Tag Archives: curry

Summer, Meet Autumn: Squash-Pumpkin-Chicken Curry with Cilantro-Poblano Rice

20 Aug

Along with chipotle peppers, curry has become a staple flavor profile in ever-expanding repertoire.  From curried French toast to curried fried chicken and waffles, I’ve yet to meet a favorite dish that didn’t take well to my curry-fication.

Us Wisconsinites were spoiled this past week with a couple days of marvelous early-Autumn-like weather with just the tiniest chill in the air.  After the swampy, oppressively hot couple of weeks prior, it was a welcome respite and preview of my favorite but far-t00-short season in Wisconsin.  It also reminded me that I had a bunch of acorn squash and white pumpkin in my freezer, CSA leftovers that I used to make a delicious curried soup with crispy kale this past winter.  Longing for those comforting flavors, but not quite ready for a steaming bowl of soup, I decided to make a simple chicken curry incorporating my leftover winter bounty.  A refreshingly zippy pairing of cilantro and poblano pepper-infused rice helps this dish bridge the late-August gap between sweltering Summer and fair-weather Fall.

Sqush, Pumpkin, and Chicken Curry with Cilantro-Poblano Rice

Ingredient Rundown:

  • 3-4 Chicken thighs, deboned and cut into 1in x 1in pieces
  • 1 cup jasmine or basmati rice
  • 2 cups of water
  • Squash and/or pumpkin, roasted and mashed (I used leftover acorn squash and white pumpkin from a soup I made this winter, which I had frozen in some zip-top bags)
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1 medium white or yellow onion, diced
  • 1 poblano pepper, julienned
  • 1 small handful of cilantro, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp tandoori seasoning
  • dash of ground chipotle powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

How I do it:

  • Prepare cilantro-poblano rice liquid by combining water, cilantro, half of the poblano pepper, pinch each of salt and curry powder and blend until smooth.
  • Prepare base sauce for curry by combining chicken stock, ~1 cup of squash/pumpkin mash, tomato, half of the onion, Indian spices, salt and pepper and blending until smooth.
  • Rub chicken thighs with mix of curry, garam masala, tandoori, pinch of salt and pepper.
  • In large saute pan (or your trusty cast iron skillet), heat olive oil over medium heat and saute the other half of the minced onion, poblano pepper and garlic for a minute or two until softened.
  • Add chicken and saute until browned, 5-8 minutes.
  • Add curried squash puree along with another half cup or so of the mashed squash/pumpkin to pan and cook, uncovered for 20-25 minutes, until sauce has thickened.
  • Now would be a good time to start the rice – heat cilantro-poblano water until boiling, reduce heat, add rice and cook as directed.  For my jasmine rice, 20 minutes is about right.
  • Fluff rice with a fork and serve  aside squash-pumpkin-chicken curry.  Bask in the cross-seasonal glory.

Check out this post and other great foodie content from my friends at Forkful of News.


Curry Favor and Bury Flavor with Brine

26 Jul

I never liked pork chops much growing up. All-too-often overcooked to within an inch of their lives, I couldn’t understand why my parents loved them so much. But flash forward to present day and you’ll know that I adore all things pig, including the humble chop. Why the change of heart? What if I told you a simple bath in salty water and a gentle hand with a hot pan was all that stood between you and the juiciest pork chop you ever ate? Would that be something you might be interested in?

Brining, or the simple process of marinating a food in a salty liquid solution, is perhaps the simplest, most fool-proof means of keeping even the leanest cuts of meat flavorful and juicy, provided you don’t overcook them. The science is a little dense, but the gist is that the high salt content of the brine serves to alter the chemistry of the cells in the meat to the point where they want to hold onto as much moisture as possible. This makes for good eating.

The brine can also act, as any marinade does, to saturate the target with intense flavors impossible by simple surface seasoning. Toss in any spices you would normally use as a rub and watch those flavors penetrate every corner of your meat.

The second key to succulent swine is to take it easy with the heat.  The practice of using uncooked scrap meat as animal feed, coupled with lax meat-handling conditions from farm to table in years past lead to outbreaks of trichinosis, a pig parasite that causes intestinal maladies in most and severe reactions and even death in an unlucky few. While undercooked meat is nothing to joke around about, pork can take on a sear just like a quality steak and a little pink in the middle isn’t a bad thing. Buy fresh or keep frozen and out of the Danger Zone of 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit and most meat should be safe to sear. (Editor’s Note: Buying from a farm you trust can also help alleviate concerns.)

