When I was in Chicago back in November, I ate at Vermillion. Maneet Chauhan, the executive chef, and recent contestant on Food Network’s Next Iron Chef, has created a menu that creatively blends the flavors of India with some serious Latin influence. The outcome is a fun and familiar menu complete with awesome cocktails and flavor packed food.
I think the model makes a lot of sense for us cooking back in our own kitchens. Whatever cuisine we didn’t grow up with our mothers and grandmothers cooking has always fallen into the big bucket of ethnic food. The outcome can be a bit intimidating. Because whether you’ve whipped up a batch of fried rice or attempted a vindaloo, you know how hard it can be to nail the flavors and textures spot on. But at the end of the day, who cares? Why not make your version or your combination that works for you. Because the wonderful spices and flavors of certain cuisines are a great way to get started when your sick of the same old.
This curry is a really good example of just that! I had the idea to make a fish curry studded with roasted potatoes and spinach but as usual I didn’t know which direction I would take it in. Coconut Thai curry? Japanese style curry? Indian curry? They all sounded good! So with out much consideration for what I would label the dish, and a focus on technique and texture, my curry came out unbelievable. In fact, it might be my favorite thing I’ve ever made (seems ridiculous, I know, but at least top 5).
One piece of advice I’ve taken to heart is to cook your spices. What I mean is to actually add the spices directly to your cooking oil prior to adding any vegetables or other ingredients. The outcome is toasty and bold. In this case I started with a little olive oil, garlic, ginger, paprika, cumin, cardamom, curry powder, cinnamon, and cayenne. This base line of flavor came through to the last bite as the onions, tomatoes, spinach, lime juice, and yogurt soaked up all of this additional flavor.
And even with all of those strong flavor components, the fish in this dish really did shine through. A quick last minute addition of rock shrimp and calamari were delicious but the star of the show was the mackerel; pan seared skin side down to develop some crispiness and then finished cooking immersed in that beautiful sauce. With some simply roasted potatoes for a bit of starch, I don’t know how to label this one, other than awesome! But you would order awesome curry on a menu. Wouldn’t you?