Type “chicken recipe” into Google and watch as millions of suggestions line up, page after page, at your beck and call. There is no shortage of ways to cook our favorite bird. But often what I really want when I crave chicken is something that will comfort and soothe: a meal that is the equivalent of a good blanket, cup of tea, or a bath of the perfect temperature. For me, this buttermilk chicken kadhi is that dish.
Kadhi is one of India’s most popular dishes, the taste of home for so many Indians. At its most basic, it is buttermilk or yoghurt spiced with fenugreek and turmeric, laced with green chilies, garlic and ginger, then bound together with chickpea flour. The flour thickens the buttermilk, turning it into a silky, deeply savory and addictive sauce.
It is a frugal dish, which is much cherished. And even though it never graced the boilerplate Indian restaurant menus around the world, it is cooked weekly, if not daily, in our homes.
Poaching chicken in the kadhi is not traditional (Google searches return nothing) but, since putting the two together, I have never looked back. Pan-frying the chicken legs first brings out the delicious sticky caramel flavors in the skin before the buttermilk bath, which tenderizes the leg meat magnificently. The result is impossibly soft chicken, which falls off the bone easily, ready to dunk into a creamy, but tart and gently spiced sauce.
As far as chicken recipes that hit the spot go, for flavor, speed and ease, this one is hard to beat.
BUTTERMILK CHICKEN KADHI
Although the chickpea flour acts as a good stabilizer, don’t be alarmed if the buttermilk curdles while cooking. It makes no difference to the flavor and the little curds add a lovely texture to the sauce. Serve with rice and a side salad.
Start to finish: 40 minutes
2 tablespoons canola oil
4 pounds chicken thighs and drumsticks
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
2 pinches fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
20 fresh curry leaves
1 1/2-inch chunk fresh ginger, grated
6 cloves garlic, crushed
2 green finger chilies, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons chickpea flour
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 quart buttermilk
In a large skillet pan over medium-high, heat the oil. When hot, add the chicken and brown until evenly golden on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
Spoon off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat in the skillet. Return the skillet to medium heat, then add the mustard, fenugreek, cumin and curry leaves. Allow to sizzle for 1 minute, then add the ginger, garlic and chilies and cook for a few minutes, or until soft and golden.
Reduce the heat to low and add the chickpea flour, turmeric and salt. Mix and slowly whisk in the buttermilk. Bring the buttermilk up to a very gentle simmer, then return the chicken to the skillet. Coat with the sauce, then cover and cook for 30 minutes, or until the chicken is soft and cooked through.
Nutrition information per serving: 520 calories; 210 calories from fat (40 percent of total calories); 24 g fat (6 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 210 mg cholesterol; 660 mg sodium; 24 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 11 g sugar; 49 g protein.