Cooking Indian food in America is truly a matter of blending spices and flavors to integrate Eastern spices with Western techniques. Indo-American cuisine is all about playing with flavors, ideas, colors and taste.
One of my favorite fusion dishes is Chicken in White Cream Sauce. It’s almost like a korma dish flavored with rich cardamom, cinnamon sticks, black peppercorns and garam masala. It reminds me of comfort food such as pasta in rich Alfredo cream sauce. This curry tastes best when made a few hours before serving, as the flavors become more integrated and the chicken becomes tender.
For a vegetarian korma, use diced paneer or fresh vegetables.
A few key ingredients to keep on hand in the kitchen to throw together an Indian meal are onions, tomato puree, ginger, garlic, plain yogurt, cilantro and lime. Spices to stockpile include red chili powder, freshly crushed black pepper, garam masala powder, coriander powder and dry mango powder. A few condiments are must-haves, specifically whole cardamoms, black peppercorns, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, whole coriander seeds and whole red chilies. These are often used to temper a dish in hot oil and further infuse flavor.
Chicken in white cream sauce
• 1 medium white onion, chopped
• 1/2 teaspoon garlic, freshly grated
• 1/2 teaspoon ginger, freshly grated
• 2 small cinnamon sticks
• 5-6 small whole green cardamom pods, slightly crushed
• 3-4 whole cloves
• 8-10 whole black peppercorns
• 2-3 whole dried chilies (use 1 for less spice)
• 3-4 bay leaves
• 1/2 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
• 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander powder
• Pinch red chili powder
• Salt to taste
• 1/2 teaspoon garam masala powder
• 1 teaspoon brown sugar
• 3-4 tablespoons olive or canola oil
• 3-4 tablespoons plain yogurt, whisked
• 1 medium size boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into small pieces
• 3-4 tablespoons water
• 1/2 cup Half & Half or light whipping cream (for white-sauce consistency)
• 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, fresh (to garnish)
In a blender, add chopped onions and process to fine paste. Heat oil and temper cinnamon stick, green cardamom, cloves, coriander seeds, bay leaves, peppercorns and red chilies. Let them brown for a minute and add onion paste. Once this starts to caramelize and turn brown, add ginger and grated garlic. Continue to cook until brown in color. You might need to add a little oil if it starts to get too dry. Lower flame and slowly whisk in yogurt. Make sure you keep stirring it so that it does not curdle.
Add chicken pieces, water, salt, red chili powder, coriander powder, brown sugar and cream or half-and-half. Lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes until chicken cooks and curry thickens, almost like a white-sauce consistency.
Remove from stove and add garam masala.
Just before serving, heat chicken and garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve hot with Indian bread or basmati rice pilaf.
Makes two servings.
Gitika Baveja is author of “Indian Flavors to Savor: The Easy Home-Cooked Way.” For more information, visit www.flavorstosavor.com.