Chicken Biryani

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When I first made biryani a million years ago, or so it seems, it was a fun dish for me because it was a perfect vehicle for leftovers – leftover rice, leftover chicken, even a leftover curry. But one can also make it purposefully from scratch, creating a custom version of what you like.

Biryani is an Indian dish, with many variations, which is perfect for the way I like to cook. It’s basically rice and meat, and you can sprinkle the dish with cilantro or green onions, serve with sour cream. It’s fun and flavorful and filling.

I’m not using an actual recipe, simply so I can show you how to make it from scratch and how easy and straight forward biryani is. I’m using the basic Indian-inspired seasonings, basmati rice, and prepared chicken.

After I’d created the seasonings for this biryani, I discovered an actual biryani seasoning mixture that I bought a few years ago. I need to go through my spice drawers!

Chicken Biryani
Printable recipe below

3 tablespoons ghee or butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 – 1” piece of ginger, minced
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 3/4 cups basmati rice, I’m using brown
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, or to taste
Approximately 3 1/2 cups of good chicken broth
4 grilled chicken breasts
2 tablespoons ghee
1 red bell pepper, cut into slices
1 green bell pepper, cut into slices
4 hard-boiled eggs
1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Melt the ghee in a pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes.

Add the ginger and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the garlic, give it a stir, then pour in the rice followed by the spices.

Add the broth and give everything a stir. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook for about 30 minutes. Brown rice takes a bit longer so test it. If your rice is done and there’s still some broth, give it a stir, keep the lid on, and give it about 10 minutes; the rice will absorb the liquid. Set aside and keep warm.

Cut up the cooked chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces. I put sweet paprika on mine before cooking, which is why they’re red; paprika is not an Indian spice. Set the chicken aside.

In a skillet, heat the ghee over medium-high heat, and sauté the pepper slices for about 5 minutes, getting some good caramelization on them, turning once. You might have to do this in two batches. Set the slices on a plate.

Add the chicken pieces, turn off the heat, put on a lid, and let the chicken heat through.

Peel the hard-boiled eggs and slice in half; make sure they’re at room temperature.

To serve, place the aromatic rice on a serving platter, then cover with the peppers and chicken. If you prefer, you can mix the chicken with the rice instead.

Decorate the biryani with the egg halves, and sprinkle the dish with cilantro.

If you don’t want to grill chicken breasts, pick apart a rotisserie chicken and coarsely chop the meat.

If you want to use less chicken, include a can of drained chick peas to the rice.

Now you can see how you can come up with your own recipe for biryani. It’s fun and easy!

 

 

A Festive Baked Brie

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I happen to love baked brie. I’ve discovered since joining the blogging world, however, that there are those who don’t. Personally, I feel like these people are missing out.

But, like with all food, taste is subjective, and no one need be forced to eat baked brie or anything else he or she doesn’t love, ever. Thankfully. Or I’d have to eat uni.

Hopefully at some point in your life you’ve tried a baked brie – perhaps at a party. It might have been a fancy baked brie, topped with chutney, then artistically wrapped in phyllo dough. When I catered, this is the sort of presentation I used to create because it makes an impression.

And, the pièce de resistance – you get to pierce the cheese rind, and the wonderfully warm, oozy brie pours out, along with the chutney, and you get to spread this mixture on bread. A baked brie is heavenly.

But a baked brie doesn’t have to be wrapped in pasty. Here’s a simple baked brie recipe that I made over the holidays. This one is on the sweeter side, which might surprise you. I do love a savory baked brie…

The main flavors are maple and pecan, so you can serve this brie anytime in the fall or winter, not just for the holidays.

I made this same brie for a Christmas party at my house 16 years ago. It was definitely a hit! (Hiding behind the crackers on the left.)

Maple Pecan Baked Brie

1 – 2 pound wheel of brie, at room temperature
1/2 cup real maple syrup
1 stick, or 4 ounces unsalted butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Sprinkle of cinnamon
Sprinkle of ground cayenne (optional)
1 1/4 cups toasted pecan halves*
Water crackers or French bread slices

Unwrap the brie, and place it on a greased cookie sheet. The greasing helps insure that the brie can simply be slid on to the serving dish. If you use a spatula, you run the risk of prematurely piercing the brie, and you’ll have to start over.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium pot, combine the maple syrup, butter, and brown sugar. Heat over medium heat until the butter dissolves. Cook the mixture for about 15 minutes to reduce slightly and thicken. Then add the cinnamon, and cayenne, if using. Set aside to cool somewhat, stirring frequently.

