If there was ever a New York City neighborhood that represented the concept of “high high’s, low low’s” in real estate form it would be Murray Hill.
The area, in the east 30’s of Manhattan, is home to the highest per capita of 22-year-old former frat boys, turned first year analysts. It is also home to the highest per capita of Indian restaurants and specialty food stores, for which it has also been dubbed Curry Hill.
A tale of two cities, indeed: of blocks defined by either biryani or Buck Hunter. I think you know which one I prefer.
The main reason to brave the sports bars and third tier fast casual dining is for the spices that lurk on the adjacent street corners. Kalustyan’s has an encyclopedic selection, stacked in bulk bags from floor to ceiling, and you can practically smell them from a block away. I try to make a trip at least once a year to stock up on my daily go-to’s, get inspired by the obscure regional blends, and replace some of the aging contents of my less trafficked jars that might have gone stale.
Spices have so many health benefits, but if you want to use them as an extension of your medicine cabinet, it’s best to keep that shiz fresh.
A few weeks ago, I went on a serious bulk buying spree at Kalustyan’s in preparation for making large batches of Homemade Sleepy Tummy Tea, and Sweet and Spicy Pepita-Cashew Snack Mix from the book (there are still a few bags up for grabs! shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your preorder receipt if you want one). When I came home, perhaps because I was already smelling like the inside of a Bangladeshi taxi cab, I was craving a rich, slow-cooked curry. So I turned to this healthy spin on chicken kheema (more traditionally spelled keema) from the Skinny Taste Fast and Slow Cookbook.
As you know, I am an appliance idiot. Before Charlie, I didn’t own a blender, let alone a slow cooker. And even after I acquired both of those things after we moved in together, along with a juicer, food processor and 5-types of fancy wine opener, it took me a while to work up the courage to experiment with them.
This winter though, I’ve officially enrolled in Gina Homolka’s Slow Cooker Academy by working my way through her book. The harissa lamb ragu (the cover recipe) was a show stopper at a recent dinner party. But it’s the Indian chicken with peas that I’ve come back to over and over again.
As Gina, a mom of two (gorgeous) girls, mentions in the recipe notes, kheema is a good gateway Indian dish for kids who aren’t yet accustomed to spice, or those adults who frequent Curry Hill more for the PBR drink specials than the traditional punjabi specialties.
The list of spices in any Indian recipe might seem intimidating at first, but once you’ve invested in your rack, these homey dishes are fairly easy to throw together. And especially in this one, I appreciated that Gina kept all the spice measurements equal!
If you’re not fully enrolled in slow cooker school, don’t worry: you can also make this on the stovetop. The nice thing about using so many spices is that there’s already a ton of flavor to work with, and that allows you to get away with a quicker cook time. But what I’ve found so far in using my new appliance is how well the slow cooker coaxes richness out of leaner proteins like ground chicken. And especially when left to cook low and slow on your countertop for hours, you’ll start to smell those great spices from a block away.
Enjoy with a frosty gluten-free beer or cider to cut the heat with a little sweet, and bring all the best parts of Curry Hill culture together on one table.
From one slow cooking healthy hedonist, to another,
Slow Cooker Indian Chicken Kheema with Peas
- 2 teaspoons ghee or unsalted butter
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- 1 pound ground chicken
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 cup canned tomato sauce
- 4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 fresh jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
- 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 3/4 teaspoon chili powder
- 3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 3/4 teaspoon garam masala
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 bay leaf
- 3/4 cup frozen peas for Whole30, sub green beans
In a large nonstick skillet, melt the ghee over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, 2 minutes. Add the ground chicken and salt and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon as it cooks, 5 to 6 minutes.
Transfer to a slow cooker and add the tomato sauce, 1/4 cup water, 2 tablespoons of the cilantro, the jalapeno, coriander, cumin, chili powder, turmeric, garam masala, cinnamon, and bay leaf. Stir well.
Cover and cook on high 3 to 4 hours or on love for 6 to 8 hours, adding the peas during the last 30 minutes of cooking time. Discard the bay leaf, add the remaining 2 tablespoons cilantro, and serve.