Can you believe it?! I’m finally back into the groove with the Daring Cooks and Daring Bakers challenges. After hit-and-miss spring and nonexistent summer attempts, I’ve kicked things back in gear and I’m ready to get cooking.
This month’s challenge was hosted by Mary, a lovely blogger and longtime member of the Daring Kitchen challenges. Mary, who writes the delicious blog, Mary Mary Culinary was our August Daring Cooks’ host. Mary chose to show us how delicious South Indian cuisine is. She challenged us to make Appam and another South Indian/Sri Lankan dish to go with the warm flat bread.
When I saw that our entire challenge revolved around Indian food, I knew things were going to get fun. Despite my love of almost all foods and all cuisines, I’m especially fanatical about Indian food. Whether it’s the complex mixtures of aromatic spices, the satisfyingly hearty array of flat breads, or the incredible diversity of dishes and cultures spreading across the subcontinent, India and its food have always held a special place in my heart.
With this challenge, the Daring Cooks were assigned to make Appams, a type of South Indian flat bread consisting mostly of rice, yeast, and coconut milk. Along with that, we also had to make any type of South Indian or Sri Lankan dish to serve with the appams. For me, this dish was the delicious Chicken Kerala.
However, before I go off skipping through the fields, singing songs of curry-love, we first need to discuss the process of making appams. As much as I hate to generalize this tasty form of flat bread, I have to say that it actually tastes very similar to hot grits—except in thin, crepe-like form, made with rice instead of cornmeal. What definitely does make appams completely unique is the method of preparation, which proved to be both easy and daunting.
First, it’s a question of soaking about 1 1/2 cups of uncooked rice overnight. The next day, that rice gets drained and whirled through a blender or food processor until smooth. To that pureed rice, one adds a mixture of yeast, sugar, and water—giving it all another quick buzz through the blender/food processor/Magic Bullet until smooth. Yet again, this mixture sits overnight at room temperature, allowing the yeast to do its work and allowing the mixture to slightly ferment. The next day, this concoction is combined with coconut milk and salt, then cooked in a pan much in the way you’d cook crepes—pour, swirl, etc. After that, it’s simply a question of how many can you eat with how much Chicken Kerala before you’re too full to move.
Now, I can’t gloss over things and avoid telling you about the few mishaps I encountered on my way to appam-licious glory. At first, it was challenge enough to muster the patience to take the 48+ hours to bring this dish to fruition. In my previous skimming of the challenge recipe earlier in the month, I neglected to spot the second overnight resting/rising time for the dough—an unhappy surprise, but one that was overcome.
Also, I think I’ve led you to believe that it’s easy to perfect that whole “pour, swirl, cook” technique for cooking the appams. Truly, it took me almost the whole bowl of batter before I hit my stride with the process. Initially, I would pour a small ladle of batter into the pan and it would immediately solidify and stick, foiling all of my attempts at graceful batter-swirling. Buzzing it with an immersion blender solved that problem quite nicely, helping to further liquefy the rice bits. I also discovered that it worked better for me to cook them over medium-low heat, rather than over medium-high heat. As far as quick cooking goes, I don’t have those kind of reflexes.
If the task of making appams now suddenly sounds scary and insurmountable to you, please take heart. Eating a savory and subtly sweet appam with a bowl of spicy chicken and potato curry is more than enough reward. Seriously, this Chicken Kerala, with its familiar blend of ginger, garlic, and chili, along with the creaminess of coconut milk and the bright punch of fresh cilantro, was the perfect accompaniment for this challenge’s appams.
It was also the perfect accompaniment for my lunch, snack, and dinner all in one day.
If you’d like to give the appam recipe a try or learn more about the challenge, take a peek at the info packet from the Daring Kitchen website.
If you’d like to make a tasty pot of Chicken Kerala, look no further…
Recipe adapted from “Chicken Kerala” by Manju Malhi
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 serrano peppers, seeds removed from one; all finely chopped
1 teaspoon grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon hot chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garam masala
pinch curry powder
1 pound, 2 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small cubes
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 large white potatoes, cut into small cubes
1 13.5-ounce can coconut milk, divided
1/4 to 1/3 cup water, as needed
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
Heat the canola oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion and serrano peppers for three minutes. Toss in the ginger, garlic, chili powder, coriander, turmeric, salt, garam masala, and curry powder, stirring to combine.
Add the chicken cubes and cook for about 8 minutes, until browned. Add the tomatoes and potatoes, cooking for another 2 minutes.
Pour in 3 1/2 ounces of the coconut milk and simmer for 6 minutes. Add the remaining coconut milk and 1/4 cup water. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender and the chicken is cooked. Note: If the sauce looks too thick, add 1/3 cup water instead of 1/4 cup.
Check the seasonings, stir in the cilantro, and serve warm with rice or flatbread.