One of my favorite cookbooks is Raghavan Iyer’s 660 Curries — our family loves Indian food, and every single thing we have tried from the book has been pretty fantastic. I should note that the recipes aren’t all “curries” in the traditional Americanized sense, meaning they don’t all have heavy sauces. There’s a terrific array of rice dishes, for example.
One dish we have made again and again is Iyer’s Cardamom-Scented Chicken with Ginger and Garlic. And while it’s great as is, we have also branched out and used the same spices in other ways. Here I’ve adapted the recipe for an oven-braised version.
This recipe requires a trip to an Indian grocery store — if you have one nearby, it’s well worth a visit. You’ll find a ton of good quality spices in large quantities, usually at much lower prices than other stores, and a lot of them (cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, etc.) cross over into other types of cooking. And you’ll find stuff that’s hard to get anywhere else. (You can also shop online from a store like Kalustyan’s — I have not tried it, but it was recommended by The Kitchn.)
In particular, you’ll need some whole red chiles (spice level: medium to hot) and green cardamom pods:
Cardamom pods are sometimes used whole, but for this recipe you open up the pods and extract the black seeds. Your reward for a few minutes of work is seeds that are much more pungent and aromatic, and they are one of the main flavors of the dish.
The recipe also calls for ghee, a type of clarified butter that you can buy from an Indian grocery or make yourself. Making ghee is super easy: Alton Brown has a recipe here on the Food Network website.
2 tsp whole cardamom seeds
6 whole Indian red chiles
2 tbsp fresh ginger, finely grated
1 1/2 tsp garlic, minced
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp canola oil
8 chicken drumsticks or mix of drumsticks and bone-in thighs, skins removed
1 tbsp ghee
3 bay leaves
2 whole cinnamon sticks
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
Grind the cardamom seeds with three of the chiles (a coffee grinder works best if you have one strictly for spices; otherwise you’ll need to start with ground cardamom, chop up the chiles yourself and grind with a mortar and pestle). Add the ginger, garlic, turmeric, salt and oil and stir to form a paste. Rub the chicken with the paste and marinate for at least two hours (preferably overnight).
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a large oven-safe skillet over low heat, melt the ghee. Add the bay leaves, cinnamon sticks and remaining chiles. Top with the chicken and onions. Move the skillet to the oven and bake until the chicken braises in its own juices and reaches an internal temperature of 180 degrees and is almost falling off the bone, about 1 hour. Top with cilantro and serve.
Pictured: Corning Ware Spice O’ Life A-10-B Skillet, Pyrex Royal Wheat 063 Divided Dish