As I’ve mentioned a number of times (my apologies), the pandemic has severely stunted my wanderlust. So, much of my cooking “wanders” back to places I’ve visited and loved. That said, several of you have lamented that my ingredients are “weird” or something no one really has in their cupboard. I can’t say that will stop entirely, because I want to continually expand my understanding of food and ingredients and I hope you do too. Of course, in non-pandemic days, travel helps with that too.
That said, I do recognize that it’s easier taking baby steps into new tastes. We’ll start with the French/Indian Vadouvan.
Vadouvan is a spice blend that is a very mild sort of smoky, curry flavor. When the French colonized Puducherry, they brought the idea of curries back to France with them, but created this milder version of a curry, much milder than those I tasted from the families of my software development team in Bangalore and Mumbai.
I have been playing with my own spice blends lately, but you can certainly buy a premade dried vadouvan spice blend on Amazon, at Parivar or perhaps Whole Foods, which is perfectly fine. If you do, just skip to the chicken part of the recipe.
Vadouvan Spice Blend
2 pounds onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound shallots, halved
6 garlic cloves, peeled
6 cloves black garlic*
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
In a food processor, mortar and pestle or spice grinder, grind everything in batches. Keep in the fridge for a week to ten days.
6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs**
2 tablespoons Vadouvan spice blend
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 cup canned coconut milk
1 head Napa cabbage
1 pound shiitake mushrooms
In a Dutch oven or stovetop safe casserole dish, warm the oil and the spice blend over medium heat.
Preheat the oven to 375.
De-stem the mushrooms and slice the caps into about 6-8 slices each. Set aside.
Slice the Napa Cabbage into 1 inch strips lengthwise. and set aside.
Rinse and dry chicken well.
Rub each piece of chicken in the oil, skin side down and brown the skin. Remove the chicken and set aside.
Mix the cabbage and mushrooms together in the remaining oil and spice.
Add the coconut milk and stir.
Place the chicken, skin side up, on top of the vegetables.
Bake for 35-45 minutes, depending upon the size of your chicken thighs.
The cabbage mixture may seem a little dry to braise, but the moisture from the chicken will add a lot to it. So much so that you may want to have some jasmine rice to serve with the lovely broth.
*You don’t have to use black garlic, (it’s hardly traditional), but it brings a wonderful, earthy, smoky, almost sweet flavor to the dish. I get my organic black garlic, in many different forms, from ObisOne.com.
** I have a partiality to dark meat, not just for its texture but for it’s flavor as well. You can certainly change the cut of chicken that you prefer, just adjust your cooking time. There’s nothing worse than an overcooked chicken breast.
This dish was my opportunity to reflect on some wonderful days in France - the Tourn’bride Restaurant, and India - at my friends’ homes.
Should you be so inclined, try a medium-sweet Reisling with this dish, like Dr. Heidemanns Bernkastel Badstube Riesling Auslese, 2018.
Don’t worry. It’s OK to drink white after Labor Day.