I may lack a palate but my buddy, M. Parret, lacks curiosity; at least when it comes to food. I must say that he and Madame P eat very well in the old school French way, but balk at new flavors and methods of preparation.
I did manage to drag them to the Indian restaurant here in Sens, only proving M. Parret’s point; the food was not good. I think the rent they pay must be deadly (they are right on the pedestrian walk way) and they are cutting costs by providing a McHindu like cuisine; leaving out things like spices, ghee and adequate meat/fish/vegetables. Such a bummer. M. Parret’s eyes sparkled with glee and “I told you so”. Since there are laws against beating up intransigent, old French guys, I just smiled, patted his hand and silently vowed to cook something Indian and make him like it.
He stopped by last night to check on us and give us news of Mme Parret who hasn’t been feeling well. I had bought 4 cute, round zucchini at the market, planning to stuff them with chicken curry; two for us and two for the Parrets. Seeing the zucchini, M. Parret suggested that I cut them into cubes, steam, add butter and parsley. “Non”, I said and poured him more wine.
You see, that’s it. Steamed zucchini with butter and parsley is good! But why buy a round zucchini if you’re just going to cut it up into cubes? He not only lacks curiosity, he lacks imagination! I have hollowed these cute things out, filled them with a seafood dip and served them with vegetable crudites as an eye-pleasing hors d’oeuvre! Oh well.
The challenge was to make a curry that would satisfy both me and the Parrets. Making a “Frenchified” curry was out, as was leaving out the spices and flavors that make curry, curry. I have a wonderful box of curry cubes that look like square pieces of weird colored chocolate but I only have medium and hot which would only strengthen M. Parret’s intolerance.
Better to go with a fresh ground, custom mix using a mortar and pestle, a la Indian.
There is something satisfyingly primitive about hand grinding your own spices. It also looks impressive if guests are in the kitchen :) However, if you are cooking for a crowd and need more than a tablespoon or so of fresh ground spices, get a coffee mill. The spices will be just as freshly ground and it won’t take all day. Your choice.
I was doing fine up to this point. Unfortunately, I decided to add a mere smidgen of locally produced pepper, Piment D’Espelette, to the spice mix. And it’s because of this French pepper that I didn’t dare give any of the curry to the Parrets. Excellent stuff, though!
Chicken and Mushroom Curry Stuffed Zucchini
4 small, round zucchini, tops cut off and hollowed out
3 cups of cooked, cubed chicken
3 cups of quartered mushrooms
2 onions, thinly sliced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
3 stems of cilantro, chopped
1 inch of ginger, minced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 tsp mustard seed
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp curry powder, homemade or purchased
2 cups of chicken broth
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup of cilantro leaves
Saute the onions, garlic, cilantro stems, ginger, bell peppers and mustard seed in the olive oil until soft. Add the curry powder and cook stirring for about 10 minutes on a low fire. Add the chicken broth and continue to cook for about 15 minutes. Add the mushrooms, chicken, salt and pepper to taste and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the cilantro leaves and stir to blend.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Fill the zucchini with the curry and replace the cut tops. Put a small amount of sauce on the bottom of a baking pan, placing the zucchini on top. Bake for 40 minutes.
Wine suggestion: A Marie-Louise Morgon