Experiments in Cooking

Chettinad chicken

Chettinad food comes from a south-Indian cooking style with warm aromas, and a non-overwhelming heat index which can easily be adjusted to taste. It typically does not involve yogurt marination, though I have added that step to make my chicken more tender. It also often uses spices like star anise (which I don’t care for) and Black Stone Flower (which I don’t have), and I skipped these in my recipe. There is some debate as to whether tomatoes may be authentically used in this recipe. I dropped them as well. I used to make this in the pressure cooker or a pot, but found that I could easily take it to the IP. The IP doesn’t save you much time, but I like that it is contained, doesn’t splutter on the stove top, and I can start cleaning up while the IP is running.

Note on spice mixes: Traditionally, whole spices/seeds are toasted, cooled, and then ground. I simplified my life by grinding them raw, but this means you *must* toast them afterwards, usually done while browning onions.

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs chicken thighs

Marinade:

  • 1/2 cup greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp turmeric

Spice mix: roast and grind, or simply grind together

  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1.5 tsp poppy seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 4 cloves
  • 4 peppercorns
  • small piece of cinnamon stick

Other ingredients

  • 1/2 – 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 2 dry red chilies (hot or mild)
  • 2 stalks curry leaves (10-12 curry leaves)
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tbsp crushed ginger
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (or coarsely grated)
  • 2 heaped tsps tamarind paste

Method:

Marinate chicken 6 hrs to overnight with the yogurt & turmeric powder. (not typically done for chettinad chicken, but enhances tenderness)

If roasting whole spices:

Roast spices till fragrant. Add coconut and continue cooking for a minute. Allow to cool a little. Grind coconut & spices together with minimal water (just what is needed to get a fine paste).

If not roasting spices:

Powder all spices. Roast coconut on a warm oiled pan. When partway roasted, add ground spices and continue till mixture smells nutty. Set aside to cool (in blender). Grind to paste with minimal water.

Heat a large pan, add oil & continue heating till it shimmers. Two options for onions. Follow option 1 if you like them chunky. Follow option 2 if you like them blended smooth.

  1. OPTION 1: Add dry red chillies and half of the curry leaves to season oil. After 2 minutes (before chillies start smoking), add the onions and spread them. Allow onions to brown undisturbed for a few minutes before turning & repeating. Add ginger & garlic. Continue to cook till water from ginger & garlic dries out. Set onions etc aside.
  2. OPTION 2: Add dry red chillies and half of the curry leaves to season oil. After 2 minutes (before chillies start smoking), add the onions and spread them. Allow onions to brown undisturbed for a few minutes before turning & repeating. Add ginger & garlic. Continue to cook till water from ginger & garlic dries out. Add onions to ground spice paste in blender. Add up to 3/4 cup water to help grind it all down. Heat some more oil in empty pan, add half of curry leaves. Once they splutter, mix with onion/spice paste. Do not grind the leaves down.

Here is what option #2 looks like going into the blender:

Add chicken to pan, taking care to squeeze out some marinade. Allow chicken to brown undisturbed, then turn and repeat till it is well browned. I tend to brown the thighs whole and then chop them up. Makes it easier to flip them. Here are my chicken pieces, after being browned in oil seasoned with curry leaves.

Stovetop:

  • Add ground up coconut-spice paste (which will include onions if you followed option 2).
  • In half a cup of water add the tamarind paste and mix well. Add to chicken. Add 1 tsp of salt.
  • Bring to gentle boil. Mix well, cover and allow to simmer for 15 minutes or till chicken is cooked through.

Instant Pot:

  • Add all prepared ingredients (except the saved half of curry leaves) to the IP. Your spice mix, onions, and chicken should go in now.
  • Deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup water + tamarind paste. Add this to IP.
  • Add 1 tsp salt.
  • Use the Poultry – 12 min setting. Natural release 10 mins.

Ta-da!

I cooked this in the IP with stacking containers, and had jasmine rice on the “top shelf”, with this one in the bottom.

For both cooking methods: Splutter remaining curry leaves in oil and add to chicken curry. Add salt as needed, and cook another minute. For IP users, this would mean hitting Cancel, and then switching to Saute to keep it hot.

I forgot to cook vegetables (I’m awesome that way), so we ate this with fresh tomatoes on the side.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *