Roast Chicken Curry with Polenta, Tomato Jam and Mint Chutney – Top Chef Masters Night

International chef Susur Lee hit a serious home run with his Top Chef Masters chicken curry dish so K and I decided the judges must be onto something. Of course, Chef Lee was not cooking from the recipe posted (here) on the Bravo website so the judges got the full picture of inspiration. K and I, however, got the “Chad the hapless Bravo intern” version.

The recipe’s quantities were vague and it only called for one chicken leg. As there were two of us, we went with several skin-on chicken thighs and coated them in the simple garlic, ginger, curry powder paste. Of course, we had to add a little water (not in the recipe) to actually make it a paste. K smeared that in the chicken, folded it over and put more on the skin then we popped it into the oven to roast for awhile.

In the meantime, we set about making the side dishes. The Indian tomato jam was really just stewed tomatoes with a little sugar and curry powder. Actually, the recipe called for all the ingredients that are in a curry powder except the curry. We took a shortcut and just added the curry powder since we didn’t have fennel seed or mustard seed handy. While the “jam” was simmering, I attempted to make the chili mint chutney.

First, the recipe does not specify what kind of chili is supposed to be used. We went with jalapeno because it was mild enough not to kill us, but still had bite and was easy to find. But good luck blending jalapeno, mint leaves, sugar and salt into anything other than a dry pile of leaves. I tried adding a little bit of water, but then it was just a wet pile of leaves. I started blending in a mini food processor and K tried in the blender and something was clearly missing, but we couldn’t figure out what it was. It became obvious that the mint chutney was going to be a lost cause.

I moved on to the polenta which, the recipe advised, would take 30 minutes to make. The box (and having made polenta in the past), however, said it would be ready in five minutes. I believed the box over the recipe and the polenta was, indeed, ready to go in just a few minutes. Who needs 30 minutes to make polenta?! We added the called-for shredded zucchini and corn kernels and the polenta was ready to go. The grits referred to in the recipe’s title were nowhere in the recipe and it did seem superfluous to mix the two.

The photo of the dish online shows a curry sauce over all the components of the dish, but of course the recipe did not mention a sauce. K tried to throw together the curry butter sauce from the recipe on the back of the curry container, but it wasn’t so much a sauce as a lot of melted butter with a little curry in it. Like the mint chutney, it just wasn’t right so we ditched the sauce.

Everything was ready at about the same time so we assembled dinner, curious about the mystery of what we’d cobbled together from the ridiculous recipe.

The zucchini disappeared in the polenta and it was less creamy than I would have liked, but that was my fault for not adding more liquid. The corn added a nice sweetness and texture though and the polenta was good. I also really liked the tender, juicy chicken. To me, it had just enough of a medium curry flavor. K really, really wanted lots more curry. Lots. A curry sauce would have come in deliciously handy here (ahem … Bravo). The tomato jam was pretty good — a little sweet, a little acidic. Just didn’t add much in my opinion. As we figured, the mint chutney was a disaster and we both stayed away from the stuff as much as possible.

The basic chicken curry and polenta I’d definitely make again as a twist on a classic weeknight dinner. It was quick and easy and yummy. The rest of the fussiness (including the missing components) are entirely skippable.

Roast Chicken Curry with Polenta, Tomato Jam and Mint Chutney

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