Saturday, July 6, 2013

Tandoori Chicken, Channa Masala, and Ginger Lentil Rice

When I got Flavors of My World by Maneet Chauhan, I thought it was interesting that her book was "A culinary journey through 25 countries." I figured, hey, she travels a lot, so this must be her favorite recipes from places she has visited.

Nuh uh. These are fusion recipes, taking traditional fare from other countries and then adding an Indian twist to them. Some are much more twisted than others.

To be perfectly honest, I found this book a little hard to cook from. I suppose if I was well-versed in Indian cooking, it would have been easier. But there's no glossary or explanation of what the ingredients are, so I needed to look things up online.

That said, the recipes and photos all looked good, and someone who regularly cooks Indian food would probably have a better idea what gur is or where to buy a sheet of vark or what a ginger-garlic paste is supposed to be.

I just found it puzzling that this book didn't explain these things to make the recipes easier for folks who are new to cooking Indian cuisine.

If you're willing to take this book as a sometimes-loose guide to this fusion cuisine, I'm sure you'll breeze through the inconsistencies and do what you want.

But if you need a step-by-step guide with specific and detailed instructions, you'll get a little frustrated. Fortunately, you can look up herbs, spices, vegetables, and substitutions online.

I finally decided to make tandoori chicken since I had almost everything I needed. I didn't have tandoori masala, but I did have Penzey's tandoori seasoning. I figured it was close enough.

And while the recipe called for 4 chicken breasts, I used half of a large chicken, instead. I cut it into pieces before cooking.

Tandoori Chicken
Adapted from Flavors of My World by Maneet Chauhan

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon tandoori masala (I used tandoori seasoning from Penzey's)
1 cup plain yogurt (I used plain Greek-style yogurt)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 teaspoon salt
4 chicken breasts* (I used half of a chicken, cut up)

Heat the oil on medium heat in a small pan. This is just for toasting the spices, so you don't need anything too big. Add the coriander, cumin, turmeric, cayenne pepper, and tandoori seasoning. Cook, stirring almost continuously for 2-3 minutes, until the spices are fragrant. Watch it carefully - burned spices are not a good thing. Don't ask my how I know that.

Transfer the spice mixture to a medium bowl (something that will hold all the chicken) and set aside until the spices have cooled to room temperature.

Add the yogurt and whisk to combine, then add the lemon juice, garlic, ginger and salt and give it another stir to combine everything.

Add the chicken and move it around in the marinade to coat it. Cover the bowl and transfer to the refrigerator. (Or you can transfer it to a suitable lidded plastic container or a plastic bag - whichever is better for your refrigerator space.)

Let the chicken marinate for at least an hour, and up to 6 hours, if you prefer.

When you reach the 8-hour mark, you're risking that the chicken will develop an odd texture, so you don't want to do this the day before.

Preheat your grill (I did this outdoors, but a grill pan should also be okay.) Cook the chicken on indirect heat until cooked through (use a thermometer). How long this will take depends on how hot your grill is, and also how bit the piece of chicken are.

The great thing about cooking on a grill is that for something like a cut-up chicken you can move the smaller pieces to a cooler part of the grill while you keep the larger pieces closer to the fire. The chicken I bought was pretty big -- even though I cut the breast into three pieces, those pieces were pretty big.

When you take the chicken off the grill, let it rest for at least 5 minutes before you cut into it.

In the book, this chicken was used in bahn mi sandwiches, but we ate it as is on the first night, and made tacos with the leftovers. How's that for fusion cuisine?

*A similar recipe that I used to make years ago required boneless, skinless breasts, and was cooked in the oven. The coating formed a crust of sorts. For this recipe, the chicken I used had both skin and bones. Use what you like. I'm guessing this recipe would also work well in the oven.

And now for some sides

I recently received some samples from a company called Tasty Bites and figured  this would be the perfect chance to try a few of them. I thought the channa masala and ginger lentil rice would pair well with the chicken.

These products are shelf-stable and can be cooked in the microwave or in the pouch in boiling water. They're fully cooked, so you just need to heat them up.

It's nice that there's not a lot of extra packaging - I've seen similar foods that put the cooking pouch into a box.

The channa masala was a spicy chickpea dish in a tomato-based sauce. Definitely spicy. This was a great side dish, but it would also be wonderful as a vegetarian meal on top of some rice (which would also temper the spice level).

The ginger lentil rice had a good punch of ginger flavor - there was no way you could miss that. The lentils added texture and contrasting color to the dish. It was a nice spicy side, but I think next time I'd pair with with a less-spicy main dish. Three different spicy items was just a little too much. But this would have been great with some broiled shrimp or a simple pork roast.

So farm those are the only products I've tried, but I imagine the others are similar. I don't normally buy pre-made products like these, but I can see how they'd be handy to have on hand.

Disclosure: I received the cookbook from the publisher and the side dishes from the food company. I was not required to write a post about them.