Monday, February 9, 2009

Chicken Korma

I love eating Indian food, and I love to cook it. It fills the house with such warm, inviting smells. Contrary to what many people think, Indian food is not necessarily hot, but it is most often spicy. To clarify, spicy foods have flavor derived from spices, which could include sweet things, like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, etc. Whereas, hot foods actually create a burning sensation in the mouth and can be the cause of digestive difficulties for some people. Most hot foods are flavored with chilies, and there are many varieties of these. Many Indian foods are actually quite cooling (the opposite of hot) because they use yogurt, cream, and mint as key ingredients in many dishes. It's simply a matter of knowing one dish from another. If ordering in a restaurant, always ask if the dish is hot ... and if you're sensitive to it, avoid the Vindaloo at all costs!

Indian food is typically full of vegetables, while meats are downplayed. This sounds like a good combination for healthy food, and it would be, except for one issue. At the base of most Indian cooking is Ghee, clarified butter, and lots of it may be used. Other fatty dairy products commonly used in Indian cooking include full fat milk, yogurt, cheese, and cream. These can add quite a bit to the fat content and calorie total of your meal. To keep these factors in check, you have a few options that may work, depending on the recipe:

- reduce the amount of fatty dairy called for
- use oil instead of ghee to avoid saturated fats
- substitute reduced fat or nonfat products for full fat (if you're making paneer, Indian cheese, it will not work with reduced fat milk)
- substitute lower fat products for higher ones, such as substituting yogurt for cream

The recipe that I use for Chicken Korma is very much a guide for me. I use it to help me get a good balance of spices, but I make the rest of the recipe my own. Oddly, this recipe uses oil and does not call for ghee. Perhaps that speaks to its lack of authenticity. Whatever the case, it tastes authentic to me. This is how I make it:

Chicken Korma
2 Tbsps. safflower oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. ginger, julienned
4 plum tomatoes, chopped
2-4 carrots, peeled, diced and steamed
4 yukon gold or white potatoes, peeled, diced and steamed
salt to taste
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. ground cumin
2 boneless breasts of chicken (grilled, fully cooked), cut into strips or chunks
1 c. water
1 1/2 tsps. garam masala
1/4 c. heavy cream OR 1/2 c. nonfat yogurt
1 Tbsp. cilantro, minced

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions, garlic and ginger, cooking until the onions begin to get color. Add the salt, turmeric and ground cumin, cooking until well incorporated and fragrant. Add the tomatoes, steamed carrots and steamed potatoes. Cook for about 3 minutes, or until the tomatoes start to fall apart.

Add the chicken and stir to incorporate. Add the water, garam masala and cream or yogurt, and cook for 5 minutes on medium low heat. Remove from heat. Serve over brown basmati rice. Garnish each dish with cilantro.

Note: To make this dish vegetarian, simply substitute tofu, tempeh or seitan for the chicken, and cook exactly the same way.
I added the tomatoes, carrots and potatoes to the dish, but many other vegetables would do just as well: cauliflower, turnips, winter squash, summer squash are a few others.

No comments: