This pot of chicken gorgeousness will convert even the most stubborn skeptic of Afghan cuisine. Called lawang, it’s our favorite center-of-the-table dish for dinner parties. In addition to being delicious, it can be made a day ahead and reheated just before serving. It’s just as good as if you’d made it on the spot.
The first time I tried lawang was at Helmand, an Afghan restaurant here in San Francisco. They serve a version made with lamb that’s a true world beater. When Humaira suggested we prepare a chicken lawang, I was hesitant. I couldn’t imagine the lamb being improved upon. But Humaira isn’t hugely fond of lamb, so I agreed. And she was right, it worked beautifully with the chicken.
The key to lawang is patience. You must cook the onions and chicken low and slow for quite some time. This eventually renders delicious juices that, when combined with yogurt, creates an unctuous, turmeric-scented sauce.
It’s best to use the fattier leg and thigh meat rather than the breast in order to achieve a tender braised texture. Also important is how you incorporate the yogurt, the very last step. If you add cold yogurt to hot chicken, it will curdle and rob the sauce of its silky texture. We suggest bringing the yogurt up to room temperature and letting the chicken cool slightly before marrying the two in the pan.
Be sure to have plenty of nan or good pita bread handy. You will need it to scoop up all that “so good it might make you cry” yogurt sauce.
Turmeric Braised Chicken in Yogurt
1½ cups Greek-style yogurt stirred until creamy
3 lbs skinless, bone-in chicken legs and thighs, separated
1/2 cup olive oil
2 large onions, pureed in food processor (or finely chopped)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tbsp. ground turmeric
1/2 tbsp. ground coriander
1 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
Remove the yogurt from the refrigerator. Wash the chicken and pat dry with a dish towel or paper towel.
Heat ¼ cup of the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot with a lid. Cook the onions over medium-high heat for 10 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to saute until deeply browned (another 5 minutes or so).
Add the remainder of the oil, the chicken and salt. Stir the chicken to coat with the onions, turn heat to low, put on the lid and cook for 25 minutes. Stir regularly to keep the chicken from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add the pepper, turmeric and coriander and stir well to incorporate the spices evenly into the dish. It should take on a deep yellow color. Cover and continue to cook on low for another 25 to 30 minutes or until the sauce thickens and the chicken is tender and cooked through. If the pan goes dry during cooking add water, a tablespoon at a time, as needed.
Remove the pan from the heat and let it rest for 10 minutes to cool the dish slightly. Add the yogurt and cilantro and stir thoroughly. Return to the heat and gently cook over low heat for 5 minutes. The sauce will be thick & creamy.
Serve with basmati rice such as challaw and nan or pita bread.
Note: if you plan to make this a day ahead, cook the chicken but refrain from the last step of the recipe, adding the yogurt. When you are ready to serve, gently reheat the chicken to warm (but not hot), add the room-temperature yogurt and cilantro, and continue to cook for 5 minutes until heated through.
Except where otherwise noted, all content on this blog is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported license.