For many years, my husband Ted and I have scratched our itch for great Indian food at the Jackson Diner in New York City. Though it's in the Queens neighborhood where our kids now live, the Diner has been a favorite since we first discovered it with friends in the 1980s. Whenever we go, we share an order of vindaloo, either lamb or chicken. Vindaloo originated in Goa, the western coastal state in India once colonized by the Portuguese, and the use of vinegar in the dish reflects that culinary heritage. I made my first-ever slow cooker version of chicken vindaloo this past weekend, and it's a winner. You can adjust the heat level by adding more, or fewer, chile peppers. The amount I've given makes a mildly spicy dish, far less fiery than a traditional vindaloo, but one that allows the flavor of the other spices to dance on your tongue. As with many Indian dishes, it seems like there are many steps involved, but there are really only three: cook and puree onions, make a paste in the food processor, and grind some spices. Then combine it all with chicken in the slow cooker, and walk away until dinner time.
Slow cooker chicken vindaloo
From the pantry, you'll need: canola oil, onions, white wine vinegar, ginger root, garlic, turmeric, ground coriander, ground cinnamon, black peppercorns, garam masala, coarse sea salt, dried chile peppers, frozen chicken breasts (or thighs, whichever you prefer).
Slightly adapted from The Indian Slow Cooker. I used a 4-quart slow cooker; a 3-quart cooker would be fine. Serves 6, with basmati rice; can be doubled.
2 Tbsp canola oil
3 large yellow onions, cut in half and thinly sliced
3 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 4-inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and cut into chunks
10 cloves garlic, peeled
5 dried red Thai or serrano chile peppers, stems removed (use 2-3 more if you like a fiery vindaloo)
1/2 Tbsp turmeric
1/2 Tbsp ground coriander
1/2 Tbsp garam masala
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 Tbsp black peppercorns
1/2 Tbsp coarse sea salt
1/2 Tbsp brown or black mustard seeds
2-1/4 lbs (approximately 4 large) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, and/or thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
Add 1 tablespoon of oil to a frying pan over medium heat. When the oil is warm, add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are brown but not burned, 4-5 minutes. Stir in the vinegar, and cook until the liquid evaporates. Transfer the mixture to a food processor fitted with the metal blade, along with the remaining tablespoon of oil, and puree. Scrape the puree into the slow cooker. Do not wash the food processor.
Now, add the ginger, garlic, chile peppers, turmeric, coriander, garam masala and cinnamon to the food processor. Process into a paste. Scrape the paste into the slow cooker.
With a mortar and pestle or a dedicated spice grinder (a coffee grinder works well, as long as you're not using it for coffee!), combine the black peppercorns, salt and mustard seed, and crush together into a coarse powder. Add that mixture to the slow cooker.
Add the chicken and 1/4 cup of water to the slow cooker and, with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir everything together. Set the cooker to LOW and cook for 6 hours. Lift the lid (yes, it's fine to do that) after the first 4-1/2 hours, and give the vindaloo a good stir.
Serve hot, with steamed basmati rice or naan.
Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Roasted cauliflower with garam masala, from Stephencooks
Indian chicken wings, from The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook
Spicy chicken masala curry, from Sailu's Kitchen
Indian butter chicken, from This Week for Dinner
Vindaloo vegetables, from FatFree Vegan Kitchen
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