A fastest, healthiest (and also quite tasty) chicken recipe

The QM spin

I was studying QM, but, what the heck, I will admit it, I began slacking down, during the Diwali vacation (i.e. more or less soon after I wrote my last post). I more or less quit reading QM and maths text-books, and instead began day-dreaming about how to put it all together (with my new(er) “ideas”). … My day-dreams still continue, but with the already resumed work (the Diwali vacation got over this week), QM studies have already taken a back seat. (If you must know, let me put it in reference to Griffith’s text. I am stuck at about half-way through. That is to say, I’ve got stuck with spin and identical particles (and some points of their applications which come later in Griffith’s book).)

Talking about QM, here is one more neat reference: [^].  If you know QM or are studying it, and if you go through the abstract, I know, you will check it out. So let me leave the paper (and QM) with that just one note in this post.


In this post, instead, let me share with you a great-tasting, fastest, easiest and healthiest recipe for chicken. This dish isn’t the greatest (tasting) chicken one, but its recipe is both fastest and easiest, and it happens to one of the healthiest ones anyway. (It’s a stew!)

As to the greatest tasting chicken dish, IMO, the problem is degeneracy: there isn’t one unique solution to the problem; several compete (though they are not superposable).

One greatest dish is the KFC “original” one.

Let me talk about yet another greatest dish, before coming to the recipe that I am going to share.


About a greatest unknown recipe

The other greatest dish is what they (used to) prepare in rural areas of Maharashtra until a couple of decades ago, I mean, in the relatively poorer rural households. The dish would be made with absolutely minimal amount of ingredients. I’ve had the great fortune to taste `n’ number of variations of it on `n’ number of occasions during my childhood, and I have been on the hunt for its recipe for many years now (more than a decade), and also have tried my hand at cooking several claimed versions for the same—but only unsuccessfully.

But I mean it when I say that the recipe here is minimalist. It is decidedly traditional and as authentically rural Maharashtrian in taste as they get, but it isn’t your “Kolhapuri,” “maalwaNi,” “khaandeshi,” etc. etc. etc. variety (even if authentically made at home).

Let me make it clear: this dish certainly isn’t what the relatively better-off families would make at home, and it most assuredly isn’t what my mother would make at home—which would be another greatest chicken dish whose recipe I do have, and which I still cannot make. (I am not a mystic, and I do believe that one day I will sure get there, but at least as of now, I cannot make quite her kind of a chicken.) And yet, this dish isn’t my mother’s recipe; it’s something entirely different.

The recipe I have in mind here really uses the barest minimum number of ingredients, which means: there are no typical “masalaa” (i.e. spice) items used often in the Indian cooking, esp. the more costly among them,  like “miree” (black pepper), “lavangaa” (cloves), “daalchini” (cinnamon), “elaaychi” (cardamom), etc.

About the only things it sure uses are: (i) “laala tikhaTa” (dried ground red pepper powder, which means that this recipe can’t be too traditional; it can be only about 2–3 centuries old, not more), (ii) “haLada” (turmeric), (iii) “aal_” (i.e. fresh—not dried—ginger), (iv) “lasooNa” (garlic), (v) relatively little amount of “kaande” (onions), (vi) “kothimbeer” (fresh coriander/cilantro leaves), and (vii)“limbu” (lemon).

I am not sure if it uses “khobar_” (dried coconut), though it in all probability does. (It surely doesn’t use “naaraLa” i.e. fresh coconut—this part, I am sure; I find it very easy to tell ingredients like that purely from the taste.)

To make you feel especially bad (and even more particularly so if you are from Pune), let me tell you that a “rassaa” (i.e. curry) of this (tastiest) kind used to be served until about a year ago in a small road-side hotel on the Ravet-to-Pune city road (i.e. the road that shoots off near where the Mumbai-Pune Expressway ends). It has since got closed (and none of the hotels still extant on that patch serves any authentic Marathi “rassaa” regardless of their advertisements—ditto for those on the outskirts of Pune city, going in any direction).

From what my mother, aunts and sisters have told me, I think, this down-market sort of a recipe could also be using a bit of  the ground roasted “DaaLyaa” (i.e. pulses of the small and rougher-skinned variety of “chanaa” (chickpea)), or the roasted flour of “baajaree” (i.e. pearl millet). It gives a certain thickness to the curry, and if you cannot afford costlier spices, you use some tricks like these. But it is tasty. I think they are right. From the taste, I can make out that they must have used “DaaLyaa.” Also, they must be roasting the red chilly before grinding fresh, I guess.

If I land a recipe to make that kind of a chicken (reliably well), then I will sure come back and share with you.

In the meanwhile, here is the recipe I promised at the beginning. It is fastest and healthiest option but not greatest. Though, it is great on the taste side too. Do give it a try, without inserting unnecessary interpolations/extrapolations coming purely from habit (this note is important esp. to Indians). Each small variation built into this dish is there for a reason, and the outcome will surprise you—pleasantly, I hope.


