Cafreal for a Cold

Over the weekend, my body felt a bit achy and I sensed the familiar signs of an impending cold. I resisted with an "Oh no, you don't," and made a beeline for the kitchen.

I didn't crave soup as much as I did the healing powers of garlic, ginger and spices. I leafed through a copy of "One Spice, Two Spice," a newly released title for inspiration. The new book, penned by India-born chef Floyd Cardoz (of Tabla in New York) and Gourmet magazine's Jane Daniels Lear, is an effort to deconstruct Indian flavors for the American home cook.

I bookmarked the page for "Chicken Cafreal," a traditional dish from Goa, the Portuguese-influenced coastal town in the southwestern part of the country. What drew me in was the spice paste -- garlic, ginger, chile, cumin, cinnamon, cloves -- pureed with a mountain of cilantro, known for its purported antibacterial qualities.

It sounded just like what my sinuses needed, so I got to work. Cardoz's recipe below suggests butterflying a whole chicken, which essentially means removing the backbone. This step actually is a time saver; a five-pound chicken without its backbone can be done in under 90 minutes, which makes this a feasible work-week project.

Cardoz also suggests marinating the bird for at least six hours, a time frame for which my sinuses had no patience, so I marinated it for two hours instead. Next time, I envision doing this the night before cooking to allow for maximum flavor infusion.

I had lots of leftover marinade, which got me thinking about other possible partners for this magic paste. (Aside from rice, that is.) I had a bunch of sweet potatoes asking to be used, so I peeled and diced them and then tossed them in a few teaspoons of the paste, this time with a smidge of olive oil for lubrication.

While the chicken was in the oven, I placed them in a roasting pan, in a single layer, and allowed them to roast on the top shelf of the oven. They were done just after the chicken was resting, about 15 minutes later. I poured the sweet potatoes into a serving bowl, and since they looked a little dry, I spritzed some sesame oil on top, which turned out to be a perfect finish.

The marinade was lovely atop the sweets, and I think next time I might expand my marinade horizons with roasted quartered onions and cauliflower. (Roasted red peppers, perhaps?) I might also try this with white beans, coating them just before serving.

I could feel the spices doing their work on my tired bod, and am looking forward to a second round of restoration today, with leftovers!

By the way, the word for chicken in Portuguese is "galinha" but I couldn't find any translation references for "cafreal." I also found recipes that included mint, as well as mace, and lots more chiles than in Cardoz's version. But that's beauty of spice pastes such as this one since you can mix and match and improvise along the way.

Chicken Cafreal
From "One Spice, Two Spice: American Food, Indian Flavors"
By Floyd Cardoz with Jane Daniels Lear

1 5-6 pound whole chicken (or 2 3-pounders), or similar weight in chicken parts
½ cup lime juice (about 2 limes' worth)
½ pound cilantro (including stems), coarsely chopped (about 2 bunches)
10 whole garlic cloves, peeled
¼ cup thinly sliced peeled ginger
1 fresh chile, seeded and cut into pieces (use according to your heat preference)
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 ½ teaspoons black peppercorns
4 cloves
½ cinnamon stick
1 tablespoons salt

With poultry shears or large heavy knife, cut backbones out of chickens. (Freeze backbones for making stock another time.) Crack bone in center of each breast, so that chicken lies flat. Lightly piece chicken all over with a fork.

Put lime juice, cilantro, garlic, ginger and chile in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.

With a mortar and pestle or in an electric coffee-spice grinder, finely grind cumin seeds, peppercorns, cloves and cinnamon.

Put cilantro puree in a large bowl and stir in ground spices and salt. Rub chicken with enough marinade to thoroughly cover. Reserve leftover for serving at the table or for another dish.
Put chicken in large resealable plastic bag and refrigerate. Marinate chicken for at least six hours and up to 24 hours.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place chicken in a roasting pan. Roast until done, about 1 hour, 15 minutes. If necessary, add a small amount water in roasting pan (about 1/8 inch) .

Allow to rest for a few minutes and slice. Serve with leftover marinade, rice or other marinade-worthy veggies, as mentioned earlier in the post.

By Kim ODonnel |  December 11, 2006; 12:03 PM ET Chicken/Poultry , Dinner Tonight
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This sounds yummy!

Posted by: Lise Richards | December 21, 2006 5:06 PM

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