I write songs. But songs don't have recipes. They just exist. There are no measurements. You either know how to do it or you don't. The songs are either good or they aren't. It all depends on how many songs you've written.
So it suddenly possessed me to write a recipe. I've never made this recipe, and I don't know how it's going to taste. Probably someone out there has made something similar, but I deliberately didn't do any research. Something just came out of nowhere and said: "Saffron Chicken."
I had to think: what style? Could be Italian. French. Vietnamese. Indian. I settled upon that all-encompassing category: Asian. But as I typed it up, I imagined what it would taste like. And I realised that I don't have to imagine. I already know what it's going to taste like. I don't know the method, but I'll improvise and find it, just like I improvise a solo on top of a song (done; see below -- Ed 11/03).
What do you think it's going to taste like? How do you think it should be made? I'll make it exactly according to the specifications and not taste it once until it's time to eat, just to see how faithful my culinary instincts are . . .
4 tablespoons ghee or peanut oil
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
6 large shallots, finely diced
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, cut in 1/2 inch squares
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. chile powder
3/4 cup coconut milk
1 cup chicken broth
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. palm sugar
1 tsp. tamarind paste
1 tbsp. saffron threads
Juice of half a lime
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Brine chicken in salt and sugar (about 1/4 C each per litre of water) for about 2 hours in the refrigerator. In a non-stick saucepan, sauté the shallots and onion in 1 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter) or peanut oil on medium heat for about 8 minutes or until translucent. Add garlic and sauté another two minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.
Add 2 more tablespoons ghee. Heat until sizzling, then add the chicken, cumin, coriander and chile powder. Mix well and sauté until browned on all sides, stirring frequently, about 8-10 minutes. Add back onion mixture, then coconut milk and chicken broth. Bring to a boil then reduce to medium low and simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
When sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, add the palm sugar, tamarind paste and saffron. Stir well to combine. Simmer another ten minutes, covered, stirring occasionally. Add lime juice and 1/4 cup cilantro. Stir well to combine. Serve on steamed basmati rice with cilantro garnish.