Much of Indian food relies on spices, aromatics and judicious use of a little ghee to make it exciting. But some Indian food is unapologetically rich, relying, at least partially, on high fat dairy (or in some cases nuts) for its impact. Clearly we should limit our intake of the latter–but by no means avoid it completely. Where would the fun be in that? So this dish is not exactly for everyday, but it is definitely worth making, especially in the winter, when braised meat and fowl provide warmth and comfort.
For some of us anyway!
This dish was a big hit with everyone. The girls scarfed it up in silent reprimand (it seemed) for having not had chicken in quite a while. John loved it, albeit liberally sprinkled with hot pepper flakes. The sour cream/yogurt combo was a tangy, creamy, indulgent treat. We gave it a big thumbs up.
3-4 lbs of cut up chicken pieces (I used breasts and leg/thighs)–or cut up your own chicken, with skin removed but still attached to the bone
3 T vegetable oil
3 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 head of garlic, minced
1 T ground coriander
1/2 t paprika or cayenne pepper, or more to taste
2 t garam masala
1 t ground roasted white poppy seeds
1 cup whole fat plain yogurt
1/4 cup sour cream, whole fat
1/3 cup water
4 T ghee
salt to taste
Heat the vegetable oil in a large but shallow (i.e., not a Dutch oven) pan with a lid over medium high heat. Add the onions with a pinch of salt and fry until darkly caramelized, about 15 minutes. Add garlic and cook another 2 minutes. Add the spices and cook, stirring constantly, for one minute. Add the yogurt, sour cream, and water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and transfer the sauce to a blender and puree (or tilt the pan to one side and use an immersion blender, which is what I did). Let it sit in its pan while you prepare the chicken (you could use the same pan to fry the chicken and add the sauce later–I guess it depends on whether you’d rather dirty the blender or another pan).
In another frying pan, heat the ghee over medium heat. Sprinkle some salt on the chicken. When the oil is shimmering hot, add the chicken pieces and brown the chicken pieces on all sides, about 5 minutes per side. Add the chicken, including the frying ghee, to the pan with the sauce. Toss the chicken pieces in the pan with the sauce and turn the heat back on.
Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat to very low and cover. It should braise for about 45 minutes, until quite tender but not falling apart–check after the first 10 minutes or so to make sure the heat is not too low or high (you want a very gentle simmer). Check every 15 minutes or so to make sure the chicken is not sticking to the pan. When you are ready to serve, taste for salt. Serve with a spicy (spicy spices, not spicy hot) chutney over basmati rice.