Sunday, December 5, 2010

Lemony Chicken with Cilantro

There is an Indian restaurant near our apartment that serves a chicken dish called Chicken Xacutti, which is a chicken dish prepared with ginger, garlic, green chilis and a ton of spices.  Now I have two Madhur Jaffrey cookbooks and neither of them contain a recipe for Chicken Xacutti or anything similar.  So I'm actually not sure why I led in with talking about the Chicken Xacutti, except that thinking about that chicken dish inspired me to make this Indian chicken dish because it is similarly prepared with ginger, garlic, green chilis and a ton of spices (although far less spices than the Xacutti).

What I love about this chicken is the depth of flavor you get in a relatively quick cooking dish.  The cayenne and the jalapeno give the chicken some heat, and then there's the lemon and the cilantro to brighten and freshen the whole dish up.  You get a hint of smokiness from the ground cumin, plus the flavors of garlic and ginger.  It's just such a fun and flavorful dish.  I also like that the flavor combinations are totally different from what you expect from your average Indian dish.  My initial thoughts when it comes to Indian food are chicken dishes in heavy sauces (butter chicken, chicken korma and chicken tikka masala) or tandoori chicken.  A dish like this with a relatively thin sauce made primarily of lemon juice and herbs and spices is certainly not the first thing that comes to mind, but I really think it's a wonderful dish.  The next time I make kati rolls I will probably make this chicken to use as the filling.  I also think this chicken would be a wonderful topping to an Indian-inspired pizza or some sort of naan-ini (a panini made with naan instead of normal bread).  Seeing as this was the first dish we have made at home this week due to work (and will probably be the last homemade meal I make until after I get back from San Diego next Monday), I think it was an excellent choice.

Recipe after the jump!

Lemony Chicken with Cilantro
Adapted from Indian Cooking: The Comprehensive Guide from the World's Best-Selling Indian Cook
By Madhur Jaffrey

1 1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 cup water
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 to 2-inch cubes
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 cups cilantro, leaves and upper stems, finely chopped
1 1/2 tbsp jalapeno, minced (if you don't like heat, take the seeds out - otherwise this dish is spicy)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice

Put the ginger and 2 tbsp water in a mini food-prep or blender.  Blend until a paste forms.

Heat a wide, heavy pan with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat.  Add 2 tbsp vegetable oil.  Once the oil is hot, add as much of the chicken as you can so that the chicken is in a single layer, without crowding the pan (you will probably have to cook the chicken in batches).  Brown the chicken on all sides.  Remove browned chicken pieces with a slotted spoon and put them in a bowl.  Repeat with remaining chicken.

If the pan is looking a little dry, add remaining oil.  Add garlic to pan.  Saute until the pieces start to turn light to medium-brown.  Reduce heat to medium and add ginger paste.  Stir and fry for a minute, until mixture is fragrant and well-combined.  Add cilantro, jalapeno, cayenne, ground cumin, ground coriander, turmeric and salt.  Stir and cook for one minute.  Add the chicken pieces, along with any chicken juices that accumulated, along with remaining water and lemon juice.  Stir to combine, and bring mixture to a boil.  Cover, turn heat to low, and cook for 8-10 minutes.  Stir chicken.  Cover and cook another 5-8 minutes, until chicken is tender and cooked through.

Serve chicken with basmati rice - either plain or spiced.

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