Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Not Quite What I Had In Mind: Chicken UnTikka Masala

It's no secret I love Indian food, whether it's spicy or not. I make an aloo gobi that passed muster with the Indian guys on my team at my former job. I grind my own garam masala when I manage to have most of the spices in the pantry (pantry is a bit of an exaggeration. We have the bottom half of a storage unit from IKEA, but I have a drawer in it with nothing but different kinds of pepper, which I find quite cool).

Anyway, most recipes I've found on Epicurious have been pretty good, and they email me recipes on a regular basis, though I know I never signed up for that.

So I found this recipe in my mailbox and thought I'd give it a try. No chicken tikka masala I've ever had has included peas, but peas do go well in curry, so I figured I'd follow the recipe. I'll critique the "quick" part in a bit.

  • 1 (2 1/2") piece ginger, peeled
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 3 breasts), cut into 1" cubes
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided, plus more to taste
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons garam masala, divided
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/2 cup plain full-fat or low-fat yogurt (not Greek)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
A few comments before I get started. This seemed to be pretty heavy on the salt, so I cut that a bit. I'm also of the firm opinion (I can hear Nexx muttering "Do you have any other kind?) that if you're chopping more than two things, you're  no longer making a quick recipe. Quick to me means 30 minutes from having all your ingredients out to having the food plated on the table in front of your guinea pigs, er, loved ones.

I also had a slight problem with the yogurt. We get our groceries delivered if we need a lot at once. It saves on the back muscles. It does come with its risks, and one of those is missing the email when they're out of something. The plain unstrained yogurt I ordered was replaced by vanilla, which was not going to work. So I cut some Greek yogurt with some cream and I know I was missing some of the tanginess that should be there, so that one's on me.

The instructions:

  1. Pulse ginger and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped. Add onion and pulse again until finely chopped. (You really don't need a food processor, you can chop just fine by yourself. Also, considering the time it takes to put a food processor together, this also removes from the definition of "quick."
  2. Toss chicken with 1 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper, and 1 tsp. garam masala in a medium bowl. (too much salt, I cut it to .5 teaspoon)
  3. Heat oil over high in a large skillet (at least 12" in diameter). Add chicken and cook, tossing occasionally, until lightly browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer chicken to a clean medium bowl. (this took closer to 12 minutes)
  4. Heat same skillet over medium-high and add butter, chopped onion mixture, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper. (I did't bother with the salt and black pepper here. There's already black pepper in the garam masala) Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened and translucent, about 3 minutes (closer to 5). Add tomato paste, turmeric, cayenne, and remaining 1 1/2 tsp. garam masala and cook, stirring constantly, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until hot, about 2 minutes (again, closer to five minutes). Return chicken to pan, add peas, and cook, stirring occasionally, until warmed through, about 1 (3) minute more.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in yogurt and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Divide among 4 plates, top with cilantro, and serve with naan.

It was tasty, but way too heavy on the tomato taste. I felt like Bobby Flay in a Throwdown episode. "Hey Bobby, this is great, but it isn't the challenge food of the week." While we were eating, I started to deconstruct the recipe, starting with eliminating the tomato paste, and Nexx stopped me. He liked it just as it was. 

Success? I guess so. There's two more servings in the freezer that will be very nice on a cold winter's night very soon.

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