not an actual dish; and if it WERE an actual dish, it'd be a biryani, I GUESS, but I fail every time I make a biryani, so this is neither a biryani, nor is it a pullao. It's in the great tradition of 1970s one dish/casseroles, and I'm calling it "SURPRISE."

This dish is similar to a Kerala dish called "curry meen pullichatthu" where there is seasoned pearl spot fish, pan seared, then wrapped in banana leaf and steamed in the leaf on a tawa/skillet to finish. This is also NOT dissimilar from a Bengali dish, Bhekti Macher Paturi, but the only similarity is the fish is seasoned with a paste, and neither the paste nor the fish is cooked prior to being wrapped in banana leaf, then steamed on a tawa/skillet. All of these are merely variations on the same theme.

Rather than give an ingredient list, and then go into the process; I'm just going to list the process with the ingredients in each step. Oh, and there are SOME photos of the process.

Note: Right up until you get to the instructions for the rice and remainder of the recipe, what will be detailed is pretty much MY VERSION of what is known as Chicken Varuval.

Step One:
Toast in a dry skillet: 1 handful of dessicated coconut, and 1T
that's TABLESPOON) of ground cashews or almonds (I
used Trader Joes brand) until it is this color. Set this aside.

 Step Two (No Photo, Sorry):
Toast in a dry skillet:
1 T coriander seed
1 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp fennel seed* 
1 tsp split moong dal
(*I may alter this measurement in future batches)
1/4 tsp fenugreek seed

Toast up until fragrant--make sure you don't scorch it!
Let it cool, then grind in a spice grinder, then sprinkle over
1-2 lbs of diced up boneless, skinless chicken thighs, 
mixing in a smidge (about a tsp) of jingelly oil*.
(*Indian sesame seed oil, not to be confused with 
toasted sesame oil used in Chinese or Japanese cooking.)
Set chicken aside.

Step Three: 
Fry up the tadka in 1 tsp jingelly oil:
1 tsp black mustard seeds
12 curry leaves 
1 dry red chile pepper, broken in small pieces
A couple dashes of asafatoeida (compounded, powdered) 

Step Four:
To the prepared tadka, add:
1 white onion, minced (my onions are about 160 gm)
1 red bell pepper/capsicum, diced

Remove the tadka/onion mix from skillet and set aside.
Toss in the diced, seasoned chicken, and turn up the heat. 
Sear the chicken pieces on all sides.
Note: I use a Green Pan wok, which pretty much ensures
nothing will ever stick to my wok. YMMV, depending
on the nature of your cooking vessel. 
I pretty much ignored my chicken while it cooked, 
and I was doing other things. 
But this is what it is supposed to look like once 
you've achieved a good sear on all sides.
Toss tadka/onion mix back in and cook together for 2 more minutes.
Toss in the toasted coconut/ground cashew mixture, 
then set aside. 
Oh, and if you're so inclined, squeeze a bit of lemon juice 
over this and give a good stir. 
Oh! I almost forgot: About 20-40 grinds of fresh pepper. YMMV.
NOTE: I *am* INTENTIONALLY omitting a special ingredient. 
:) SUE ME :)
Into your pressure cooker or rice cooker, toss what you see here,
with the water and oil measurements on the bags.
Toss some additional saffron into the water, if you're so inclined.
It's truly disgusting how easy and tasty this rice IS at this point.
Once the rice is cooked, fluff it with the paddle to your rice cooker, 
and set aside.
Yes. Banana leaves. Not parchment paper, though you COULD
use parchment paper and set this up "en papillote," 
HOWEVER, you would be missing the subtle fragrance
with which the banana leaves imbue (YES IMBUE) 
the tasty tidbits inside.

Thaw out, wash and dry your banana leaves,
trimming off the tough ends.

This works good for one big casserole dish, or for 
individual serving sizes, as shown below...
Here are the pouches filled up and ready for the oven.
(Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes to steam in the leaves.)
I'm hopping around, I know. Stay with me. It'll all be worth it.
This is how you should layer:
Layer banana leaves criss-crossed with longer ends to tuck everything in.

First layer on bottom: Rice.
Second layer in middle: Chicken varuval with fresh cilantro sprigs.
Third layer: More rice.
Fold each end of the banana leaves over the food, pressing down
and tucking the ends into the pan to make a good seal.

Surprise! It's fucking delicious!

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