Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Fake Curry (in a hurry)

Red Chili (a common addition to curries)
Trinidadian and Guyanese Curry   

Food that passes through our doors doesn’t stand a chance of emerging in a plain, boring or tasteless dish. Our kitchen is where all souls meet. Our food is influenced by our ancestry—mine, African, Native American, Irish and Southern--my husband Puerto Rican,  Bajan and Trinidadian. It’s not that we have some sacred recipes handed down. It’s that we cook what we are inspired to cook and our inspiration comes from deep within our gut. Maybe it’s even in our DNA.

We love to cook, and we rarely use a recipe, because frankly, some recipes are disappointing.  Case in point—I have a cookbook authored by a flash-in-the-pan chef who had 15 minutes of fame doled out by association.  She was well-schooled in the culinary arts and her recipes were somewhat complex.  I decided to follow one of her recipes from start to finish creating a Sunday dinner feast for my family that was not only elegant, but flavorful—so I thought.  I was not impressed by the end result.  It was flavorless in my opinion and I could have skipped much of the process and arrived with a much tastier result on my own.  This is one of the reasons that recipes for me are just a jumping off point to ideas on the road to creating a satisfying sensory experience.

Now, I am not from the Caribbean, India or any country where curry dishes are a staple, but I make a delicious curry dish that my kids call Fake Curried Chicken.  They say that because I made up the recipe and don’t have a Caribbean bone in my body but the fact is, I know what I like.  I also know that everyone who tries it--including them--loves it.  So, with no disrespect to true curry chefs out there because I really love authentic Caribbean, Indian and other ethnic foods, here is my personal take on curry.

Recipe--Fake Chicken Curry (in a hurry)

This is one of those dishes where I can walk in, dump everything in a pot, put the rice in a rice cooker and move on to do other things including relax.  It won’t be long until the house is filled with a beautifully intoxicating fragrance that no one can resist.


Chicken Wings (I sometimes cut at the joint)

Curry (explore this one because there are so many different curries available—Curry is really a combination of turmeric, coriander, and cumin as a base with many other spices like chilies, cilantro, and fennel.   Whether hot, spicy or mild; green, red or yellow; the variation of curries are as endless as their countries of origin.)

1 large Onion

1 Green Bell Pepper (my personal preference for curry)

Celery (nice but optional)

Season Salt (use care with salt—curry seasoning may also contain salt)

Corn Starch

Black Pepper

Garlic Powder

Cooked Rice (I use brown)


Add chicken to appropriate pot with room to spare for veggies and water to cover the chicken plus at least 1 to 2 inches above (this will allow chicken to cook well and cover the added veggies). 

Chop the onion, green pepper and celery and add to the pot

Season well with garlic powder, pepper, salt and curry—be generous with the curry and stingy with salt—you can always add more at the end or on the plate if needed.

Bring to a boil and then turn down to simmer

Cover and let cook until the chicken is well done, almost falling off the bone

Mix a small amount of corn starch with an equal amount of cold water in a bowl or cup stirring until you have a smooth lump-free mixture.  Turn the fire up and add cornstarch and stir.  As you come back to the boiling point, the cornstarch will thicken the liquid to a gravy consistency—continue this process gradually until your gravy meets your preferred thickness.  You don’t want to end up with a cement block but if you do end up with your gravy being too thick, just add a little more water.  

Taste and add more seasonings if needed.  After trial and error a few times, you will know instinctively how much seasoning is needed for you.

Serve over cooked rice with vegetables of your choice on the side.

Variations—This is just my basic dish.  I have done this with potatoes right in the mix eliminating the need for rice and I’ve also made mixed veggies in lieu of rice or potatoes just putting the curry chicken right on top. 

It’s simple, delicious and easy, always a favorite for my family or when unexpected company arrives.


Feel free to leave questions or comments below.

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