Big Kitty pronounced it quite good. He would have been happy if I had used the full 1 teaspoon of cayenne, as opposed to the generous 1/2 teaspoon, but there comes a time when a person has to draw the line between heat for heat's sake and flavor. I will always opt for the latter. I like it hot, but I want to taste the rest of the dish, y'know?
Now, what goes with an Indian dish? For Valentine's Day I made a classic gin and tonic, thinking it combined a little of the British influence with our food. Also, a G&T is good with rich food.
The recipe, however, made a LOT, so for subsequent dinners of leftovers, I experimented with the Pegu Club Cocktail, another throwback to the British colonial times, only this time in Burma. Just outside Rangoon, the Pegu Club (so named for the local river) catered to upper level British military and governmental officials - bunch that show up in all the Masterpiece productions that display the colonial bastions of social rank. The cocktail itself dates back to "Barflies and Cocktails" by Harry McElhone of the famous Harry's New York Bar in Paris, however it then appears in Harry Craddock's Savoy Cocktail Book of 1930. There are two versions, so I tried both. We have a favorite, as it happens.
But first, the chicken recipe:
Vish Puri's Deadly Delicious Butter Chicken a la Tarquin Hall
2 pounds skinned, boned chicken
Juice of 1 lime
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon cayenne (or less)
2 bay leaves, crushed
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 ounces ground almonds (aka almond meal)
1 cup plain yogurt (full fat Greek works the best)
1 teaspoon garam masala
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
4 tablespoons cooking oil
1 large red onion, chopped
1 teaspoon ginger paste*
2 tablespoons garlic paste*
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves - get this at the Indian food store)
3 tablespoons soft butter
4 tablespoons cream
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Mix the chicken, lime juice, salt and cayenne in a large non-reactive container. Mix the yogurt, ground spices, ground almonds, garam masala, coriander, cumin and turmeric together. Add this to the chicken mixture and make sure the chicken is thoroughly coated. Cover and let marinate for an hour.
* In order to create ginger and garlic paste, I use a very, very fine Microplane grater. It's fast and it gives you something far fresher than what's in a tube, if you can find the tube.
Heat the oil in a saute pan and add the onion, giving it the occasional stir until it starts to turn a little golden. Add the pastes and saute until just before it becomes the shade of golden oak. Add the chicken from the marinade and saute until the flesh turns white, stirring frequently. Add the tomatoes and the rest of the marinade. Cook until the tomatoes have softened, then add the chicken stock and the methi leaves.
Simmer until the chicken is tender and the sauce has thickened.
Melt the butter and add it, along with the cream and the cilantro. Stir well. Serve with basmati rice. Serves 6 or 8, depending on the way you divided the pieces.
Pegu Club Cocktail aka Dr. Cocktail
1.5 ounces gin
.50 ounces Cointreau
.75 ounces fresh lime juice
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Chill a cocktail glass while you mix. Combine everything in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into the chilled glass.
[Sidebar on chilling glasses. I try to think ahead and stick our stemless Libby glasses into the ice bin in the freezer. But if I haven't had a chance, putting ice in the glasses and then filling with water is a time-honored way to accomplish the task. With cocktails, colder and not huge, is better.]
Pegu Club Cocktail a la Brad Thomas Parsons
2 ounces London dry gin
.75 ounces orange curacao
.50 ounce lime juice (please, never out of the bottle!)
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash orange bitters
Garnish: lime twist
Chill the glasses, shake the contents with ice; strain into cold glasses and twist the lime over and drop into the drink.
Our favorite turned out to be the first recipe. It wasn't as sweet, and the smidge less amount of gin made for a more balanced drink, we thought. There is no garnish with it, but a twist of lime would probably be pretty decent.
One more time on the size of a cocktail. American bars have gotten into elephantine sized barware. In the days of Mad Men, a three martini lunch was no biggie because the martini was only about 2 ounces. Today's single martini can be as large as 7 ounces. A martini, or any cocktail for that matter, needs to be bone-chillingly cold. Anything more than a couple of ounces is going to get warm while the person sips. 2 ounces or so is pretty much the limit in keeping something that cold until the drink is entirely consumed.
We've become very fond of our stemless Libby Cosmopolitan glasses. They are a respectable 8 ounce size, so can be used for a variety of cocktails. But the contents of our cocktails seldom exceed 3 ounces, and that includes the non-alcoholic flavors. What we especially like is that these glasses get really cold in the freezer and are dishwasher-worthy. To be sure, we have some stemmed cocktail glasses, but if you drop by for a drink, changes are you'll get the short glass. That stubby bottom maintains the cold to a tee!