Recipe Review: Chicken Curry with Spinach and Fenugreek

We joined Cook’s Illustrated online earlier this year, and have been dabbling with some recipes.  I’m always interested in International cuisine, of course, so I was pretty excited to see that they had a decent collection. Some of the recipes I want to try are waiting on ingredients I’m going to have to get from out of town, but this one uses things I commonly keep around.

*Note: I will not be copying the specific CI recipes here, both because I’m fairly sure it’s a breach of the CI user terms and because I like to support publications that do good recipes, which can only happen if people pay for them. Hopefully the reviews, and tips, tricks, and changes will help not only those people who use CI, but also others who might be using a similar recipe.

Let me start by saying I already make a darn good curry because I’ve been lucky enough to have amazing Indian cooks share their techniques and ingredient preferences with me.  So, this wasn’t about learning to make curry, but about making a different curry.

The first thing you always do before starting a recipe you’ve never made before is to read it all the way through. There were some things I noticed right off the bat that were a bit odd, most of which I’ll get to in a minute when I talk about how actually making the recipe came off.

But, the one I want to talk about now is the “mystery ingredient” that appears in the directions, but not in the ingredient list: yogurt. No where in the ingredient list does yogurt appear, but in the directions it says “Stir in garlic, ginger, chicken, ground spices, fenugreek, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and tomatoes or yogurt.”  Wait, what? Aside from being completely absent in the ingredient list, generally one doesn’t use yogurt as a substitute for tomatoes. While much Indian food does use yogurt, I decided to skip it this time around since it wasn’t in the ingredient list. If you decided to cook this, and use yogurt (whether in addition to or in place of tomatoes) please let me know how it goes.

Decision made, I assembled the rest of the ingredients:

Starting to assemble the ingredients.

The weird paste-like stuff you see in that plastic cup is puree’d garlic & ginger. I have to say, my Magic Bullet does this really well. The basic ingredients are spices, chicken, tomatoes, onions, garlic and ginger, jalapeno, spinach, and potatoes. I didn’t have access to any local spinach for this recipe, and the only way I could get organic at the store was frozen, which is what I used. Fresh would probably add a bit more flavor. I also used organic, free-range chicken, which I highly recommend when doing Indian food of any kind–it just takes flavor better.  The other thing you don’t see here is potatoes, because despite the recipes saying “get everything together before you start,” looking at the recipe it was obvious there would be about 45 minutes before the potatoes get added. Generally, it’s best not to cut potatoes this far from cooking, or to at least keep them in water until it’s time to add them.

One of the best ways to get that rich, aromatic taste of authentic Indian food is to roast the spices. The header blurb thing for this recipe talks a bit about that, so I was surprised to see that they added the spices along with wet ingredients and oil. I did it their way, and I have to admit I was a bit disappointed.  It certainly wasn’t bad, it was just lacked some depth. If I make this again, I’ll dry roast my spiced first before adding oil, onions, and the rest of the ingredients.

Everything else went together as per directions. The only change I made was to seed the jalapenos, which I shouldn’t have done. I was concerned the dish might be too hot (Thadd’s not as big a spicy food fan as I am), but it ended up lacking heat because of this. They did impart a nice flavor, though.

Simmering before adding the spinach or potatoes.

I thawed the spinach and squeezed out the excess water before adding it, and cut the potatoes shortly before they went in.

Excuse the blurry image. Between the steam and my weirdly-lighted kitchen, it was a difficult capture.

Finally, it was served over white (yes, white) rice. I wanted to do white basmati or jasmine, but this is what I had on hand.

The verdict was overall very positive. There were three of us at dinner, and we all enjoyed it. It didn’t suffer for a lack of yogurt, though I may add some at some point just for giggles.  There are some tweaks I would definitely make, however:

-Leave the seeds in the jalapeno.

-Roast the spices before adding other ingredients.

-Consider adding about half again as much spice. While good, it lacked a bit in the spice (not heat, which is different) department in all of our opinions.

If you try this recipe, let me know how it goes for you, and if you made any changes.


2 responses to “Recipe Review: Chicken Curry with Spinach and Fenugreek

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