Break up the toasted pecans and set aside.

Bake the brie as is for about 20 minutes. Carefully slide it onto a heat-proof serving dish. Alternately, if you’re really good using your microwave, have the brie on the heat-proof and microwave-proof serving dish, and gently and slowly on the lowest power settings warm the brie. Do not let it cook.

If you baked the brie in the oven, let it cool for a few minutes, then pour the warm maple mixture over the top, and sprinkle the top with the broken pecan pieces. I first put a little blob on the brie to help the pecans stick, added the pecans, and then poured more of the maple mixture on the top and sides of the brie, followed by a last few pieces of pecans.

Serve immediately with crackers or bread.

Full disclosure – I used a 1-lb brie in the photos, because I didn’t want to eat 2 pounds of brie, basically on my own!

* The easiest way to toast a small amount of pecans is in a skillet on the stove. Place the desired amount of pecan halves in a skillet over medium-high heat, in one layer only. Once the skillet heats up, you will smell the pecans toasting. Shake the skillet around, moving the pecans around, until you can see that they’re toasted on all sides. Then remove the skillet from the heat. Let cool completely.

Eggs Chartres

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This is a spicy, creamy, cheesy onion and egg recipe that I haven’t made for years, until now. It’s called eggs Chartres. The name of it really intrigued me, so I googled.

And, I got nothing. Besides all kinds of info regarding the cathedral in Chartres, there was no insight into why this dish is called eggs Chartres. It does seem to be unanimously Creole in nature, which is exactly where this recipe lives, in the American Cooking: Cajun and Creole recipe booklet, part of the extensive Time Life Series Foods of the World.

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It’s a very easy recipe – the hardest part is peeling the hard-boiled eggs!

So, without any further ado, I give you this fabulous and unique egg dish. It would be great for breakfast, but also fabulous for lunch or brunch.

Creamed Egg Chartres
Serves 8

1 tablespoon butter, softened, plus 8 tablespoons butter, cut into 1/2-inch bits
5 medium-sized onions, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
3/4 cup flour
3 egg yolks, plus 12 hard-cooked eggs, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
6 cups milk
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground hot red pepper (cayenne)
1 cup freshly grated imported Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons paprika

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. With a pastry brush, spread the tablespoon of softened butter evenly over the bottom and sides of a 14-by-9-by-2-inch baking-serving dish. Set the dish aside. I used an oval gratin pan.

In a heavy 12-inch skillet, melt the 8 tablespoons of butter bits over moderate heat. When the foam begins to subside, add the onions and, stirring frequently, cook for about 8 minutes, or until they are soft and translucent but not brown.

Add the flour and mix well, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 3 or 4 minutes to remove the raw taste of the flour.

Meanwhile, in a deep bowl, beat the egg yolks with a wire whisk or a rotary or electric beater until they are smooth. Beat in the milk, salt, and red pepper, and set aside.

Stirring the onion mixture constantly with a wire whisk, pour in the egg yolks and milk in a slow, thin stream and cook over high heat until the sauce comes to a boil, thickens heavily and is smooth.

Taste the sauce for seasoning, remove the skillet from the heat and gently stir in 9 of the hard-cooked eggs.

Pour the eggs and sauce into the buttered dish and scatter the Parmesan over the top, followed by the paprika.

Bake in the middle of the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the top is browned and the sauce begins to bubble.

Garnish the top with the remaining hard-cooked egg slices and serve at once, directly from the baking dish. Oops, I forgot to save some of the sliced eggs.

I couldn’t wait till the dish cooled off, so it’s not very pretty. But, it is basically a casserole.

I used some chopped parsley for a little color, and added some more paprika.

I’d seriously forgotten just HOW good this dish is. It really would be stunning for a brunch buffet.

Curry Ketchup

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I’ve mentioned a few times that my eating life practically revolves around condiments. I love them all. Mustards, ketchups, chutneys, chimichurris, mayos, butters, you name it, I love them. I look at a condiment, and immediately know what food I’m pairing it with.

I’m so excited to have discovered a new condiment for my repertoire – curry ketchup. I was “shopping” on Amazon and somehow this popped up. I had to have it. German curry ketchup!

Shortly afterwards, I was on the blog called the Daring Gourmet, and there was Kimberly’s recipe for home-made curry ketchup, of German origin.

You can imagine how excited I was. Everything home-made is so much better than what you can buy.

