Laboratory in the Culinary Arts: Day #10

By Jillian Bernardini - Dec 01, 2011 - 03:17 PM
Share This Blog

August 2nd:  Indian with Robyn DeLuca; Paratha, Garam Masala, Punjabi Greens, Meat Curry (Gosht ka Salan), Lime Rice, Goan Shrimp Curry

I thought I loved Indian food.  However, after the recipes that Robyn gave us on Tuesday, I am truly and completely infatuated with Indian food!  I have eaten Chicken Tikka Masala before, and I am a firm believer of Samosas and Naan.  Apparently, these foods only skim the surface of how complex and exciting Indian food can be.  Comparable to Mexican and Chinese food, India as a nation has a variety of regional cuisines that consist of a multitude of spices and herbs that I had never seen before!  I loved that Robyn explained the various spices and allowed us to smell them and touch them.  I have tasted a tamarind sauce before, but I never saw actual tamarind in its original form.  This was sensory overload, and I am glad that I wrote down these spices and plants that are very new to my palate.  While the mole sauce with Leo was an aromatic cooking experience, Indian night was that complexity times 1,000. 

               Whole star anise, green cardamom pods, and tumeric, to name a few....

It was interesting to learn that Indian spice blends can depend on the desired dish to be made that evening.  Robyn explained that they are custom blended and used within a couple of days to ensure freshness of the flavors.  While American markets have bottled spices that are labeled “curry powder,” Indian cooking does not have one spice blend categorized for curry.  There are tons of different curries, and we incorporated one of these into our lamb curry stew.  I had never cooked lamb before because it seemed like this inapproachable protein that was sensitive to particular cooking methods.  I found that when we stewed the boneless lamb pieces, they remained incredibly moist and absorbed all the aromatic spices.  I can vividly remember the smell of those thick cinnamon sticks toasting in the ghee as we caramelized the onions for the stew. 

                                    Our Indian Supper, Mike Kostyo

Both the shrimp curry and the greens recipes had unique flavor profiles and textures that were things I had never tasted before.  While this was Robyn’s goal, they were also deliciously complex.  When I prepared the mise for the greens, Robyn had instructed me to taste the pepper to see how hot they were.  I was unaware of what type of pepper it was, and I had never tasted it before.  This was an interesting skill to remember because if it was too spicy, then perhaps I should include less than the recipe had stated to use.  This reminded me again about how important it is to use your senses when cooking; smell, taste, touch, look, and even listen are all important to utilize and keep heightened in the kitchen.  All of the recipes this evening incorporated new cooking techniques and information into my memory bank, and I especially loved the lime intensity of the rice with the pleasant crunch from the dhal.  Indian cuisine may be one of the most exciting and diverse cuisines that I was never aware of before.  The complexity of spices was able to come together and complement each other in a balanced way.