Flavorwalla Braised Chicken

One of the many New Yorkers we lost after Covid19 diagnosis is Chef Floyd Cardoz. I knew him through Tabla: his Mumbai origin and training was never lost on me.

While sheltering-in-place, I pay tribute to him by adapting one of his creations from his book Flavorwalla (the title cracks me up and it’s so apt for his talents). I further simplify his simple dish and turn into a balanced, one-pot dish. The result is absolutely delicious– hence this post. I thought I was taking a risk by adding apple, pear and dijon mustard to the protein– but the tangy, mustardy stew will steal your heart. Enjoy fresh and refrigerate the left-over!

SPECIAL TOOLS:

Dutch oven (Le Cruset).

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 skin-less, bone-in chicken thighs, marinaded in a ziplock bag for 2 hrs, in 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste + 1 tbsp coriander powder + 1 tbsp Rosemary leaves + 1/4 cup EVOO
  • Aromatics: 1 medium onion, diced + 2 pods garlic, crushed
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • Vegetables, cut into large 1.5 inch chunks: 1 large potato + 2 carrots + 1/2 fennel bulb
  • Greens: Napa cabbage cut into large pieces + 2 cups of spinach leaves
  • Fruits, cut into 1 inch chunks: 1 green apple cored + 1 pear cored
  • 2nd Flavor layer: 2 tbsp Dijon mustard + crushed chilli flakes
  • Grain: 1 cup quinoa

METHOD

Heat the dutch oven with the chicken and its marinade. When heated through and lightly browned on all sides, add the aromatic ingredients and cook till fragrant (2 minutes). Then add the vegetables, salt-to-taste and cook covered in oven at 375 F for 20 minutes.

Heat the chicken stock (in a microwave). Add to the dutch oven along with Napa cabbage, fruits, 2nd layer flavor ingredients, grains and salt to taste. Mix well, cover and cook at reduced heat (350 F) for 20 minutes. Take off the heat. Fold in the spinach leaves.

NOTES, HINTS, TIPS:

  1. Since we are adding vegetables in layers, the oven is a better option than a pressure cooker. Also, if you decide to cook on the stove-top instead of the oven, you must use a heavy bottomed pan, particularly for the first half of the cookin.
  2. The chicken is tender enough to be pulled off the bones.
  3. You can also use parsnips, turnips etc.
  4. Same for greens- escarole, kale, chard.
  5. Same for grains- couscous, fonio (adjust the cooking time).
  6. The dots in the photograph are the multi-colored quinoa and the specks of dijon mustard.

Silk Road: Tbilisi Chicken Stew

In my recent trip to Tbilisi, I bought a clay baking dish (ketsi) from a subway vendor. We communicated animatedly via miming. Gesturing creatively, she urged me to make chicken in the ketsi (or, so I think!). I also picked up a melange of spices at a street market, from an equally warm vendor whose enthusiastic chatter was translated by her young daughter. This is my homage to the gorgeous Georgian ladies.

Dairy and meat is not a common duo, but inspired by the Tbilisi experience, I present a version of shkmeruli, albeit with some spices (the above street-market spices) and a light, fragrant broth. Enjoy!

Special tools:

None.

Ingredients

  • 3.5 lbs chicken (whole OR thighs on the bone) + salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup beet greens, finely chopped, dry roasted, optionally, for about 4 minutes (measures 1/2 cup after processing)
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • Georgian spices: 1 tsp Utskho suneli (“foreign” spice or blue fenugreek powder) + 2 tsps kharcho (mixed spices)
  • 10 sage leaves
  • Topping (optional): Georgian Ajika, a chilli-garlic powder

Method

Wipe the chicken pieces dry with kitchen towel and sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides. Brown both sides of chicken in a heavy bottomed pan. If using a claypot, line the claypot with the greens and place the browned chicken pieces on it. Deglaze the heavy bottomed pan with little water and pour on the chicken. If using an enamel iron pot (Le Cruset), add the greens directly and there is no need to explicitly deglaze.

Mix the Georgian spices in milk and pour gently over the chicken. Sprinkle the sage leaves all over the chicken.

Bake covered at 325 F for 1 hour. If not done, remove lid, baste and bake uncovered until interior temp to 165 F. Serve hot with topping (optional).

Notes, hints, tips:
  1. Just a couple of weeks before my travel to the Caucasus, I had experimented with a citrus-milk-chicken stew. In a Baader-Meinhof coincidence I ran into shkmeruli -chicken stewed in milk- at Sakhli, ostensibly one of the top Georgian restaurants in Tbilisi. My version here is slightly different from this classic Georgian dish and I present the citrus chicken below.
  2. If you don’t have Georgian spices, you can substitute with mix of garam masala and coriander powder.
  3. When using chicken thighs, I skin it to reduce the chicken fat in broth.
  4. Of course, any greens can be used instead of beet greens. make sure they are finely diced.
  5. Claypot is fun to use; but I find the LeCruset more convenient since I can brown and cook in the same pot.
  6. The milk in the stew curdles– providing little cheese curds and a tasty, light broth.
  7. Ajika is reminiscent of the Maharashtrian garlic powder (with chilli, coconut, sesame). Almost all cultures –East Asian to Indian to Mexican– seem to have a version of this lip-smacking hot, pungent topping.
  8. Citrus Chicken: Here is a floral chicken stewed in milk, that is equally gorgeous. Substitute the Georgian spices with:
    Zest of 1 lemon, 2 oranges + 1 orange cut into pieces + 1 tsp ground cardamom + 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon + 9-10 garlic pods, skinned, smashed and softened in 2 tbsp oil
    In fact adding the zest at the end gives a stronger citrus aroma to the dish.