Sunday, May 1, 2011

Chicken Tikka Masala with Homemade Naan and Raita


Welcome and travel with me to the flavors of India! That sounds a bit nerdy, but, what the hay! Let me start by saying that we love Indian food. However, Indian food is not really available in "our neck of the woods." In order to obtain some of this tastiness, you have to travel quite a-ways away from our town. Not really an ideal situation for us. So, here's my attempts to make-up for the lack of accessibility.

I was first introduced to Indian fare by my in-laws - from my dear ol' step-father-in-law, to be exact. He spawns from the curry-loving country. Yet, he has never personally cooked Indian for me. The audacity, I know. No worries, the good ol' mom-in-law has made some for us. Yay!!!

Now, Indian cooking definitely has its own flavor profile: strong, dominating, and distinct. Traditional Indian cuisine can be quite spicy, but not always. Common ingredients are tomatoes, garlic, ginger, curry, garam marsala (a spice), cilantro, yogurts/milk, paneer (a cheese), chutneys (kind of like jellies, sometimes savory or sweet), and so much more! It is so yum, but it not for the "safe" eater; more for the adventurous with a tendency toward stronger flavors. To me, it has a uniqueness unlike other cuisine...you just have to try it to see for yourself.You will either love it or hate it.

I have tried prepackaged spices, sides, and sauces in attempts to satisfy my cravings. However, most of the time, they don't replicate the authentic Indian flavors that I would like. Like, the last spice mix I tried was so spicy, it kind of nauseated me...the husband on the other hand liked the spiciness. Won't do that one again! So, I decided to try and make my own. The results was pretty darn good-not the same as if made by an Indian cook, but a pretty darn-good substitute. Plus, Indian can be healthy if you know what to look for.

For this one, I actually followed the recipe, with the exception of a few instances. *GASP* I know, abnormal, but it happens sometimes. Probably because I am not well-experienced in Indian cooking. But, I would love to learn and practice more! Next time, I will make this in a crock-pot or let it cook all day to better develop the flavors. The chicken tikka masala is kind of like chili in the way that the longer it sets, the better it gets. BTW, this a Cook's Illustrated recipe which I really admire. Cook's Illustrated really tests recipes for the best preparation and flavors. Here goes...don't be scared, just try it!

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander (Which is ground, dried cilantro)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of fat
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used Extra-virgin olive oil)
  • 2 medium garlic cloves (minced or pressed through a garlic press,about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger (grated) ( used 1/4 tsp dried)

Masala Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced fine (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 2 medium garlic cloves (minced or pressed through a garlic press, about 2 teaspoons)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger (grated) (I used 1/2 tsp dried)
  • 1 serrano chili, fresh, ribs and seeds removed, and flesh minced (I substitited ground red/cayenne pepper) ( I substituted ground red/cayenne powder)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream (I used plain yogurt and milk instead)
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves (chopped) (I used dried)
  Directions:
  • 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. Using tongs, dip chicken into yogurt mixture (chicken should be coated with thick layer of yogurt) 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, adjust seasoning with salt, and serve. 
  •   Serve with rice.
I also made Naan, which is an Indian yeast flatbread (Taste like Pizza dough) with Raita (a cucumber-yogurt sauce). 
Naan                                               
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 Tbs white sugar                                     
  • 1/4 cup white sugar                                 
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 1/2 cups bread flour (I used All-Purpose, since that was what I had)                                                                                            
  • Garlic Powder, to taste                                                  
  • Onion Powder, to taste
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water and 1 Tbs of sugar. Let stand about 10 minutes, until frothy. 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. Let it rise 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in volume.
  2. Punch down dough, and knead in garlic. Pinch off small handfuls of dough about the size of a golf ball. Roll into balls, and place on a tray. Cover with a towel, and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
  3. During the second rising, preheat grill to high heat.
  4. At grill side, roll one ball of dough out into a thin circle. Lightly oil grill. Place dough on grill, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until puffy and lightly browned. Brush uncooked side with butter, and turn over. Brush cooked side with butter, and cook until browned, another 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from grill, and continue the process until all the naan has been prepared. (I used my indoor George Foreman since I, sadly, have no outdoor grill-But I really want an outdoor grill!)
Raita
  • 1 cup plain yogar
  • 1/3 of a cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 1 roma tomato, diced 
  • Salt and pepper
  • Onion Powder, to taste
  • A bit of water to thin out
Directions:
1) Mix all. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Serve with Tikka Masala and Naan.  

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