“I got really sick of salads” – D. describing the last time he did the Atkins diet.
True. In the starting phase of the diet it’s easy to get stuck in a rut of making every meal a piece of meat accompanied by a side of approved vegetables or salad, or a salad combining both these elements. Oh how we craved a good stew! Unfortunately they usually rely on wine, beer, or tomato, and other carb rich vegetables for flavor, and make you crave bread, potatoes, or pasta to sop up all the gravy.
So I turned instead to curry. Inspired by the Goan Indian staple, Chicken Vindaloo, this recipe uses three different types of chiles, red onions, garlic, vinegar, and aromatic coriander and cumin to elevate ho-hum chicken breast to a luxuriously piquant and fragrant, yet low carb meal. In place of coconut milk, which is high in sugar, I substitute heavy cream. Cutting chicken breast into medallions and marinating them before cooking helps make this a flavor packed meal that can be put together in about 30-45 minutes. In place of rice or flatbread, try oven roasted cauliflower for its satisfying toothy texture and toasty flavor.
Spicy Curry Chicken Medallions
Adapted from from Raghavan Iyer’s 660 Curries
I prefer to use whole spices and grind them myself, but if you don’t have them, pre-ground spices are a fine substitute. The recipe calls for Kashmiri chiles, sweet, mild, bright red peppers that are used more to impart color than heat. They can be found in most Indian groceries. Here in NYC my go-to mecca for hard to find spices and ethnic items is Kalustyan’s middle eastern grocery. If you can’t find Kashmiris, you can substitute 1 part cayenne to 3 parts paprika.
INGREDIENTS, makes about 4-6 servings
2 lbs. chicken breast, cut into medallions about 2-3 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick
1 Tbsp. coriander, ground
2 tsp. cumin, ground
1 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1 tsp. ground kashmiri chiles
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
2 Tbsp. canola or other neutral oil
1 medium onion thinly sliced lengthwise (about 1-1/2 cups)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 cup white distilled vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1 cup heavy cream
Thinly sliced Thai Bird Chiles
Chopped fresh Cilantro
Lime Wedges (optional)
In a bowl, rub the chicken medallions with the salt and spices. Set aside in the refrigerator while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
In a large skillet, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat. Working in two batches, sear the marinated chicken medallions on both sides until they are almost cooked through. Remove them from the skillet and set aside.
Lower the heat to medium and add the onions and butter to the pan. Cook the onions slowly until they are soft and lightly browned.
Add the minced garlic and cook for about 30 seconds until it is fragrant.
Add the vinegar, scraping any brown bits off the bottom of the pan. If you like your vindaloo extra spicy, try adding a thai bird chile, cut in half lengthwise, to the pan. Reduce the vinegar until it is absorbed into the onions and there is about a tablespoon of liquid left.
Add the heavy cream and the chicken and simmer until the chicken is just cooked through (take care not to overcook the chicken breast or it will be chewy and rubbery). Remove the chicken to a serving platter. Reduce the sauce until it thickens, and pour over the chicken.
Serve with fresh chopped cilantro, spicy thai chiles, and cooling Greek yogurt seasoned with salt and pepper. The Greek yogurt adds some acidity but if you want more, add some lime juice (not allowed in phase 1 of Atkins).
Oven Roasted Cauliflower
The Method: Cut up a large head of cauliflower into florets about the same size. Toss the florets in a bowl with 2 Tbsp. melted butter, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Arrange the cauliflower in a single layer on a cookie sheet or baking dish and roast in the middle the oven at 400°F for 15-22 minutes until they are golden brown and cooked through.