Yes, you can try this at home.
A little alcohol, a matchstick, some beer, a few other basics and a Sunday lunch becomes that much more interesting.
I was contemplating the boring chicken I had just cleaned. Surely, I thought, I should get excited about something I liked when I was younger.
I don’t know about you, but assembly line broilers are about as exciting as a limp washrag. They even taste like one sometimes.
Fire starter: 1. Fry the marinated chicken till brown; 2. Fry the mushrooms and onions; 3. While flambéing, never pour alcohol directly from the bottle; 4. Cook the chicken with the other ingredients in the oven.
But you know how it is with chicken—it’s healthier than red meat, almost a vegetable, and like eggs, it’s a part of most non-vegetarian diets in India. Give me pork or mutton any day, but that’s not so great for a healthier you. There’s always fish, but in Delhi that means a trip to the market. A phone call is all it takes to get chicken the way I prefer: full legs, chopped into three pieces.
The best chicken is desi or country chicken, immensely tastier than broiler but hard to find. So, let’s work on the chicken that most of us must eat.
I must confess that I don’t know how to flambé, but I figured it couldn’t be that difficult. As it turned out, it wasn’t. Let me warn you though that it’s best to (a) try it first with small quantities of alcohol before you get the hang of it, (b) whip the pan off the stove if the flames send you into a panic, (c) keep a metal lid at hand if you want to douse the fire and (d) never, never, ever pour liquor directly from a bottle near a flame (not unless you want to become a human torch).
For those of you who don’t know, flambé is French for flaming or flamed, food ignited with alcohol.
Why would you do it?
Well, of course, it looks dramatic. But what a flambé really does is impart food with the flavour of your favourite liquor. What doesn’t work: Champagne, most table wines and beer. What works: brandy, gin and whisky and some liqueurs.
The basic idea is to use whatever is in your bar and/or whatever you happen to be drinking. That’s how the beer found its way into the chicken, which I felt needed some sauce. I don’t think I really got the sauce right, but maybe you can.
Flamed Chicken with Sambar Onions and Beer Sauce
8-9 sausages (I used masala sausages; you can use any)
10-15 small sambar onions
1 pack of mushrooms (clean, lop off stalks and chop in half)
2 tbsp olive oil
5 tbsp whisky, gin or brandy (I used Royal Challenge whisky)
1 glass of beer (I used Kingfisher)
500ml chicken stock (I used a Maggi soup cube)
A big handful of fresh parsley, chopped
For the marination
2 tsp of garlic paste
1 tsp of ginger paste
2 tsp red chilli powder,
1 tsp garam masala
Salt to taste
Clean the chicken (I used full legs, cut into three pieces each) and drain all the water. Marinate ideally for 2 hours (I kept it for 10 minutes; it was all a last-minute thing).
In a large pan, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil. When medium-hot, fry the chicken till brown (this should not take more than 15 minutes). Turn down the flame.
Now, the flambé. Be very careful. Pour the whisky over the chicken, set it alight. Shake the pan as the flames rise. They will die down in a few seconds. Remove the chicken from the pan and place it in the casserole (I don’t have a casserole with a lid, so I used a rectangular one, lined it with foil—makes cleaning so much easier—and then sealed everything in with another piece of foil; worked as well as a fancy casserole).
Fry sausages in the same pan till half done. Add them to the chicken in the casserole. Fry the onions and mushrooms in the same pan. Add them to the chicken.
Pour beer into the pan and add hot chicken stock. If you want to thicken it, use 2 tbsp of flour. I didn’t, so I got a thin stock-like sauce. Use half, bearing in mind that the sausages and chicken will release more water and oil. Pour the sauce into the casserole and cover with foil.
Preheat the oven to 150 degrees Celsius and place the casserole inside. Let the chicken cook for at least 90 minutes. Lift the foil and check: The meat should come off the bone. If you find yourself with lots of liquid, remove the foil so some of it can boil away. You can also drain as much as you want. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve hot.
This is a column on easy, inventive cooking from a male perspective. Samar Halarnkar writes a blog, Our Daily Bread, at Htblogs.com. He is editor-at-large, Hindustan Times.
Write to Samar at email@example.com