nana’s sweet apple + chicken curry

jim+nanaMy husband comes from a long line of stovetop dusting, dialing for dinner, non-cooks. This is not a criticism, rather a statement of fact. If pressed they can all whip up a perfectly fine meal, they just would rather not. However amidst all the pizza, McDonald’s and chicken rondelets of his childhood one truly from scratch meal does proudly stand out in his memories:
his grandmother’s curry.

I too happen to love curry and have made more than a few versions over the years. My husbands reaction to my curry however is always the same… sheer delight that curry is for dinner followed quickly by disappointment that it’s not like his grandmother’s. She traditionally makes curry with the leftover lamb or pork roast from a holiday dinner, to which she adds sweet apples, onions and a little bit of spice. I’m from the coconut milk, peanut, cilantro school of curry— which I imagine is why we’re at a curry crossroads. I’ve asked her for the recipe before, in fact we spoke about it before I attempted my version, but she says she doesn’t really have one. She’s been making her curry for so long that she just knows when its right. Oh well.

The other day I was reading the food section of the paper and lo and behold there was a recipe for Sweet Apple Curry which sounded exactly like the curry my husband’s childhood memories were based on. The article claimed that as far a curries go this recipe was totally inauthentic, but absolutely delicious nonetheless. Naturally I headed straight to the store and set about attempting to duplicate his Nana’s beloved recipe.

I’m not a big fan of lamb and pork just didn’t seem right to me, so I used chicken thighs instead. I served it on Jasmine rice just like she does and I kept it fragrant, flavorful and mildly spiced. Seriously I pulled out all the memory triggering stops on this one and I’ll give you one guess how it turned out… A total success! My other half said it was the closest thing to his Nana’s that he’d ever had. Quite the compliment indeed! Just like the article said; inauthentic but delicious.

So if you know Ginny and love her famous post-holiday curry, rest assured that her recipe (or at least an approximation of it) can now live on…

Sweet Apple & Chicken Curry
This is a sweet and mild curry, however if you’re like me and enjoy a little kick in everything you eat add a few diced chilies for garnish.

nanas curry2

3 ribs celery, diced
2 large onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, grated
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored
3 lbs. boneless/skinless chicken thighs
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. pink salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
6 tbsp. olive oil, divided
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tbsp. mild curry powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 cup flour
3 cups chicken broth
1 tbsp. corn starch
1 tbsp. cold water
Jasmine rice, for serving
minced fresh cilantro, for garnish (optional)
diced chilies, for garnish (optional)

  1. Trim the chicken and cut into bite-size pieces. Place in a quart-size ziploc bag, along with 1/2 cup of flour, salt and pepper. Seal and shake to coat evenly. Set aside.
  2. Dice the celery and onion and grate the garlic, set aside. Peel and core the apples and cut them into medium-size chunks. Set aside in a separate bowl.
  3. Heat the oil, 2 tablespoons at a time, in a pot over medium heat. Working in batches, add the coated chicken and cook until lightly browned on all sides; transfer to a bowl.
  4. Melt the butter in the pot you just finished browning the chicken in. Add the celery, onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions have become transparent. Add the apples and stir to incorporate; cook for another 5 minutes, then add in the curry powder, cinnamon and cumin. Cook for 2 minutes, until the spices become fragrant.
  5. Sprinkle the apple mixture with a 1/4 cup of flour and stir to incorporate. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the broth along with the chicken pieces and any accumulated juices. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring mixture to a simmer. In a small dish mix together the corn starch and cold water. Add it to the curry mixture and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and the chicken is cooked through.
  6. When finished, remove the pan from the heat and let sit for a several minutes before serving. Serve over hot Jasmine rice and garnish with diced cilantro and diced chilies, if you like.

*adapted from the washington post

Post-Holiday Curry

If you’re like me then you’re ready to put Thanksgiving behind you and move onto the stresses of December. You’ve watched the parade and football. You’ve eaten your fill of turkey and trimmings. And you’ve helped yourself to “just a sliver” more pie. And now you’re fat and tired and perhaps black-fridayed out and the last thing you’re interested in is another intricately planned and painstakingly executed dinner. In that case have I got a post-Thanksgiving solution for you— Curried Coconut & Peanut Chicken.