Best German Curry Ketchup

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1 small clove garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons high-quality curry powder*
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup natural ketchup
1 tablespoon tomato paste
5 tablespoons vegetable or chicken broth
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon yellow mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Pinch of ground cayenne pepper, optional

Heat the oil in a small saucepan and cook the onions just until soft and translucent. Do not brown them. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the curry powder, paprika, cloves and allspice and cook for 30 seconds.

Add all remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Use an immersion blender or transfer to a blender and purée until smooth.

Let the mixture cool completely and then refrigerate for a day before using to allow time for the flavors to meld.

To use, Kimberly recommends serving the curry ketchup with prepared bratwurst (currywurst) and fries. She recommends sprinkling the brats with curry powder, just like in her photo, below, which I forgot to do.

I’m not a big French fry person, so I roasted some red potatoes instead.

This ketchup is magnificent. It’s multi-faceted, and not strong in any one way. And it’s nice and thick. I have no idea why mine isn’t as red in color as hers.

And, the ketchup is really good with the potatoes also.

I tried a bratwurst with the purchased curry ketchup, left, and my home-made version, on the right. There was truly no comparison. The purchased ketchup tasted anemic compared to home-made!

I can’t wait to make more curry ketchup, and next time I’m making a quadruple batch. Thanks for the recipe, Kimberly!

*When I want a prepared curry powder, I reach for Penzey’s sweet curry powder. To me, it’s a perfect blend when not using individual spices.

Chicken Shawarma

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After eyeing a beautiful, drool-worthy photo of lamb shawarma on a blog one day, shown below, I so wanted to make it, except for the fact that my husband won’t eat lamb.

So I searched the same blog, Recipe Tin Eats, for chicken shawarma and found a recipe I knew we’d both love.

It is Nagi’s recipe, who lives in Sydney, Australia, although she was born in Japan. I’ve enjoyed her blog for a few years now; her recipes are always fresh and innovative. Nagi also has the cutest dog, Dozer, who makes his appearance in every blog post.

Shawarma is Middle Eastern in origin, and refers to beef, lamb, chicken, or veal, grilled on a vertical spit that rotates.

If you’ve ever been to a döner kebob spot, you’re familiar with a close shawarma cousin. Similarly, the meat is sliced and placed on flatbread, sometimes offered with cucumber and tomato, or even hummus.

Except that shawarma is more about this lucious, spicy marinade that coats the raw meat and crusts up when the meat is grilled.

Why I never made any kind of shawarma at home before now is beyond me.

Chicken Shawarma
Slightly adapted from Recipe Tin Eats

2 pounds chicken thighs (I used breasts)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons smoky paprika
1 teaspoon ground cayenne
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon finely ground pepper

Slice the chicken into uniformly-thick pieces and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and stir well. Yes, I’ve never used a tablespoon of ground cardamom in a dish before either, but don’t hesitate. Use it!

Add the chicken and make sure all of the pieces are coated. Place the chicken and marinade in a large zip-lock bag and refrigerate for 1 or 2 days.

Ideally the chicken should be grilled outside on a barbecue, but on this day I used my indoor stove-top grill.

Bring the chicken to close to room temperature. Grill the chicken until just done; you don’t want the meat dry, especially if you’re also using chicken breasts.

To serve, set out the platter of grilled chicken, flatbreads, hummus, sliced tomatoes, and cucumbers.

You don’t have to add all of the “goodies,” but I do!

I made a parsley-laden tabbouleh, and also served a “salad” of tomatoes and cucumbers.

Nagi included a yogurt sauce on her same blog post for chicken shawarma, and I preferred it over the hummus.

Yogurt Sauce

1 cup Greek yogurt
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Squeeze of lemon
Salt
Pepper

Whisk together the yogurt with the garlic, cumin, and lemon. Season with salt and pepper, and serve at room temperature.

I even made a quick pickled radish condiment for the shawarma, but it wasn’t really necessary.

For this feast, I had to share with friends, so I served all of the dishes buffet-style, and friends created their own shawarma. It’s so similar to serving fajitas!

Everyone had a good time. I served a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir which went perfectly with the chicken and other Middle Eastern flavors.

My White Bean Dip

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Hummus is wonderful. Don’t get me wrong. I love it. But when one makes hummus, one is limited to garbanzo beans, tahini, and lemon. With white bean dips, you can add anything and everything because there’s not one recipe!

You can add herbs like rosemary, or seasoning mixtures like harissa, paprika creme, pumpkin or carrots, pesto or sun-dried tomatoes. There are limitless options.

