Curried Shredded Chicken and Potatoes

February 19, 2012

My recent spice tasting class at Escoffier in Boulder inspired me to make a curry dish this past week. (Look for a future post on the first two classes in the series). Last time I made curry I used red curry and garam masala as two primary ingredients. But given that both curry and garam masala are defined as a blend of spices, that wasn’t really (at all) making my own curry. So this time I decided to bypass any pre-made blends, and make my own from individual spices. During my previous endeavor I found myself wishing that I had some coconut milk, so I bought some light coconut milk for this attempt.

If you’re really doing things right, you would want to toast the spices briefly before using them. And if you really, really want to do it right, you’ll use fresh-ground spices rather than pre-ground. But this was a lazier night for me, and I had no idea what spices I’d end up using anyhow, so pre-ground was easier. And I didn’t toast them first. (If I’m being honest, I kind of forgot all about doing it).

Before I started the rest of the dish, I boiled a chicken breast (simmered it, actually), and cooked some new potatoes separately. I’ve actually become a fan of cooking chicken breasts in water if I’m going to be using them in a dish with some kind of sauce. I find it to be a really simple method, and as long as you follow a few tips that I’ve discovered through research and experimentation, it turns out nice and tender. I put the chicken breast(s) in boiling water for a few seconds to kill surface bacteria, then turn the temperature down so the water is below boiling, at a gentle simmer. Then at about 15 minutes, I use tongs to pull it out of the water, and stick a meat thermometer in to measure the temperature at the center of the chicken. If it’s reached 170 degrees, it’s done. If not, I put it back in, and check in a few more minutes. Once it’s done, I remove the pot from the heat, but let the chicken cool in the pot, since it will absorb liquid as it cools, resulting in moister chicken. Once cooled enough, I shredded it with a fork and my fingers.

I started the rest of the dish by sautéing onion and pepper in vegetable oil. (I used vegetable oil instead of my usual olive oil, because I wanted a more neutral flavor.) Then I added some coconut milk and a little chicken stock, and started throwing in spices. After mixing it up well, I kept adjusting until I got the taste I wanted, adding a little acid at the end, and then reduced the sauce down until there was enough to coat everything, but it was no longer very liquidy. At that point I added the potatoes and chicken. In the future, I will add the potatoes before I start cooking the sauce down, so that they have more of the curry flavor than they did by adding them at the end.

I was really pleased with the result. It had a little heat, and a good blend of spices. And it wasn’t really that difficult or time consuming to make. Was it the best curry I’ve ever had? No, that would be pretty tricky to make (see my post on Jai Ho in Boulder). Was it still quite yummy? Absolutely! Will I make it again? You bet! Do I find it amusing when people ask themselves questions and answer them in the next sentence? Quite frankly, I do.

Curry Ingredients (except for the spices)

Curry Ingredients (except for the spices)

Curried Shredded Chicken and Potatoes
serves 3-4

1 chicken breast
4-6 new potatoes, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1+1/2 red, orange, or yellow bell peppers, chopped
1 c light coconut milk
1/4 c vegetable stock
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 tsp sugar
1/2-3/4 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ancho chile powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp turmeric
1/8-1/4 tsp lemon juice

Cook the chicken and the potatoes using whatever method you like. (I put the chicken in boiling water for 3 seconds, lowered the heat to just below boiling, and cooked it for about 15-20 minutes, until it reached an inside temperature of 170 degrees (using our handy instant(ish)-read thermometer). I just cooked the potatoes in water in the microwave until they were tender, about 8-12 minutes.)

Shred the chicken with a fork (I also used my fingers quite a bit), and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a skillet on medium heat, and then saute the onions and pepper until tender. Add the coconut milk and stock. Add all of the dry ingredients from the sugar through the turmeric. Taste the sauce, and adjust spices as desired. If you’d like just a tiny hint of acid taste, add the lemon juice.

Onion, Pepper, and Curry Sauce

Onion, Pepper, and Curry Sauce

Add the potatoes, lower the heat to medium low, and continue to cook until the sauce has reduced and thickened. Then add the chicken, and combine well.

Curried Shredded Chicken and Potatoes

Curried Shredded Chicken and Potatoes

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