Chicken Thighs with Black Mustard Seeds and Fermented-Rice Pancakes
In 1986 Lydia Shire traveled to India, which sparked her imagination and ignited an interest in Indian spices. She also found ideas in Madhur Jaffrey’s cookbook. Inspired by both, she incorporated the ideas in this dish. The vegetable garnishes are a suggestion; Chef Shire encourages home cooks to select their own favorite Indian vegetable garnishes if they wish. Any leftover pancake batter will keep for a few days in the refrigerator. The chicken can be prepared a few hours in advance and reheated in a 350 F oven; however, the pancakes must be cooked at the last minute.
- Long Grain Rice - 1 cup
- Urad Dal - 1/4 cup, skinned (a skinned lentil available at Indian groceries)
- Water - 1 1/2 cups
- Salt - To taste
- Chicken Thighs - 4
- Tumeric - 1 tablespoon, ground
- Salt - 1 tablespoon
- Coarsely ground black pepper
- Olive Oil - 1/2 cup
- Black Mustard Seeds - 1 tablespoon
- Urad Dal - 1 tablespoon
- Fennel Seeds - 1 tablespoon
- Onion - 1/2 cup, diced
- Hot Red Chilies - 3 small dried, any variety, seeded
- Olive Oil - 1-2 teaspoons
- Clarified Butter - 2 tablespoons
- Suggestions for Indian Vegetable Garnishes
- Creamed spinach with black mustard seeds
- Okra with yogurt, chilies, and ginger
- Cauliflower with chilies, turmeric, and cilantro
- Sauteed fava beans
To begin the pancakes: Wash the rice several times, then place in a medium bowl and add water to cover by 2 inches. Let sit at room temperature for 6 hours. Wash the urad dal and soak in water to cover in another bowl for 6 hours. Drain both.
Place the rice in a blender or food processor with half of the water and puree. Empty into a bowl and repeat with the urad dal and the remaining water. Combine the purees, add salt to taste, and set in a warm spot for a few hours or overnight.
To prepare the chicken: Remove the knobby knuckle joints from the chicken thighs, leaving the thigh bones in. Mix the turmeric and salt and rub on the chicken. Marinate for 20 to 30 minutes, then season with black pepper.
In a wok, heat the 1/2 cup olive oil over medium heat. When hot, add the black mustard seeds, dal, and fennel. When the seeds begin to pop, add the onion. When the onion is soft, add the chicken, skin-side down. Spoon the onion over the chicken. Turn up the heat. Add the dried red chilies, breaking them up by hand. Do not shake the pan, but if the chicken is browning too quickly, pour water into the pan a few teaspoons at a time. Turn the chicken periodically during cooking.
To finish the pancakes: Film a 10-inch non-stick skillet with a scant amount of olive oil and place over medium-high heat. Check the batter: it should be loose and similar to crepe batter in consistency. Thin with water if necessary. Pour 1/3 cup of the batter into the skillet and quickly swirl as if making a crepe. The pancake should be thin enough that bubbles appear almost immediately. Sprinkle with clarified butter. Do not move the pan until the outside edges of the pancake are brown; then, flip it and cook the other side briefly. Remove from the pan and keep warm under a bowl. Repeat to make 3 more pancakes.
To serve: Place one pancake on each plate with the brown side down and place a chicken thigh halfway across the middle of each. Surround it with Indian-style vegetables. Fold the pancake across the chicken.