I also prefer white beans for their texture. I’ve ordered many a hummus, even at Middle Eastern restaurants, and it’s often dry and mealy. To me, a soft creamy texture is preferable, which is what you get when you use canned white beans.

Don’t buy Italian Canellini beans because they’re twice as expensive as Great Northern.

Today I’m posting on a dip I created ages ago, using cumin, coriander and cayenne. It is the most popular with my family, and was actually published in Gourmet magazine.

It was on my blog quite a few years ago, but the photos were terrible. These are somewhat improved although, not being good at styling, I can’t seem to make an attractive swirl.

Mimi’s White Bean Dip
printable recipe below

1 – 16 ounce can Great Northern beans
1 clove garlic, germ removed if necessary
Good extra-virgin olive oil, about 1/4 cup, plus more
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
Cayenne pepper, to taste
Pinch of salt
Flatbreads, pita crisps, crackers

Drain the beans in a colander and lightly rinse.

Place the beans in a food processor jar and add the garlic and seasoning.

Begin processing the beans, adding olive oil until the beans are smooth and the garlic is fully processed.

Scrape out the bean dip into a serving bowl. The mixture should be fluffy.

Add a little drizzle of good olive oil.

Serve with bread, crackers, pita chips, or whatever. I used baked Terra chips because they’re pretty.

The dip recipe can easily be doubled or tripled. One can of beans is enough to make a dip for two people.

Not only does this dip take a few minutes to make and is easy, it’s also extremely inexpensive to make, which is why during our lean years I often made it for company. But, it was always enjoyed and appreciated, especially by people who’d never heard of a bean dip.

No dips are really beautiful. If you want to make a prettier presentation, spread some dip on crostini to make canapés of sorts. Sprinkle with a little paprika for color, some chives, or a little basil leaf.

Years ago, my husband and I used to enjoy sandwiches on road trips with this dip as the sandwich spread. Our car always smelled like garlic!

 

Cowboy Butter

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If you’ve never checked out Delish.com, it’s worth a peek. It’s a food website with recipes, but with interesting, I guess supposedly catchy headlines, like “86 Most Delish Baked Chicken Dinners,” and “135 Most Delish Holiday Desserts.”

Personally I wouldn’t be tempted to look through 86 chicken recipes, or 135 desserts, but somebody must! The website seems popular, and there is a tab for Delish Kids as well, which is smart. Although, “21 Ways to Get Kids Involved in Making Breakfast?” Just put them in the kitchen!

Nevertheless, I came across, in some random way, a recipe for Cowboy Butter from the Delish.com website.

According to the website, the idea of “Cowboy Butter” came from a little restaurant in New York City called Mr. Donahue’s.

My world changed after I dunked a piece of prime rib into the herb-speckled butter, and the wheels really started turning once I realized everything on my plate — crispy potatoes, Parker house roll, and even mac and cheese — tasted good with it.

Well it certainly appealed to me as well, and I knew the next time I grilled steaks, I’d have to make this magic butter.

Cowboy Butter
Printable recipe below

1 cup butter, melted
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small shallot, minced
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
1 tablespoon freshly chopped chives
2 teaspoons minced thyme
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, combine the butter, lemon juice, garlic, shallot, mustard, horseradish, cayenne and paprika. Whisk to combine.

Stir in the parsley, chives and thyme.

Season with salt and pepper.

Serve warmed.

Whoever came up with this stuff was right. I started not only dipping the steak into the butter, but also the green beans.

Good stuff. That’s all I can say.

I can see it drizzled over grilled meats of any kind, plus seafood like shrimp, crab, and scallops.

Or, over grilled vegetables or baked potatoes. The possibilities are endless.

Make some – you’ll love it!

 

Provoleta with Chimichurri

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In the old days when I wanted recipes, I read food magazines and cookbooks. It was wonderful.

But I have to say, having millions of recipes at my fingertips by simply being “online” makes me thrilled that the internet was discovered during my lifetime.

I discovered provoleta after receiving an email from Good Food, which is an Australian publication.

Provoleta is Argentina’s version of raclette, and to make it even more fabulous, this molten cheese is served with chimichurri. And good bread, of course.

So this was certainly a cheese dish I could not ignore, being a huge raclette fan. And cheese fan.

