May 8, 2003

Yogurtlu Basti

With the leftover ribs taken care of, yesterday I decided that now it was time to take care of the leftover yogurt. My friend Michael was coming by for dinner, and he's pretty open to culinary experiments and my first attempt at a new recipe, so I pulled out my copy of The New Book of Middle Eastern Food, figuring they'd have something that would use up more of the yogurt (something just not commonly used in my house.....yet). They had quite a few recipes actually, but I settled on Yogurtlu Basti AKA Chicken with Spiced Yogurt. Of course there were a couple of unexpected adjustments....

Yogurtlu Basti Recipe (according to the book)

A Turkish dish... Serves 4

2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt
1 tsp ground cardamom (or crushed seeds)
1 1/2 inches fresh gingerroot, grated
1 large onion, chopped
2 TBSP olive oil
a 3 1/2 pound chicken, cut into quarters
salt and pepper
1/4 cup blanched almonds, toasted and chopped

My first attempt at buying almonds (at the local IGA) didn't work out, so I went off to the Highland Market (a more upscale place). I'd looked up various methods for blanching almonds and discovered that the reason was mostly to get the skins off. I remembered seeing slivered almonds in the baking aisles, and, sure enough, they were pre-blanched. That was a time saver. During the cooking, I quickly discovered that toasting them in a non-stick frying pan works much better than the oven. I had one other slight upset. I keep minced ginger in a jar in the 'fridge, much like minced garlic. I guess it must have been a while since I used it because there was an entire space-faring civilization of not-ginger growing in the jar. To put it succinctly: "ew." So, I decided to use ground ginger instead. Also, since I was only cooking for two, I didn't want to fuss with a whole chicken, so I used boneless chicken breasts. Here's how I cooked it. And I quite liked it too!

Adjusted Recipe

1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground ginger
1 small onion, chopped
2 TBSP olive oil
1 boneless chicken breast (split)
salt and pepper
1/4 cup blanched almonds, toasted and chopped

In a bowl, mix the yogurt with the cardamom and ginger and let them infuse while you cook the chicken.

In a large skillet, fry the onion in the oil until soft. Add the chicken pieces and saute until the onions are golden and the chicken pieces lightly browned. Add salt and pepper and 3/4 cup water (the original recipe actually calls for a cup but with the smaller amount of meat, it took too long to cook down) and cook over low heat -- 12 minutes for breast meat, 20 minutes for dark -- until the chicken is very tender and the sauce reduced, turning the chicken pieces over and adding a little water if it becomes too dry.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the yogurt. Serve sprinkled with almonds.

Posted by Jennifer at May 8, 2003 9:54 AM

It ended up being quite delicious, with the chicken nice and tender, and the yogurt sauce just lightly spiced. The toasted almonds are a pretty essential part of the overall flavor too, adding a nice nuttiness and a interesting texture to the dish. Leaving them out would be a definite mistake.

Posted by: Michael at May 10, 2003 9:37 AM

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