We all have our various culinary prejudices. Most of my family seems to think using garlic is the equivalent of pouring a sheet pan full of broken glass into a pasta sauce. A friend of mine breaks out in a cold sweat at any salsa labeled “medium.” Full grown adults have made gagging noises when I talk about going for sushi – “Raw fish? EWWWWWWW.” No one is perfect. But by far, I’d say the cuisine with the worst rap among our middle American friends and family is Indian. Could be the unfamiliar names and preparations. Could be the strong, uncompromising spices. But reason one, if we’re being honest, is that most of our friends and family with a “no Indian food” rule have never met an actual Indian person or had decent (read: non-buffet) Indian food. So let’s change that, the hippest way we know how, by calling it “street food.” Let’s see Mr. Mustache and PBR turn down a delicious Chicken Keema on warm naan bread when it’s served from a rolling conveyance. Hipster porn, man. And from there, we make the world a better place.
Hipster jokes aside, I was able to VERY easily cook and assemble this at a rainy ManBQue with a crowded grill situation. It’s a breeze at tailgates, outdoor cookouts (WHY ARE YOU STILL DOING THESE IT’S NOVEMBER), or wherever else you need to sear and serve a dish with most of the prep already done.
When you’re in the prep stage, keep the ground chicken in a glass or metal bowl in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. This is at it’s heart still sausage making, so always keep everything as cold as possible. You’re also using skewers, so either have some metal ones handy or throw some bamboo skewers in to soak when you throw the chicken bowl in the fridge. Multitasking! You deserve a beer for that.
One important note: When you’re working with the meat, you’re using turmeric. So wear gloves, or you’ll have the weird yellow fingernails and cuticles of a lonely hermit.
1 tsp coriander seed
1/2 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp Szechuan peppercorns
1 lb ground chicken (preferably home-ground chicken thighs, but we’re not picky)
2 tbsp grated white onion
2 tbsp chopped cilantro, rest of bunch reserved
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 serrano chile, diced
2 tsp grated ginger
4 tsp turmeric powder, divided
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 cup short-grain rice
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 lime, cut into wedges
2 white onions, caramelized (dice, medium heat with oil, 1 tbsp of water when they sizzle, cook until evaporated, repeat, stir frequently, 45 min or so total)
2 medium tomatoes, diced (or tomato chutney, as most of the gardens around are sadly dead by now)
6 portions small naan bread
1. In a dry nonstick pan, toast the coriander and cumin seed over medium heat until fragrant, about one minute. Don’t marvel at the mystery of spices when it starts to smell good. You’ll sit there and burn it, like an ass. Just take it off the heat, cool for a minute, and grind the spices in a mortar or with a spice grinder.
2. Run your hands under cold water and shake off excess. Mix the chicken with your toasted, freshly-ground spices. Add the onion, garlic, serrano, ginger, and prepared spices.
3. Mix that business thoroughly. All that business we talk about gently handling your burger meat? That’s expressly for non-sausage applications. Get in there and distribute your spices and flavors evenly. BY FORCE.
4. Divide the meat into fourths (a scale works well here – otherwise, roll it into a uniform log and cut at even intervals), form into a long, thin semi-rectangular patty and skewer with your oiled metal or soaked bamboo skewers. You want a consistent width and thickness for even cooking.
5. Place skewers in the refrigerator for at least 50 minutes. If you don’t have the time, freeze for 25 minutes on a quarter-pan, flipping once halfway through. We want the sausage to remember it’s shape
* We should note here that we were using freshly-ground chicken, which allowed us to bond the meat to itself very soon after grinding. This is an advantage that you don’t get with your supermarket cellophane ground chicken, so consider the use of a binder (Milk powder? Caul fat? Guar gum? Pagan sacrifice?) if you have a problem achieving consistency.
6. While your sausages set up, cook the short-grain rice with the 1/2 cup chicken stock and 1/2 cup of water according to the directions on whatever rice looked good to you the day you want to the store. Stir in the cumin when it’s near finishing to achieve that attractive orange color. Finish with a squeeze of lime.
7. Heat your grill for a 2-zone fire, with 2/3 heated to high and a cooler 3rd to hold the chicken. Clean and oil the grate.
8. Grill the skewers for 3 minutes per side over direct heat. They should reach about 160, depending on your fire and the thickness of the sausages. If not, move to the cool side, cover, and check every 2-3 minutes until they reach 160.
9. Remove the sausages and rest for 5 minutes (under foil if you’re outside and it’s cold as hell). Meanwhile, warm the naan for 20-30 second per side on the grill and keep warm in a moist kitchen towel.
10. Roughly chop the sausages. Spread the rice on a naan. Top with the sausage, caramelized onions, tomatoes (or chutney), and plucked cilantro leaves from the reserved bunch. You could also use Sriracha for some heat. Clearly I did from the picture, because that is the kind of person I am.
11. STREET SAUSAGE!