The fastest and healthiest (and quite tasty) chicken (stew)

Ingredients:

  • Fresh chicken (300–500 gm), cut into medium-sized pieces.
  • 2–4 teaspoons of (uncooked) rice.
  • 2–3 teaspoons of “chavaLi” (black-eyed peas) beans. If dried, better to soak it overnight, though not absolutely necessary.
  • Onions, 1 or 2, cut into medium-to-large sized pieces (say 2–3 cm cubes).
  • 4–8 peeled petals of garlic, (crushed, not cut; the number to use depends on variety, flavor, smell, etc.)
  • 1 cm or shorter piece of fresh ginger (crushed, not cut)
  • 3 teaspoons of coarsely crushed dry “kaashmiriee laala mirchee” i.e. Kashmiri red pepper. If not available, use the coarsely crushed red pepper as sold in the Chinese stores. (On second thoughts, this sometimes tastes even better!)
  • Cinnamon: about 1 to 2 cm long piece of a 1 cm thick stick. Freshly crushed to pieces (not necessarily ground down to powder)
  • “miree” (black pepper): 3–5 pieces (or more, to taste). Freshly crushed (but not ground)
  • “lavanga” (clove): 2–3 pieces. (Rule of thumb: Use fewer of these as compared to the black pepper.)
  • A pinchful of “hinga” (asafoetida) powder (see the note on the banned things)
  • Finely cut “kothimbeera” (green cilantro/coriander leaves): about 2 teaspoons.
  • Finely cut “pudinaa” (mint) leaves: 1–2 teaspoons.
  • Assorted vegetables, cut into 2–4 cm long pieces, in suitable quantities. The total quantity (volume) of all the pieces of all the vegetables taken together should be equal (or less than) the volume of the chicken. List of suggested vegetables include: (i) “DhobaLi mirchee” i.e. capsicum (green, red, yellow, doesn’t matter; make sure to remove seeds before cutting), (ii) thin slices of “muLaa” (radish/daikon) OR finely chopped cabbage. Relatively smaller proportion (else the dish will become bitter) (iii) thin slices of “gaajara” (carrot). Relatively smaller propertion (else the dish will become bitter), (iv) mushrooms, cut into small pieces, (v) very thin (2 mm) slices of cauliflower buds (only)

Optional ingredients (try, taste, and decide)

  • Half teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • “hirvee mirchee” (green pepper) slit along the length: 3–5 pieces
  • 2–3 teaspoons of rice-bran oil (or olive oil)
  • Green or red tomatoes, medium-sized cut pieces.

Banned things

  • Masala items: For this dish, do NOT use: “jiraa” (cummins), “dhaNaa” (coriander), “elaayachee” (cardamom), “kadhi pattaa” (curry leaves) etc., though “tej pattaa”  (i.e. “tamaalapatra” or bay leaves might be OK).
  • Ditto for “garam masaalaa,” “goDaa masaalaa” etc. Don’t use any.
  • Red chilly: Do NOT use the finely ground red chilly powder that we usually use in Indian recipes.
  • Salt: Sprinkle while eating; do NOT add during preparation. Sprinkling just before eating requires a smaller quantity of salt anyway.
  • Beans: “waaTaaNaa” (green peas) are banned in this dish purely for reasons of taste. Their taste and cooking characteristics simply don’t go well with the rest, here.
  • Overdose of “pudinaa” (mint leaves) is banned because in excessive quantities, it kills all other flavors. Garlic too has the same tendency, and so, apply your judgment as to which “caste” your garlic belongs to. Ditto, for “hinga” (asafoetida) Ditto for “daalachini” (cinnamon).
  • Tomato puree, curds, buttermilk, soya souce, vinegar, etc. are all summarily banned for this dish. Mainly on the count of taste.
  • Similarly, white flour, butter, cream, “ghee” (clarified butter), “paneer” (cottage cheese) etc. also are banned, and believe me, mainly on the count of taste. (That they are also unhealthy is an entirely orthogonal issue.)
  • Marination of chicken is completely banned—and if marination were to be necessary, this wouldn’t any longer be the fastest dish to make, would it? Further, marination is an art-form; prediction of its influence on the aroma and flavor requires at least an advanced post-graduate degree and about 10 years of internship thereafter. What is more, this dish doesn’t require it; so why go for it? Just make sure to wash chicken thoroughly well. Trim away any fat (use scissors; it’s more effective than the kitchen knife for this purpose).

Things to try cautiously

  • Make this dish some 3–4 times, trying different vegetables. Only then try using green or red tomatoes. Until then, avoid them. I have never tried them, but tend to think that the green tomatoes would go better than the red ones.
  • Try cut fresh green leaves of onion stems (“kaandyaachi paata”) but only in small quantity. Avoid spinach (“paalaka”) unless in relatively small quantity (it doesn’t fit very well in this dish). Instead, try “aambaTa chukaa” or “raajgiraa” (these are leafy vegetables available in Maharashtra, but, as far as I know, not abroad); they suit better. Completely avoid “methi” (fenugreek leaves), for reasons of taste and flavour. It easily turns the whole thing bitter, and also tends to spoil the dish with a strong aroma as if some raw grass were added. (I know, because I have tried it once).

