Sanity Check

There is a reason I prefer the company of dogs to humans – they are uncomplicated and genuine. They have very clear needs and straightforward motives. They are very considerate and have this amazing sixth sense to detect human emotion. And unlike humans, they are loyal. Humans, on the other hand, are conniving and deceitful. They have second agendas and are full of machinations. They struggle for power and fight for control. You either win or you lose, and no one wants to be a loser. You know that expression, “dog eat dog”? Well, animals can do terrible things to each other, but it is out of survival and part of their natural life cycles. Humans do terrible things – for what? Personal gain? Self gratification? Retribution? It’s certainly not for survival. Keeping all that in mind, can you really blame me for being a hermit?

Instead of enjoying Father’s Day weekend, I ended up putting in work instead. It didn’t help that I was already having a terrible week anyway. The only saving grace was that I did manage to squeeze in some time to satisfy my Indian food craving. Here are the results.


Plated

Chicken Tikka Masala
Source: Adapted from Aarti Sequeira
This is not a dish I’d recommend for the dieter – rich in heavy cream, this dish is tangy and savory and smoky from all the lovely spices. The chicken is marinated in spiced yogurt to produce a tender and moist meat when charred over the grill or broiled in the oven. The sauce is simmered with a ton of garam masala and cumin and the aromatic trifecta – onion, garlic and ginger. From the original recipe, I kicked up the heat and adjusted the cooking technique a bit.

Ingredients
Marinade:
1 cup Greek yogurt
3 tbs garlic, minced
3 tbs ginger, minced
2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 lbs, bone in chicken thighs, roughly chopped into large bite-sized chunks

Sauce:
1/4 c butter
1/3 c ginger & garlic, minced
3 serrano peppers, minced (seeds removed if you don’t want it spicy)
4 tbs tomato paste
2 tbs garam masala
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 cup of water
1 cup heavy cream
1-2 tbs fish sauce [no apologies]
salt to taste
Minced fresh cilantro, for garnish

Directions
To prepare the marinade, mix together all ingredients in a large bowl. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.

At this point, you can either skewer the chicken meat and grill it on high flames, or you can cheat as I did – place all the chicken meat on a shallow baking dish and broil the meat at 525*F until charred, flipping the meat as needed for even browning. This method allows the meat to char but not fully cook, and the baking sheet will catch all that precious chicken juice. Remove chicken from heat, saving the juices for the sauce.

To make the sauce, place a large pot over medium heat and add butter and a bit of olive oil. Add the ginger, garlic and serrano peppers and saute until soft and brown. I usually do this outside on a gas stove because the fumes will make you cry and your entire house smell for days. To the pot, add the spices and allow to ‘toast’ for a few minutes to bring out their flavors. Add the tomato paste and cook until the color has darkened. Add the tomato sauce, salt, 1 cup of water, and all chicken juices from earlier. Bring the sauce to a boil then allow to simmer and thicken.

Add the cream and stir through. Add a splash or two of fish sauce to taste and stir to distribute. Season as needed with additional salt/sugar/pepper/etc. Add the chicken and cook until the chicken is warmed through. Garnish with minced fresh cilantro, and serve with naan or basmati rice.

Chicken


Saag Paneer
Source: Aarti Sequiera
I love saag paneer – creamy, buttery spinach and bold salty pieces of cheese coated in spices. What’s not to love?

Ingredients
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cayenne
3 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
12 oz paneer, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 (16-ounce package) frozen chopped spinach
1 white onion, finely diced
1 tbs ginger, minced
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 heads of shallots, thinly sliced
1 serrano chile, diced and seeds removed
1 tsp garam masala
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 c plain greek yogurt
1/2 c heavy whipping cream

Directions
In a large bowl, whisk together the turmeric, cayenne, dash of salt and oil. Gently, toss in cubes of paneer to coat and let cheese marinate. Set aside.

Thaw spinach then puree in a food processor until smooth. Use a cheesecloth to squeeze out the excess liquid.

In a large pan over medium heat, add a splash of olive oil and fry the cubes of paneer until browned evenly on all sides. Remove paneer from the pan onto a plate. To the pan, add another splash of oil, followed by the onions, ginger, garlic, shallot and chile. Saute the mixture until very dark brown. Again, it helps to do this outside as the fumes will make you cry. The mixture may appear to burn/dry out, so just add a bit of water as necessary. This should take 10 minutes or so.

To the pan, add the spices, stirring often, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the spinach and stir to distribute the spiced onion mixture into the spinach. Add salt, a bit of water and cook for 5 minutes to let the flavors distribute. Turn off the heat, and add the yogurt and heavy whipping cream, a little at a time to prevent it from curdling. Add the paneer and cook again until everything is warmed through.

Saag

As you can tell, I’ve been feeling a bit disillusioned and cynical the last few days. Hope the next few are better.
AnhD

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