Monday, January 26, 2015

It's a Small World

I definitely dropped the ball on signing up for a class at my university's gym (there's always next semester, right?), but this past weekend I did get around to tackling a different goal I've been setting my eyes on for a while. On Saturday night I hosted an international potluck for a bunch of my classmates. I know, I know... my original resolution was to host an Indian dinner, but having all the responsibility (and potential failure) of a dinner party resting entirely on my hands was biting off a tad more than I could chew.

The potluck was the perfect solution. I made Indian vegetable fried rice, chicken curry, and rasmalai for dessert, which was everything I would have made otherwise, but I didn't have the extra work of cooking a big enough dinner portion for everyone in attendance... as well as the pressure of facing the aforementioned possibility of experiencing a kitchen mishap and not having anything edible to feed everyone. Now, I'm not exactly a pessimist, and I actually often overextend myself due to my blind optimism (or more accurately, lack of foresight). However, spreading myself too thin is a personal tendency I have strove to work on in the recent years, and moreover, I had never before made the rice, and only made the chicken and rasmalai once before.

The fried rice is really a breeze to stir up over the stove, and then you only need to transfer the rice into a pot for the oven to do the rest of the work for you. And this is coming from someone whose first attempt at cooking rice (years ago in Prague when I had to teach myself how to cook!) resulted in grains entirely reminiscent of cottage cheese. The chicken does take a little bit more patience with the stirring necessary for the onions to caramelize and reduce into a tasty sauce, but following the steps is foolproof. I had almost all the spices on hand due to the shoebox of spices I snagged from my mom's pantry before coming to law school, but they are all easy to find at any local grocery store. And trust me when I say the flavor you experience will more than blow away your generic "Chicken Seasoning Mix" you have tucked away in your spice rack. In short, if I can do it, you can do it, and you should do it.

My friends loved the dishes I made (!!), and there were about 35 of us in attendance, representing a variety of different cuisines. We had guacamole, bruschetta, and pigs in a blanket for apps. The main dishes were deer chili, manwich, shephard's pie, latkes, shrimp scampi, beef stew, filipino pork adobo with white rice and lasagna. And for dessert there was apple pie, gulab jamun, chocolate truffles, banoffee pie, danish puffs, and flan. I was stuffed. But don't worry, we digested and went dancing later on that night. I think I'm gonna make this an annual thing. And that dinner party? Should be a walk in the park whenever I decide to tackle that!

Indian fried vegetable rice
Basmati rice: 2 cups
Peas, corn, and carrots: 5 ounces (diced, fresh or frozen)
Water: 4 cups
Onion: 1, small
Ginger: 1 one-inch piece
Garlic: 4 cloves
Green chilies: 3
Butter: 1 tablespoon
Oil: 2 tablespoons
Cloves: 4
Cardamom: 4
Cinnamon stick: 2 one-inch pieces
Bay leaf: 2
Salt: 1 tablespoon
Coriander leaves: 2 tablespoons, chopped (I substituted this for flat leaf parsley)

1. Crush ginger and garlic (I don't own one, but you can use a mortar and pestle for this.)
2. Thinly slice the onion and slit the green chilies
3. Heat a large pot, and add the butter and oil
3. Add the cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, and bay leaves
4. Add the onion, green chilies, ginger, and garlic and stir for a couple of minutes
5. Add  the rice and stir for another couple of minutes
6. Add the peas and carrots and stir
7. Add the water and salt, and bring to a boil
8. Turn down heat, cover the pot, and cook for 5 minutes
9. Transfer the pot to a 375° oven and cook for another 15-20 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed
10. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves

Indian chicken curry
Chicken: 2 pounds of boneless thighs
Oil: 2 tablespoons
Tomato: 1, small
Onion: 1, large
Garlic: 6 cloves
Ginger: 1 one-and-a-half-inch piece
Turmeric powder: 1/4 teaspoon
Coriander powder: 2 teaspoons
Chili powder: 1 teaspoon
Salt: 1/4 teaspoon
Garam masala: 1/4 teaspoon
Paprika: 2 tablespoons
Water: 2 tablespoons
Coriander leaves: 2 tablespoons, chopped (I substituted this for flat leaf parsley)

1. Mix chicken with ginger, garlic, turmeric, coriander, chili powder, paprika, salt, garam masala, and 2 tablespoons of water
2. Marinate for 15 minutes to overnight in the fridge
3. Heat 2 tablespoons oil on high flame
4. Add chicken mixture and cook until browned
5. Turn pieces over and cook until evenly brownded
6. When completely browded, reduce flame, cover, and cook for 5-10 minutes
7. Add sliced onions and chopped tomato and cook until onions are tender
8. Garnish with coriander leaves

Recipe source: my mom

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