Tuesday, July 3, 2012

#287 - Chakundari Chicken Tikka, Beets & Zucchini Cakes W/ Crios & Slovenian Bubbles

We love Hema's Kitchen on Devon.

This meal, made at home, rivals Hema's with Indian flavors and spices flying everywhere while offering something slightly more northern Indian in origin, as opposed to the central Indian wonder that comes from Ms. Hema Potla.

I really don't know what I'm talking about when it comes to regional Indian cuisine but Mr. Bittman has the rundown on beet-marinated chicken here.

As Mr. Bittman says, go find dried fenugreek leaves for this recipe. We found ours at Pars Persian Store on Clark. It makes a big difference, as it opened us up to another distinctive and deep flavor that now seems necessary and wanted.

Food: Chakundari chicken tikka, roasted beets, zucchini cakes, naan and raita

Recipe for chakundari chicken tikka (beet-marinated chicken) here. It's a bit of work but entirely worth the effort. Dried fenugreek leaves, ginger, garlic, yogurt, garam masala, cumin, all the Indian goodness, flavors that are bright yet deep and dark at the same time. I'm not going to attempt to describe the flavor of the chicken, it just bounces and expands all over the place. Top three chicken in my world.

Roasted beets chopped up and coated with oodles of mustard seed and cilantro with radishes added, then doused with a healthy amount of parsley on top. The mustard seed tied perfectly into the beet chicken while offering something different, delicious and more...Indian.

Vegan zucchini cakes from this recipe. Minus the usual egg to serve as a binder, these cakes didn't need it. Deliciously gooey stuff with a crusty exterior. I oddly want zucchini cakes henceforth without the egg. They don't need it and just get in the way when trying to get to the core of the zucchini flavor.

Naan and homemade raita to round out the meal.  Cucumber, tomato, mint, cilantro raita that excelled in its versatility by being successfully applied to everything else in the food and amping up the flavor of all of it. This wasn't a spicy hot meal so the raita didn't serve its typical cooling purpose. Instead, it offered more in the department of taking flavors to a new place.

We're two white people that grew up on Midwestern food low in spice, low in acid, low in flavor. Our food growing up usually had three elements going on: Meat, cheese and potatoes. Flavor enhancers came from Mrs. Dash, gravy and maybe oregano if we were lucky. I continue to get a little ornery when I think it took me 33 years of my life before I had real Indian food.

So many flavors! With each spice, each element, each combination tasting important, necessary, vital. Each bite new, each bite deep, each bite a freakin' wonder. That's good Indian food.

And this was good Indian food in every sense.

The wine? Nice to have it on the table. Nothing more.

Wine:  2011 Crios Torrontés ($13 - Binny's) & NV Vipava Extra Brut Slovenia ($22 - Bottle Shop)

Spicy hot Indian with Crios can't be more perfect. It's a white flower explosion that turns mouthwatering. This meal wasn't spicy hot so the usual Crios enhancement we love so much didn't happen, this time playing in the world of the more quiet flowers with a healthy dose of seawater. Good. No complaints. The seawater was important.

The Vipava Extra Brut comes from an indigenous Slovenian grape called Zelen. Came off like a sparkling chenin blanc to us. At times interesting, showing some beeswax notes with an orange peel edge but also metallic at times, like licking an old fence post. Intriguing but that intrigue didn't last long.

Pairing:  86  This was about the food, not the wine

Some nice elemental matchup with the Crios, especially with its seawater quality offering a surprising coda to several bites along with the low-grade floral notes playing with some of the spices in nice ways. But Crios performs better with heat, especially vindaloo.

The Vipava was frankly awful with the chicken but perked up and sorta fell into balance with the beets and wasn't terrible with a zucchini-raita bite.

An overall basic cleansing and refreshment was missing a bit from the wine but enough efforts were made to keep the pairing in the world of 'just fine'.

This was one of those rare meals where wine enhancement wasn't needed to complete the satisfaction received from dinner. Everything we could ever want or need was on the plate.

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