Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Dosa Diner--Chicken Stew

My kitchen floor is littered with bags from the Indian grocery store. I sort exotic vegetables like karela, paapdi and chawli. I make piles of masalas, frozen foods and refrigerator stuff. The dosa mix calls to me. Yes, I'm cheating. It is a relief to make dosas when a ready ground batter stares at you from the refrigerated section. Dosa batter is not that easy to make. You only have to think about it the day before! It involves soaking lentils overnight, grinding them to a smooth paste and then leaving the batter in a warm place to ferment!!! Long term planning required! If your palate fancies a dosa for lunch, you either resort to a quick fix packet to which yogurt is added, or the next best thing -- ready-made batter at the Indian store.

In many parts of India, you walk to the market or local grocery store, where you might find a man grinding the batter as you watch. He sits by an immense electric grinder, that is foaming with lentil batter. He doles it out in a plastic bag and it's yours to do what you may wish!! Just like going to the store to buy bagels or donuts!

For several years I have had to plan dosa-making or using powder mixes, so when I see a container of dosa or idli batter sitting on the shelf, I know I will throw out the packet mixes I have. I will not be soaking lentils or smelling a rubber odor from an overused blender. It really is a laborious grind to get the batter to a smooth paste.

Dosas are usually eaten for breakfast, with sambhaar and potato bhaji. South India has many variations depending on where you travel. Mysore masala dosa, paper dosa, rawa dosa, I could go on for a bit and not repeat myself. But today's dosa does not have any of the above accompaniments. I pair it with chicken stew or as we call it in our house, Gray Chicken. The moniker comes from my son. Rehan loves this chicken. As you can see from the picture, the stew takes on a grayish color. As a child he could never remember it as stew and took to calling it Gray Chicken and the name stuck!

Chicken Stew aka Gray Chicken
Serves 4 

2 pounds boneless skinless Chicken Thighs
2 tablespoons Canola oil
2 Cinnamon sticks
5 Cloves
10 Peppercorns
1 Bay Leaf
10 Curry leaves
1 large Onion
4 slices Ginger
1 large Potato
2 tablespoons Garam Masala
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
2 cups Coconut Milk
2 green Chiles
2 teaspoons Lemon juice

Trim fat off chicken and cut into bite size pieces. Wash well and drain.

Peel and chop onion into small pieces.

Peel and chop potato into small chunks.

In a Dutch oven or deep saucepan, heat canola oil on a medium flame.

Carefully drop in cinnamon sticks, cloves, peppercorns, bay leaf and curry leaves. Let them splutter for 10 seconds.

Add the chopped onion and stir the spices.

Drop in the chicken and potato chunks.

Slit green chiles in half.

Add garam masala, chiles and salt at this point and stir well to mix spices and chicken.

Stir in coconut milk and bring to a boil. Partially cover pan, lower flame and simmer for 15 minutes.

Mix in lemon juice and serve hot with dosas (recipe follows).

Dosa Batter
Makes 16 small dosas

2 cups Dosa batter
1/2 cup Water
1 teaspoon Kosher salt.
Non-stick spray 

Mix dosa batter, water and salt. Let this liquid sit for 1/2 hour or more before you use it.

Heat a flat non-stick pan on a high flame.

Spray with oil spray.

Ladle 2 tablespoons of batter and spread it in a circular fashion. It should be thin like a crepe.

Wait until the underside browns, then flip over and cook for 5-7 seconds.

Serve hot with stew.


Dosas are best eaten straight off the pan. So it is the job of one self-sacrificing soul to make them while the family eats. In our house that is me. I say sacrificial as we always sit down to dinner together.

The stew can be eaten with rice or chapattis too.

I make dosas as the famished family eats. Many protests come my way chiding me as I juggle two pans to keep up with appetites. Usually guilt overcomes hunger and they munch away. I don't mind. It's not like we eat this meal often. It is a treat, my gift to the ones I love.