I always love the Secret Recipe Club, and this month I was especially excited to be assigned one of my favorite blogs, Experiments of a Housewife. I have followed this blog for some time and always admire the gorgeous photography and sensational recipes. Shumaila, the talented woman behind Experiments of a Housewife, moved from her native India to the US with her husband and started the blog to document “the experiments I take upon everyday to keep myself busy.” Shumaila’s sweet confections are utterly tempting (just check out this gorgeous carrot cake and tell me you’re not inspired), but in particular I love her Garam Masala Tuesdays, when she posts incredible Indian recipes, often inspired by her mother. Shumaila’s goal is not only to share her beloved cuisine, but to demonstrate to Westerners that Indian food is much more than garam masala.
Picking a recipe for the Secret Recipe Club is never an easy feat, and I bookmarked many from Experiments of a Housewife before stumbling upon this recipe for Chicken Do-Piaza.
See, chicken do-piaza was the first Indian dish I can remember trying to make on my own. It was my senior year of college and I lived in a gorgeous house in Saratoga Springs with my two best friends and a beautifully appointed kitchen. (Seriously, I will never live anywhere that nice again.) The previous year I had studied abroad in India and what began with a fondness for Indian food turned into an all out obsession. (Look, there’s nerdy little me in that photo wearing my favorite salwar kameez with the Himalayas in the background.) And so, in our sunny kitchen fit with a perfect gas stove and dishwasher, I cracked open an Indian cookbook and set my sights on making chicken do-piaza.
Not that I had ever eaten chicken do-piaza. In fact, this manner of rich, gravy-laden Indian food so popular in the US could not have been more different from the spicy stuffed okra and simple lentil daal that I experienced while in India, but I loved it all nonetheless. College is when I began to spread my culinary wings, and making this dish is one of my clearest memories. The recipe made a huge vat, and I mean huge. I recall that it was good, but that I was disappointed with the result. I beat myself up over the consistency and spicing. But my roommate’s father, who was visiting that weekend, went nuts over it and took tupperware containers of it home.
I hadn’t attempted to make it again since. It slipped from my mind, along with many memories from college, and instead I perfected my samosa, toyed with butter tofu and dabbled in chicken tikka masala. I couldn’t wait to have my re-match with chicken do-piaza.
Shumaila tells us that do-piaza means “onions twice” and refers to the fact that onions are cut and cooked in two different ways, and added to the dish at two different stages of cooking. The onions serve not only to flavor the food, but also to thicken the sauce.
Shumaila’s recipe offers a fun take on chicken do-piaza. She employs a few secret ingredients (namely orange juice and brandy) that flavor the dish in wonderful and unexpected ways. Of course, I made a number of major changes to the recipe based on availability of ingredients and other considerations. I did not have brandy, so simply omitted it. I used coconut oil in place of mustard oil and so did not get the same pungent flavor that Shumaila describes. Instead of using the whole spices (which is better, I know) I used ground. There were other changes too, but really the spirit is the same. And all I know is that my husband and I polished off this dish, which should easily serve four or even six. I had made my perfect Chicken Do-Piaza.
Don’t be discouraged by the somewhat long list of ingredients. The process itself is quite quick, and the entire meal comes together in under an hour. Oh! And it’s gluten free! Just be sure to serve with rice instead of naan.
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 2 teaspoons turmeric
- ½ cup plain yogurt
- 1½ pounds boneless chicken breast, sliced
- 2½ large or 3 small red onions
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 2.3 ounces unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon ground dry coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon fenugreek
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons tomato puree
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- ½ cup cashews, ground in food processor to form rough paste
- ½ cup orange juice
- ¼ cup cream
- Put the ginger and garlic in a mortar and pestle or food processor and grind to a smooth paste.
- Put in a large bowl and add the turmeric and yogurt. Mix so well combined.
- Add the chicken and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate while you prepare the rest of the ingredients, or overnight.
- Finely chop half the onions and thinly slice the rest (keep separate).
- Heat the coconut oil and butter in a large skillet until melted and started to bubble.
- Add the sliced onions and fry for a few minutes until softened. Remove and set aside.
- Add the chopped onions and cook, stirring often, until browned (This is the "first do-piaza").
- Add the dried coriander, cumin, garam masala, and fenugreek and toast for 1 minute, until aromatic.
- Add the tomato puree, chili powder, and cashew paste.
- Cook until the tomato paste leaves a slight oil on the side of the pan, about 3 minutes.
- Add the chicken and simmer until almost cooked through.
- Add the orange juice and fried sliced onions and simmer for about 8 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.
- Stir in the cream and remove from the heat.
- Serve with basmati or Jasmine rice or naan.