Third Time Lucky: Kori Gashi
Life has been filled with food-and-drink disappointments lately.
Date night. Two weeks ago. We have dinner reservations at an old favorite, and arrive an astounding 45 minutes early in our zest to stuff our faces sans child. We gleefully run across the street to a watering hole, another old haunt and a Friday night staple before parenthood struck.
I order a vodka martini. And the bartender asks me "if I want vermouth with that". I gape at him. I had no idea sir, I usually have mine with a spot of Ovaltine.
Fast forward two weeks. Birthday dinner at allegedly one of Bostons "most beloved restaurants." I quickly scan the dessert menu before even ordering dinner. I spy sticky toffee pudding on the list and actually leave my entree half-eaten to save space.
Imagine my horror when I am presented with a muffin, topped with a listless caramel sauce.
I turned to my stack of cookbooks the following evening and pulled out Camellia Panjabi's 50 Great Curries of India - a wonderful collection of recipes coupled with even more stunning visuals. The pick for the evening was Kori Gashi - chicken (Kori) cooked in a spicy, grainy and flavorful coconut gravy (Gashi).
Two favorites butchered in two weeks. It was time to turn to a third and this time, one that was fully under my control.
This dish hails from my neck of the woods - and requires fresh coconut and curry leaves for optimal flavor. I had only frozen versions of both. Camellia's recipe doesn't require this, but I also pre-fried the chicken in a tablespoon of ghee to give it a buttery aroma. The result was well worth the improvisations and the recipe below reflects them.
1 cup frozen grated coconut
1 can coconut milk
5 tablespoons oil
12 dried red chillies
4 tsp coriander seeds
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
2 inch stick of cinnamon
1 tsp cumin seeds
8-10 black peppercorns
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp tamarind pulp
2 medium onions
2 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
2 1/2 lbs chicken thighs & drumsticks
1 tbsp ghee
10-12 curry leaves
Put one tablespoon of oil in a small saucepan or skillet. Saute grated coconut in it over low heat for about five minutes until slightly browned. Remove from pan and set aside.
In the same skillet, add another tablespoon of oil and saute red chillies, coriander, mustard and fenugreek seeds, cinnamon, cumin seeds, peppercorns, cloves and turmeric powder. Stir continously for 3-4 minutes until you get the aroma of the spices, and remove from heat.
Note: The original recipe calls for adding the above one by one into the skillet - but I didn't have the patience and the end product turned out fine despite my having tossed everything in at the same time.
Chop the onions into small pieces.
Once the spices have cooled, toss them into a blender and grind with grated coconut, tamarind pulp, half the chopped onion, ginger-garlic paste and salt to taste. Add in the can of coconut milk and blend until you get a smooth paste.
Heat the remaining oil in a large wok. Add the ghee. Once hot, add the remaining onion and fry until translucent. Then add chicken pieces and coat with the ghee and onion mixture. Fry for about 5-8 minutes. Add the paste from the blender, stir thoroughly and toss in the curry leaves. Add half a cup of water, cover and cook over low heat until the chicken is done, adding a little more water and salt if necessary. Take care that the gravy doesn't get watery.
Serve with steamed white rice and plain yogurt.