Wait, What? Curry is Supposed to be Hot?

Yes, I know.  I’ve heard the rumors of people ordering the three chili special and then sweating profusely or running to the nearest bathroom at breakneck speed but to be honest every time I’ve cooked with curry I’ve thought to myself, “What’s the big deal?”  Um, yeah well that was until I used fresh curry in last night’s dinner.

To be honest, I really didn’t use many spices in my cooking until fairly recently (read: last five years.)  I was strictly a parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme girl – albeit with the ocassional Mexican-style spice thrown in for good measure.  (I did grow up in the Mexican Heartland, err I mean, Arizona – forever spoiling me to the flavors of “authentic” Mexican food made anywhere north of Sacramento.)

But I digress.  Back to my spice story.  I think the last jar of curry I purchased was in 1995.  I was living in Seattle with my cousin Nina who, having grown up in the San Francisco Bay Area and being seven years older than me, had a much more diverse palate.  I think I needed it for a Curry Chicken Salad recipe or something.  Regardless, I never made the recipe and the curry sat unused in my spice cabinet for the next fifteen years.

When I began practicing yoga ten years ago (a wonderful habit I have since neglected) my interest was piqued in all things Indian.  Food, culture, movies, music, religion – you name it I was into it.    But it wasn’t until very recently that I actually attempted to make Indian food and as soon as I shared my desire to cook Indian-style food I was bombarded with cookbooks and utensils from my friends and family.

To make a long story a little shorter, my first four attempts at Indian food resulted in a mushy, bland mess of meat, vegetables and rice in a big bowl.  It was so awful that when I suggested this past weekend that I try it again, Madison responded with an emphatic “No” and the most wrinkly nose an eight-year-old can make.

But just recently I received a gift that was to change my life.

Under the Christmas tree this year was a delicate little wooden box full of “the six most commonly used Indian spices” each housed in its’ own little cubbyhole and a small metal spoon.  I couldn’t wait to try them out.

From my past failures, I figured out that for Indian meat to be really flavorful it should be marinated for hours.  So this time, I marinated two chicken breasts in some store-bought Tandoori sauce for two days then poached them in heavy cream.  I cheated a little bit and used a pre-packaged (but really good)  Punjab Eggplant sauce and a healthy dose of curry powder.  (Remember, at this point I still thought that the spiciness of curry was a myth.)  I served it all over a big bowl of Basmati rice and I was ready for dinner.

Dinner was good but I swear I needed an entire bottle of wine to wash it down.  Boy was that curry spicy!

(insert evil chuckle)

I can’t wait to try it out for everyone who has ever given me an Indian cookbook, utensil or spice.

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One comment on “Wait, What? Curry is Supposed to be Hot?

  1. This Italian Family
    January 7, 2011 at 12:13 pm #

    Haha! I’ve only ever made 2 things that are Indian (Chicken Tikka Masala and Naan) and both turned out fabulous, but neither are even remotely spicy. I’ve always shied away from curry because of the spice level, but I know Christopher would LOVE it ’cause he likes spice so much. I should probably branch out sometime… someday… 😉

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