From America's Test Kitchen Season 6: Two Curry Traditions
For many home cooks Indian cooking is a mystery, full of exotic spices and unfamiliar, laborious cooking techniques. We hoped to create a complex but not heavy-flavored curry that wouldn’t take all day to prepare.
Allowing the spices to cook completely provided the authentic, intense flavor we were after in our curry. We used a combination of whole spices—cinnamon sticks, cloves, green cardamom pods, black peppercorns, and a bay leaf—and toasted them in the oil before adding the aromatics, jalapeño, and ground spices. Instead of browning the meat (we chose lamb, but chicken thighs can also be used) like we normally do, we simply stirred it into the pot along with crushed tomatoes and cooked the mixture until the liquid evaporated and the oil separated. This is a classic Indian technique that allows the spices to further release and develop their flavors in the oil, flavors which are then cooked into the meat (because it’s not browned, it doesn’t have a crust to inhibit its ability to absorb the flavors). We then added water and simmered the mixture until the meat was tender, then we stirred in the spinach and channa dal (yellow split peas) and cooked the dish until all the ingredients were melded and tender.
Serves 4 to 6
Gather and prepare all of your ingredients before you begin. If you don't have a minichopper for pureeing the garlic and ginger, use a microplane grater.You may substitute a scant half teaspoon of cayenne pepper for the jalapeño, adding it to the skillet with the other ground dried spices. As for choosing combinations of meat or fish with vegetables, we like the following: top sirloin or lamb with potatoes, chicken with zucchini, and shrimp with peas, but fee free to create your own pairings. Serve the curry with basmati rice.