I discovered Indian food in Paris. I remember the first time I ate at an Indian restaurant being utterly lost amidst the curries and the kormas and the keema maters. I didn’t think I liked spicy, so I timidly asked the server what the tamest dish was on the menu. He kindly recommended the chicken korma, a mildly spicy dish teamed with cashews, coconut milk and heavy cream.
Of course I was immediately hooked. What was not to like? A deep golden color, tender chicken in a creamy sauce, just the right amount of spices, topped off with cardamom-infused rice and a light, chewy naan filled with tangy, melty cheese. Like the Thai before it and the Lebanese to come, Indian cuisine managed to find a way into my general rotation of must-eats.
It wasn’t until a few years later that I tried making it at home. The very first time the chicken was perfect, or so I thought. The recipe has only improved over the years. I think that the key to this dish is to not skimp on spices. The other important step is to not overdo it on the coconut milk. No matter how many heaping spoonfuls of curry, curcuma, cumin, ginger and cayenne pepper you put into your dish, if you add too much coconut milk, all of the flavors you worked so hard to cultivate will drown in it.
This is my boyfriend Jérôme’s all time favorite dish. What we enjoy even more than eating the chicken and the cardamom tinged rice is trying our hand at the famous Indian flatbread, the naan. Of course, we don’t have the right oven, nor the perfect technique, but we’re getting there. The bread starts from a simple dough that incorporates yogurt and needs to be rolled as thing as possible so that it will puff up and become the light, airy bread that we’ve come to love. We’ve experimented with cooking them in the oven and on the stovetop, both methods working fairly well. However, sometimes they just aren’t right: not cooked enough, too dry, too thick… So I decided that from now on I would take the tried and true route, and make them using my classic flatbread recipe.
Feel free to play around with the spices in this dish, adding or deleting to your heart’s content. I’m sure this is by no means a traditional korma, but it’s the one that we’ve come to expect in our household. This dish also marked the first use of my new Le Creuset dutch oven. The result was perfect. I can’t use chicken thighs or legs in my recipes, because the BF is anal about fat and doesn’t like dark meat, and breasts can lead to a dry dish. Not this time. With my gas burners on low, the mixture lightly simmered throughout its cooking time, and browning was a synch.
4 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 small onions, cut into small pieces
3 T olive oil
1/4 C shredded coconut
1/3 C cashews
1/3 C almonds, sliced
3-4 T curry
3-4 T cumin
3-4 T curcuma
3-4 T ginger
1-2 t cayenne pepper
1/3 C coconut milk
1/3 C heavy cream
Salt and pepper
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 package of laughing cow cheese
In a large pan or dutch oven, heat the olive oil. Add the almonds and cashews, and saute 5-7 minutes. Add the coconut flakes and continue to cook another 2-3 minutes, until lightly browned. Add the onions and the chicken, then turn down the heat to medium-low.
Start adding your spices, making sure to add a little bit of water if the mixture gets to dry. Add the garlic and 1 C of water, then simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes. Taste the chicken and adjust the spices if needed. Add salt and pepper, coconut milk and cream, and cook another 5 minutes.
For the flatbread, add some minced garlic to the dough before rolling it out. You can also add a pinch of cumin or ginger to give a little more flavor to the dough. This time, we rolled the flatbread out incredibly thin, spread the cheese out on one half of the round and folded it over. Once cooked, we found that the flatbread was a bit doughy in some spots, so I would recommend cooking the flatbread and spreading the cheese on top once cooked. However you wish to proceed, once the dough is prepped, spread one side with olive oil and place it in a hot skillet. Once the dough starts to puff and rise, brush olive oil on the other side and turn. Serve immediately.
My final tip: if you want to serve rice with this dish, throw 8-10 cardamom pods into the boiling water along with the rice. Once cooked, open the pods and extract the seeds; you can use them as a cool, fresh garnish to spice up your rice!