Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Chicken and Mixed Sweet Pepper Pilaf
Growing up in the suburbs of Dayton, Ohio, I didn’t eat much Indian food. Really, I think I may have had it once at a friend’s house when I was in elementary school. That’s it. It wasn’t until college that I specifically remember tasting the unique and addicting flavors prominent in Indian cuisine. Thanks for that go out to one of my college roommates whose mom taught her to make one incredible chicken curry. Also appreciated were her dessert-filled care packages and leftovers after visits back home. All packed with intoxicating, exotic flavors that seriously enticed my palate.
Over the past few years, I have continued to educate my taste buds about Indian cuisine’s various flavors and textures. I’ve also discovered that, despite my initial reservations, it’s not hard to make many different Indian dishes at home. If you have never tried it yourself, this pilaf would make a perfect first attempt. The flavor is outrageous. It’s savory with just the right amount of spice. The heat is balanced by sweet bell peppers, and rice fills it out to make it one extra-special one-pot meal. If you’ve never had Indian food, this just might be the dish that hooks you for life.
Chicken and Mixed Sweet Pepper Pilaf (Murgh Pulao)
Adapted from American Masala by Suvir Saran
Juice of 1 lemon
1 T. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. turmeric
Pinch of freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts and thighs, cut cross-wise into 1/2-inch-wide strips
3 T. canola oil
1 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1 large red onion, halved and sliced
A 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 yellow or orange bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise (remove seeds for a milder flavor)
1 T. kosher salt
3/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 cups basmati rice
4 cups water
In a large bowl, combine lemon juice, coriander, cayenne pepper, turmeric, and black pepper. Add the chicken, stir to coat, and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add cumin seeds. Cook until they turn golden brown, about 2 minutes, stirring frequently so the seeds don’t burn. Add the onion and ginger. Cook until the onion softens, about 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the bell peppers, garlic, jalapeno, and salt. Cook until the peppers soften slightly, about 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir the cilantro into the chicken and add to the pepper mixture. Cook until the chicken is browned, about 4 to 6 minutes.
Add the rice and cook for 2 minutes, stirring only once or twice. Add the water, bring to a boil, and cover. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.