Monday, April 6, 2009

Scorching Chile Chicken

This dish is definitely in my Top 5 Favorite Lunches. I make it ridiculously often (so much so that Stef used to tease me about it in Melbourne) but never seem to get tired of it. This dish also once magically cured Alicia when she was sick, so it apparently has medicinal value in addition to being very healthy. On top of all that, it's actually extremely easy to make (and not just in the Emily-style way...) despite the seemingly-long ingredient list. The only real prep is chopping 2 onions, a few cloves of garlic, and some chiles. The rest is just a matter of dumping stuff in a pot, then letting it cook slowly in the oven (or, slightly higher-maintenance, simmer on the stovetop...).
Everything in this recipe is very much "to taste," and I don't think I've ever had it taste the same way twice. I used Red Curry Paste for the first few years that I made this, but in Melbourne I ran out of Red Curry Paste and had to substitute Penang, only to discover that I love this dish even more that way... For this batch I used 2 tablespoons of crushed red pepper flakes, 6 serranos, and 6 red jalapeƱo chiles and it turned out rather scorching indeed.

Scorching Chile Chicken
   For Spice Paste (adjust for desired degree of “scorching”-ness):
      3 tablespoons tomato paste
      3 cloves garlic, minced
      4 - 12 serrano chilies, finely minced
      1 - 3 tablespoons crushed dried red chilie flakes
      2 tablespoons Penang curry paste or red curry paste
      2 teaspoons chile powder
      1 teaspoon paprika
      1 teaspoon salt
      1/2 teaspoon sugar
   For the Chicken and Sauce:
      1 tablespoon oil or chicken fat (chicken fat is vastly superior but not always readily available...)
      2 - 3 tablespoons cumin seeds
      2 onions, chopped
      4 bay leaves
      1 tablespoon ground coriander
      1.5 tablespoons ground cumin
      1/2 teaspoon turmeric
      2 14 ounce cans diced tomatoes
      1 - 1 1/2 cups water
      6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
      1 tablespoon garam masala
   To Serve:
      Plain whole milk yogurt

Combine all ingredients for spice mix and set aside.
Heat oil in a large pot and toast the fry the cumin seeds 1 – 2 minutes. Add the onion and bay leaves and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the spice paste and cook for 2 – 3 minutes. Add the ground coriander, cumin, and turmeric and cook for 2 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the chicken and garam masala. Cover and simmer 25 – 30 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Alternately, pre-heat oven to 375°F and bake for 60-90 minutes. When the dish is finished cooking, I like to remove the chicken from the sauce and chop it into small bite-sized pieces, then return it to the sauce to soak up all that spicy goodness. Serve with yogurt to calm the burn.

Serves 6 generously.

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