Kosha Moorgi done well is the stuff dreams are made of. It is a dish of deep distinction, holding a very special place on the Bengali table.
This preparation is often done with goat meat, but chicken also works. It is a dish meant for Sundays and ultimate celebrations.
Kosha Moorgi is cooked with extreme care and precision.
To make this right, the base is done with lot of onions, cooked slowly until they reach golden brown perfection. The meat is then added with other whole spices, a generous dose of cayenne and sometimes potatoes and cooked to a burnished golden dark brown hue. Done right, this dish is cooked with minimal added moisture and no other ingredients such as tomatoes. To keep the dish moist and flavorful it needs low heat and constant stirring. This resulting labor of love, is the magic that happens when simple ingredients form a happy and perfect marriage. This dish is distinguished by its deep and dark burnished complexion, resulting form the caramelized onions tinging the chicken.
To create the perfect kosha moorgi, needs at least 1 and a half hours of unhurried cooking, making it practically unattainable for most days. I follow my mother’s recipe for this dish. I remember as a child getting terribly impatient every time she made dish. Impatient to savor the deep seductive goodness of the spicy chicken. The sweet smells of the onion would start the process. The fragrances eventually getting deeper and more complex as she added in more spices filling the house with tantalizing warmth. I would circle around the kitchen sometimes even persuading her to offer me a taste of the spice base in the making. After what seemed like forever, the dish would be done. She would often fry flaky crisp fried breads to go with the chicken. It tastes pretty good with rice as well.
All of these hours of cooking, stirring and attending to the chicken, put this dish well outside my realm of cooking. Even for a party, at times I felt that it took so much time, I did not have time to complete the meal. So, Kosha Murgi stayed out of bounds for me until until I learned a hack. A hack that cheats on tradition might seem blasphemous, but, this one gets this dish down to about 30 minutes. The best part, it keeps tasting every bit as good. In fact, so much so, that I do not do it the original way anymore. I savor the compliments every time I make it, people often complimenting me on the authentic taste.
I have convinced myself that the end justifies the means.
My tool for cheating on tradition is none other than the pressure cooker, something no Indian kitchen is complete without.
Finishing this dish off in the pressure cooker, keeps the flavors intact. In fact, sealing the natural richness of the spices and the juices from the chicken. I get an almost no fail perfect golden coating to the chicken, that is otherwise obtained from at least an hour of low and slow cooking. The final finish takes me about 4 to 6 minutes of pressure cooking after the basics are done.
A few things that deepen the flavor are using mustard oil for cooking and using chicken on the bone. I have however done this with boneless skinless chicken thighs and using grape seed oil as well, and the results are not terribly compromised.
A beautiful classic Kosha Murgi or Bengali Slow Cooked Chicken with Caramelized Onions.
- 1/4 cup of oil (mustard oil goes a long way in deepening the flavor)
- 2 large red onions, thinly sliced
- 1 and 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
- 4 pods of garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon red cayenne pepper more or less to taste
- 1 large stick cinnamon (about 3 inches, broken into smaller pieces)
- 4 to 5 cloves
- 4 to 5 green cardamoms, bruised
- 3 pounds of chicken on the bone cut into small pieces (or 2 pounds of boneless skinless chicken thighs)
- 3 to 4 bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 6 to 8 baby potatoes peeled
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons beaten yogurt
- 3 green chilies (such as Serrano), minced
- Thinly sliced red onions
- Sliced Green Chilies
- Heat the oil in the base of the pressure cooker and add in the red onions and cook on low heat for about 10 minutes. The onions will soften, gently wilt and then begin to turn golden. This step may take a little longer depending on the onions and the thickness of the pressure cooker, the key is to get uniform golden brown onions. It should not be dark brown at this point.
- Add in the ginger and garlic and cook for another minute.
- Add in the ground cumin, coriander and the red cayenne powder and mix well. Add in the cinnamon, cloves and green cardamoms and mix well.
- Add in the turmeric and the chicken and 2 tablespoons water and cook the chicken for about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the potatoes, salt and the sugar and mix well. Stir in the yogurt and mix well.
- Cover the pressure cooker and cook under pressure for about 4 minutes or 6 if using chicken on the bone.
- Let the pressure cool down naturally.
- Remove the lid and stir in the green chilies and mix well.
- Serve garnished with red onions and green chilies if desired.