“I have just the thing to do with those chicken thighs that you bought,” called his voice up the stairs. ($0.99/lb family pack chicken thighs, bought in gross lot and broken down into four-packs, stuck into ziplocs. It is a measure of progress in the Waldorf/Statler Curmudgeon household that Waldorf now buys Ziplocs, after a lifetime of generic flimsy plastic bags and twist ties. Joan Crawford? Wire hangers. Me? Twist-ties. The freezer-quality ziploc, it is a wondrous multi-purpose kitchen gadget Worth The Investment, especially if you buy the econo-pack of 100 they sell at Target.)
“Oh? What’s that?” I was going to make them into a cacciatore-style dish based on a rabbit recipe I’d seen oh, whenever ago, from a columnist in the NYT whose cookbooks I’ve coveted but never actually bought.
“A curry. You know, I have always wanted to make a curry, and yet, I never quite do.” (He seems to forget, he once did. There’s a jar of Major Grey’s still in the fridge. I think I was 10 when he made it, an elaborate dish out of the 1974 Joy of Cooking, because back then, that was what passed for an “international cookbook.” Over the years, despite multiple refrigerator purges, I’ve left the chutney in there as a science experiment, because as far as I can tell, the stuff simply doesn’t go bad. I tasted some when I first moved back in. Still sticky and completely sweet and disgusting, just like I remembered.)
“Sounds fine to me.”
I went back to reading, glad he was showing interest in the day. He’s had a bad cold and been very lethargic, plus out of it from the cold meds– he just sat there and played solitaire when I came in hours before with all the grocery bags and did nothing as I put them away. I kind of wanted to Hulk/Spock/superhero/rageoid metaphor of your choice-smash. Instead, I may have slammed the non-slammable freezer door rather vigorously. But by this time, I had calmed down. SSRIs are awesome that way. So is deep breathing.
A half hour later, he came and stood in my doorway, wondering when I’d be starting the curry, “the one that was in the Times this week, you know….”.
Ah. He’d been using the paternal-indirect first tense, the one that actually meant “Would you please cook that curry recipe for me?”
I looked it up, stifling annoyance since I was feeling a little cold-ish myself, and he’d been lounging around all day, why couldn’t he do it? (Because I’m the better cook now, that’s why, he would say. I didn’t ask the question aloud.) Conveniently, it was by the same cookbook author whose recipes I’d been meaning to try. I put on my fleece and went out to get the cilantro at the corner meat market (we have one, it’s good, and they’ve actually got enough produce that fresh cilantro can really be had…) along with cat litter and some other sundries he couldn’t recall when I’d made the grocery list first thing this morning, then came back and started the curry.
No. Wait. I get ahead of myself. First, I set the table with this week’s flowers to myself. I also set it with the red provencal tablecloth I’d bought Waldorf for Christmas, after he very subtly said “I’ve always wanted one of those Provencal-type tablecloths from Williams-Sonoma.” In some things, he is direct.
Then, I brought the recipe up on the web browser of my beloved e-reader gadget, the one my husband kindly got for me when I said, not-at-all subtly, that gee, I would really like to drink my employer’s Kool-Aid, now that the thing came in color and had a web browser and had a touchscreen. (I still ❤ it, even though we’ve got a newer, faster device.)
I engaged in the deboning of chicken thighs and marinating of meat in dry spices for the minimum half hour that the recipe called for.
In hindsight, I found the curry to be a little bit bland. That may have been because it only marinated for 30 minutes, but I think, too, it just wasn’t spicy enough for my taste. It was tasty– just not tasty enough. Next time, I would double the cumin and make sure to use a tsp. of tabasco (I used 1/4 tsp. this time), as well as the double the amount of fresh ginger and garlic. I would also make sure to use at least 2 tsps. of salt, since the recipe doesn’t specify an amount and I find that when you’re dry-brining meat, 2 tsps. is the minimum amount you need to get the flavor absorption going. I’ve been a bit spacy myself, though, and I only added a generous pinch of salt. It wasn’t really enough.
While the meat was marinating, I made the carrot raita. Really, this was the best thing about the recipe, refreshing and crunchy and sweet and tangy– and I added more tabasco to mine at the table, so it was also a little bit zippy. I did leave out the mint and chives, since my meat market didn’t have any and I pretty much loathe mint in any event, but I did chop some cilantro (pardon the fuzzy focus):
I added it to the raita right-a before serving. (Sorry.) It was awfully pretty, in addition to being quite tasty.
I also made some basmati, adding some salt, butter, white cardamom pods smashed with the butt of my knife, and tabasco to the water.
After I’d browned the onions and chicken like the recipe called for:
I started some frozen peas, tarting up the water with equal pinches of salt and sugar and a small knob of butter. Because it’s curry, and you’ve got to have peas. (Well, Madhur Jaffrey may have something different to say about that, but not at the places where I get takeout.)
The rice came out nicely fluffy & moist.
I don’t recall where I read the trick or the ratio (maybe Mark Bittman?), but I used 2 1/2 cups water to 1 cup of rice, didn’t bother with rinsing, and turned the heat off while there was still some water left to be absorbed into the rice, maybe with 3-4 minutes left in the cooking, and then just left the lid on while everything else finished up. I’ve found this trick works with pretty much every kind of rice that I cook (jasmine, Carolina, Uncle Ben’s, veeeeery occasionally brown), and that way I don’t burn it.
The curry looked pretty, too.
It was tasty enough with a little more salt and tabasco at the table. If I’d had fresh limes, those would have been improving as well. Following my lead, Waldorf surreptitiously added both to his dish, then helped himself to seconds.
“That’s a pretty good curry you made.” I do a pretty good deadpan, sometimes.
Waldorf nodded. “It is. More cumin or something, next time, I think.”
I agreed. “You could toast the spices a little bit longer, maybe.”
He forked up another mouthful and chewed. “Maybe I could.”