Let’s Cook! Spicy Durban Style Chicken
July 8, 2012
With thoughts of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival already running through my mind (yes, I’m already counting down, see Is it too early? if you don’t believe me…), I decided to finally try a recipe we saw demoed at last year’s festival: Spicy Durban Style Chicken.
Sanaa, the restaurant at the Kidani Village section of the Animal Kingdom Lodge, is one of my (and Miss Bonnie’s) favorites on property.
So when we saw that Chef Bob Getchell, who has headed the kitchen at Sanaa from day one, was doing a demonstration one day at the Food & Wine Festival we signed up right away.
He showed how to make one of the more popular (and spicy) dishes from the “Slow Cooked in Gravy, Simple and Well Seasoned” section of the Sanaa menu – the dish is right up my flavor-alley – a bit Indian, lot’s of spice, a bit hot – so without much further ado, let’s cook!
Okay, here’s a little bit of ado…
I’ll give you the recipe pretty much as presented, but as Dedicated Readers should know by now, I didn’t exactly follow the recipe to a tee… so I’ll give you some notes and comments where I varied from the recipe…
Okay, so now we can cook!
Spicy Durban Style Chicken
For the Dry Masala (Spice) Mixture:
2 Whole Star Anise
1/2 Tbl Whole Cumin Seeds
3 Whole Bay Leaves
4 Green Cardamom Pods (you may have to find an Indian market for these puppies…)
1/2 Tbl Ground Cinnamon (I also added a couple of whole cinnamon sticks during the cooking as you’ll see below)
3 Tbl Ancho Chili Powder
2 Tbl Chili Powder (the recipe doesn’t specify anything more than this, so I used the typical blended chili powder from the grocery, but if you have other specific, pure powders in addition to the Ancho, I’m sure that would be great)
2 Tbl Madras-style (hot) Curry Powder
1 Tbl Turmeric Powder
For the Curry Sauce:
1 1/4 Lbs Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs, cut into bite-sized (about 1″) pieces
1/4 Cup Canola Oil
1 Cup Diced Onions (the recipe specifies yellow, but whatever you have around should be good)
2 Jalapeno Peppers, seeded and minced (or keep the seeds in if you like it hotter, of course I used 3 peppers…)
2 Tbl Ginger-Garlic Paste (I’ll show you how to make that later)
3 Cups Canned Crushed Tomatoes with their Juice (I used a 28 oz can of San Marzano Tomatoes and crushed them by hand and saved the extra liquid to use in place of the water called for in the recipe)
Water as needed, about 1/2 Cup
Salt and Freshly-ground Black Pepper to taste
1/4 Cup Chopped Cilantro
For the Dry Masala (Spice) Mixture:
Put the star anise, cumin seeds, bay leaves and cardamom pods into a heavy, dry skillet and turn the heat onto medium high.
Stir and toast until fragrant and slightly browned…
be careful not to let the spices burn – stir often and reduce your heat if needed – if you do burn them, discard and start over. When done, remove the spices from the skillet and allow to cool.
Put the toasted spices into a spice grinder (an inexpensive coffee grinder, kept to use just for spices, works great)…
and grind into a powder.
Measure out the rest of the Masala spices…
add the ground toasted spices, and put all back into the dry skillet.
Heat and toast the spices as before until fragrant. Stir constantly and be careful not to burn. When it’s smelling good remove from the skillet and allow to cool.
For the Chicken Curry:
Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet or Dutch oven until close to smoking.
Meanwhile, salt and pepper the chicken pieces and when the oil is hot, add some of the chicken to the pan.
You’ll want to get a nice browning on the chicken pieces, so don’t crowd the pan and turn/stir-fry the chicken as needed. Depending on the size of your pan, you’ll probably need to brown the bird in two or three batches.
When browned, remove the chicken pieces and set aside for now.
If you want, now add a couple of cinnamon sticks to the oil and stir a few seconds until the sticks start to unfurl.
Next add the chopped onion and jalapeno…
and cook over medium high until the onions start to get translucent.
Then add the ginger-garlic paste and stir well for about a minute…
then add the dry spices.
Mix all well and cook another minute while stirring constantly.
It may not look so pretty at this point, but all the toasting, stirring and cooking will make a big difference in the finished sauce.
Add the tomatoes, stir and bring to a simmer.
Cook over high heat for three or four minutes, stirring frequently. If it seems a bit dry add some tomato juice or water (or even some of the beer you may be sipping on while you’re cooking).
Add the water (or tomato juice, or even beer or dry white wine) and stir well.
Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook until the chicken is tender (the recipe says 10-15 minutes, but you really can’t simmer this too long…), stirring occasionally. The sauce should be fairly thick, but adjust to your liking (simmer longer to thicken, or add more liquid for a more wet sauce… duh…). Taste for seasoning and salt and pepper as needed. If you want more heat you can add something like Sriracha or other hot sauce now, or allow each diner to add at the table as desired.
When ready to serve, stir in the cilantro.
Serve with rice (plain Basmati is fine, but would also be killer with Coconut Rice) and veggies of your choice (Simple Roasted Cauliflower would be a nice compliment to the spicy curry). A little sprinkle of cilantro to garnish won’t hurt a thing…
This same sauce is also used at Sanaa for the Spicy Durban Shrimp, so you can easily change the protein as you desire. It would even be great as a vegetarian dish – maybe use some roasted veggies in the sauce (cauliflower, carrots, etc.) or with some other protein source (such as seitan or tempeh).
With all the grinding and stirring and such, this certainly isn’t quick weeknight fare, but the results are well worth the effort. You can certainly make the spice mix a day or two ahead, and like most other “stewy” dishes, this seems to get better a day or two after it’s made, so make plenty and have leftovers.
I haven’t tried it, but I can’t see why this shouldn’t freeze pretty well.
At the demo, the dish was paired with a real nice Riesling from Loosen Brothers Winery in Germany.
A not-overly sweet Riesling (or other white wine) paired very well with the spicy curry – beer will also go well.
This is another one I hope you try – and as always, please let us know what you think in the comments section!
Back to the kitchen, see you soon!
Oh yeah, here’s how to make the Ginger-Garlic Paste (it’s real hard, hope you can follow along…). Take five or six big peeled garlic cloves and cut into chunks. Take some pieces of fresh peeled ginger that looks to be about the same volume as the garlic and cut into pieces about the same size as the garlic. Stick these into a mini-chopper/processor and add a tablespoon or so of olive oil.
Process until the pieces make a fairly wet paste, added more oil as needed.
Any leftover paste will keep covered in the fridge for a few days, add enough extra oil if needed to keep all the paste covered.
Okay – now back to the kitchen again!