Beer, and A Completely Unrelated Indian Chicken Dish

Milwaukee has beer! And I figure that since I’ve rather gratuitously inserted the word ‘beer’ into the title, I’ll reach a readership high with this post.

You might be wondering why it’s been a little quiet at Life Through the Kitchen Window lately (okay, I can hear my daughter Meredith now, saying “C’mon Mum, it’s not all about you, you know” — how humbling). Anyway, the Culinary Enthusiast and I took a road trip to Milwaukee last weekend. Brent has travelled there many times on business, but this trip was all about fun.

What a wonderful city it is, with great architecture, beautiful public art and great restaurants and shopping. The opening photo in this post is a sculpture overlooking Lake Michigan, a figure made entirely of metal alphabet letters, serenely contemplating the view. I was utterly entranced by it. I would love to visit Milwaukee again some day, and will definitely spend time viewing this sculpture when I do, looking through it to the infinite vista of the lake.

Of course, when one hears Milwaukee, one thinks cheese and beer. We didn’t have any cheese, but we did enjoy some great local beers.  We had dinner Saturday night at the Water Street Brewery, and decided to try their beer sampler … a flight of beers, if you will. You get eight 4-ounce glasses:  seven house beers arranged from lightest to more robust, plus a seasonal beer of your choice.

The house beers included a honey lager light, Munich lager, Bavarian weiss, raspberry weiss, pale ale, amber ale and a dark Oktoberfest lager. Our choice for the seasonal beer was (no surprise, considering my heritage) the Belgian wit.

My two favourite beers from this sampling? In second place, the raspberry weiss. The Water Street Brewery adds 200 pounds of raspberries to a batch of their weiss beer, and the result is wonderfully raspberry tart with underlying sweetness. If ever there were a dessert beer, this would be it! My top choice is the Belgian wit. This beer is very interesting, and to quote from the menu, is “brewed with a blend of coriander, orange, bitter orange and hops known as gruit.” The coriander came through loud and clear, with the refreshing citrusy fruitiness of the orange also prominent. The more I had, the more I liked it (and I don’t think that was the alcohol talking!).

By the way, we quite enjoyed our dinners too. I had the hangar steak, and the CE ordered the Jambalaya, which he has every time he visits there. The food was great, but hmmm, it seems to be the beer that has really stuck in my mind… perhaps because it was so welcome after nine hours on the road.

So, what does Milwaukee beer have to do with today’s post? I made this Traditional Chicken from Bal Arneson’s Everyday Indian a few weeks ago, and I now realize the Belgian wit beer would have been a perfect accompaniment to it.  The coriander would wonderfully complement the complex spices of the chicken sauce. I will definitely try these two together sometime.

This is a hearty, mildly spiced chicken dish, practically comprising a whole meal unto itself, as it includes a protein, potatoes as the starch and tomatoes in the vegetable role. I served it with basmati rice, which absorbed the extra sauce nicely. This recipe gave me a satisfying opportunity to use my homemade Garam Masala.

Traditional Punjabi Chicken

Slightly adapted from Bal Arneson’s Everyday IndianShe calls this recipe “Traditional Chicken” but I’ve added ‘Punjabi’ to the title to make it more descriptive of the origins of this dish.

  • 2 tbsp grape seed, canola or sunflower oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped garlic
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped ginger
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp Garam Masala (packaged, or enjoy yourself and make your own!)
  • 1 green chili, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 lb bone-in chicken thighs (I used skinless bone-in chicken breasts)
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cups finely chopped potatoes
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 cups water
  • Optional ingredients: 1 tbsp each dried curry leaves and fenugreek leaves

Combine the oil, onion, garlic and ginger in a large skillet over medium-high heat, and cook for five minutes, stirring. Add the cumin and fenugreek seeds and cook for 10 seconds. Add the tomato paste, garam masala, chili, paprika, turmeric and salt, and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring. Add the chicken and cook for about 4 minutes, turning the chicken frequently. Add the potatoes, tomatoes, cilantro and water. This is where you would add the curry and fenugreek leaves, if using. (I added them because I have them in my spice box and don’t want them to go to waste, and I also wanted the full flavour experience.) Mix it all well and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook until the potatoes are tender and chicken is cooked through. I don’t remember exactly how long I cooked this dish, but I do remember clearly that it was far longer than the time recommended in the recipe. Either I cut my potatoes too large, or Bal likes her far more al dente than I do. But isn’t that the beauty of cooking? — you start with a recipe and modify it to suit your preferences.

The end result is an appealing, tasty dish that would easily be the star of an Indian dinner at home! And, of course, you might want to try it with some of that Belgian wit beer (just saying).

5 comments

  1. So, if you drove by Chicago on your way to Milwaukee, I’m guessing that you entered the States by crossing the Blue Water Bridge at Sarnia/Port Huron. If you did, you were about 60 miles from my Zia’s home. I won’t mention any of this lest she get upset that you didn’t call. 🙂
    This is another of your Indian dishes that I want to try. I’ve got all of the ingredients but the potatoes and I don’t think they’ll be a problem to find. Maybe I’ll go Indian this weekend. It will be nice to go cheese-free for a day or two.

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