Czech curried chicken
I used to call it Czechoslovakian curried chicken. I Googled Czechoslovakian because I wasn't sure how to spell it. Try finding that word on the internet. You can, but because Czechoslovakia hasn't existed since New Year's Day in 1993, when its dissolution occurred after a short 74-year life span, what you'll mostly see is Czech.
The country was split in two, becoming the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic. Of course that was 24 years ago, so duh.
I Googled curry too. I wasted a good half hour trying to determine the history and origin of curry, and I'm no smarter now than I was before I started. Some say it's an Indian dish. Others claim it's British.
A dear friend who came here from Czechoslovakia back in the 70s had me believing it was Czechoslovakian.
I've mentioned her before in this column, but I know how forgetful you are. Her name was Milu. The column was about curried cream of butternut squash soup.
Anyway, Milu made the best chicken curry in the world.
It always tasted especially good when she made it too, probably in part because of the atmosphere where we ate it. She and her husband, Al, lived on the top floor of their inn, the Blue Ox, at the base of Sugarloaf, in a cool, loft-style apartment with a deck overlooking the mountain. And there was never a shortage of good wine and laughter.
Milu died, way too young, of breast cancer.
This curry is aromatic, creamy, and heavenly. It's not your typical curry recipe. Unfortunately the curry powder I use isn't as good as hers. She used to get it at Quincy Market — it was mixed up fresh by someone in Boston, using several seeds and spices: coriander, fenugreek and cumin seeds, tumeric, ginger, dry mustard, cinnamon, black pepper, cloves, cardamom and chile peppers.
It's been a while since I made it, and I’m upset because I couldn’t find the old, yellowed recipe card. There were even spots of yellow curry sauce splattered on it. Luckily, because I’ve made it so many times over the years, I pretty much know it by heart. Also luckily, my best friend, Nancy, found a shortened version of it from around 20 years ago, and she came up from Portland this weekend. Between the two of us, and some manhattans and wine, we managed.
She drove me to Hannaford for the ingredients. My car broke down on New Year's Day en route to Portland. Timing belt. I know. Serious, and expensive. It’s at Dan’s Auto now. I'll keep you posted, because I know you're all sitting on the edge of your seats now. It’s a bummer, but a good excuse for another manhattan.
Meanwhile, here's the recipe for Milu's chicken curry:
Boneless chicken breasts, cut into chunks or strips, dusted with flour. Pan fry in some oil. Put chicken aside, leaving that oily stuff with yummy crunchy chunks left in the pan.
Take a handful of almonds and grind them up them in a blender, or just smash them up in a plastic bag with a mallet. Saute them separately in some butter and set aside.
Chop an onion, and throw into the pan you cooked the chicken in, with some minced garlic (1tbsp. or so). Stir over low heat till translucent. Add a heaping tbsp. curry powder (or more), tsp. ginger and tsp. salt. Stir around for a while, while sipping a manhattan.
Stir in a heaping tblsp. chutney. Slice up a couple apples and throw them in. Add a handful of golden raisins. (These plump up and burst in your mouth.) Stir in a cup of chicken broth or stock — more if it's too thick. That sauce is good! Let simmer for a while, till apples are soft.
Throw in the almonds and chicken and let simmer while you have another manhattan.
Stir in enough cream to make it creamy.
Serve over hot rice. Milu always insisted on Carolina rice. I always hear her saying that in her Czech accent — “Cah-dho-leena.”
Another thing she always insisted on was that NOTHING be served with the curry but the rice, and beer must be the beverage served with it.
And you didn’t want to argue with Milu. She was a little spitfire.
P.S. This curry is outrageous. I am not kidding you. If you don’t believe me email me at email@example.com and I’ll convince you to try it.
See ya next week!