Thursday, February 9, 2012

Authentic, Americanized

I love Indian food. It's like spicy comfort food- creamy sauces, chewy, buttery bread, and all these delicious flavors I can't even identify. Unfortunately, I can't really make good Indian food. Oh, I've tried! Tried and tried. It's good, it's just not quite right. The curries I make are kind of thin and missing something. I follow the recipes, I have all the ingredients, so I don't know what's missing.

So I decided to turn to someone I thought would give me a good recipe- an authentic recipe, but one that fits an American kitchen with ingredients from American grocery stores- Aarti Paarty! I love her. She's so fun and cheerful and cooks these amazing things- not just Indian food, but all sorts of lovely and interesting things (like celery root with vanilla and black pepper... I'm very eager to cook that one, if I could ever remember to look for celery root at Big Y!)

Last night I made an Aarti dinner: chicken tikka masala, basmati rice, and naan. None of it tasted like what you'd get in an Indian restaurant, but it was much closer than any other recipe I'd used! The kitchen was a little frantic with 3 unfamiliar recipes, but I fit it all on the stove and everything was hot when we ate it. I call that a success!

Chicken Tikka Masala
Aarti Sequeira's recipe

1 cup yogurt (I used nonfat Greek)
1T freshly grated ginger
3 cloves garlic, pressed in a garlic press
salt and pepper
1lb of boneless, skinless chicken thighs (I used 2lbs of bone-in thighs)

In a medium bowl, mix the yogurt, ginger, garlic, salt and pepper, and then add the chicken. Move the chicken around to coat it well on both sides with the yogurt mixture, and leave for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight in the fridge. I marinaded about 2 hours at room temp.

3T butter
2t olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
2-inch piece of ginger, grated
2 serrano pepper, minced (I used 3 sanaam chilis, which is all we had on hand)
2T tomato paste
2t paprika
1t garam masala
8 Roma tomatoes, diced (I used one can of tomatoes- I forgot how Clint devours tomatoes!)
1 1/2t salt
2 cups water
1T dried fenugreek leaves, optional (I used dried cilantro)
1/2 cup heavy cream (I used my favorite fat free 1/2&1/2!)

In a large skillet, melt the butter and oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, ginger and peppers and cook, stirring, until the mixture just begins to brown (about 5 minutes). Add the tomato paste and cook until it turns darker, about 3 minutes, then add in the paprika and garam masala and cook until fragrant- about 1 minute. Now add the tomatoes, salt and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, and simmer 20 minutes. Then remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes. Place in a blender and puree, then return to the skillet.

Meanwhile, heat up the broiler. Line a cookie sheet with foil for easy clean-up, and place the chicken on the foil. Broil for about 10 minutes, flip the thighs and broil for another 10.

Place the broiled chicken in the pureed sauce in the pan, and place over medium heat. Cook for about 15 minutes and then stir in the cream (or 1/2&1/2). Serve with naan and/or rice.

Aarti's recipe

1t active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water (not too hot, around 100F is good)
2t sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1t fine sea salt
1/8t baking powder
3T plain yogurt (I used nonfat Greek again)
2T extra-virgin olive oil
melted butter, about 1-2T
sea salt
dried basil or cilantro, or other tasty herbs

In a cup or small bowl, combine the water, yeast and sugar. Let sit til the yeast wakes up, about 10 minutes. Stir in the yogurt and olive oil. In a larger bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in the yeast/water mixture to the flour mixture. It's very, very sticky, but once all the dry ingredients are incorporated, start kneading with your hands- it'll get a little more elastic and will come together, although it'll still stay pretty sticky. Place the dough in the bowl and cover with a dishtowel or plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for 2-4 hours.

After the dough has risen, divide it into 6-8 equal-sized balls of dough. Get a small bowl of cool water to have on hand. Roll out on a floured surface into oval/teardrop shapes (teardrop is traditional, although I was doing too much at this point so honestly, just roll it out, it could be a parallelogram for all it really matters). Heat a large pan or griddle over high heat. Take one rolled-out piece of dough. Wet your hands in the bowl of water, flip-flop the dough between your hands to dampen, and then slap in the hot pan. Cook for one minute, then flip and then cover the pan and cook for an additional 30sec-1min. The naan will get a little charred but that's just how it is. Remove from the pan and brush with melted butter and sprinkle with salt and dried herbs (I used cilantro this time but I've also done basil in the past, both are good). Serve warm. These reheat fairly well.

And finally, I used Aarti's basmati rice recipe, which honestly wasn't all the great, but I attribute it more to my inability to make good rice and the fact that I used brown basmati instead of regular, than the recipe itself. It calls for rinsing the rice, something I don't think I've ever done before. It lenghtens the time it takes to make rice, which, if you ask me, is too long anyway. I want to get some regular basmati rice and try it again sometime.

And the results? Well I already told you about the rice. The naan was good. I didn't roll it out evenly, so some of the pieces had a very doughy edge, but that's ok. Brushing with butter and sprinkling with salt was quite tasty, as it is butter and salt. I'd never seen a naan recipe with baking powder, and I do think this was a better recipe than any of the others I'd used before. The chicken tikka masala wasn't quite authentic, but it was loads better than any of the other chicken tikka masala recipes I've tried before. And the kitchen smelled delicious.

One thing, though- I don't recommend a meal with 3 brand-new recipes, it's too hard to stay on top of things. I'd also intended to make some maple-roasted brussels sprouts, since Clint will eat them if they're roasted and we have a ton (thanks, BJ's! lol sometimes I love buying in crazy bulk sizes) but I actually forgot completely about that intention until the last naan was in the pan. oops!

So in the end, I highly approve of the chicken tikka masala and the naan. I'll give the rice another try next time. And there are no pictures because we were too eager to eat it all!

Today I meant to do a lot with yeast, but it didn't really happen- I'm making a bread with a sponge (I've never done this before!) and forgot I was going to bake it today- postponed til tomorrow! And I tried to make pizza crust.... but didn't realize I forgot to add the yeast until it'd been "rising" entirely unsuccessfully for almost 3 hours. d'oh! I sprinkled in yeast and kneaded some more, and we'll see what happens with that. It's such a shame though, I'd added all these fabulous herbs and spices to make the dough even more delicious! That'll teach me to email people while I'm cooking!

I made Aarti's tikka masala a second time and added brussels sprouts! I know, it was a weird idea, but it kind of worked. It's a relatively easy way to get some extra veggies.

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