I ventured into unknown culinary territory this week. And it was spicy, tangy and quite tasty. And much less difficult than I anticipated. I was sick earlier in the week and decided that throwing together a big old slow cooker meal would be the easiest way to feed us both for several days, with minimal effort.
I stumbled upon this recipe for Crockpot Chicken Vindaloo in an article about slow cooker meals and it looked delicious. I've never dabbled in cooking Indian food before. One of my dear friends, Neha, is Indian-American and her mother is an amazing cook, whose food I've gotten to try a few times. Joe and I like Indian food: tandoris, lamb korma, chicken tikka masala, mango chicken, all the rich, delectable vegetable side dishes. And of course garlic naan, plain naan, any naan, frankly. But I have zero experience cooking any of these types of dishes. I love the spices: cumin, curry, peppers, ginger, turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves. For my first Indian attempt, I went with easy.
The sauce started with a mix of just those spices, delicious spices, plus some hot pepper and garlic blended together with canned tomatoes, since I didn't have any tomato sauce on hand like the recipe called for. I added a little chicken stock since the sauce was very thick and I was worried that it wouldn't cover the chicken and keep it moist while cooking. Then some chopped onion, mustard seeds and those quartered chicken breasts, the lid smacked down on the top, and we're cooking.
The sauce itself was delicious and tasted similar to a dish we've had at Masala. Sadly, the chicken was a touch overcooked and a bit dry. Odd how that happens in a Crockpot sometimes. I only cooked it for about three and a half hours since the times on these recipes always seem too long to me. But still overcooked. I'd probably swap out chicken thighs instead of breasts next time. But after shredding up the chicken and mixing it in the sauce, it was perfect. The sauce needed a little doctoring first though. I added a little brown sugar to cut the strong vinegar flavor, a shot or two of Siracha to increase the heat and more salt to balance out the flavors. It was yummy, the sweetness of the clove and cinnamon mixed with the mustard seed and vinegary tomato flavors was perfect. When Joe got home from work he walked up the stairs and said "It smells all like India up in here." And it did, the house was filled with the aromatic smells of an Indian spice market.
We both loved the meal, served over kasmati rice, it was a nice change of pace. And as soon as Trader Joe's opens here I'm stocking up on some of their frozen naan. Because to make this meal perfect, all we needed was a little naan. I want to get more adventurous and try something more daring next time and I think I know just who to ask for some recipe ideas! Neha?