I became infatuated with this recipe once I read the ingredients list, which called for almost half a pound of cilantro leaves. Half a pound? Think about it—cilantro leaves aren't very heavy, and the recipe specifically calls for weighing it without any roots or lower stems. To fulfill this requirement I had to buy four large bunches of the stuff. I trust Madhur Jaffrey implicitly, and this recipe is adapted from her superb book Indian Cooking. But what would this taste like?
Turns out that the flavor is substantially mellowed as the cilantro wilts while the chicken braises. No longer really tasting of fresh cilantro, it melts into a delicious herby sauce with other classic flavors like garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, and cayenne. But the crucial ingredient is the lemon juice, which elevates all the flavors and brightens the dish. The result is tender chicken with lovely, fragrant Indian flavors.
- 2 to 3 large chunks of ginger, at least 1-inch square, peeled and coarsley chopped
- 1 cup water
- 6 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 1/2 pounds chicken pieces, preferably legs and thighs, skin removed
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- 7 ounces chopped cilantro (about 3 cups, from 3 to 4 bunches)
- 1 fresh green chile, deseeded and minced
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice, more to taste
In a small food processor or blender, blend the ginger pieces with 4 tablespoons water to make a paste. Measure out the spices and other ingredients so they're ready.
Heat the oil in a wide, heavy pot over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken pieces in a single layer, cooking in batches if necessary, on both sides. Remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl.
Put the garlic into the hot oil, and after a minute when it turns golden, add the ginger paste. Fry for an additional minute, then add the green chili, cayenne, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and salt. When the spices have cooked together for a few moments and the flavors begin to marry, add the cilantro.
As the cilantro begins to wilt, continue to stir, then add the chicken pieces, any accumulated juice in the bowl, and 2/3 cup water with the lemon juice. Cover, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for 25-30 minutes, turning once, until the chicken is tender. Uncover and cook further to thicken the sauce, if necessary, and taste for salt and lemon juice. Serve with rice.