I know this one sounds like an odd combination, but somehow, innocent, autumnal kind of ingredients (apple, apple cider, cinnamon, white wine, dijon, golden raisins) come together to produce a curry that could stand up next to any other traditional chicken curry flavor-wise. And so today, we have apple chicken curry.
I wanted to make chicken that somehow went with apples, but I had a tough time coming up with something that appealed to me. I wrote down a long list of things that I thought would go well with apple and then started whittling it down until there was a collection of things that seemed harmonious together. From there, I just took all of those ingredients out and just sort of went with it–since ginger and cardamom were involved, why not try to do something with some Indian flare to it? And so I started working in other Asian flavors, such as kasoori methi (a.k.a. fenugreek), and that is why this is also my entry for this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Anna of Anna’s Cool Finds.
I was kind of surprised at how “authentic” this tasted really–at the start, I was concerned that this dish might lead to ordering out for pizza instead (“apple and chicken” is an odd combination when you don’t have a plan…), but in the end, it actually tasted like it were an authentic curry. Well spiced chicken in a thick gravy with just the right balance of heat and acidity, tempered by a mellow creaminess that makes everybody play nice together. There was no weird conflict with the apple or any of those elements–it had the right body, the right heat, and the right flavors. I would definitely do it again, but next time, I’d like to explore ways that I could make the apple flavor more pronounced as it was a bit muted. The preparation style follows somewhat from what I’d learned in making butter chicken.
- ~2 lbs chicken thighs
- 1 tsp garlic paste
- 1 tsp ginger paste
- pinch of salt
- ground black pepper
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- 6-8 garlic cloves
- 1 shallot
- 6 cloves
- 8 cardamom pods
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 6-10 peppercorns
- 2 star anise
- 3 jalapeño peppers
- 1 leek
- 2 gala apples
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 cup apple cider
- 1/4 cup cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup dijon mustard
- 3 sprigs rosemary
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- 1/4 coconut milk
- 1/2 tsp kasoori methi (fenugreek)
- Optional: walnuts for garnish
I didn’t quite go to the trouble of making a proper chicken tikka as I hadn’t planned on marinating the chicken, but the flavors are very similar. So to begin, simply trim any excess fat off of the chicken thighs and chop to medium sized pieces. Rub the chicken with garlic paste, ginger paste, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Rub this all over the chicken and brown in a hot pan with a bit of oil. Once browned on all sides (and cooked all the way through), set the chicken aside.
While you’re waiting on the chicken to finish browning, prepare the fresh ingredients. Peel, core, and slice the apples, behead and halve the jalapeños, and dice and clean the pale part of the leek. Coarsely dice the garlic, shallot, and leek.
In a pan with a bit of oil, sauté the shallot, and after 3 minutes or so, add in the garlic, and after another minute, add in the leeks. In another few minutes, toss in the jalapeños and keep things moving around. Within 10 minutes time total or so, this should come off of the heat. Don’t worry about how large the veggies are–they’ll be pureed later, so save yourself the trouble.
By now, the chicken should be done and out of the pan. So in its place, put in the whole dry spices to toast them a bit and coax them to release their flavors. Once they start to perfume the room, add in the cooked veggies.
Also add in the apples, wine, vinegar, mustard, rosemary (don’t bother stripping the leaves off of the stem–easy removal later), and raisins. Get this simmering on medium heat for about 15-20 minutes.
Once done simmering, fish out the rosemary and the whole spices. Then, carefully transfer this hot mixture into the food processor and puree well. Then, pour this through a strainer back into the hot pan and let it simmer some more. Add the chicken into the sauce.
We’re on the home stretch now. Let the chicken simmer in the sauce for 5 minutes or so, and then, grab a good pinch of kasoori methi. This spice gives many curries that very distinctive “curry flavor” (curry powder is not what does that!). This spice is very potent, but also very delicate–if you were to add it in early on, the heat of cooking would annihilate every hint of its flavor. But adding it just at the end so it has but a moment to integrate with the sauce brings a peppery, anise-y bitterness that just brings everything together in a fantastic way. But given that aside, don’t add it just yet…
So if you’ve tasted the curry sauce by now, it tastes kind of sharp and acidic–just not quite done. To balance that out, add in the coconut milk and stir–this makes things a bit creamier and takes that bite out of the sauce. Let this continue to simmer for another 5 minutes or so, and then, the grand finale: crumble in the methi and give it a stir. Turn off the heat and get your plate ready.
I served this curry with a side of yogurt rice, which paired quite nicely. I also topped the chicken off with a few more golden raisins and some crushed walnuts for texture and for keeping with the apple theme. Enjoy!