Homemade Indian Dinner

September 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

My introduction to Indian food was in college, in the form of a reasonably priced place called Naan & Curry, located conveniently right next to campus. If someone in the dorms brought Naan & Curry home for dinner, everyone could tell by the intense curry smell that permeated the floor. This was only bad if you had already eaten, because then you didn’t have an excuse to go get some for yourself.

The dish I was first recommended, and subsequently always ordered, was chicken tikka masala with a side of naan. The spices were so unique, like nothing I had tried before, and the sauce was somehow creamy and acidic at the same time. I had no idea how it was made, but I could eat it AT LEAST once a week and never tire of the flavor. As a poor college student, I appreciated that the tikka masala was $6.99, and naan was only $1.00 per big, fluffy order. Garlic naan was a 99 cent upgrade that I often indulged in. For not much more than a combo at McDonald’s, I could eat like a Little Princess.

Chicken tikka masala, garlic naan & mango lassi

So when I moved to LA and found that the cheapest Indian food runs about twice that price, it was vital that I learn how to cook my own. I found a recipe and have adapted it to create the appropriate sauce-to-chicken ratio for my naan-dipping needs. You can definitely eat this with rice, but I find the rice an unnecessary addition. Just give me more naan, please!

I’ve made chicken tikka masala in the past with heavy cream, and it is definitely amazing, but so calorie dense that it is hard to justify making very often. This time I substituted milk & a little cream cheese for the cream, and it turned out acceptably delicious. For special occasions, however, I’m still gonna splurge on the cream.

Because there are so many parts to this meal, and a lot of down time, this is my recommended method for interlacing the preparation: Combine yeast and water for naan. While the yeast is proofing, make the chicken marinade and put it in the refrigerator. Return to the naan and mix the dough. Let the dough rise for an hour while the chicken is marinating. In the meantime, mince your garlic (for the naan), garlic and jalapenos (for the tikka masala) and mango (for the lassi) and set everything aside. At the end of the hour, prepare the dough for the second rise. While the dough is rising for the second time (30 minutes), heat the grill and skewer the chicken. Grill the chicken and get the sauce started on the stove top. When the chicken is cooked, set it aside and leave the grill on. Roll out the naan. Remove the chicken from the skewers and add it to the sauce. Grill the naan, and cover it to keep it warm and moist while you finish everything up. Make the lassi, and plate everything.

It seems like a lot of work, but it really isn’t. Even if it was, it really is worth it.

Chicken Tikka Masala
serves 2 

Parsley, to make it look a little closer to how good it tastes.

For marinade:
1 cup yogurt
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp salt, or to taste
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
4 long skewers

For sauce:
1 tbsp butter
2 clove garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped (or 2, if you like it really spicy)
3 tsp ground cumin
4 tsp paprika
1 tsp garam masala (or add an extra tsp cumin)
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
2 cups heavy cream (can be substituted with 2 cups milk & 1-2 oz cream cheese)

Combine yogurt, lemon juice, ginger and the following four spices in a bowl. Add 1-2 teaspoons of salt, to taste. Add chicken to the yogurt mixture and stir to coat. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. While the chicken marinates, soak your skewers if they are wooden.

Skewer the chicken pieces and BBQ on a hot grill for 3-4 minutes each side. Set aside.

In a large skillet, melt butter and saute garlic & jalepeno for 1-2 minutes. Add cumin, paprika, garam masala and salt, and quickly stir. Add tomato sauce and cream or milk. Let sauce simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes, until it thickens. Remove chicken from skewers and add to the sauce. Continue cooking for about 10 minutes. Serve immediately, with naan and/or rice.

Garlic Naan
Makes 5-6 pieces

Naan-stop deliciousness!

1/2 package (1 1/8 tsp) active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
2 tbsp white sugar
1 1/2 tbsp milk
1/2 egg, beaten (I know, I know; this is totally annoying.)
1 tsp salt
about 2-1/4 cups flour
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter, melted
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand about 10 minutes, until frothy. (This is called “proofing the yeast.”) Stir in sugar, milk, egg, salt, and enough flour to make a soft dough. Knead for 6 to 8 minutes on a lightly floured surface, or until smooth. Place dough in a well oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and set aside to rise for 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in volume.
Punch down dough, and knead in garlic. Pinch off small handfuls of dough and roll into balls about twice the size of a golf ball. You should end up with 5-7 pieces. Place on a greased or floured tray, cover with a towel, and allow to rise for about 30 minutes, or until doubled in size.
Preheat grill to high, or leave it on when you are making the chicken skewers.
After the second rise, melt butter. Roll out dough, one ball at a time, until flat and oval shaped. Brush with melted butter and set aside on a plate. Repeat until all the dough is rolled and buttered.
Brush grill with remaining butter. Place dough on grill, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until puffy and lightly browned. Turn over and cook until browned, another 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from grill, and continue the process until all the naan has been prepared.
Mango Lassi
serves 1-2

Lassi helps to cool down the spicy.

