Oven-Baked Chicken Curry

Yes, I called it a curry and refuse to call it anything else. A generic mix of spices for the general region of the Indian subcontinent all cooked together genericly goes by the name of curry in the western world. So when I cook something that satisfies that definition, in my western kitchen, I will call it a curry. [Defiant]. Besides, my blog, my rant. So there.

My love affair with the chicken began some 7 years ago. Before that I absolutely refused to eat it. Don’t ask me why.I have no idea. The thing with ingredients that make an entry into your life after your food habits have formed is,it takes quite a lot of thinking to decide how it will be cooked. It doesn’t come naturally to me. See, I look at beet greens, which I have never cooked with before and red amaranth comes to me. I look at zucchini and ridgegourd comes to mind. I look at a chicken and all I see is a mass of pink muscle. I have to go through my recipe book to decide which way I want to prepare it. This frustration with chicken is largely due to the fact that I have never really been successful in making a simple chicken curry. [ shutting my ears among the echoes of *gasp*, *and you are a food blogger?* ]

It’s true. Dinner with friends, potlucks and there it is. The ubiquitous ‘simple’ chicken curry,right there, mocking me. Each time, I go to the creator of this bane of my culinary existance and I try to stir the conversation ever so diplomatically to how it is made. I start with complimenting the dish and then finish with “you know there is something so very different from all the normal chicken curries in this. Koi special ingredient ?” Somewhere in between those two praticed lines, I get my answer.

Arre, nothing yaar! Hot oil, jeera, khadha masala, pyaz,tamatar, haldi, mirchi, dhaniya-jeera, garam masala, chicken, namak. Fir pani daala, aur 2 seethi nikali. Bas..“.

I am not going to bother translating that because it doesn’t help. Do you hear me?? IT DOESN’T HELP! I put all sorts of masala in the pressure-cooker with the chicken and it still tastes like something the local Indian restaurant serves at the buffet. A pseudo-Indian americanised curry that even non-indians have trouble eating. At this point, I am doing the mental version of pulling my hair out. But the lady in question is not done yet because the clincher comes in.

Sabke Haath ka bhi farak hota hai. That’s why it tastes different”.

I will translate this. This essentially means “My hands turn simple, everyday ingredients into magic. You, on the other hand[no pun intended] are a nincompoop!”. Aaaaargh!!

So, to take the smirk off her face,I go home and try it out. Nothing. Nada. Bland, insipid mess. It is the chicken, I tell you. These chicken have too much water in them. Besides,there is no smirk, is there? She just wants to get away from this non-chicken curry-making cook as far as possible. “Doesn’t know how to make chicken curry? Don’t know what kind of food the kids are being raised on? Bechare

As I burn in this hell of chicken-curry-failures, once in a while, something works. Only it is not add-some-of-this-some-of-that-and-pressure-cook-to-2-whistles kind of thing, it is somewhere in between. I chalk it all up to this game God plays so that I don’t give up completely on my simple-chicken-curry hope.Bhagwan, how you test me? Bachche ko rulaoege kya?”.

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Oven Baked Chicken Curry

This is the curry I make for the weekday dinner guests. It is a no mess, no fuss kind of thing, 10 minutes of prep and cooks in the oven keeping the stove top free.

Make a paste using a blender or mortar-pestle the following

*3 green chillies/Thai peppers
*4 cloves Garlic
*1 inch piece Ginger

Mix together to make a marinade,

*1 cup dahi/curd/yogurt
*1 tsp Red Chilli Powder or 1/2 tsp red Chilli Flakes
*1 tsp Black Pepper Powder
*the paste made above
*1 tsp Garam Masala
* 1/4 tsp Saunf/Fennel seeds Powder
* 1/8 tsp Star Anise powder (Available in Korean Stores)
*Salt to taste

Add to the marinade

1 lb bone-in chicken thighs, chopped into bite-size cubes

Mix well.Set aside for as long as you can. I normally do this in the morning and cook it for dinner. When ready to cook,add

1/2 Red Onion. sliced
3 tbsp peanut oil

to the chicken mix.Pour everything in a baking dish. Into the oven it goes at 350 deg. Put it, Shut it, forget it for the next 40 minutes. Finish with a tadka/chaunk.

Heat

1 tsp Ghee

Add

1 Badi Elaichi/Black Cardamom
3 cloves
1″ Cinnamon

Pour over the chicken, sprinkle some coriander leaves/cilantro and serve. Goes well with Jeera Rice and Crispy Papad on the side.

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Completely irrelevant to the recipe : I cannot help but mention the carnage at Virginia Tech.It was appalling, what happened. It has been even more appalling, watching the media coverage. Monday evening, a whole lot of emphasis on the killer being Asian. Tuesday evening, a big attempt to blame the VT administration for not seeing into the future and predicting this might happen. Wednesday, repeated playings of the killers videos. It’s been amazing to see virginians stand strongly by their alma-matar. Rare is the person who spoke against the university on camera or off. Several people cancelled interviews with the media in protest against the emphasis on the killer and not on the killed. Thursday evening saw a marked difference in media coverage with the focus more on those killed, the loss and grief of their near and dear ones. The hokie spirit is everywhere I go, especially today being decreed a National Day of Mourning in memory of those killed.

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