My friend Jen moved to Boston this past week. It was a move neither I nor she ever expected. Boston: it’s like a miniature, less hip version of New York. Am I allowed to say that? I actually have never been, so this description is just heresay. But I heresay it all over the place. Particularly from Jen’s mouth! But she went up for a weekend getaway just over a month ago, and one thing led to another. Her boyfriend landed a concierge job and she found an event planning job…and now she no longer lives within public transportation distance. So today I checked in with her to see how the big move went. She bubbled over with her recent few days adventures and her upcoming weekend plans. Seems like she’s actually liking the city–I will have to check it out for myself one day soon.
She asked me for an inaugural dinner recipe centered around chicken. Chicken can be so easy and simple, and quickly turn boring. So I thought. And thought a little more. Jen and I met in India, so I used this as a starting point. She mentioned that Boston has been pretty chilly and she’d been craving dishes such as dal and byriani. Jen was a major accomplice to my eating adventures in India. We lived together for one month in a town at the foothills of the Himalayas, and there we had some truly terrible eating experiences. After our month of an intensive Hindi course, we moved to Delhi where the real eating began. I heeded no warnings (except to drink only bottled water) and meandered through the streets in search of any and all street food. We traveled from the northern Punjab area all the way to the southern tip, and back up again, all the while eating in local shops, drinking chai at least 3 times a day, sharing food with Indian families on trains, and eating chaat (street snacks) every few hours.
So because of our history together, I created a chicken and chutney dish that has a bit of meaning but is still something that everyone will enjoy. And it’s incredibly cheap. I made this dish for less than seven dollars.
2 pieces chicken (I used leg and thigh meat)
1 cucumber, large dice
1 nectarine, medium dice
1 smallish jalapeno, small dice
1/2 yellow onion, small dice
1 1/2 inch ginger, minced
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tbsp. brown sugar (optional)
2 tbsp. toasted pine nuts
1 cup sushi rice + 1 tbsp. black rice
1 lime, cut into wedges
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 F
First off, peel and dice the cucumber. Sprinkle with about 1/2 tbsp. salt. It should be really salty because it’s meant to draw the liquid out and make for a crunchier cucumber. Let sit in fridge for about 45 minutes. Rinse well and pat dry.
Meanwhile, put the rice in an appropriate size pot. I like to use sushi rice, which is a shorter grain, because it makes for a stickier rice than longer grain rices like basmati or jasmine. I was taught this easy method for cooking rice only recently by Seoyoung’s friend Spring. You can rinse the rice for a stickier result, and if your rice is old, you can soak it for a half hour to speed up cooking time. Once the rice is in the pot though, put your hand flat on top and fill with water until it hits your second joint (after the nail). Bring the water to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes. Do not lift the lid! Turn heat off and let sit for at least 20 minutes, et voila, the perfect sticky rice.
For the chutney, start the onion and jalapeno in a saute pan over medium heat. Sprinkle with a large pinch of salt. You want to caramelize the two, so adjust heat so as not to burn. Once caramelized, add ginger and cook for a few minutes. Add fruit and another large pinch of salt and cook down. If fruit is not fully ripened, add a bit of brown sugar to enhance the sweetness. Once the fruit is chutney-like, stir in cumin, taste, and adjust seasoning. While the chutney is cooking down, you can cook the chicken.
Clean off any excess fat. Put saute pan with oven proof handle (or cover handle with foil) on high heat. Add about 2 tbsp. vegetable oil, or just enough to lightly coat pan. When pan reaches smoking heat, season both sides of the chicken and pat skin dry. If the skin is not dry, the skin will not reach its potential crispiness. After a minute or two, adjust heat so the skin gets golden evenly. Once the skin is golden, put the pan in the oven (do not turn over the chicken). It should take approximately 20-25 minutes to cook. Take out the chicken and let rest for a few minutes.
All that is left now is to dress the cucumbers in a bit of sesame oil (about 2 tsp. worth). Scoop out the rice, a dab of chutney, cucumber salad and the chicken. Serve with a lime wedge to enhance the chutney and a sprinkle of the toasted pine nuts, and eat with your hands. It’s like an updated version of India. Enjoy!