January 3, 2013

Chicken Vindaloo

I don't spend a lot of time planning my last meal, but when I started thinking about how exactly to describe this chicken vindaloo recipe, I started thinking about Ajanta's chicken vindaloo. Ajanta has the best Indian food in the Bay Area. That's my opinion, but not just my opinion. It has been so designated by Zagat and SF Baylist for a few years, though I'm lucky enough to have known about Ajanta for at least a decade.

I once traveled to India mostly to experience a country where I could find this incredible food everywhere. I probably should have known that not every restaurant in India would be Ajanta-calibre. Disappointingly, I found nothing that could compare. So even after five weeks in India, Ajanta has the best Indian food I've ever eaten. 

Next I bought the Ajanta cookbook, hoping to get their vindaloo recipe. No dice.

I may never be able to make vindaloo like the chefs at Ajanta, but if I had to pick a recipe that could approximate the experience, I would feel comfortable leaving it to Cook's Illustrated. I expected that something as complexly flavorful as vindaloo would be really hard to make, but it is surprisingly simple. And, it's a one pot recipe which is always a bonus. (Especially if you are doing the dishes--and I am.)
This particular vindaloo recipe was inspired by Savory, a new spice shop in my neighborhood. They had a great curry selection, including a vindaloo spice blend that made this recipe super simple!

The more I thought about vindaloo, the clearer it became. Since I love food it would definitely be a very tough decision, but if it came down to it, I think my last meal would be chicken vindaloo. It's just that good.

Chicken Vindaloo
~Print Recipe~

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, separated
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon sweet paprika*
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin*
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom*
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper*
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves*
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 1 or 2 bay leaves
  •  1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves, divided
  1. Adjust oven rack to lower- middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Season meat generously with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large ovenproof Dutch oven over medium-high until shimmering. Add meat, keeping pieces close together but not touching. Cook, not moving pieces until the side in contact with the pot are well browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs, turn each piece and continue cooking until most sides are well browned, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer meat to a medium bowl.
  2. Reduce heat to medium, add remaining tablespoon oil to empty Dutch oven, and swirl to coat bottom of pan. Add onions and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently and vigorously, scraping bottom of pot with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. After onions have softened, about 5 minutes, stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add flour and spices or spice blend. Stir until onion are evenly coated and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Gradually add broth, scraping pan bottom and edges with wooden spoon to loosen remaining browned bits and dissolve flour. Add tomatoes, vinegar, mustard seeds, bay leaves, and sugar and bring to a simmer. Add browned chicken and accumulated juices, submerging meat under liquid. Return to simmer, cover and place in oven. Cook for 2 hours.
  4. Remove pot from oven. If serving immediately, spoon off any accumulated fat at surface. Remove bay leaves, stir in some cilantro. Adjust seasonings. Serve immediately with a garnish of cilantro leaves.

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