1 cup plain yogurt OR 1 (5.3 oz) container frozen Greek yogurt*
1 mango, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup milk
dash cardamom
sugar, to taste (optional)

Combine first 4 ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Blend in sugar to sweeten to your tastes.

*The original recipe calls for 1 cup plain yogurt, but I used a individual sized vanilla Greek yogurt that I had in the freezer because I ran out of plain yogurt making the chicken marinade. Because the yogurt was already sweetened, I did not use any sugar.

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Grilled Lemon Chicken Pasta

August 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

A few things have held me back from getting this blog off the ground. One is that I normally cook without any recipes. Once I learn to make a dish, I nearly always improvise with measurements and different ingredients. The thought of trying to calculate everything I do while cooking in order to post a recipe just did not appeal to me.

The second hurdle is photos. When I finish making something, I want to eat it. Typically, I eat it before I cook it and while I’m cooking it as well. Thus, it is extremely hard for me to remember to take a good photo with my fancy camera of all the meals I cook. However, it’s really easy for me to take a crappy photo with my phone. So, in the interest of getting a blogging routine started, I’ve decided to adopt a few abnormalities on this blog, one of which will hopefully change and another which probably won’t.

1) Some posts will have crappy iPhone pictures for accompaniment. I am going to try my darndest to get into the habit of taking real photos, and I feel like that will be easier to do when I have this thing up and running.

2) Some/most posts will not have recipes. I will explain what ingredients I used and how I prepared them, but I won’t be listing measurements and steps like a traditional recipe. If you like cooking, which you likely do if you are reading a food blog, then you will probably be able to recreate the dish. If you don’t like cooking, let’s be honest- you probably weren’t going to make it anyway.

So, without further adieu- Grilled Lemon Chicken Pasta- a non-recipe with an iPhone photo.

Grilled Lemon Chicken Pasta
Serves 3-4 

Bright and blurry...

A few years ago, Brad and I decided we were going to try the Master Cleanse diet, which involves only drinking a spicy lemonade concoction for 10 days. I hunted down a wholesale lemon dealer and bought a 40 lb box in a back alley. Needless to say, this diet was miserable and we only lasted about 4 days. As a consequence, I had to find recipes to use of the crisper-drawer of lemons we had left over. One such dish was a lemon chicken pasta, which I have continued to make regularly.  I no longer have a written recipe for it, and change the vegetables, pasta shapes and marinade quantities every time I make it. In my most recent adventure, I decided to grill the chicken before adding it to the pasta, rather that dice and stir-fry as usual. The result? Fantastique!

Early in the day I put two chicken breasts into a ziploc bag and added some olive oil, a juiced lemon, a sliced clove of garlic, salt, pepper and smoked paprika. Zipped the bag, shook it up and put it in the fridge for later.

Later…

I threw those chickens on a preheated BBQ and closed the lid. There are people who will argue that you should leave the lid open when you BBQ, but I am impatient and always close the lid because it helps the food cook faster.

Inside, I was boiling water and had a big skillet coated in cooking spray and ready to saute some chopped onions and garlic. After adding some salt and pepper to the pan, I chopped up a bunch of asparagus to about 1.5 inch pieces and threw them in there as well. After a few good stirs, I zested and juiced one lemon into the skillet and dumped a can of diced tomatoes in there. Stir it a few more times to mix everything together and cover, so the asparagus steams a little bit.

At this point, the water is boiling, so I dunked a hearty amount of broccoli into the bath for about 3 minutes.  I probably could have gotten away with only blanching them for 1-2 minutes, since they go into the hot skillet (with the help of a slotted spoon) with the rest of the ingredients and inevitably continue to cook. I guess it just depends if you like your broccoli with a little bite or not.

Once the broccoli is into the skillet, take the lid off and keep it off. Stir it around.  Add about 2-3 cups of dry pasta (I used rotini this time, but it really doesn’t matter) to the boiling water (it’s okay that the broccoli left it green!) and go flip the chicken on the grill.  The chicken should be flipped around 8-10 minutes after they start cooking, so plan accordingly.

When you get back to the stove, stir the pasta around so it doesn’t form one big pasta mass and stir the other ingredients around to feel useful.  At this point, I like to shake-shake-shake some red pepper flakes into the mix because I like spicy. If you like spicy, I recommend you do as well.

So, after a few more minutes, the chicken should be ready. Chop it up into bite-sized pieces and add it to the vegetable mixture. When the pasta is ready, scoop it out with a slotted spoon or drain it and add it to the skillet as well.  Mix everything together and turn off the heat. Stir in about 1/2 cup of sour cream- not so much to make everything white, just enough to make the dish creamy and tangy.

Scoop generous portions onto plates and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Eat and enjoy.

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