Gastronomy 101, a blog about food and Los Angeles restaurants

RECIPE: Chicken Curry and Stir-Fried Cauliflower with Green Beans and Ginger

Oops! I forgot to take pictures!

The other night, we had my in-laws over for dinner. Yikes! I have never felt so much like a '50s housewife, all nervous and trying to impress someone with my domestic skillz. Generally, when I am cooking for others, I just make pasta. It's the safe, easy-to-impress, easy-to-cook-in-bulk option. But this time there were dietary restrictions to consider, and I had to go outside my normal comfort zone.

After literally a week of considering different things, J. and I decided on Indian. I was looking at an article about Indian vegetable stir fries in Fine Cooking magazine and they looked so good that we decided to make one of them, and some Tandoori chicken to go with it. Then I looked at the recipe for Tandoori chicken, which advised that if I made it in the oven as opposed to a covered grill, I had best be prepared for lots of smoke.


Not only do I not appreciate smoke with my asthmatic lungs, but we have a very ornery smoke detector that goes off if it even thinks there might be a vapor somewhere. So the plan was changed to chicken curry, and I found a recipe in my new Joy of Cooking.

I discovered something very interesting while looking at the stir-fry recipe's nutrition information, which is that peas have a lot of carbs. The stir fry I chose had about 20g of carbs and it was almost entirely from the peas. So I took the peas out of the recipe for this creation, and I did not notice anything missing in the end. Except perhaps some vitamins. I'd probably leave the peas next time, anyway. But in case you care about carbs ... be warned.

I also could not find fenugreek leaves, dried or fresh, so I ended up using ground fenugreek seed (in a much smaller amount, obviously). Which turns out to be some kind of miracle cure, so hopefully I got my health ration for the week as well.

Both of these recipes turned out to be really easy and stress free to make. Once you got past the prep, which was not hard, then it was just a matter of throwing things in pans and then waiting for them to be ready. I was even able to enjoy a game of Wii bowling while the curry simmered.

And when it was over, we had two totally empty cooking pans. The chicken came out delicious although perhaps not as spice-flavored as I would have liked and perhaps could have simmered a bit less. I had to leave it on a very low simmer for some extra time beyond what the recipe called for and I wonder if it might have been juicier if I had taken it off earlier.

The stir fry was fantastic. It was very flavorful and lucky it tasted and smelled good, because my apartment still smells a little like it.

I was mostly just happy I managed to successfully cook for everyone without any explosions, burning, eruptions, food poisoning, or other anticipated distasters.

CHICKEN CURRY (From Joy of Cooking)

  • 3.5 - 4.5 lbs. chicken parts
  • 2 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 2 tsp. minced ginger
  • 1.5 tsp. garam masala
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Tbs. chopped cilantro
  • 1 serrano or jalapeno pepper, quartered lengthwise
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
Remove the skin from the chicken parts. Heat oil in a wide heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, stirring occasionally, until browned, 7-10 min. Add garlic, ginger, garam masala, and turmeric and cook, stirring, for 30 sec. Add chicken in batches and cook, turning once, until golden, 2-3 min. on each side. Stir in yogurt. Increase heat to high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the yogurt has reduced and thickened and the oil separates into pools, 3-5 min. Stir in water, cilantro, pepper, and salt. Simmer, covered, and cook until the thigh releases clear juices when pierced with a fork, 30-40 min. Remove chicken to a platter and cover to keep warm. If the sauce is thin, boil over high heat to reduce and thicken it. Pour over the chicken. Serve with rice and a chutney.

STIR-FRIED CAULIFLOWER WITH GREEN PEAS AND GINGER (from Fine Cooking Magazine, January, 2006, "Make it Tonight," Suvir Saran)

  • 3 Tbs. canola oil
  • 1/4 cup dried fenugreek leaves or 1/2 cup fresh fenugreek leaves, chopped (optional)
  • 1 to 3 small dried whole red chiles
  • 1 Tbs. ground coriander, preferably freshly ground
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 3 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
  • 1 medium jalapeno (seeds and ribs removed if you prefer a milder flavor), finely chopped
  • 2.5-3 lb. head cauliflower, cored and cut into medium florets 1 - 1.5 " long (6-8 heaping cups)
  • 2 cups (about 10 oz.) frozen green peas (do not thaw)
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt; more to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. homemade or store-bought garam masala (optional)
Heat oil with fenugreek, chiles, coriander, and cumin seeds in a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until cumin browns and becomes fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Add ginger and jalapeno and cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan to prevent ginger from burning, until the ginger is fragrant and sizzling, 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Add cauliflower and stir to coat with spices. Cover and reduce heat to medium. Cook for 5 min. and then stir in peas and salt. Cover and cook until cauliflower is tender and peas are very tender, 5-8 min. more. Uncover the pan, increase the heat to high and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add the garam masala and cook until any remaining liquid in the pan evaporates. Add salt to taste and then serve.


MMMMmmmmmm I bet the house smelled amazing while it was cooking! Congrats on a successful in-laws feeding (oh such pressure)!

said by Acme Instant Food at 8:21 PM Delete

This recipe sounds really good! I was forget to take pictures. Sometimes food gets tempermental and tries to run away. Well done!

said by furry_feline at 1:03 PM Delete

Oops, I meant always forget to take pictures. I was??

said by furry_feline at 1:03 PM Delete

Yum! Well done.

Your wok is still too light in color. Fry more things in it!

said by Chubbypanda at 1:51 PM Delete

You're right! But I'm white, so I don't use my wok nearly as often as I should. I usually just use the skillet or saute pan, or even the dutch oven.

But now I have a shiny new Chinese cookbook and an arsenal of Indian stir-fries, and the wok is at the top of the pan-pile, so maybe it will get used more.

said by KT at 1:59 PM Delete

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