In the book, “RSVP,” by famed society figure and hostess, Nan Kempner, the recipes “RSVP” are a grandly delicious compilation, especially this chicken (turkey) curry — a perfect foil for Thanksgiving leftovers.
If you’re still grappling with what to do with Thanksgiving turkey leftovers, the white and dark meat works beautifully in a curry. I’ve made this particular curry often with chicken, but turkey is a great substitute.
The preparation comes from an unlikely source — a cookbook called “R.S.V.P.,” written by New York social dragon Nan Kempner, who the New York Times described in its 2005 obituary as “one of Manhattan’s most serene hostesses and clotheshorses, a glittering fixture at social events and fashion shows on both sides of the Atlantic for decades.” Even though she was as thin as a “slim stalk of celery” and dubbed the original “social X-ray” by novelist Tom Wolfe, she nevertheless reigned as a famed Park Avenue hostess whose table was considered one of the best on Manhattan’s gilded Upper East Side.
Thereupon the book, published in 2000, chronicles all the great dinners that she enjoyed at the glamorous houses of her swell friends. The book is essentially a gossipy breeze of marvelous remembrances detailing the ease in which her clique of international bon vivants entertained. The recipes are varied and terrific (and they work!) because they all employed great cooks to do their culinary bidding; Kempner herself admits that she didn’t know how to cook but rather enjoyed the art of someone else doing it well.
This particular recipe featured in the book comes from her London friends, Ann and Martin Summers — she a former model and interior decorator and he a London art dealer — whose longtime cook, Luiza Souze, from Brazil, devised this very sophisticated dish of chicken curry. It’s an involved process that takes two days of cooking. The first time I made it I followed it to the letter but have adapted it since with excellent results to take no more than a few hours of preparation and cooking.
It can, however, benefit with an overnight resting period in the refrigerator, though it’s not necessary. In this version I made it early in the day to chill for a few hours and then reheated to serve.
Traditionally it’s accompanied by poppadum, the Indian bread, which is available at Masala Mahal in South Portland. I used instead both the naan bread sold at Whole Foods and the flatbreads from Tandoor Bread at 845 Forest Ave., Portland.
Served with the curry is raita, a recipe from the same cook made with cucumbers, mint, cumin and yoghurt. Add basmati rice and plenty of condiments like raisins, bananas and mango chutney and it’s a superb meal either for a sit-down dinner or buffet.
Luiza’s Special Chicken (or turkey) Curry
Adapted from “R.S.V.P.” by Nan Kempner
Servings: 6 to 8
2 quarts chicken stock (preferably homemade)
3 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 tablespoon ground coriander, or to taste
1 tablespoon ground cumin, or to taste
1 tablespoon cardamom, or to taste
1 tablespoon Sri Lankan curry powder
2 tart apples, peeled, cored and quartered
1-inch long piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thin
1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
2 small carrots, scraped and roughly chopped
1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
14-ounce can plum tomatoes, squeezed by hand into the pot
8 ounces mild curry paste
8 ounces of canned coconut milk
6 to 8 cups turkey or cubed chicken meat
Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan such as a Dutch oven. Add the onions and sauté over medium heat until translucent, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Add the coriander, cumin cardamom and curry, stirring until very fragrant and blended in.
Stir in the apples, celery, ginger, carrots, plum tomatoes, tomato paste and curry paste. Bring the mixture to a lively simmer, stirring frequently. Add the shredded lettuce (this helps to thicken and fortify the sauce). Lower the heat to simmer gently, uncovered, stirring often, for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Add 1 1/2 quarts chicken stock, stirring to combine, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently, stirring often, uncovered, for about 2 to 3 hours or more as time allows. The sauce should reduce by at least one half and become dark, almost chocolate brown. Add more stock if the mixture gets too thick. Remove from the heat, cool and refrigerate until ready to serve or store overnight.
To serve, blend the curry sauce, in batches, in a food processor for 1 minute at a time. As each batch is pureed, transfer to a clean pot. Stir in the coconut milk and the cubed chicken or turkey. Simmer for 20 minutes. Serve with basmati rice and condiments.
Adapted from “R.S.V.P.” by Nan Kempner
Servings: 8 to 10
1 cup plain yoghurt
1 English cucumber, peeled and into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/2 head iceberg or romaine lettuce, shredded
Combine all the ingredients into a medium size bowl, stirring well. Chill until needed. Serve over shredded lettuce.