Brined pork chops have become one of my favorite cool-weather comfort foods, paired with braised root vegetables or earthy risottos, they make for comfort food of epic proportions.  A recent curry craving had me wondering how the bright flavors of the East might make for a more season-appropriate application of a Fall/Winter stand-by. A quick couscous salad later and I had my answer: great success!

Curry-Brined Pork Chop with Couscous Salad

Ingredient Rundown:

  • bone-in pork chops


  • water
  • ice
  • kosher salt
  • brown sugar
  • sweet curry powder
  • garam masala
  • cracked black pepper

Couscous Salad

  • Cooked couscous
  • finely chopped vegetables (I used red and green bell pepper, onion, carrot, tomato, garlic and cilantro)
  • lime juice
  • olive oil
  • white vinegar
  • curry powder
  • garam masala
  • powdered ginger
  • Sriracha or other hot chili sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste

How I do it:

Add about 2 cups to a quart of water (depending on how many chops you’re brining) to small pot and heat until nearly boiling. Add a few teaspoons of salt until the water takes on a seawater-like salinity. Add sugar and remaining spices and stir until salt and sugar dissolve. Add ice until brine is cooled to room temperature.

Place pork chops in brine in a sealed storage container or zip-top bag and marinate in refrigerator for 8-24 hours. Obviously, they will take on more salt and curry flavor with longer brining. I have found that 12 hours is a safe bet for a flavorful, yet not over-salted chop.

Prepare couscous salad by cooking couscous as directed (usually by bringing twice as much water as couscous to a boil with a pinch of salt and splash of olive oil, adding couscous and removing from heat to steam for about 5 minutes, fluffing with a fork).  I added a generous dash of maharaja curry powder with the water as to permeate the couscous as it cooked.

In a mixing bowl, prepare dressing by whisking together lime juice, splash of vinegar, Sriracha, spices, salt, cilantro and olive oil. Add vegetables, stir to combine, cover, and place in refrigerator to chill. Flavor will intensify the longer it chills.

When ready to cook, remove pork chops from brine and pat off excess liquid.  Season with a rub of cracked pepper, curry and garam masala. I sprayed each side of the chops with olive oil and added them to a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Depending on thickness of chops, 3-5 minutes per side should do the trick.  Don’t be afraid of a little pink in the middle.

Plate with couscous salad and serve.

Recipe Re(redux): Chicken and Waffles – Indian Style

31 Mar

If you didn’t get the memo yet – I love me some chicken and waffles.  After sampling straight from the source at Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles in Hollywood (verdict: good, in that traditional way that is well-executed but lacks a certain panache.  The fried chicken was very tasty but the waffle was somewhat reminiscent of a soggy scouring sponge – I prefer a little crispness) and experimenting a little at home, I consider my chops pretty solid.  Loyal reader will also be aware of my affinity for all things curried.  Combine those with a hungry Travis at midnight and you have yourself a recipe for a comfort food classic with a twist.

I stuck with the same base waffle recipe from my first crack at the dish (minus the pecans and brown sugar), but added about 3/4 of a teaspoon of Penzeys Sweet Curry Powder and a dash of Garam Masala. They turned out lightly crisped on the outside and wonderfully steamed and fluffy on the inside in a way that mimicked grilled naan bread in a serendipitously appropriate way.

For the chicken (this time boneless, skinless thighs), I went with a simple double dredging method (egg wash – flour – egg wash – flour) with the flour seasoned with salt, pepper, curry, garam masala, and garlic powder and pan fried them for a few minutes on each side until golden brown and crispy.

I couldn’t quite decide on salty or sweet for a syrup/sauce/gravy and ended up fudging a sweet and savory gravy from chicken stock thickened with roux, apricot preserves, sweet curry, cracked pepper and a dash of salt.  I managed meld the best of syrup and gravy to find a great balance that satisfied both ends of the flavor and texture spectra.

For a chicken and waffles and curry-head like myself – a pretty damn tasty meal thrown together in about 45 minutes on a whim.  A tasty second act awaits for lunch tomorrow as well.

Saturday Morning Hangover: Curried French Toast and Bacon

7 Sep

Hangover, meet your match.

We’ve all been there.  Had a little too much fun on Friday night.  Proper hydration was not high on your list of priorities.  You wake up Saturday morning with a vise on your temples and dry-mouth seemingly unquenchable by a dozen Vitamin Waters.  Oh, and you have to be at a wedding in an hour and a half.  Luckily, I have an ace up my sleeve that has come through for me before:  curried French toast.

