Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Indian Recipe #2

I decided the other day that the "rule" for my 2011 ambition of learning to cook Indian food was that I had to cook at least one Indian recipe each month. Luckily, I've been on a real streak lately and have already gotten March out of the way! So check back soon for that post.

January - Chana Masala
February - Timatar Murghi (Chicken with Tomatoes and Garam Masala)
March -  You'll have to wait to find out. (So mean!)

After the successful Chana Masala, it felt like time to branch out and try cooking some meat, something I'm generally not that confident about. I am oddly phobic about serving not-fully-cooked meat. Especially chicken. I'm really good at overcooking chicken.

But back to making something with meat. Like any American lover of Indian cuisine, I had a hankering for Chicken Tikka Masala, because let's be honest, it's delicious. So very delicious. I found a recipe in Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking that sounded like it might be similar, without the dairy. We had a potluck dinner planned with friends the next night, and since my wonderful friends are so willing to be experimented on, Timatar Murghi it was.

I'm discovering that a lot of the Indian recipes I'm cooking tend to move fairly quickly once you get them started. Prep-as-you-go (or, how-I-normally-cook) is not really an option unless you want to burn things, which I know because I have. Prepping in advance, or if you want to get French about it, mise en place, is critical.  I'm so glad I bought these little bowls ten years ago - if you want to feel like a professional chef (and by the way, those people have their own sous chefs), I highly recommend you pick up a set, get your mise together, and then pretend like you didn't just do all that chopping and prepping and go to town as a good chef would. Orange Crocs optional.

I don't want to reprint the recipe for Timatar Murghi here since it came out of a book, so I'll just tell you the steps.

I heated some canola oil in my big Le Creuset pot. Once it was shimmering, I added these spices:

Bay leaves, cinnamon stick, cumin seeds, black peppercorns, green cardamom pods.
Nothing too crazy.
Already, this is starting to smell wonderful, after a minute of cooking the spices in the oil.
Then, the aromatics got added: onions, garlic, and ginger.

A lot of garlic. 
Because I was making 1.5x the recipe to feed the potluck crew, this took 3 giant yellow onions. I cried lots of big, salty tears chopping those suckers up. And you would not believe how much minced ginger you can get out of a one inch piece of ginger root. It honestly seemed like half a cup. Between that and the garlic, I was a little worried about how pungent this would be.

They cooked down into this spice-and-onion deliciousness.

But damn if it didn't smell incredible. Once the onions were done, it was time to add the tomatoes, chicken, salt, and cayenne.
It looked like this:

After 20 minutes of simmering, it smelled so aromatic and amazing I had to take a peek under the lid.

Good things are happening in there.
And that's it. To finish it, you throw in a little garam masala, cook it for another five minutes, and done. If you are a fast chopper, you can get this whole thing on the table in 45 minutes, start to finish. The rice cooks in the cooker beforehand or while you're cooking this. And let me tell you, this is one hell of a lot better than one of those "thirty minute meals." I wanted to cook some of the liquid out as it seemed really soupy, so I let it boil for a few more minutes than I was supposed to until the sauce thickened up a bit. I burned the bottom of the pot a bit but it didn't seem to affect the flavor of the finished dish at all. Hooray.

Steam rising clouds the view of the yum.
I was a little worried that this extra cooking would make the chicken tough, but as it turns out, the chicken was perfectly fork-tender. I attribute this to buying organic chicken at $9/lb. (Gasp. Back of hand to forehead!)

We served the Chicken with Tomatoes and Garam Masala over brown rice (so very thankful I have a rice cooker) and alongside some yogurt and whole wheat naan and garlic naan.

At the potluck, Rayleen also made Beer Can Chicken, and Britta contributed one of her signature salads, where she pretty much just pulls whatever's on hand out of her fridge and somehow creates these amazingly delicious combinations of flavors. This one had spinach and feta and egg and I don't even know what else but it was awesome. But it was Rayleen who stole the show with the Scalloped Potatoes she made from this Tyler Florence recipe. I am ruminating on when I can make these potatoes again. Outstanding.

Here are a few highlights.

Fresh herbs in a Bud Light can. A sight you obviously see every day.

These are the scalloped potatoes, about to come out of the oven.
I can't even describe how good they are.
That cheesy crust is basically to die for.
You should make them. Immediately.
Voila! Le poulet!

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