Sunday, May 5, 2013

Cool Mango Chutney: an enigmatic condiment

In New York City, getting food delivered is just what people do. As someone who cooks a lot and dines out a lot, I am probably among the crowd that doesn't get a ton of delivery, but from time to time even I succumb to the ease of dialing a few numbers (or using the GrubHub app) and having food appear at my door in 40-60 minutes. Indian food is one of my favorites to get delivered because I can always guarantee there will be leftovers. This week I recreated my favorite delivery meal: Chana Masala, Indian spiced rice, Naan, and Mango Chutney (the memorized recipe of the week).


About Chutney
Chutney is an elusive food, but it's delicious. I love the way it brightens and cools the otherwise warm, spicy flavors of Indian food. It is considered a condiment, meaning it can be put on most foods. It is made with fruits or vegetables and Indian herbs and spices. Aside from that, I was not able to pinpoint any traditional guidelines for chutney.

After examining a number of websites with chutney recipes I was able to deduce the following components of the condiment and the different ways to attain each flavor profile:

  • sweet: fruit, sugar
  • sour: lime/lemon, vinegar (though some people get angry about vinegar being included)
  • salty: salt (of course)
  • savory: vegetables, herbs
  • spicy/astringent: cumin, hot peppers, onions, ginger, other Indian spices
Basically, a "good" chutney should have a bit of all of these flavors. What is not clear when it comes to making chutney is the following:
  • cooked vs. uncooked
  • smooth vs chunky
  • what fruits and vegetables are used
  • what herbs and spices are used
Choosing the Recipe
I knew I wanted to make a fruit-based chutney since I wasn't serving dessert this week. In addition to making the delicious Chana Masala, Indian Spiced Rice, and awesome Naan, I had to find and memorize the perfect chutney recipe. I soon learned that the task was impossible. On one website alone I found 150 recipes, and the Mango Chutney recipe I clicked on had terribly (or maybe wonderfully) vague instructions, so I picked it, changed it a bit, and ran with it until it tasted delicious.

Memorizing the Recipe
There was not a lot to memorize in this recipe since it didn't give much instruction, so I partially invented it. I think the best memorization tricks this week were knowing what Indian spices provided what flavors and learning how to incorporate sweet, sour, salty, savory, and spicy/astringent in the chutney.

The Verdict
Because the meal was so heavy, having a cool, bright mango chutney added a lot to the overall spread. I should have made more-- it was devoured! The sweetness of the mango and savory taste of the pepper paired nicely with the coriander, cumin, salt, and cayenne. The lime and vinegar really did the trick to balance out the sugar that was called for. I also was pleased that I made it partly pureed, since it spread well but still had its own crunchy texture.

The entire meal was delicious, and I highly recommend the recipes that I used for Indian rice and for Chana Masala. The Naan, as usual, was an enormous hit.


The Whole Meal

The Recipe
Cool Mango Chutney
Inspired by VahChef
Yield: about 2 cups

Ingredients:
  • 2 ripe mangos
  • 1 fresh poblano pepper
  • 3 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp vinegar
  • juice from 1/4 lime
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • pinch salt
  • pinch cayenne pepper
Preparation:
  • Chop the mango (see instructions below).
  • Seed and roughly chop the poblano pepper.
  • Place in a bowl with all remaining ingredients, stir, and let sit for 10 minutes.
  • Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped but not pureed. Remove half of the mixture from the food processor and return to the bowl. Run the processor for about 30 seconds until the contents are fully pureed.
  • Mix the pureed and the chopped ingredients together and let sit for another 10 minutes before serving. Refrigerate for extra coolness.
1. Hold mango upright on a cutting board. When you look down on it the mango should be symmetrical. This means that you are looking down on the slim part of the mango pit and won't accidentally cut into it. Slice carefully about 1/3 in from the side. Repeat on the other side.
2. Once you have sliced the two "cheeks" from the mango and have discarded the pits (you can also chew the leftover mango flesh from the pit for a yummy and messy snack), make gridmarks in them with a knife.
3. Pop the mango cheeks inside out, exposing the ripe flesh.
4. Cut the flesh from the skin and into a bowl. Discard the skins.
5. Seed and roughly chop the poblano pepper.
6. Add to the bowl, toss in spices and liquids, and toss together. Let sit.
7. Pulse the mixture in a food processor until finely chopped but not pureed. Remove half of it.
8. Puree the remaining mixture and add to the chopped mixture. Let sit a bit before serving.

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