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David Lissner
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Eat this! Curry, a saucy blend of flavors

The Peacock's curry

The Peacock's curry

What it is: Although to most Americans, “curry” implies a dish made with a yellow-hued spice blend, in India, it means “gravy,” and applies to a wide range of saucy, typically highly seasoned recipes.

Shakuntala Chhabria

Shakuntala Chhabria

Where it comes from: Curries originated in South Asia. “Curry powder,” a blend of seasonings that get their yellow color from turmeric, was formulated for Britons during their control of India. Indians typically mix their own spices, except, perhaps, for a widely varying blend called garam masala. The first published recipe for curry in English appeared in Hannah Glasse’s 1747 cookbook “The Art of Cookery.”

What to do with it: Since the term essentially means “stew,” curries can be made from almost any ingredients. Dr. Shakuntala Chhabria’s recipe, served at her restaurant, The Peacock, offers a glimpse at a typical version. She notes that if you serve curry over rice, you make a thinner gravy, and if you serve it with a flatbread such as naan, you make it thicker.

The Peacock’s chicken curry
Shakuntala Chhabria

2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
2 medium onions, very finely chopped
2 breasts or leg quarters, cut in 1-inch pieces, if desired
1 tablespoon low-fat yogurt
1/2 to 1 jalapeno, finely chopped
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped, or 1 14.5 ounce can puree
2 bay leaves
2 black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
Ground red pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon turmeric
Salt to taste
1 to 2 cups chicken broth
Additional yogurt if desired
Lemon wedges
Fresh cilantro, chopped 

In a skillet, heat the oil and saute the onions over medium heat till golden brown. Add the chicken and 1 tablespoon of yogurt, stirring till browned.

Add the jalapeno, tomato and spices and cook a few minutes. Add the chicken stock, cover the skillet and simmer over a low flame, till the chicken is cooked and gravy has thickened somewhat.

Remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaves. Stir in additional yogurt, a little at a time, if desired. Squeeze a little lemon and garnish with freshly chopped coriander.

Variations: Stir in cooked potatoes or carrots or boiled eggs. Substitute beef, lamb or goat for the chicken. A vegetarian version can be made with potatoes, peas, mushroom and/or paneer.
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