Saturday, February 13, 2016

A Sort of Chicken Curry with Lots of Pepper

I have been making a Pepper Curried Chicken dish for a lot of years. I love pepper, as many might know! Really good quality black Tellicherry Peppercorns have such an amazingly floral bouquet. Having a really good pepper mill is also a real plus, because pre-ground pepper just tastes awful. It really makes me question what might be mixed in with it, because it tastes nothing like the pepper I have come to know.
Pepper Curried Chicken
Pepper Curried Chicken

Pepper and Pepper Grinders

I have two pepper grinders I use all the time. Many pepper grinders do not have mechanisms large enough to accommodate Tellicherry peppercorns. Tellicherry are fully ripened pepper berries, and so are much larger and also have the most full flavor. Next down the scale are Malabar, which are not perfectly ripened berries, and just slightly smaller. If you buy whole peppercorns without one of these two labels, they will be imperfectly ripened and much smaller, including many and varied sizes of berry. The two grinders I favor (shown as the first two in the photo here below) have larger grinding mechanisms. 

All My Pepper Mills
All My Pepper Mills
One of them, a brass mill shown second in the lineup above, is actually a Turkish coffee grinder, so of course it will easily accommodate the larger pepper berries, which are far smaller than coffee beans. It grinds exceedingly fine. While it is supposedly adjustable, I have never, ever, tried to change the fine setting. I love this one because it grinds a whole lot of pepper, really, really fast. Twenty-five quick grinds with the handle will give me approximately ½ teaspoon of very fine pepper in no time flat. My husband cannot tolerate coarse pepper. If it gets in his throat he completely loses his breath and coughs like he might die, gasping for air. His sister is the same. I use this fine grind for anything I am cooking, so neither of them have this difficulty.

The other grinder I love is the kind that Mario Batali favored. It used to be "Vic Firth" brand but this was bought out (apparently), and now is called "Fletcher's Mill". It is widely advertised as a "Mario Batali Pepper Mill". It is the exact same mechanism, in many of the same shapes and sizes of mill body. I love red, so I got myself a pretty red one, in the same shape as the orange one Mario used on his TV shows. This particular one is so simple to adjust and works so well, both grinding a relatively good amount quickly, and grinding to whatever size grind I prefer for the moment, from very fine to very coarse. It will grind Tellicherry peppercorns with no problem.

I have other pepper mills I've accumulated over years, that do less of a good job, either because they grind poorly or just barely grind anything at all. They also will not grind Tellicherry peppercorns, which just get caught up in the mill, and preventing other peppercorns from getting through. I use those other mills for things like all white peppercorns (for occasions where they are needed), and in another one, a mix of green, white and pink (for light meats like chicken, pork or fish), and on like that. 

Caveat: Do not use pepper mills for salt!

There are lots of coarse salts available these days also, but beware! Do not use a pepper mill for salt, as the salt will badly corrode the metal grinding mechanism, and you've spent money for nothing. There are special salt grinders available with a plastic grinding mechanism, so corrosion is not a problem.

On to the Recipe

Fresh Curry Leaves - Murraya koenigii
Fresh Curry Leaves - Murraya koenigii
With as much as I love pepper, the amount of pepper that goes into this dish is just wonderful. I am not sure I have ever seen a recipe using this much black pepper, and if you are leery, just reduce the amount to what might be better tolerated. I used no green hot chilies in the dish last evening, though I usually do (I had none in the fridge), so pepper was the only heat component, and it was lovely. Just the bare mildest sense of spice came through as heat on the tongue. The flavor though, is magnificent. The only particularly "Indian" ingredients, pointing to an Indian curry, are cumin, coriander and turmeric. The rest is just a really great combination of ingredients that make up a wonderful dish for dinner in short order. Last night I happened to have fresh curry leaves on hand, so I used about 12 leaves in the dish, which also made it taste great. If you live anywhere near an Indian market, look for them next time you try Indian. They give a vaguely citrus-like, savory flavor. Each stem holds about 11 to 21 leaflets. Use them fresh. Once dried, they lose most of their flavor. Frozen, however, though they do turn dark, they do retain all their marvelous flavor.

Pepper Curried Chicken

Pepper Curried Chicken
Pepper Curried Chicken
Serves 4

2 teaspoons ground coriander seed
2 teaspoons ground cumin seed
2 teaspoons coarsely ground, good quality black pepper
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, or equivalent thigh meat
2 tablespoons coconut oil, or olive oil if preferred
2 large onions, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 or 2 Serrano chilies, minced, optional

10 to 12 fresh curry leaves, from one stem
1 (15-ounce) can coconut milk (unsweetened)
1 cups frozen peas
½ cup raw cashews, roasted in a dry pan

Mix together the first 5 ingredients and set aside. Cut the chicken into 1½-inch pieces and place in a bowl. Pour spices over and toss to combine. Set aside while preparing the rest of the dish.

In a large skillet, heat the coconut oil and saute the onions until they are a nice golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add in the ginger and garlic (and chilies and curry leaves, if using) and continue to saute for about 30 seconds, or until very fragrant. Add in the chicken and toss to coat. Saute on medium high until the chicken pieces are all beginning to turn brown. Add in the coconut milk and stir. Bring to boil, lower heat to medium low and allow to cook for about 10 minutes. Add in the frozen peas and continue to cook for another 10 to 15 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. 

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.

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