Tuesday, September 18, 2012

X is for: Xacuti

So remember my first time through the alphabet I sampled the Xacuti at a Viva Goa in San Francisco? Well this time I was determined to tackle it in my own kitchen and I'm delighted to tell you it was a success!

However, I will say this was without a doubt, one of the most labor-intensive things I've made for the blog. For starters, I've never cooked Indian food before so I was learning a lot as I went along. Also, between figuring out how to open a coconut to roasting spices and making the masala, it consumed most of my afternoon.

Thankfully, my friend Sachi is Indian and consulted her mum, Shree, on the most accurate and authentic techniques for recreating this Goan dish (pronounced "Sha-koo-tee"). Like any recipe, there were dozens of variations online, but I mostly followed the one on The Curry Secret, with a few modifications per Shree's advice.



Soooooo....the base for Xacuti sauce includes coconut. You can totally used pre-packaged shredded coconut. And if I make this again, I'll probably do that for convenience sake. But of course I'm an overachiever and I don't do anything simple when it comes to the blog. So I bought a fresh coconut. Which requires actually cracking one open. There are several videos online explaining how to do it, and considering I don't own a machete (which would be weird), I mostly followed the instructions in this one

Step 1: You'll need a hammer and a nail or other sharp object.
Step 2: Punch holes in the "eyes." These are the three softest point of the coconut.
Step 3: Empty out the coconut water. To drink it, you might want to strain it first. I ended up using a little in the Masala paste.
Step 4: Firmly hit the coconut in the middle, rotating all the way around. (By the way, this took *way* longer than any of the videos. Obviously I need to go to the gym more.)
Step 5: It will eventually crack at the center. (hooray!)
Step 6: Pull coconut open. (success!)


Now apparently, there's such thing as a coconut scraper, which makes extracting the coconut much easier. As addicted as I am to kitchen gadgets, no, I do not own one of these. So I actually smashed the coconut halves into smaller pieces and grated it. And I have no freaking clue how all of the people in the videos were able to cut the coconut shell off. I couldn't do it, so I just grated what I could with the shell still intact. You'll need about a cup.


Aside from the coconut, you'll need a wide array of Indian spices. Kashmiri chiles, coriander, fennel, cumin, sesame seeds, white poppy seeds, fenugreek, cloves, cinnamon, peppercorns, ginger and garlic.


I used my fennel I bought during my trip to the Spice House in Chicago. As for the rest...most of it I was able to find at Rainbow Grocery. They have an amazing bulk spice section (pictured left) where you can literally buy a teaspoon of whatever spice you need. If you're going to be doing a lot of Indian cooking though, I would recommend stocking up at an Indian grocery store. There's one called Bombay Bazar that is just down the street from Rainbow. There's a more extensive selection at Jai Ho on Fillmore. That's where I found white poppy seeds (khus khus) as well as the dried Kashmiri chiles. (Bombay only had regular red chiles). Jai Ho also had a small produce section and a few Indian cooking utensils (no coconut scraper though). Both places also carry stuff like naan and samosas if you would like to complete your meal that way.


Dry roast grated coconut in a heavy bottom pan on the stove until light brown, stirring constantly. Set aside. In same pan, roast chiles and spices (except nutmeg) until they are lightly toasted an aromatic. Remove and allow to cool. Sachi's mum said it was important to roast each spice individually, and I actually read this on one of the dozens of blogs I came across. The main reason is because the spices often roast at different speeds, so it's best to do them all separately. It obviously takes longer though, so if you're in a hurry, you can try doing them all at once, just be careful not to burn them!


Once cool, combine toasted spices and nutmeg and grind to a fine powder using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. You can also use a clean electric coffee grinder or bowl attachment of an immersion blender...which is what I did. 


Heat a little ghee or oil in a pan and fry onions until brown. Add garlic and ginger and cook 1-2 minutes longer. Combine coconut, ground spices and onion mixture in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until it forms a paste, adding a little water (or fresh coconut water!) as needed. (Note: some recipes I read did not include this step of combining the onions in the paste, but others did, and Sachi's mum also recommended this, so that's what I did!)


Season chicken with salt and pepper. I just used organic boneless, skinless chicken thighs because that's what I had on hand...though I think it's probably more authentic to use chicken pieces from a whole chicken. (I'm also not sure if I cut the pieces too small, but I think it worked out OK.) Heat a little ghee or oil in a pan and brown chicken on all sides. (I used coconut oil to be healthier and also add to the coconut taste). Add tumeric, tamarind paste and Masala paste and cook a few minutes more. 



Add potatoes and broth bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour or until chicken and potatoes are tender. (Add more broth or water if sauce is too dry or thick). 



Season to taste with more salt if needed, and right before serving, stir in finely chopped coriander. Serve over basmati rice. I also ate this with some garlic naan I bought at Jai Ho, even though that's not really a Goan dish I'm told. I loved the spiciness of this dish...perfect for fall!

Chicken Xacuti

by Jaymee Sire
Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 1 hour
Keywords: entree coconut chicken Masala Kashmiri chiles Indian

Ingredients (4-6 servings)
    For the Masala:
    • 1 cup grated coconut, fresh or desiccated
    • 6-8 Kashmiri chiles
    • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
    • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds (jeera)
    • 1 tablespoon white poppy seeds (khus khus)
    • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds (til)
    • 1-2 inches cinnamon stick
    • 4 cloves
    • 2 teaspoon fennel seeds (moti saunf)
    • 1/4 teaspoon fenugreek (methi)
    • 8-10 peppercorns
    • ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
    • 1 tablespoon ghee or coconut oil
    • 1 large onions, thinly sliced
    • 4-5 garlic cloves, smashed
    • 1/2 inch ginger, peeled and sliced
    • water (or coconut water), as needed
    For the chicken:
    • 2-3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into pieces
    • salt & pepper
    • 1 tablespoon ghee or coconut oil
    • 1 teaspoon tumeric
    • 1-2 tablespoons tamarind paste (depending on taste)
    • 2-3 cups chicken broth or water
    • 10 small round potatoes
    • 3 tablespoons finely chopped coriander leaves and stems (cilantro)
    Instructions

    1. Dry roast grated coconut in a heavy bottom pan on the stove until light brown, stirring constantly. Set aside.
    2. In same pan, roast chiles and spices (except nutmeg) individually until they are lightly toasted and aromatic. Remove and allow to cool. Once cool, combine toasted spices and nutmeg and grind to a fine powder using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. (Electric coffee grinder or bowl attachment of an immersion blender also work well).
    3. Heat a little ghee or oil in a pan and fry onions until brown. Add garlic and ginger and cook 1-2 minutes longer.
    4. Combine coconut, ground spices and onion mixture in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until it forms a paste, adding a little water as needed.
    5. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat a little ghee or oil in a pan and brown chicken on all sides. Add tumeric, tamarind paste and Masala paste and cook a few minutes more. Add potatoes and broth bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour or until chicken and potatoes are tender. (Add more broth or water if sauce is too dry or thick).
    6. Season to taste with more salt if needed, and right before serving, stir in finely chopped coriander. Serve over basmati rice.
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    3 comments:

    1. This looks fabulous Jamie! Can't wait to try it, thanks!

      ReplyDelete
    2. John has a samurai sword you could have borrowed for the coconut, maybe.

      ReplyDelete
    3. Awesome chicken dish shared online.. Let me have my try this week end..

      ReplyDelete

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