Monday, November 23, 2009

Positively 6th Street

I've been getting earnest requests lately for authentic Chinese and Indian food; up here in the sticks the choices are pretty slim, especially after a decade in the Best Ethnic Takeout City in the whole world™. I tried some Chinese the other night, but got lazy and basically combined two dishes' worth of food into one and made a muddy (if decent-tasting) mess. The key there is to feature each ingredient in its own dish, or paired strategically. Otherwise you get into "your former roomate's pretty awful stir-fry" territory. Which is territory I loathe as much as my former roomate.

So last night I got serious about making some Indian food that someone drunk or with their eyes closed might think was actually from, you know, an Indian restaurant. And that road always begins with grinding spices. So I threw peppercorns, fenugreek, cumin, coriander, cardamom, cloves, and mustard seeds into the little suribachi and ground them to a coarse powder. I took some lovely local lamb stew meat and browned it in ghee, then added the spices and minced onions to soften. And boom- just like that, it started smelling a whole bunch of authentic up in this piece.

To follow, carrot, parsnip, daikon, and chioggia beet (the observant among you will notice that every meal these days is basically a different take on the same damn roots from the garden) plus half a can of coconut milk and some water. Then a low simmer for about an hour, though two would have been better. Meanwhile, I took all of the greens from the roots- plus chard and kale- and simmered them in garam masala (store-bought) with onion, chopped cashews, and some more of the coconut milk. Once tender, I blended it all smooth and adjusted seasonings. Cashews are pretty sweet, so some cider vinegar was required along with the salt. I used leftover brown rice from the Great Leap Backward to complete the meal, adding saffron, peas, scallions, salt, and water to turn it into a pullau kind of a type of a sort of a thing.

If I had thought of it, I would have made pappadums for an appetizer. But even without, it did the job; tastebuds were fooled, and contented sighs issued forth. The meat was a little dry; I need to remember to cut it into smaller chunks if there's not going to be enough braise time. But overall, success- and a jar of lime pickle didn't hurt in the condimentary department.


Ant Kendall said...

Much respect to the breath of your endeavours. I don't know what the supply of Indian ingredients is like in your neck of the woods, but in Bristol, UK I can get hold of fresh curry leaves which I keep in the freezer. They are a haunting, unmistakable flavour of South India and can lift basmati rice, idlis, dosas or any kind of vegetbale thoran/sambar/curry to another level. Fry them (chopped or whole) in oil with the spices first before continuing with your recipe. Namaste!

Ant Kendall said...

by the way the plant in question is 'Chalcas koenigii' not the plant sometimes known as 'curry plant' in English borders and gardens.

We Are Never Full said...

loving your new header - someone changed it up a bit! i think the thing that scares me the most if i ever moved out of nyc is leaving all the different types of ethnic food that is so close to us. i gotta work my way to doing chinese, indian, burmese,etc. waaaaay better at home - let's be honest, i can't afford to buy in this town!

peter said...

Ant: I found those in NYC a while back, but I've run out. I do have kaffir lime leaves and galangal in the freezer, so Thai flavors are within reach. I keep meaning to look for it online.

Amy: About time, right? I make regular trips down to stock up on essentials so we don't go completely mad from privation up here in the sticks.