Thursday, April 21, 2011

'Authentic' Chicken Vindaloo has habaneros, right?

I have led a sheltered life in terms of Indian food. Papa Bird dislikes curry, and so our family never really experienced Indian while I was growing up. The first time was in England, when we went to The Eastern Eye and I took terrible pictures. And I was smitten almost instantly with the foreign flavors.

When we came back, I dragged Boyfriend Bird to a local Indian place, and then went to a different place with the family. And then I discovered The Indian Slow Cooker: 50 Healthy, Easy, Authentic Recipes, due to my obsession with cooking blogs. The book was written by Anupy Singla of Indian as Apple Pie.

I'm proud to say I didn't immediately one-click purchase the book, because I'm trying to work on my impulse buying. Why, just today I managed to talk myself out of buying a box of cookie cutters. I looked through it on Amazon, saw a few things I really wanted to try, and decided that I'd make one, and if I liked it I would buy it. Like a little test-taste. And oh, rest assured, I purchased the book the same day I made the dish.

I picked out Chicken Vindaloo, because I remembered a waiter telling me that it was one of the spicier things on their menu. I had been disappointed once I actually got the dish- it tasted wonderful, but spicy? There was absolutely no spice to speak of. So I decided that I was going to test and see just how spicy this could be. Besides, the group of friends I was cooking for this time enjoys spice quite a bit.

They probably deserve bird names by now... I shall dub them Ninja Bird, Uncountable Bird, and Ocarina Bird. There. Moving on.

I think Uncountable Bird and I have similar spice tolerances, despite him saying he had a very low one. I think mine is actually lower than I want to admit. Ninja and Ocarina Bird seem like they have a higher but also similar level, and Darth Bird's spice tolerance is absolutely stupid.

Obtaining everything I needed for this was slightly tricky, in that it called for black mustard seeds and I didn't know where to buy those, and the Giant and Harris Teeter near me don't carry the chilis I wanted. Or any of the other peppers she listed. Darth Bird scored the mustard seeds, but I decided I wanted to make sure this vindaloo was spicy, so I just decided to get habanero chilis instead.

Well, that plan certainly worked.

Let's do a quick review of the levels of spicy here... the recipe called for 6-10 bird's eye chilis, serrano peppers, or cayenne peppers. The spiciness of a pepper can be measured with the Scoville Rating. In fact, if you're planning on substituting some peppers for another, it's not a bad idea to try to grab one from the same place on the scale. Bird's eye chilis rank from 50,000 to 100,000, which is nothing to joke around with. Serranos are only 10,000 to 25,000, and cayenne are only slightly hotter at 30,000 to 50,000. So I would have been disappointed if I had got a hold of serrano peppers after all. The only pepper that would really have given me heat would have been the birds eye.

Habanero are ranked at 100,000 to 350,000. So the hottest bird's eye is as potent as the weakest habanero. Thank god I only put three of those suckers in.

Cutting up the onions was actually one of the most time consuming parts of this. Partially because I cut up 12 onions, and partially because I realized I was starting to run behind and I sliced my index finger in the middle of the ninth onion. I then danced around my house, sucking on my finger and whining to my dog. It was nearly five minutes before it stopped bleeding enough for the neosporin to stick to my finger and not just the blood, and then I had to put a big band-aid on it. And call Mama Bird and ask her to chop the habaneros, because there was no way I was touching them with that big of a cut.

I think my pain amused her.

We had nearly uncountable onions.

I also made homemade naan for this little adventure, which I think turned out pretty well. It was slightly less flavorful than I would have hoped, but it was received well enough. Mama and Boyfriend Bird both thought it went really well with hummus, so I guess I know what to do next time I want to mess around with hummus.

This is where two of the major changes to this recipe were made. One was on purpose, the other was entirely accidental. As I said earlier, I switched habanero peppers for serrano, because that was what I had and because I wanted it to be spicy. The accidental change was a direct result of my inability to read, and instead of putting EIGHT inches of ginger root in the mixture, I only put one. That's a lot of missing flavor.

I know this is a bad picture, but I just wanted to make sure that everyone was aware that you cannot grind peppercorns like this. It will not work. Just measure out ground peppercorns next time, unless you have a real mortar and pestle. And then, if you don't, don't dump this mixture in with the onion and watch with despair as they aren't ground at all, and you end up with pureed onions with some peppercorns and mustard seeds.

But if you do, the peppercorns will soften up in the six hours of cooking, and it will be okay. Not perfect. But trust me, it really will not be as bad as you think it will.

Overall, I was pleased with this. I thought it was a great level of spice; it wasn't overpowering, but it built with time so by the end of the meal I had a wonderful burn going. I made the mistake of giving myself too much rice, so I was completely stuffed and couldn't even finish my plate. I tupperware'd it up and it was just as delicious the next day.

When Mama Bird told me that it wasn't spicy at all. Mama Bird is definitely insane.

But Ocarina Bird's father, who dislikes curry, tried this and enjoyed it. So hopefully I'll talk Papa and Boyfriend Bird into trying some too. Otherwise, I guess I'm going to have enough leftovers to last me a week.

Note: I am reprinting this recipe because you can already view it through the Amazon 'take a peek!' feature, and because I accidentally made a few changes anyway. If anyone tells me I really shouldn't post this, I'll take it down.

Chicken Vindaloo adapted from The Indian Slow Cooker: 50 Healthy, Easy, Authentic Recipes
(Makes 13 servings, with 260 calories and $1.65 per serving)
  • 12 medium yellow onions
  • 6 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 inch ginger
  • 20 cloves garlic
  • 3 habanero chilis
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 1 tablespoon black mustard seed
  • 4 pounds chicken
  • 1/2 cup water
    1. Cut up onions and saute, then add vinegar and cook until vinegar has evaporated.
    2. Puree the onions with rock salt, peppercorns, and mustard seed.
    3. Puree ginger root, garlic, habaneros (with stems removed), turmeric, coriander, garam masala, and cinnamon.
    4. Put chicken, ginger puree, and onion puree in slow cooker. Add water, and cook on low for six hours.

    Naan from Budget Bytes (Makes 8 naan, with 213 calories and $0.44 per naan)
  • 2 teaspoons dry active yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1 egg
    1. Combine yeast, sugar, and water, and let sit for a few minutes.
    2. Stir in oil, yogurt, and egg until well mixed.
    3. In separate bowl, combine 1 cup of flour with salt, then wet ingredients.
    4. Continue adding flour at a half cup at a time until it's impossible to stir with a spoon and doesn't stick to your hands.
    5. Knead dough ball for about three minutes.
    6. Loosely cover dough and let rise for about 45 minutes.
    7. Cut into 8 equal pieces, and shape those into balls.
    8. Cut a skillet over medium heat and PAM it.
    9. Roll out one dough ball at a time, and place on skillet.
    10. Flip once the dough is golden brown on one side.
    11. Remove and serve warm if possible.

    Today's lessons learned:
    • Just use ground peppercorns.
    • Habaneros are spicy. Mama Bird is wrong.
    • 8 inches of ginger and 1 inch of ginger are very different.
    • If you let your friends draw on your hands with fountain pens, it may take a full week to come off. Very odd.
  • 1 comment:

    Mama Bird said...

    I agree; this was very good, although I confess I did not brave much of the fire-inducing sauce.

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