Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Double Indian Dish

We are fans of “America’s Test Kitchen,” a PBS show produced by “Cooks Illustrated” magazine. Even though the two chief “testers” are women who talk in upspeak (one of them distinctly more than the other), what they teach us has led to some good meals here in chez Stephen and Peter.

We watched an episode the other day in which two Indian curry dishes were prepared. They made us hungry and we decided to try their ideas yesterday. What we did was to combine the two recipes into a one-dish meal. One was a vegetable curry and the other was chicken tikka masala, which made use of garam masala, a spice mixture we’ve had in the pantry for quite some time and rarely have used.

My result was terrific thanks to the test kitchen basic recipe and my own creativity. After the fact, my challenge here will be to remember all the adjustments I made on the fly.

The tikka did not call for curry, but the vegetable dish did – so I used it. I discovered a new way to dice onions. I used a mandoline with the julienne blade attached. Slice the onion in half, leaving the stem end intact. Peel the skin off and, using the mandoline, slice the onion. You can get a very fine dice this way in a hurry.

The main thing the test kitchen crew did was cook the chicken separately from the sauce, a diversion from the traditional cooking method. The aim was to keep the chicken moist. It worked wonderfully well. In most traditional Indian recipes a little extra garam masala is added at the end of cooking, just before serving. On test kitchen the chef said it gave the dish a slightly "harsh" taste. Having added garam masala at the end of preparing pureed eggplant last week, I disagreed and did add a bit more must before serving.

Peter made a yogurt sauce to garnish this. Using a hand-held immersion blender, he mixed together yogurt with mint leaves and cilantro. The only down side was that the amount of moisture in the mint and cilantro rendered the yogurt quite loose. It still tasted really good on the dish.

Even more good news - there was enough for last night's dinner and today's lunch.

Chicken Tikka Masala with curried vegetables
2 chicken breast halves, skinned and boneless
¼ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp salt
1/3 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed
1 tbsp ginger, grated or minced
1 medium red potato, in a ½” dice
1+ cup small cauliflower flowerettes

Masala sauce:
2 tbsp vegetable oil
½ medium onion, diced fine
1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed
1 tsp grated ginger
1 fresh Serrano chile, minced
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp garam masala
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes, with their juice
1 tsp sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/8 chopped cilantro leaves

Combine cumin, coriander, cayenne, and salt in a small bowl. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with the spice mixture. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 3 hours. In another bowl, whisk together yogurt, oil, garlic, and ginger; set aside.

Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil in a large saute pan or Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook for a few minutes until softened and slightly colored. Add garlic, ginger, chile, tomato paste, curry, and garam masala; cook, stirring frequently until fragrant – 1-2 minutes. Clear a space in the middle of the pan and add another tbsp oil. Drop the potato and cauliflower in and stir the whole mixture thoroughly together.

Add tomatoes, sugar, and salt; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the vegetables are tender – about 20 minutes, maybe more. Stir in cream, remove pan from heat, and cover to keep warm.

While the sauce simmers, preheat the broiler with the rack in the top position. Thoroughly coat the chicken pieces in the yogurt mixture and arrange on a wire rack set over a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet or broiler pan. Broil chicken until the thickest part registers 155° on an instant-read thermometer. The outside should color in places slightly. Flip the chicken once half way through cooking. Total time will be 12-14 minutes.

Let the chicken rest 5 minutes, then cut into 1 inch chunks and stir into the sauce over medium heat. When hot, but not simmering, stir in cilantro and serve over basmati rice, white or brown.

For a free excerpt of my book, “A Year of Food,” in which I opine, report, cook, muse and philosophize about everything that passed my lips for an entire year, write to me at: scrout1944@msn.com.

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