Writing for an online audience is a blessing and a curse. A blessing because I get near-instant real-time feedback on how much you, dear readers, enjoy reading a post. I know you like something when you share it on Facebook or Twitter. I know by how you leave your comments and how you spend more than 3 seconds on the page. The curse lies in that fact that once I know all this stuff, I have no excuse not to consistently deliver articles and recipes that lie in that sweet Venn diagram spot where what I love intersects with what you love.
Today's recipe is a conscious effort to hit that sweet spot.
What I know about you*:
- You like fast.
- You love easy.
- You lurve chicken.
- You're pretty wild about recipes that taste awesome.
- You like gadgets.
*no, not you specifically, or perhaps maybe you specifically, but I mean YOU, as a group.
What I know about me: I'm pretty wild about recipes that taste awesome.
This recipe hits every one of those points. It takes about half an hour once you've got your ingredients collected. It's easy enough that a very large and particularly precocious child could make it. It features chicken (along with chickpeas and fresh spinach—two vegetables my handy site-monitoring utilities also tell me you love). It tastes incredibly awesome with a creamy and tangy spiced tomato sauce (think: chicken tikka masala). It's made in a pressure cooker to boot, delivering long-simmered flavor and tender chicken in a fraction of the time. And it tastes incredibly awesome.
Oh, oh! Another thing you seem to enjoy: step-by-step illustrated instructions that AREN'T in slideshow format. Away we go!
Step 1: Brown Aromatics
We start by sautéing onions, garlic, and ginger in butter in the base of a pressure cooker. If you have a stovetop model, do this over medium to medium-high heat. I'm currently testing out a countertop electric model from Breville, which has a "sear" setting. The goal here is lightly browned aromatics. As onions and garlic brown, their natural polysaccharides break down into sweeter simple sugars that subsequently brown and caramelize, creating rich, complex aromas that blend well with the ginger.
Step 2: Bloom Spices
Next up, add in your spices: cumin, paprika, coriander, turmeric, and black pepper. The dish we're making ends up with the familiar, comforting flavor of chicken tikka masala, a very mildly spiced product of British-Indian imperialism. We could go for broke and mix up a 20-ingredient curry powder, but quick and easy is key here (to be honest, even jarred curry powder would work just fine). What we don't want to skimp on is blooming the spices in fat, a process which not only intensifies their flavor, but also makes it more easily extractable.
Step 3: Add Sauce
In go crushed tomatoes. For this particular batch, I drained some whole peeled tomatoes and quickly crushed them with a hand blender, as I tend to only keep whole tomatoes in my pantry. I find it much more convenient to shop for a single type of tomato product and chop, strain, or purée it as my needs demand. Whole tomatoes tend to be of a higher quality and consistency than their more processed counterparts, but if you've got crushed tomatoes on hand or want to make an already easy recipe even easier, they work just fine.
Step 4: Add Spinach
A pound (that's about two big bunches) of spinach goes in next to wilt. It's easiest to do this by covering the pot and letting the spinach wilt in the steam for a couple minutes, stirring every so often.
Step 5: Add Chickpeas and Chicken and Cook
I used to believe that searing chicken was absolutely necessary to creating great flavor in a chicken-based stew. That was before my wife introduced me to this 30-minute Colombian Chicken Pressure Cooker Stew, which has all of five ingredients (one of them bland potatoes!), yet comes out moist, intensely flavorful, and delicious. The pressure cooker, with its ability to rapidly cook meat and extract their concentrated juices into the surrounding sauce, is a flavor machine.
As in that recipe, I don't bother searing my chicken here, instead just nestling it into the saucy spinach mixture, to which I also add some canned chickpeas, along with some lemon juice and fresh cilantro.
Step 6: Uncap and Season
It takes all of fifteen minutes once it reaches high pressure for the chicken to cook through to complete tenderness. Once it's done, you're on the home stretch. If you want to make the plating a little prettier, you should remove the chicken from the pot at this stage so you can arrange the pieces a little more artfully later on.
With the chicken out, heat up the sauce and simmer it until it becomes thick, just a few minutes, adding some cream to enrich it. One final blast of lemon juice and seasoning with salt to taste is all it takes.
Step 7: Consume
Doesn't that look pretty? And have I happened to mention that it tastes incredibly awesome? Rich, creamy, tangy, spicy, and ridiculously comforting. It's the kind of food that shows up to hold your hand in a time of need.
And now that I've given up the game and made it clear that I know what you're reading, if you guys are anything like me, you'll do your very best to confound my system and start reading and commenting on the least-likely-to-be-popular recipes.* Game on.
*I'm not sure what it is, but it'd be something that includes lamb or goat combined with seafood, takes at least a half dozen pots and pans, and comes out a uniform drab brownish-white in color with absolutely no gooey melted cheese or chicken in sight.
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.