I’ve never been the sweet-tooth type, so breakfast has always been about stick-to-your-ribs savory for me.  Occasionally a Belgian waffle or slice of French toast would find its way on my plate, but they were rarely dishes I craved.  My solution?  Take the savory flavors I love about breakfast and infuse them into a traditionally sweet dish.  For me, the bold spice and subtle sweetness of curry was a natural match for French toast.  And you don’t need me to espouse the merits of bacon as a general improver of anything it touches.  So here’s my 15-20 minute kick-in-the pants that will shake-loose the cobwebs and get you well on your way towards not puking on the bride in the receiving line.

Curried French toast

Ingredient roll-call:

  • 2 slices of bread (I used “country white”…not exactly sure what makes it country)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • splash of milk
  • ~1/2 tsp sweet curry powder (I’m lucky enough to have a local Penzeys at my disposal – I highly recommend them for all your spice needs)
  • dash of salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3-4 strips of bacon
  • Serves 1 light-sensitive, familial obligation-cursing over-indulger

How I do it:

  1. Fry bacon over medium heat until fat renders out and texture is to your liking (I know there are some masochists out there who like their bacon to resemble a tongue-depressor, I prefer mine crisp around the edges but still chewy in the middle and you should, too)
  2. Drain bacon drippings a small container and reserver for later
  3. Mix eggs, milk, curry and s+p and whisk to combine.  I like to put the egg mixture in a sandwich-size tupperware container to make dipping the bread easier.
  4. Add a tablespoon or so of the bacon drippings back to the fry pan and return heat to medium/medium-high
  5. Dunk the bread in the egg mixture, making sure both sided are well-coated, but avoiding getting the bread too soggy
  6. Place the coated bread in the heated pan and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, until eggs have set and browned
  7. I ended up with extra egg mixture and decided to scramble that up to go along with the toast and bacon.  Depending on the size and porosity of your bread, you may or may not have much leftover.  Of course you could always make another slice of toast to use it up as well.
  8. You can thank me later.  Or buy me a drink after the reception.

Pantry Raid: Pineapple-Curry Chicken

1 Sep

The fridge is pretty sparse these days, which always forces me into concoction mode when it comes time to slap together a meal. I had some chicken thighs thawing in the fridge and some leftover couscous from last night’s dinner. Some poking around the pantry found a can of pineapple chunks in juice and and a further search of the fridge found some heirloom cherry tomatoes, mixed hot chiles, fresh ginger root and red curry paste. Not exactly a classic dish, but I knew I could make this work

Dish: Pineapple-Curry Chicken

Ingredient rundown:
– 2 chicken thighs, skinned and deboned
– inch or so of ginger root, minced
– 2 hot chiles (any will do)
– handfull of mixed heirloom cherry tomatoes
– half a can of pineapple chunks in juice
– sprinkling of flour and cornstarch (enough to coat a plate)
– spices (garlic powder, ground chipotle, s+p)
– red curry paste (Trader Joe’s)
– splash each of sesame oil and olive oils

Serves 2(ish)

How I do it:

1. Cut chicken thighs into rough chunks

2. Cut chiles into thin strips, quarter cherry tomatoes, mince ginger

3. Mix flour, cornstarch, garlic and chipotle powders, s+p and sprinkle on a plate. Roll chicken pieces in mixture until well-coated.

4. Heat oils in medium skillet over medium-high heat and sauté ginger with garlic powder for a minute or two. Add coated chicken and sauté until browned and crispy, 3-5 minutes on each side.

5. Remove chicken to drain and add chiles, tomatoes and pineapple with a dash of salt to sauté for another 3-5 minutes.

6. Add chicken back to the vegetables and add a couple tablespoons of red curry paste and the pineapple juice from the can. Sauté for 5-10 minutes until the sauce is thickened to your liking.

7. Serve with jasmine rice or, in my case, leftover couscous spiced with powdered ginger and lemon juice.

Like I said, kind of a goofy composition, but it turned out pretty well. Would have been great with some coconut milk and more diverse veggies, had I access to either in this case. Another more-or-less successful concoction worthy of my first “recipe” here for the masses.

As you will come to find, I don’t really like recipes. That’s not to say I don’t use them, but more often than not they serve as jumping-off points, and they are almost always tweaked bases on what I’m craving and what I have on hand. So consider what I post here a general framework for creating a tasty dish that you can customize extensively in most cases. I would love to hear from anyone who attempts any of these dishes and makes it their own. Happy cooking!

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