This isn’t a traditional “curry”, not that there’s any huge digression from the myriad of wonderful South Asian culinary traditions that originated that unfortunate lable, just that it doesn’t really adhere to any particular traditional recipe. It combines deeply browned onions with a reasonable complex spice mixture, and whole peeled small potatoes for a smokey, spicy gravy, fall apart tender meat, and flavorful, almost impossibly tender potatoes. It’s become a household favorite here, and let me tell you … it smells amazing.
The real base of this dish is the onions – cooked until caramelized and sweet, and adding a dark rich base that really compliments the chicken. Additionally, rather than using a premade spice mixture – and I strongly advise again using American or British style “Curry Powder” as a shortcut – we’ll toast and grind whole spices for a more flavorful sauce. A touch of tomato and a healthy dose of chili powder round it out and make it bright and spicy. All that’s great – no really, it’s pretty great – but for me it’s the potatoes that really make this dish. By pre-boiling then peeling small white or yellow potatoes, and then simmering them in the rich gravy we’re making with the spices and onions and chicken, you get an entirely different potatoe. I know that’s a big claim – but they soak up the sauce and the chicken fat, and become soft, creamy, and incredibly flavorful.
Chicken Thigh Curry with Whole Potatoes
A dark, spicy chicken and potato curry redolent with onions.
4 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs
2 cups chicken stock
1 large red onion
1 lb small white or yellow potatoes
1 1-inch piece fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp Kashmiri chili powder (substitute 1 ½ tsp paprika plus ½ tsp cayenne)
1 tsp cumin seed
1 1-inch piece cinnamon 1 tsp whole mustard seed
1 tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp black peppercorns
1 black cardamom pod
1 tbsp ghee, clarified butter, or unsalted butter.
1 tsp kosher salt
- Add the cumin seed, cinnamon, mustard, peppercorns, and cardamom pod to a dry pan over medium heat.
- Toast, shaking often, until the spices are fragrant, and the mustard seeds are beginning to pop.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature, then process in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle until a fine powder forms.
- Peel trim, and finely mince the garlic.
- Peel, trim, and finely mince the ginger.
- Peel, trim, and finely slice the onion from end to end.
- Add ghee, clarified butter, or unsalted butter, to a pan large enough to hold the chicken, over medium heat.
- As soon as the butter has melted or stopped foaming, add the onions, and ½ tsp of kosher salt.
- Cool the unions over medium heat, stirring frequently until the onions are browned and beginning to caramelize.
- Remove the onions and set them aside.
- Season the chicken thighs with the remaining salt and add to the pan skin side down and cook until the skin is crisp and well browned.
- Remove the chicken thighs and set aside. Discard all but about 1 tbsp of the rendered chicken fat.
- Add the spice powder, turmeric, and chili powder to the pan and briefly fry in the chicken fat.
- Add the garlic and ginger to the pan and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the tomato paste and cook for an additional minute.
- Return the onions to the pan, stirring to mix in well, add the chicken stock, and return the chicken thighs to the mixture.
- Bring to a simmer and cook until the chicken is very tender.
- Bring a separate pot of heavily salted water to a boil.
- Add the unpeeled potatoes to the pot and coo until just tender – the timing will depend on the size of the potatoes.
- Remove the potatoes, and under cold running water, use your fingers to rub the skins off.
- Add the potatoes to the gravy and cook at least 10 minutes for the potatoes to absorb the flavors of the gravy.
- Serve with freshly steamed basmati rice.
Be sure to check out my other food project, The Weekly Menu!