While my mom is the more talented, experienced cook in our family, my dad enjoys some basic cooking, and cooks much more in his retired years. He’s a particular fan of quick recipes with few ingredients. He is a retired engineer, so he loves method and precision — if a recipe says 1/4 teaspoon of salt he will measure it exactly as instructed. Improvisation is not in his vocabulary.
One dish Daddy makes often is his chicken curry. It’s so simple. It’s so easy. It’s so satisfying. And, the funny thing is, we never seem to grow tired of it. It’s a dish I make at least once a month at home in New York. Whenever we visit Canada, and mom & dad ask us what we want for dinner upon arrival, it’s the one dish we request. Every time. And somehow, it always tastes better when Daddy makes it.
Daddy’s Chicken Curry — in 10 steps
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
- 1-inch piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and finely minced
- 1-1.5 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs (usually it’s one package; if you can’t find boneless, using bone-in chicken thighs are just fine)
- 1 tablespoon canola oil (don’t use olive oil unless you don’t have anything else on hand)
- 1/2 teaspoon dry red chilli flakes
- ¾ teaspoon coriander powder
- ½ teaspoon cumin powder
- ½ teaspoon garam masala
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste (I like Muir Glen’s organic tomato paste)
- A generous handful of small red potatoes cut in half or fingerling potatoes (totally optional)
- 1.5 cups of water (just enough to cover the chicken)
- 1/4 cup freshly chopped cilantro (for garnish before serving)
- Assemble all your ingredients i) fresh aromatics (onions, garlic, ginger) and spices ii) chicken and iii) potatoes if you’re using them (the curry is just as great without the potatoes, so don’t worry if you don’t have them)
- Heat oil in a deep, wide skillet on medium to medium-high heat. Add the dry red chilli flakes right away–when they start to move a little, you will know the oil is ready! (a tip that has saved me many, many times)
- Add the onions, garlic, and ginger (yes, all at once), and sauté onions until golden (you don’t need to worry about browning them or caramelizing them–they just need to become golden and glassy).
- Add the chicken thighs, one side down. Let them brown on one side (say 1-2 minutes), then turn each piece over and do the other side.
- Add the cumin, coriander, garam masala, turmeric, and salt, and mix well to coat, so the onions, garlic, ginger, chicken, and dry spices are all happy together. Then add the tomato paste and combine until well mixed.
- Drop the potatoes in.
- Add water, mix everything together gently, and cover, increasing the heat slightly. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to minimum and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Top with fresh cilantro.
- Stand back and behold your creation!
- Dig in and eat. Most important step of all.