A Reluctant Recipe
I don't enjoy cooking very much. There, I've confessed to the worst sin a stay-at-home-mother can commit. I won't go into the whys and wherefores now as that would be sufficient stuff for another post. When I started blogging, a few of my friends suggested that I should post recipes - I cringed at the thought of the extremely basic fare that I plate up each day and kept mum. Last month, a childhood friend (popularly known as a chuddi buddy these days?) came to visit after a loooong gap of several years and I prepared dinner for him. I still aver that it was not deliberate, but when I was thinking about a chicken dish, I automatically chose a childhood favorite. Not until I saw him picking out chicken pieces to eat with relish even after his rice was long over did I realize that he must have eaten the same dish several times as it was a staple of my mom's at parties. If people ask me for just one dish that is an absolute favorite of mine, it is this, it is this, it is this!
So here is my mother's fried chicken (or as we Malayalis call it, chicken fry) in my style.
Chicken, skinned and cut into medium-sized pieces: 1 kg
Onions, thinly sliced: 1 cup
Grated coconut: 1 cup
Green chillies: 6 - 8 for medium, 12 if you want it really spicy (Me like REALLY spicy!)
Any good chicken masala: 2 tbsp
Curd (plain yogurt): 1 tbsp
Garlic and ginger diced finely/ paste: 1 tsp each
Curry leaves: 2 sprigs
Coconut oil: enough for frying
(tee hee, I've always wanted to write that q.s., pretending to be a master chef writing out my recipe!!!)
1. Mix curd, chicken masala and the salt together, rub the mixture on the chicken pieces and let sit in the fridge for half an hour (can be made even without this step, but I find it adds to the flavor). Meanwhile, grate the coconut, slice the onions and do the rest of the prep work. Here's a pic of the ingredients after all the prep work is done.
2. Cook/steam the chicken for around half an hour till it's half cooked - this again helps it to absorb more flavor. Strain out the chicken pieces after they are done. You can use some of the cooled chicken broth for grinding in the fourth step.
3. Heat a heavy-bottomed pan with a tsp-ful of coconut oil and add the onions, grated coconut and green chillies. Fry them over high heat stirring continuously. Don't you dare stop for even five seconds if you don't want charred and smoky masala. This is what it looks like at the beginning of the step.
Half-way through it will look like this. Keep a glass of water ready at the side:
No, don't add the water to the mix, that is for YOU to drink as you will be thoroughly sweating and parched by now. You can add the garlic and ginger at this stage. If you are intrepid, you can add half a dozen pepper corns if you want - okay, okay, just saying... The next picture shows you how it will look when done.
There is a tiny window of time between when the coconut is evenly browned and when it is charred, so as soon as the coconut reaches the above color, take the pan off the fire and keep stirring for a minute or two till the heat dissipates.
4. As soon as the masala mixture cools down, grind it in a blender with just enough water or broth from step 2 to get it ground evenly into a fine paste. Transfer it into a bowl and keep aside.
5. Put the pan back on the fire and pour enough oil to cover the bottom to a good quarter of an inch high. When it heats up, put in just enough chicken pieces in so that turning will be easy. Fry each side of the chicken for two minutes each, then add the masala paste (keeping aside enough for the second batch of chicken if need be, of course). Add a few curry leaves too and turn the pieces occasionally so that the masala will coat the chicken (don't worry if the paste doesn't stick to the chicken, some of it will fall off.) When the masala turns dark brown and becomes less mushy, it's done. To make sure, take out a tiny bit of the masala, blow hard on it and check if it has a "fried" taste.
6. Take out the chicken pieces, then scoop as much masala out of the pan as you can after squeezing it on the side of the pan to drain out as much oil as possible. Arrange the chicken pieces in your serving dish and smear the pieces with the masala. Add more fried curry leaves as garnish. Enjoyed best with white rice and curd with a green salad on the side.
My mom's way of making this is to grind the masala and cook it with chicken and water and once the chicken is done, she allows the water to boil off gradually stirring it occasionally and then adds oil to the mix and fries it. This process entails a lot of time and stirring in front of the stove in addition to the masala-frying time, so I do it this way. My method also saves some time because you can let the chicken cook while you are frying the ingredients for the masala. But you can try it mom's way too, just make sure you have a lot of water to drink!