I truly love the flavors of coconut, peanut and curry together (toss in a little chili pepper heat and I’m in heaven), but I find it to be a particularly divine antidote to the highly involved and side dish driven nature of Thanksgiving. One pot (well, two if you count the rice), minimal cooking effort and everyone gets their own individual bowl so you’re not faced with a mountain of dishes to do. Sounds the making of the perfect post-holiday dinner to me!

I know this is where I usually ramble on about the recipe, my kids or some laughable moment from my childhood. But here’s the thing— I’m fat and tired and black-fridayed out and this is all I can manage to type. I hope your Thanksgiving was a good one. Until next week…

Curried Coconut & Peanut Chicken
I serve this over coconut brown rice with lots of minced chili peppers, chopped peanuts and cilantro on top. Yum!

4 1/2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs
1/3 cup lime juice
2 tbsp. curry powder (hot or mild), divided
1/4 cup olive oil
10 allspice berries
5 cloves garlic, minced
4 scallions, finely chopped
6 sprigs thyme
24 baby carrots, thinly sliced
1 chayote squash, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
1 russet potato, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
1 1″ piece ginger, minced
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. Garam masala
1 can lite coconut milk
1/4 cup smooth all natural peanut butter
diced chilies, for garnish
chopped peanuts, for garnish
chopped cilantro, for garnish

  1. Cut the chicken into 1″ pieces and place in a large zip-lock bag. Add the lime juice, and 1 tbsp. of curry powder and toss to combine. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  2. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the chicken to the pot and cook until golden brown. Transfer the browned chicken to a large bowl and set aside.
  3. Add the remaining curry powder, the allspice, garlic, scallions, thyme, carrots, chayote, potato, ginger, salt and Garam masala to the pot and cook until lightly caramelized and fragrant, about 15 minutes.
  4. Add the chicken and any juices that have accumulated to pot along with coconut milk and stir to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes and squash are cooked through and sauce is thickened, about 30 minutes.
  5. Fish out the thyme stems and the all spice berries, stir in the peanut butter and serve over coconut rice, garnished with chilies, cilantro and chopped peanuts.

* adapted from saveur

All About Me, Chickpeas

I cook to please my family nearly everyday. I make them the breakfasts, lunches and dinners they love because I love them, and I want them to be happy. But some days… some days I need to cook for myself. And sometimes they eat what I make for myself and call me the next Julia Child. And sometimes they do not. Sometimes they complain and grimace over what I serve them… (sigh)

The other night I had a craving for something “exotic”. Coconut milk, warm Indian spices, ginger and garlic. Throw in some chickpeas and serve it over brown rice— yummm! This combo sounded absolutely perfect to me, like soul satisfying food. I was going to make it and who knows, maybe it would actually end up appealing to my family as well. Maybe they would discover that exotic was delicious. Maybe.

I’m happy to say that it was great (well my husband and I thought so anyway). The kids weren’t exactly on board with curried chickpeas, but ya know what? That was okay with me. Sometimes making a dish purely for my own enjoyment is gift enough.

Curried Coconut Chickpeas
This can be served as a side dish or a meatless meal. I often eat it with brown rice, but it’s also delicious with a couple of eggs the next morning or even over salad greens.

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, diced
5 cloves of garlic, grated
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
1 can of chickpeas, rinsed
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. Indian curry powder
1/2 tsp. garam masala
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. salt
1 can lite coconut milk
cilantro, for garnish
brown rice, for serving

  1. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Saute onion, ginger and garlic for 8-10 minutes, until the onion is transparent.
  2. When the onion is ready add the spices and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until they become fragrant.
  3. Add the coconut milk and bring to simmering. Then add the chickpeas and allow to simmer for an additional 10 minutes or until sauce has thickened.
  4. When cooked allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with cilantro and serve over brown rice.

*adapted from vegan dad