Happy National Curried Chicken Day! Curry is not actually one particular dish, or even one particular spice: it’s a blend of spices that varies based on the individual curry maker! It’s fantastic because every curry can be a different taste experience 🙂 Many cultures around the world enjoy a curry blend in their cuisine, from South and Southeast Asian cultures to Caribbean cuisines and, yes, it even got into the colonial motherland of Britain, where curry takeaway is now as prevalent as fish and chips.
I love the taste of curry: to me, it’s a spice that has a slow, burning heat for best effect; not one of those hot-and-fast heats like hot pepper, that burn your tongue right on the spot. Curry has always reminded me of my parents: even though none of my culinary cultures uses curry in their dishes on a regular basis, we had a big tub of Madras curry powder in the pantry. My mom would mix the curry powder in with bread crumbs, bread chicken breasts or tenderloins, and bake or fry them, giving them just a hint of the curry flavor. My dad would make a chicken curry stew, using tough chicken thighs in a big slurry of carrots, onions, and curry powder, and let it simmer all day until the meat would fall off the bone.
I loved both versions of chicken curry I ate as a kid, but as an adult I wanted to try out the latter–a chicken curry stew. And what better way to make a stew for a grown-up on the go than in a crock pot!
Back in 2012 I highlighted three different types of cuisine for National Curried Chicken Day: Jamaican curry, Thai curry, and Indian curry. The recipe I found–coming from the mistress of meticulousness, Martha Stewart–most resembled the Indian curry, but without the chile peppers and heavy spices you’ll find in many authentic Indian dishes. Since I’m actually on vacation right now, I made this dish last weekend, and here are my findings!
Slow Cooker Chicken Curry
From Martha Stewart
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
2 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
16 thin slices peeled fresh ginger (about 1 ounce)
2 tablespoons curry powder, preferably Madras
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 packages frozen green peas (10 ounces each)
2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 cup toasted cashews (optional, for serving)
1/4 cup cilantro leaves (optional, for serving)
1. In a 5-quart slow cooker, toss chicken, onion, garlic, ginger, curry powder, coriander, and cumin to coat. Season with 2 teaspoons salt. Cover, cook on high setting until chicken is fork-tender, about 4 hours (do not uncover while cooking).
2. Stir in coconut milk and peas; cover, cook until peas are heated through, about 20 minutes.
3. Transfer chicken to a large bowl; shred with fork. Return to pot; toss with sauce.
4. To serve, garnish with 1/2 cup toasted cashews and 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, if desired.
What I Did Differently:
– Since I only have a 1.5 quart slow cooker at home (which I’m planning to remedy this week! Crock pots are on sale at Shoprite!), I halved the chicken required for the recipe. Plus, I substituted chicken tenderloins instead of the thighs because that was what was on sale at the grocery store that week. Chicken, schmicken, it all tastes the same. 😛 – I also halved the onions, garlic, and frozen peas to also fit into the slow cooker. I did not adjust the curry powder or coconut milk because I really wanted this recipe to be saucy.
– I omitted the coriander because I hate the taste of coriander/cilantro. No, seriously, hate it. BF says that he can’t taste cilantro very much in a dish, but if just a sprig is used in an entire pad Thai, I can taste it, and it makes me want to gag and I can’t eat the entire meal. Many people have this hate/hate relationship with cilantro, including celebrity Top Chef Fabio Viviani, so I don’t feel alone in this sentiment. You may say omitting it will compromise the end flavor of the dish, but if there’s any coriander or cilantro in it, I just plain won’t eat it.
– I also omitted the cumin because I didn’t have any. The curry powder blend does have cumin in it, however.
– I omitted the cilantro leaves for the same reason as above. Fuck cilantro.
I was surprised that the recipe calls for you to throw the chicken into the slow cooker with dry spices and no liquids at all. And even worse, to crank the thing up to high and let it go for 4 hours! I did as Martha commanded, and came back from Sunday shopping to curry chars on the bottom of my crock pot. Sure, the thing did cook the chicken to fork-shredded goodness, but man, did I have to scrape that curry off the bottom of the pot something terrible. I’m glad I didn’t decide to also halve the coconut milk in the recipe, because that was the only saving grace: getting that cooling, creamy coconut milk into the pot helped me salvage the crusty bits off the bottom of the pot.
You may say that it was because of all my omissions or changes to the original recipe, but I found the flavor in Martha’s curry chicken to be lacking. Sure, it had the curry flavor, and I liked the balance between the curry and the sweet, creamy coconut milk…but it didn’t have the spicy spark I’ve come to know in a curry, that slow burn that makes it so invigorating to eat. It was just…a creamy, curry-tasting mud of shredded chicken with peas. Which wasn’t bad, mind you, but it definitely tasted like the recipe was given to me by a white woman from New England. I will try more recipes by Martha, certainly, but perhaps I’ll stick to baked goods next time.
I did enjoy the chicken, however, and had it the first night with the BF over brown rice, and then later for lunch leftovers with mashed, cooked butternut squash.