Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Mysterious World of Indian Cuisine

I've finally dipped my toe in the vast cuisine of India.  India has always been a place of great interest to me, but it's based on just a few things.  In 1984 I watched the most wonderful Masterpiece Theater series called the Jewel in the Crown and that began my initial intrigue of the place.  Since then I have read the 4 books it was based on by Paul Scott, subtitled The Raj Quartet.  I always watched the Travel Channel whenever anyone goes there, but particularly enjoy Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations series when he has traveled around the subcontinent.  I enjoy watching him go anywhere though!

As far as Indian food, I have had a very limited tasting.  Here in my town, we have only two Indian restaurants.  I use to go to one of them and particularly enjoyed their lunch buffets, for which I'm told Indian restaurants are known, until one memorable lunch.  It was my turn to choose where my co-workers and I should dine and I decided to take them to this place.  Now you should know that these particular co-workers were males of the most basic meat-and-potato eating crowd. The fact I could even get them in the door was somewhat of a miracle.  So there we were lined up at the steam tables when one of my co-workers in front of me delightfully pointed out a rather large cockroach crawling around the perimeter of the Tandoori Chicken tray.  Needless to say, I never heard the end of it about that lunch and I have never eaten Indian food again.  Until today.

I so enjoyed the spices and exotic flavors of the limited dishes I have tried so I decided I should give it a try at home.  My menu for this Indian feast included: Chicken Tikka Masala, Naan bread, Basmati Rice with slivered almonds and cucumber wedges.  To end our southeast Asian feast, we had a cool and refreshing lemon sorbet.

I will post today the recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala and will tell you about the Naan bread in the next post. The house was filled with heady aromas and it was a rich, lovely sauce coating the yogurt marinated chicken. Just as I remember it tasting, minus the cockroaches crawling around!

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon table salt
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts , trimmed of fat
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt or a fat free plain greek yogurt
1 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium garlic cloves , minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
Masala Sauce
2 - 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion , diced fine
2 medium garlic cloves , minced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 fresh serrano or jalepeno chile , ribs and seeds removed, flesh minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons garam masala
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves (Optional for cilantro haters, or use parsley)

For the chicken, combine cumin, coriander, cayenne, and salt in small bowl. Sprinkle both sides of chicken with spice mixture, pressing gently so mixture adheres. Place chicken on plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes.
In large bowl, whisk together yogurt, oil, garlic, and ginger; set aside.

For the sauce, heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until light golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, chile, tomato paste, and garam masala; cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, sugar, and salt; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in cream and return to simmer. Remove pan from heat and cover to keep warm.
While sauce simmers, adjust oven rack to upper-middle position (about 6 inches from heating element) and heat broiler. Cover chicken with yogurt mixture thickly and arrange on wire rack set in foil-lined rimmed baking sheet or broiler pan. Discard excess yogurt mixture. Broil chicken until thickest parts register 160 degrees on instant-read thermometer and exterior is lightly charred in spots, 10 to 18 minutes, flipping chicken halfway through cooking.
Let chicken rest 5 minutes, then cut into 1-inch chunks and stir into warm sauce (do not simmer chicken in sauce). Stir in cilantro if using, adjust seasoning with salt, and serve with basmati rice and Naan bread. Serves  6.


KandN said...

Mmmm! Thank you for your wonderful descriptions, S!
I LOVE Indian food. I've heard stories similar to yours about the one restaurant, but nothing negative about the place in Monmouth.
As much as we love it, we rarely head towards an Indian restaurant when we dine out.
Can't wait to see your recipe for naan. :)

Stephanie said...

You lost me when you dipped your toe in the vast cuisine of India. I prefer meat that don't have toes!