Favored things

  • Chicken: Go for the (Marathi) “gaavaraaNa” or (Hindi) “desi” version, or at least the “free-range” ones, rather than the broiler. Meticulously avoid any frozen version of any brand (unless you know the concrete logistics, and therefore know very well that the supply comes to your point of purchase the same day). (I am not anti-commercial or large-scale brands. I am simply referring to the quality of the meat you get in the end. If you doubt me, wonder why local fresh chicken carries a premium, and so does the “gaavaraaNa” over the broiler.) Wash and keep aside. Do NOT marinate with any thing, not even just plain salt (see the note above).
  • Rice: Avoid the “baasamatee” or any other long-grain variety of rice, purely on the count of taste (and dryness). Indeed, for this dish, try to go in for as coarse and thick a variety as possible (purely for the taste, texture, and dryness reasons). The ideal rice is: the hand-milled/brown variety. Among the machine-milled varieties the down-market and lowest-cost “tukaDaa” rice (i.e. the one with the grains so brittle that they break down) also tastes relatively better; high-cost “baasamati” simply does not—that is a fact, and just accept that fact.

Other notes

  • You can occasionally substitute potato for rice, though note that potato has a slightly higher (10—20% higher) glycemic index. Potato in fact gives a better flavor to this dish, so do try it once in a while, but in a small quantity.

The actual recipe

Oh, I almost forgot it, didn’t I? Here it is:

Put all the ingredients in a pressure cooker. Add at least 750 ml of water. (The rice, the black-eyed peas, and the vegetables will absorb far more water than you would ever anticipate. (Let me make the dish tomorrow or so, and come back to you with better estimates of all the quantities, but off-hand, I think, you will surely need at least 750 ml.)) Close the pressure cooker lid. Heat on a high flame till the first whistle. Then, cook on the lowest flame for 10–12 minutes by the clock (8–10 minutes for the broiler, 10–12 for the “gaavaraana”). BTW, forget counting the whistles for this part—they tend to vary from cooker to cooker. Switch off the heat, and let the pressure-cooker cool on its own (about 10 minutes more). Serve piping hot.

If you use oil, as the zeroth step, heat it a bit and add the dry spices starting neither with turmeric  nor with onions, but with the coarsely ground red chilly powder (and do NOT use “moharee” (mustard seeds) or “jeeraa”). Then, mix them together, and cook on a low flame for about a minute. (Yes, this is one chicken dish where you do not shallow-fry onions till they turn golden brown—in fact you don’t fry them at all!) Then, add the rest of the she-bang, including water.

The taste of this dish is sensitive mainly to the quality and relative proportions of the ingredients, and the cooking time. Both can be easily controlled, and neither requires any heavy preparation or skill. That’s why it’s the easiest great-tasting dish.

The taste of this dish is completely independent of what you do to the ingredients once they are put inside the pressure-cooker—I mean, whatever you may be tempted to attempt before closing the lid. So, don’t bother acting like a great chef at that stage. Just dump the ingredients in, and close the lid. The taste will come out exactly the same regardless of what(ever) it is that you attempt to improve the dish at that stage—or of your feelings, hopes, wishes or fears. (Ayn Rand. The last quartet of words comes straight from Ayn Rand.) …

…Enjoy, and let me know how it ended up tasted.


A Song I Like:

(English) “Everywhere”
Band: Fleetwood Mac

[In my extremely limited listening of the English (or Western) pop music, I find that Fleetwood Mac’s use of the percussion section is extraordinarily great. It’s used very sensitively and, how to put it, the sound bytes are very “well selected.”

The rhythm patterns used by this band are, that way, quite on the simpler side; they are way too simpler than what the Indian classical percussionists routinely dish out. But what I mean here is rather something different: the selection of the exact pitch, timbre and the “quality” of the elements of the pieces of sounds, and their use together, esp. the juxtaposition against each other. Indian classical music often-times remains bound by the rigidity of the traditionally available sound elements, and so, even if the rhythm patterns can easily be far more complex, the net effect can also equally easily get in the direction of technically superior but musically meaningless clutter. Not just in contrast to such poorer usage of the percussion, but even standing on its own, I think Fleetwood Mac’s percussion section (and the contrast of these sounds to the other sounds in a composition—voice or instrumental sounds) is simply extraordinary.

Anyway, this is just one of the songs coming from them that I like; I will cite others, as usual, more or less randomly…]

[I think there won’t be much editing here in this post. May be just one more pass later this evening. Done. I may do some fine-tuning to the proportions of the ingredients later this week, that’s all.]

[E&OE]

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