Provoleta with Chimichurri

Chimichurri:
½ cup finely chopped parsley
3 tsp finely chopped fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried
2 or 3 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
large pinch of crushed red pepper
3 tsp red wine vinegar

Cheese:
Round of provolone cheese, sliced about 3/4″ thick
3 tsp roughly chopped fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried
½ tsp cayenne pepper flakes

1 baguette, sliced, toasted, if desired

In a small bowl, stir together the parsley, oregano, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper, crushed red pepper, and vinegar. Thin with a little water, if necessary, to make a pourable sauce.

Set aside to let flavors meld. Sauce may be prepared the day ahead.

Before you begin, have your bread sliced (I grilled mine), and the oregano chopped.

Set a small cast-iron pan over medium-high heat. I used my crêpe pan. When pan is hot, put in the cheese.

Sprinkle with half the oregano and crushed red pepper.

Cook for about two minutes, until the bottom begins to brown.

Carefully flip the cheese with a spatula and cook for two to three minutes more, until the second side is browned and the cheese is beginning to ooze.

Transfer cheese to a plate and sprinkle with remaining oregano and crushed red pepper. I added a few tablespoons of chimichurri.

Serve from the hot skillet on a heat-proof surface, along with the bread and the chimichurri.

Alternatively, finish the cheese by putting it under the grill or in a hot oven.

Argentinians grill the provolone slices directly on the fire, but I was not willing to lose good cheese and deal with the resulting mess on my stove!

As soon as the provolone cools a bit, it gets a bit rubbery, but the cheese can be reheated.

Which is exactly what I did that evening when my girlfriend came over. I reheated it on the stove, and we kept eating it, and eating it. Until there wasn’t much left.

She really loved the addition of the chimichurri. I just loved the cheese with the oregano and cayenne pepper flakes.

Will I be making this again? Oh yes indeedy.

note: If you’d like more direction for making chimichurri, check out my recipe here.

Tomato Beef Curry

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Tomato Beef Curry

It’s not out of disrespect for Indian cuisine that I don’t often use recipes from my Indian cookbooks. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Indian cuisine is our favorite cuisine, if we had to pick only one. As a result, I quite often turn a soup into a curried soup, lentils into curried lentils, or seafood crepes into a curried version. And I don’t mean simply adding curry powder.

Cooking Indian food is about being familiar with Indian ingredients. When I began cooking, I followed recipes in order to learn about Indian cuisine as well as other international cuisines, but now that I’ve been cooking for almost 40 years, I enjoy creating Indian-inspired dishes without relying on recipes.

I want to point out that I’m very aware of the various regional cuisines, meat-based and vegetarian, that exist in India, from the south to the north, from west coast to east. So of course I’m generalizing when I refer to its cuisine when there isn’t only one.

My first experiences were from this ancient cookbook, from the Time-Life Foods of the World series.

Eventually I purchased other cookbooks over the years, and that’s when I figured out that many recipes – again, generalizing – are similar. Most begin with onion, ginger, and garlic, for example, cooked in clarified butter, or ghee.

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A meat, poultry or seafood curry can be prepared in a yogurt-based sauce, or one that is tomato based. Some are enriched with creamed nuts, like almonds or cashews, which are some of my favorites.

Regarding spices, there are many. Cumin, cardamom, coriander (seeds and leaf), turmeric, cayenne, cinnamon, pepper, garam masala (as varied as curry powder), cloves, fennel, saffron, and more. Some recipes contain many spices, some only 3-4.

Sometimes chile peppers are included for heat – both fresh and dried. But, of course, the temperature can be controlled.

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So following is an example of an easy beef dish in a curried tomato sauce. It was done in 15 minutes.

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Tomato Beef Curry

6 ounces ghee, divided
1 1/2 pounds beef tenderloin, cut into cubes
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 – 1″ piece of fresh ginger, diced
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon black pepper
Cayenne, to taste
4 ounces drained diced tomatoes
4 ounces tomato purée
2 teaspoons garam masala
Fresh cilantro, optional

Heat 3 ounces of ghee in a heavy pot over high heat. In batches, brown the cubed beef, then place in a bowl until all the beef has browned; set aside.

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In the same pot, add the remaining ghee and lower the heat to medium-low. Sauté the onion, ginger, and garlic for a few minutes, being careful not to let them brown.

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Then add the salt, spices and, if using, cayenne pepper. Stir well and cook for about 1 minute.

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Add the diced tomatoes and purée. Stir, then let the mixture cook at a gentle simmer for about 5 minutes.

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You want the mixture fairly thick. Because I am using beef tenderloin in this recipe, the cooking time is minimal.

Add the browned beef from the bowl, including all juices, to the sauce.

