It’s not often that I urge people to hunt down hard-to-find ingredients. But sometimes it’s worth it. This is one of those times.
My goal was simple — a rich, boldly seasoned chicken curry suitable for summer. In other words, I wanted all the deep, savory flavors of tender chicken bathed in a highly seasoned sauce, but in a form that I could slap on the grill and eat at an all-American barbecue.
Because that’s my one complaint about chicken curry. It typically is something you make in a skillet at the stove. I don’t do a whole lot of that in the summer.
So I came up with this dish, which bathes boneless, skinless chicken thighs in a delicious curry marinade. The thighs then get tossed on the grill. Meanwhile, a bit of the marinade (which was reserved before the chicken was added) is blended with low-fat sour cream for a rich condiment to be dolloped on the chicken after it comes off the grill.
The result is a moist and richly flavored chicken curry that is as comfortable solo on a paper plate at a barbecue as it is on a plate of rice indoors.
But a note about those hard-to-find ingredients. Curry from scratch is so much better than a prepared blend of spices. The flavors are more robust and fresher. But while fresh turmeric and fresh curry leaves are far more common than even just a few years ago, plenty of people still will struggle to find them.
If that’s the case, don’t hesitate to open a jar and use a prepared blend. The result won’t be as intense, but it still will be delicious. Use 2 tablespoons of the powder as a substitute for the turmeric, curry leaves, cinnamon, cumin, peppercorns and coriander called for in this recipe.
GRILLED CHICKEN CURRY WITH CURRY CREAM SAUCE
Start to finish: 30 minutes (plus marinating)
1 cup chicken broth
1 small yellow onion, quartered
1/2 head garlic, cloves peeled
1-inch chunk fresh ginger
1-inch chunk fresh turmeric
2 sprigs fresh curry leaves
2-inch cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 cup low-fat sour cream
In a blender, combine the chicken broth, onion, garlic, ginger, turmeric, curry leaves, cinnamon stick, cumin seeds, peppercorns, coriander, salt, lemon juice and honey. Puree until very smooth. Transfer a third of the mixture to a small saucepan and set aside.
Pour the remaining mixture in a large zip-close plastic bag. Add the chicken thighs, then seal the bag and gently massage to ensure all of the meat is coated by the marinade. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to overnight.
Meanwhile, set the saucepan of reserved marinade over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook until reduced and quite thick, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
When ready to cook, heat the grill to medium-high. Coat the grates with oil using an oil-soaked paper towel grasped with tongs.
Remove the chicken from the marinade. Discard the marinade. Place the chicken on the grill and cook for 6 to 7 minutes per side, or until the meat reaches 165 F.
While the chicken cooks, in a small bowl combine the reserved marinade and the sour cream. To serve, drizzle the sour cream mixture over the chicken.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 540 calories; 230 calories from fat (43 percent of total calories); 25 g fat (9 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 180 mg cholesterol; 30 g carbohydrate; 48 g protein; 2 g fiber; 820 mg sodium.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Food Editor J.M. Hirsch is author of the cookbook “High Flavor, Low Labor: Reinventing Weeknight Cooking.” Follow him to great eats on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JM_Hirsch or email him at jhirsch(at)ap.org.