By Soni Satpathy-Singh
Holidays don’t only mean authentic, home cooked Indian foods, but lots and lots of it. We visited my parents for the holidays this year and were stuffed with one dish after another made by my cooking/feeding enthused mom. If we weren’t eating (which was a rarity), we could most probably be found cooking the next meal, and while eating that meal, we’d plan what we’d eat the next day.
Amidst all this eating and planning, my husband made the innocent mistake of telling my mom that he loves her chicken curry. Ladies, you know when a son-in-law tells his Indian mother-in-law that he loves a specific khanna of hers, she not only makes it with great pride and care but, she makes enough of it to feed a small army.
The curry was ridiculously full of the bone succulent, punctuated with masalas in a way that only my mom knows how to make. Delicious as it was though, there’s only so much chicken curry one can eat before feeling oneself morph into a big, fat vat of, well, chicken curry. My mom sent us home with containers and containers full of it leaving us with a rather embarrassing first world challenge: what were we going to do with all this chicken curry?
I’m not the first to be confronted with this challenge nor shall I be the last it seems. Many a friend has asked what she/he can do with leftovers aside from heating it up with roti for a quick meal. There are times that you, your spouse, or children don’t want any more curry, especially coming off the holidays where you’ve had more than your fair share. So what to do with all the leftovers? Fret not, chicken curry can surprisingly be repurposed for a bevy of meals and snacks. All you have to do is think outside the kadai!
For my suggestions, both boneless and on the bone chicken curry work. I simply take the meat off the bones and shred it before using it and, depending on the recipe, use the jhol or gravy sparingly so dishes don’t become soggy. Please note that leftover keema can be used as well in many of my recipes, particularly in nachos, stuffed peppers, and empanadas.
CURRY CHICKEN SALAD
Since you already have cold, leftover chicken curry available, more than half of the work is done! I don’t use any of the curry jhol and simply take the cold chicken and dice or shred as needed. I like my chicken salad to have a bit of a crunch so my go-to additions are chopped apples, chopped walnuts, raisins, mint, mayonnaise, and a splash of fresh lemon juice. Grapes and celery are delicious additions as well. It looks and tastes gourmet and is something I have found both adults and children enjoy. Simply serve the salad on a bed of lettuce, with crackers, on a croissant, or in an avocado halve and you have a delicious snack or meal in under five minutes!
The repurposing of chicken curry as American-Mexican food tends to be a hit with children and easy to make, too! Monterey jack cheese, queso blanco, cotijo, or even Italian cheeses such as mozzarella and ricotta tend to compliment masalas found in chicken curry and melt beautifully as well when used in nachos, burritos, and enchiladas. Preheat your oven to 350 °F, and prepare an oven safe casserole dish with tortilla chips topped with chopped or shredded leftover chicken curry with a little jhol (enough so your nachos don’t taste dry but not so much that you make your chips soggy), black beans (I use canned beans that I drain), and grated cheese of your choice. Bake it for 10 to 12 minutes or until cheese has melted. Top it with diced fresh tomatoes, onions, and cilantro along with dollop of sour cream and/or guacamole for a serious plate of masalafied nachos that the whole family will enjoy. I pretty much use these same ingredients for my tacos, too, putting them in a soft tortilla pressed in my panini grill or simply piling up ingredients in a hard taco shell.
Depending on how much leftover chicken you have, you can either stuff an entire hallowed out bell pepper with it or add other things. For instance, my parents tend to have leftover rice so to shake things up, I’ll combine rice with shredded chicken curry (this time you want to use more of the jhol to really flavor the rice) as my stuffing. I brush hallowed out peppers with a little olive oil, stuff the pepper with the rice-chicken mixture, and top it with panko breadcrumbs. I then bake it in a 350 °F oven for about 12 to 15 minutes or until the bread crumbs have browned. Shredded chicken curry also works well as a stuffing for hallowed out zucchini or portabella mushrooms topped with cheese or breadcrumbs and baked. For an Indian-inspired loaded baked potato, stuff or top you spud with chopped chicken curry with jhol, diced onions, cilantro, and radishes for a little balle balle action in your mouth!
As you can hopefully tell, ideas for repurposing chicken curry is plentiful. If I’m feeling particularly inventive and want a savory snack, I make empanadas. I roll out store-bought pie crust and make 12 to 15 circles using the rim of a glass or a 3-inch cookie cutter. I lightly brush the edges of the crust of each circle with water. I then place 1 teaspoon of shredded chicken curry in the center of the round. Next, I fold the dough over the filling and press the edges with a fork to seal. I repeat with the remaining rounds and chicken mixture and bake for 15 minutes in a 400°F oven and voila! I have chicken curry empanadas! If you have chicken curry with aloo, this recipe is tenfold even more delicious. I mash up the aloo with the chicken and use it as the stuffing. With or without aloo, these empanadas are perfect little snacks. Mint chutney works as a great accompaniment.
It appears naan pizzas are the craze these days as evident of the freezer sections at Indian grocery stores inundated with naan dressed with various toppings. With naan and leftover chicken at home you can easily whip up “pizza” within minutes. I like to smear ricotta cheese on my naan, top it with leftover chicken curry, fresh basil, onions, and freshly grated mozzarella. I then bake it in a 350 °F for 10 minutes and I’m done; yet another crowd pleaser for children and adults alike. Naan pizzas work as a great base for your leftovers. I’ve topped and baked naan with leftover palak paneer or masala shrimp for some killer quick and delicious meal options as well
Finally, when I don’t feel like reinventing my leftovers yet tire of eating it the traditional way, I simply shred or dice my chicken and put it on top a bed of lettuce with some tomatoes and a splash of chutney for a filling, protein-packed salad.
You can follow Soni on Twitter at @SketchyDesi and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sketchydesi. To read Soni’s bio, visit masalamommas.com/2014/12/18/new-contributor-soni-singh/ .
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