Monday, November 30, 2009

The Four Seasons' Chicken And Shrimp Curry

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I can't say enough about this curry.  Words or pictures cannot fully convey the magnificent taste, aroma and texture of this dish.  Obviously, I wouldn't expect any less of The Four Seasons, but frankly, this recipe just blew me away.  It is an elegant yet authentic curry, one you can count on.  I am sorry the photo is a bit blurry.  To tell the truth, I was so anxious and excited to try it my hands were shaky and every picture turned out blurred.  After the third try, I just couldn't be bothered...all I wanted to do was sit down and eat the whole plate!

I adore curries, but Indian cuisine is not one I grew up with so naturally I am always looking for authenticity more than anything else .  When I started testing curry recipes awhile back somehow they never had the taste I was used to.  It wasn't until I came upon Madhur Jaffrey's book on curries that I realized I was thinking of the British version of the dish,  the one they call  Chicken Tikka Masala .  This recipe, on the other hand is halfway between the English sahib's cream curry and the true curries of the East.  Just what I was looking for!

Curry (IPA:/ˈkʌri/) is a generic description used throughout European and American culture to describe a general variety of spiced dishes  best known in Indian cuisines, especially South Asian cuisine. Curry is a generic term, and although there is no one specific attribute that marks a dish as "curry", some distinctive spices used in many, though certainly not all, curry dishes include turmeric, cumin, coriander, fenugreek, and red pepper. The word curry is an anglicised version of the Tamil word kari. It is usually understood to mean "gravy" or "sauce", rather than "spices".  In most South Indian languages, the word literally means 'side-dish', which can be eaten along with a main dish like rice or bread.(Wikipedia)



Curry's popularity in recent decades has spread outward from the Indian subcontinent to figure prominently in international cuisine. Consequently, each culture has adopted spices in their indigenous cooking  to suit their own unique tastes and cultural sensibilities. Curry can therefore be called a pan-Asian or global phenomenon, with immense popularity in Thai, British and Japanese cuisines.  Just this past week, Europe celebrated National Curry Week, something I found out just as I was finishing this post.  Talk about coincidences...

The popularity of curry among the general public was enhanced by the invention of "Coronation Chicken" to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. Curry sauce (or curry gravy) is a British use of curry as a condiment, usually served warm with traditional British fast food dishes such as chips. Curry sauce occasionally would include sultanas.  According to legend, one 19th century attempt at curry resulted in the invention of Worcestershire sauce.  In 2001, Robin Cook proclaimed Chicken Tikka Masala Britain's National Dish.

One of the things I like about this recipe is that the heat does not overwhelm the rest of the spices.  I have always believed that a dish that is too hot is just an excuse for a bad recipe.  Let's face it, how can you possible taste the rest of the ingredients when you are worried about putting out the heat in your belly!.  This has enough to notice but not overwhelm.  It is perfectly balanced so as not to offend anyone at the table.  Also the mix of chicken and shrimp is a delight and every bite leaves a  a different sensation in the palate.  Nothing like the unexpected.  Although you could make this all shrimp or all chicken, I wouldn't.   The mix of the two is one of the things that makes this dish different... don't change it.

The "boys" or condiments are my contribution.  They are what I like with my curry. The restaurant accompanies it with marinated fruits consisting of pineapple, kiwi etc., which although creative, is unnecessary for the full enjoyment of this dish.  Just accompany with raisins, chutney (I used Major Greys) and slivered or blanched almonds... perhaps coconut flakes.  Notice that the main curry sauce has no sugar.  The sweetness comes in the condiments, something I like because it gives us the opportunity to adapt it to our taste.



I have tweaked the procedure of cooking this dish a little to eliminate a few pots and pans.  Let's face it, we just don't have as many sous chefs or dishwashers in our kitchens as the Four Seasons does.  In the end it wont make a difference and it will make your life a lot easier. 



This is the kind of recipe you want to serve at a small dinner party for 8 or if you are having a couple of tables for a sit down dinner of 12 or sixteen.  You can easily double it and also make it the day before.  Accompany with white or jasmine rice and a simple salad.  It's a wonderful and festive main course to have on hand for the holidays. 

Ingredients

1 Tb olive oil
1 tsp. coriander seeds, toasted in a dry skillet for 5 minutes
1/2 tsp white peppercorns
2 whole cloves
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp. cumin seeds
2 TB curry powder'1 tsp chopped fresh ginger'1/2 clove of garlic
1/8 whole nutmeg
2 tsps. kosher salt
1 quart chicken stock'1 cup dry white wine
2 cups heavy cream
4 TB unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup clarified butter
4 8oz. whole boneless chicken breasts, cut in 1 1/2 by 1/4 inch chunks
1 1/2 lbs medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

The "boys"

Raisins
Slivered Almonds
Major Greys' Chutney
Coconut flakes

Procedure

In a skillet heat the oil.When hot add the coriander seeds, white peppercorns, cloves, red pepper flakes and cumin seeds.  Stir to avoid burning, then add curry powder, tossing to blend.  Place in a spice mill or coffee grinder with the ginger, garlic, nutmeg and salt.  Grind to a powder, set aside.

In a deep saucepan boil and reduce stock and wine together, to 2 cups.  In a separate pan reduce cream to 1 cup.

In a clean pan melt the butter, add flour and cook stirring 2 minutes.  Mix in prepared curry mixture, add the reduced stock and cream.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring.  When sauce is thick and smooth, strain through a fine sieve into a clean saucepan.

Melt 2 TB butter in a large skillet and saute chicken, tossing until seared on all sides.  Remove to a plate.  Heat another 2 TB butter and saute shrimp for 1 minute.  Return chicken to skillet and saute together for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring.  Spoon the sauce over the shrimp and chicken mixture, bring to a boil, stirring and serve at once with rice.  Place chutney, slivered almonds, raisins,  and coconut in individual dishes and add your favorites on top of the curry.

Note: This recipe is dedicated to my Westie friends Snowy and Vivi Jr. and their Moms who give me so much laughter and happiness, day in and day out.  I hope you enjoy it.

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