Cilantro Chicken Curry

I’ll be honest, I’m not the most assiduous recipe writer or tester.  More often than not, especially for dinner, I have a pretty good idea of what I want to make, but spend a lot of time rooting around in my fridge for ingredients to add in, and adapting ideas on the fly.  It usually works out pretty well, but I tend to rely on my memory and food sense more than recipes.

But I’ve been tinkering with this Cilantro Chicken Curry recipe for a while, and it’s become a fall and winter stand-by.  Originally inspired by a recipe for Lemony Chicken Curry from former Wash Post writer Kim O’Donnel (who I believe modified it from a Madhur Jaffrey recipe), it’s a great mix of warmth and spice.

I recommend using chicken thighs in this recipe.  I’ve made it with both breasts and thighs, and the silkier texture of the thighs really works and melds with the sultry curry flavors.  If you decide to make it with whole chicken pieces instead of boneless, just increase the simmering time after you’ve added all the ingredients to the pot to cook the chicken through.

Cilantro Chicken Curry

Inspired by Kim O’Donnel
Serves 4-6

2 bunches cilantro, cleaned
2-inch hunk of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
5 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
Zest of one lemon

5-6 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil
Approximately 2 pounds boneless chicken thighs or breasts, trimmed and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 habanero chile, seeded and diced (optional)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 medium tomatoes (or 1 15-ounce can of tomatoes), coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon salt (and then to taste)
1 cup water or chicken stock
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Add ginger, garlic, cilantro, salt and lemon zest to the food processor and whir until everything is coarsely chopped (you could also do this by hand).  Set aside.

Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed large pot at medium-high heat.  When pot is hot but not smoking, add chicken pieces and brown on all sides.  Remove from pot with tongs and set aside.  Add onion and sauté until translucent and just starting to brown.  Add habenero and sauté for one minute.

Return the chicken to the pan.  Add the cayenne, cumin, coriander, and turmeric.  Sauté for 3-4 minutes.  Add chickpeas, cilantro mixture, tomatoes, salt, and water or chicken stock.  Bring mixture to a boil, and then cover, reduce heat to low, and cook for 20-30 minutes.

Serve with rice or naan, and a spoonful of cool yogurt on top.

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