Here are a few of the dishes you might find in my Someday File: An authentic lasagna from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy (Someday I’ll have time to make pasta from scratch); That Post-it tagged lobster pot pie recipe from one of the Barefoot Contessa books (Someday I’ll be able to justify spending $25/pound on shellfish that gets lost in an ocean of butter and cream); A spicy chicken dish from the New York Times that calls for tamarind paste (Three Somedays here: Someday my kids might be able to handle the hot stuff, Someday I’ll have time to hunt down tamarind paste, and Someday someone will tell me if tamarind paste is the same thing as tamarind concentrate.) My Someday file is not buried on the MacBook or on my epi App. It’s not in a box on a shelf lined up in my kitchen’s Command Central. The file is in my brain and, miraculously, includes an interactive slide show function that has run on a loop ever since 2002, when Phoebe was born. When we were in the middle of The Great Pizza-Pasta-Nugget Rut of 2005, I’d close my eyes and picture the full-page color photos of dahl and turmeric and chilies in Maya Kaimal’s Savoring the Spice Coast of India. Someday, I told myself, I’d be able to trade in these chicken fingers for Kaimal’s 15-ingredient Chicken with Green Chilies and Tamarind.
I’m proud to say that particular Someday arrived last night. I was about make one of my half-way homemade dinners with a Kaimal simmer sauce — yes, this is the same Kaimal who created the line of fresh, flavorful simmer sauces you can find at Whole Foods — when I looked at the clock. It was 5:00. Every box on the day’s to-do list was checked. The girls were entertaining themselves with some game involving a planet called Zorbitor. And — here’s the real crazy part — I actually had a small packet of tamarind paste in the pantry. I didn’t have fresh curry leaves or the 7 to 10 serrano or Thai chilies the recipe called for, but miraculously, I had everything else. I took it as a sign. Someday was Here! Someday was Right Now! And Someday ended up tasting really really really good.
Chicken with Green Chilies and Tamarind
Serves 6 to 8
This was a little too spicy for Abby — it was even a little too spicy for Andy who drinks hot sauce for breakfast. (Phoebe, however, seemed remarkably un-phased.) I recommend cutting back on the chilies, especially if you’re making this for the kids.
1/2 teaspoon tamarind concentrate
7 to 10 fresh green chilies (serrano or Thai; but I had jalapeno) according to taste (I used 2)
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
12 to 15 fresh curry leaves (I didn’t have these)
1 1/2 cups sliced onions
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced ginger
Ground Masala: 3 teaspoons coriander, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1/4 teaspoon turmeric, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 cup chopped tomato
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
In a small bowl combine the tamarind concentrate and 2 tablespoons hot water. Using your fingers, break up tamarind to dissolve completely.
If your fingers are sensitive, wear rubber gloves for this step. Remove and discard stems from the green chilies and slice in half lengthwise. With a sharp knife remove seeds and ribs; discard. Set chilies aside.
In a wide deep pan heat the oil over medium-high heat. Toss in the curry leaves and after they crackle for a few seconds add the onion and fry until soft. Stir in the garlic, ginger, and green chilies and fry until the onion begins to brown. Add the ground masala, tomato, salt, sugar, and 1/4 cup water and fry until tomato breaks down and mixture becomes paste-like. Sprinkle in a little more water if the mixture dries out.
Add in the chicken and dissolved tamarind and simmer over medium-low heat, covered, for 35 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce should be moderately thick. Taste for salt before serving.