Tonawanda News

January 14, 2013

KEPPELER: Spicy or not-so-spicy?

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — I like spicy.

Chicken wings must be, at the least, medium. Frank’s Red Hot is my friend. I make a chocolate bark with nuts and cayenne pepper that I must, unashamedly, admit is to die for.

My husband feels the same way, maybe even more so. 

But in life as we know it, I don’t always (or even often) get to cook just to suit myself. The kids — especially the 4-year-old — don’t care for spicy fare. Neither do my parents, or my mother-in-law, the other people for whom I’m most likely to be cooking.

So what’s a heat-lover to do? Most of time, bow to the majority. Meals may get a dash of spice, but no more. The hot curry powder I purchased months ago sat, unopened, on my spice rack while the sweet curry jar was opened again and again for our family-favorite chicken dish. It was tasty, but something always seemed to be missing, at least to me. 

(This is where I insert a shameless plug for Penzey’s Spices, available at or in Buffalo at 783 Elmwood Ave., where I bought both curry powders. They also carry seven other varieties of curry, and countless other spice varieties. Their cinnamon alone will change your life. End shameless plug.)

So as I planned a recent meal for our family and my mother-in-law, I caught myself eyeing the hot curry with longing. I knew I couldn’t get away with it. Could I?

Then ... wait, I thought. I was cooking for more people than usual. I would probably need to double the recipe anyway. Why not do both?

In the end, I cooked two skillets of curry, side by side on our stove, one with hot curry, the other with sweet. It was an experiment that was mainly pain-free, with the possible exception of being paranoid that the spatula used for the spicy would accidentally be used in the sweet and the belated realization that the stuff in the flat-bottomed skillet cooked far more quickly then the stuff in the wok-like one. (I adapted.)

For some people, I think, the spice of a dish lends an extra layer of depth to it. I found this to be the case. Some people just register “HOT!” and bolt for their drink. Neither is wrong, but when both co-exist it can be tricky.

In the end, I definitely loved the hot curry, as did my husband. It’s going to be difficult to go back to the sweet curry, no matter how tasty, so I’m afraid I’ve obligated myself to cook two skillets for each time we eat it in the future.

But that’s OK. It also makes excellent leftovers.

Spicy ... or not-so-spicy ... curry chicken 

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 teaspoons curry powder (I used Penzey’s sweet curry in one batch, hot curry in another.)

1/4 to 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, if desired

1 cup chicken broth

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 teaspoons vegetable or canola oil

1 cup sliced fresh carrots

3 to 4 minced garlic cloves

3 cups broccoli florets

Combine the cornstarch and curry powder (and pepper flakes, if desired). Whisk in chicken broth and soy sauce.

In a nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray, stir-fry chicken in 1 teaspoon of the oil until no longer pink. Remove; keep warm. Add carrots and garlic and stir fry for another minutes. Add broccoli, cook for four more minutes.

Whisk broth mixture again. Add to pan and bring to boil; cook for two minutes. Return chicken to pan and heat.

Serve over white or brown rice.

Jill Keppeler is a writer for the Tonawanda News. She can be reached at