Though the selection available at most grocery stores suggests otherwise, not all chutneys contain mangos. Nor are they all sweet. In fact, many contain no fruit at all.
It was a lesson driven home by the recipes in Nik Sharma’s cookbook, “Season,” where the food writer and photographer marries the flavors of his Mumbai childhood with American-style cooking and ingredients.
His roast chicken, for example. He makes a bold, savory chutney from arugula, kale, lime, serrano chilies and garlic, and spices it with cardamom, cumin and caraway. This sauce gets rubbed under the skin of the bird before roasting, with extra used for dipping.
“The word ‘chutney’ comes from Hindi and refers to any kind of sauce in India, sweet or savory,” says Sharma, who moved to the U.S. in his early 20s. “The ones that were popular after the British came were like apple chutney and that was sweet.”
At Milk Street, we loved this savory approach to chutney—an opportunity to introduce bright, fresh flavors to rich foods. But we felt rubbing it under the skin of the chicken was a bit cumbersome for the average home cook.
Instead, we duplicated the spices in the chutney and used them to make a dry rub that easily seasoned the chicken. Those seasonings were repeated in our chutney—along with serranos, arugula and cilantro—which comes together quickly in the food processor.
As a bonus, reserving the chutney for serving meant the flavors stayed fresh and bright, not dulled by the heat of the oven. The chicken came out with a richly browned skin that balanced the lighter flavors of the lime and herbs in the chutney, with just a bit of heat. The familiar look of a perfectly roasted bird, but with the essence of an Indian childhood.