No. 198 & 199: Marinated Curry Chicken & Indian Spiced Lentils

A couple of months ago, my mother sent me a wonderful treat in the mail, a cookbook dedicated to the wonder that is buttermilk.

Buttermilk

I just love the opening line ...

Like a full moon on a warm southern night, buttermilk makes something special happen.

Yep, that pretty much sums up the magic of buttermilk.

And this isn't just a Southern thing. Quark, a cheese made from buttermilk, is a staple in Scandinavia. Fermented milks and yogurts are used in places like India in the form of a lassi.

For those of you who haven't ever thought about what buttermilk really is, it's the fairly acidic and somewhat fatty leftovers after you've churned the butter out of milk. The tart flavor and buttery texture make it wonderful and unique, and perfect for breaking down meat in a marinade.

Marinated Curry Chicken

This is the first recipe I have tried out of Moose's Buttermilk: A Savor South Cookbook. I was curious about the savory seasonings and buttermilk marinade.

Ingredients

Serves 6
2 cups buttermilk
1 tablespoon hot Madras curry powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 small onion, sliced
6 boneless chicken breast halves
Olive oil
Chutney for serving (optional)

To make

In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, curry powder, turmeric, garlic, salt and onion until combined. Place the chicken in a recloseable bag and then pour the buttermilk mixture over it. Turn the bag to be sure the chicken is covered and then refrigerate for 12 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the chicken, onion and garlic from the marinade and place them in a nonstick baking dish.

Ready to bake

Drizzle with olive oil, cover and bake for 45 minutes, or until no pink juices emerge when the chicken is pierced with a sharp knife.

Finished baking

Serve with your favorite chutney or side.

Indian Spiced Lentils

When making an Indian main dish, one must come up with an appropriate side. While these smashed potatoes sounded delicious, I opted for spiced lentils to keep up with our healthy goals for the week.

Ingredients

Serves 6
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 cup green lentils
1 1/2 cup chicken stock or water
4 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts divided
1 green jalapeno pepper, minced
1 red serrano pepper, minced
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses*
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1/4 cup Italian parsley leaves, chopped

*I subbed regular old molasses

To make

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add onion and sauté 2 minutes. Add garlic and spices and sauté 1 minute. Add lentils and stir to coat. Add stock. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer until the lentils are soft but chewy, about 40 minutes.

cooked lentils

Transfer lentils to a large bowl. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet. Add white part of scallions and peppers. Sauté briefly until peppers brighten in color, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add to lentils. Stir in pomegranate molasses, salt and pepper. Taste to adjust seasoning.

Before serving, add green scallions, cilantro and parsley and gently toss to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Note: The flavors will develop if refrigerated several hours or overnight. This make an excellent cold salad the next day.

The results

These two dishes paired wonderfully together for an Indian inspired meal. The nice, crisp Sauvignon Blanc that accompanied them wasn't too shabby either.

Final plate

But the star of this plate were the lentils. Goodness, they were wonderful and spiced to just the right level. The addition of the herbs and green scallion at the end balanced the curry/pepper heat perfectly. We'll be making them again, either as a side or as a main veggie dish.

The chicken marinade was terrific, but the end product was pretty dry. Tasty, but lacking most of the yummy moisture that makes chicken worthwhile.

And I'd just like to say, it's really tough to bake chicken and have it not come out dry. Gosh darn it, I have tried, but the perfect oven chicken continues to elude me.

Next time I will probably cut the baking time by about 15 minutes (and start checking chicken from there) and tent the dish with foil to keep some moisture in.

Any other tips out there?

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