In my new office here in Pensacola Florida, we have an interesting combination of Navy families. Two of my co-workers have spouses they met while stationed in England, and another met his wife while serving in Canada. I’ll often ask them what new dishes they’d like for me to bring into work, as they typically (and unknowingly) are my tasting judges. The question inevitably gets passed to their spouses, and all too often I hear complaints that there are “no good curries” to be found in our town. This Chicken Korma recipe is the result of those conversations.
“Korma” comes from the Urdu word ḳormā, which means to braise. This dish, as with other braised dishes like Rogan Josh, is characteristic of Moghul cuisine, which was first introduced to Northern India by the Mughal Empire in the 16th Century; the Mughal were a predominantly Muslim people of Turko-Mongol descent (some claimed to be direct descendants of Genghis Khan).
There is a lot of variation to kormas, but the underlying theme includes a slow braise in a rich, mildly-spicy curry sauce, often flavored with yogurt or heavy cream. For this recipe in particular, I kept it relatively dairy-free (what’s a recipe without butter or ghee?) and used a bit of lemon juice to impart the tanginess you’d expect from using yogurt.
Chicken Korma (Gluten-free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet, Whole30-friendly)
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 green cardamom pod, seeds only (or 1/4 tsp ground cardamom)
1/2 tsp mace (or 3/4 tsp ground nutmeg)
2 tbsp ghee, more if needed
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed, sliced
2 cups chicken broth, divided, more if needed
2 tbsp cashews (roasted preferred, but raw are fine)
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp butter, cubed (ghee okay)
salt to taste (about 1 tsp)
slivered almonds to garnish
cilantro leaves to garnish
1. Combine the curry blend ingredients. Combine half of the curry blend with the thigh pieces; cover and chill for 30 minutes. Combine the remaining curry blend with the cardamom and mace, then set aside.
2. Heat the ghee in a large skillet over med/high heat until shimmering, about 1 minute. Add half of the chicken and brown on each side, about 2 minutes per side, then remove and set aside. Repeat with the other half of the chicken, adding more ghee if needed.
3. Reduce the skillet heat to medium, then add the onion. Saute until softened, about 3 minutes, then add the garlic, jalapeno, and the remaining curry blend; saute until aromatic, about 30 seconds.
4. The skillet should be nice and crusty at this point (see the picture below the recipe for an example), which is perfect. Add 1 cup of the broth and bring to a simmer, scraping up the browned bits.
5. Once the skillet is clean, pour its contents into a blender. Add the remaining broth, the cashews, the lemon juice, and any accumulated juices from the chicken to the blender. Blend until smooth, then return to the skillet. Simmer over medium heat until no longer frothy, stirring often, about 2 minutes; add the chicken and simmer until the chicken is cooked through and tender, about 5 minutes. Add more broth if it gets thicker than you’d like.
6. Add the butter cubes and stir until incorporated (this will give a silky texture to your curry). Taste and add salt if needed, then garnish with slivered almonds and cilantro leaves. Serve with rice, cauliflower rice, or something even simpler, like the blanched spinach you see in the main picture.
** For added richness, stir in 1 tbsp heavy cream, coconut milk, or yogurt before serving.; if using yogurt, only add 1/2 tbsp lemon juice while cooking the dish.
** To make your own garam masala, combine 1 tsp ground cumin, 1/2 tsp ground coriander, 1/2 tsp ground cardamom, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground cloves, 1/4 ground nutmeg, and a pinch of allspice (yields a little more than 1 tbsp garam masala).
** This dish can also be made with lamb pieces, but will require a longer braising period (step 5) to get tender (about an hour).
After browning the chicken and adding the curry blend, your skillet will be crusty and brown; deglazing it with some broth will incorporate all these delicious browned bits into your curry.