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Stir to coat the beef and cook for about ten minutes, uncovered; the beef should be tender. Remove from the heat.

Just before serving, add the garam masala and stir.

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Normally I would sprinkle fresh cilantro leaves over the curry, but I decided instead to make a cilantro rice as a side dish, seasoned only with cumin and coriander.

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If this dish is too meaty for you, chickpeas can be added.

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If you want the dish creamier, you can add some heavy cream, a bit of yogurt, or even creme fraiche to the sauce.

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Many years ago I turned friends on to Indian cuisine, and my friend Claire bugged me to show her how to “cook” Indian. I told her that there is no difference in cooking techniques with Indian cooking, but she didn’t seem to believe me. So she came over once, and we cooked maybe 4-5 dishes. And we had a wonderful dinner. Her verdict? She wasn’t impressed! I don’t know what she thought I’d be doing in the kitchen, but it’s the same pots and pans, knives and spoons. She now cooks Indian food! Everyone should!

Bastila

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A Bastila is a savory Moroccan pie with a chicken filling that is cooked within crêpes. The preparation is a little involved in that both the filling and the crêpes need to be made first. But it’s not a difficult pie to make, and so worth it!

What makes this pie’s flavor unique is that traditional Moroccan mixture of almonds, cinnamon and sugar. If you’ve ever been to a Moroccan restaurant you are familiar with this seasoning mixture, as it seems to be in every dish!

I wish I could tell you a lovely story about how I came about this recipe, but I can’t. I know I tore the recipe out of a soft-backed cookbook of international recipes. At one point in my cooking life I felt it beneath me to keep anything but beautiful, hard-back cookbooks. I’ll never toss a cookbook again. But at least I was smart enough to save the recipes I loved!

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Bastila

1 – 3 pound chicken
4 ounces butter
2 onions, finely chopped
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 teaspoons grated ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon saffron threads
6 eggs
2 egg yolks
3/4 cup whole almonds
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Butter, approximately 4 ounces, at room temperature
18 crêpes, at room temperature
Powdered sugar
Ground cinnamon

Begin by poaching the chicken with onions, carrots, celery, bay leaves, parsley, peppercorns, and a little salt. You can do this the day before.

About 2 1/2 to 3 hours is sufficient to get moist, succulent chicken. Let the chicken cool, then remove the bones and skin and place the chicken in a bowl and set aside. I shredded the chicken more than cut it up into pieces.

Add the butter to a large Dutch oven and heat it over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté them for about 5-6 minutes. Then add the parsley, ginger, and all of the spices.

Break the eggs and place them in a medium-sized bowl, along with the egg yolks. Whisk them well.

After the onion and spice mixture has cooked a minute longer, pour the eggs into the onions. Make sure the heat is low. Gently stir the eggs into the onion mixture until they are completely cooked.

Add the chicken to the onion-egg mixture and stir well. Add a little broth if the chicken mixture seems dry. Also taste for salt.

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Using a dry blender, blend the almonds, sugar, and cinnamon together. If you have a few pieces of almond, that’s okay. Set aside.

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To prepare the Bastila, use a large skillet, preferably with rounded sides. Generously butter the skillet.

Begin by layering approximately 8 crêpes around the side of the skillet, followed by 4 more covering the center bottom.

Add the ground almond mixture to the bottom of the skillet and spread it around. Then add the chicken filling. It shouldn’t be over the top of the skillet, preferably.

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Then fold the side crêpes over the filling. Use the remaining 6 crêpes to cover the top of the pie, buttering them first on the bottom side. Spread a little soft butter on the top of the pie as well.

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To cook, begin at medium-high heat. You will see the butter bubbling.

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After about 8 minutes, I lowered the heat to ensure that the crêpes sealed themselves, and to heat the inside of the pie.

Have a cookie sheet and large spatula on hand for the next step.

When you feel that the pie bottom has browned sufficiently, place the cookie sheet over the skillet, and using oven mitts flip the skillet over so that the pie is on the cookie sheet.

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Then gently coax the pie back in to the skillet, and cook the bottom side in a similar fashion.

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The cooked Bastila makes a beautiful presentation.

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When I made this pie before, I prepared and served it in an iron skillet. But you have to be able to cut into your skillet. If you cannot, simply slide the pie out gently onto a serving platter.

The final step is to mix powdered sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle it on the top of the warm Bastila.

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In this photo you can see the crêpes wrapping around the spiced chicken filling that is topped with the ground almond mixture. Heavenly!

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