Saturday, January 12, 2013

Tikka Masala: The Results and Modified Recipe

Check out this recipe on my new and improved website:

With basmati rice and naan, this recipe is a hit!
The Process:
Getting back into the habit of memorizing recipes was quick and painless, with the Tikka Masala being the perfect starting recipe. We had a group of 8, and it was simple to multiply this recipe for a larger crowd. Since I am not completely familiar with Indian spices, I wasn't able to use the common-sense approach to memorizing the spices (I didn't actually know that coriander and cardamom are common in Indian recipes). However, the alliterative component helped me out a lot. For the marinade, remembering the "four Cs" was simple: cumin, coriander, cardamon, and cayenne. Are there any other hard Cs worth thinking about?
None that I can think of.

The onion/ginger/garlic base for the curry reminded me a lot of the Ethiopian recipes I cooked last year, so this base was simple to memorize as well. Anyone who has ever had Tikka Masala knows that it is tomato and cream based. The interesting twist was the almond powder... who knew?

Long story short, if I wanted to whip this up on a random weeknight, the overnight marinade would stand in my way a bit. But if I didn't mind a shortened marinade time, I know I'd have no problem remembering the ingredients while at the grocery store. Oh, and as a side note, we used naan from a restaurant. I am a procrastinator and the grocery store Washington Heights did not have the yeast I needed at the last minute. Looking on the bright side, it was delicious naan!

The 4 Cs for the marinade:
 coriander, cumin, cayenne pepper, and cardamom

The meat should marinate overnight. 
Here I have the two yogurt marinades and a dairy free olive oil marinade

The Verdict:
This was a delicious and comforting dish that was fairly easy to prep and make. I was able to finish it in under an hour, which I don't think is too shabby for a dinner party meal. I would love to see this recipe done on a really small scale... I wonder how the timing would turn out.

I ended up using salmon and chicken, which both were gobbled up. The salmon broke down into smaller pieces, making the flavor of the salmon infuse into the gravy. The chicken, on the other hand, maintained its structure. The gravy was a little less spicy and a little chunkier than the Tikka Masala that you get in a restaurant, but I didn't mind having something to chew on. It was still saucy enough for covering a bed of rice and dunking in a piece of naan.

I would definitely make this recipe again-- it was warm, filling, tasty, and felt fairly healthy once I added all the cauliflower. Basmati rice is really the way to go in terms of a side dish. I now have motivation to keep expanding my Indian repertoire!

My two pans ready to go: 1 for chicken, 1 for salmon.
The onion/ginger/garlic base is simple and delicious

The Modified Recipe: Chicken (or Fish) Tikka Masala, adapted from Grace Parisi at Food & Wine
Yield: 4 servings

Marinade Ingredients:
  • 1 cup plain lowfat yogurt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper
  • 2.5 lbs meat (skinless, boneless chicken thighs; salmon or swordfish cut in 1.5" cubes)
Gravy Ingredients:
  • 2 tbsp plus 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup whole almonds, no skin
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger*
  • 1 1/2 tbsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 35-oz can peeled tomatoes, finely chopped and juices reserved
  • 1/2 head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces and lightly steamed (3-4 minutes)
  • pinch of sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • salt and pepper
  • Combine marinade ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Using a sharp knife, make a few shallow slashes in the pieces of meat. Add to the marinade, turn to coat, and refrigerate overnight.
  • Heat a cast iron grill pan over medium-high heat.
  • Remove the meat from the marinade and scrape off the marinade as much as possible. Place on the grill and cook until the bottom third of the meat is cooked through (3-5 minutes). Flip the meat, cover with an aluminum foil tent, and cook for another 3-5 minutes until the meat is cooked through. Keep in mind that with fish you will reduce these times significantly, since rare fish is far less dangerous (and disgusting) than rare chicken.
  • Transfer grilled meat to a cutting board and let rest.
  • Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat 1 tbsp of the oil. Add the almonds and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer the almonds to a plate and let cool completely. Move to a food processor* and pulse until finely ground.
  • In a large pan, heat 2 tbsp oil. Add onion, garlic, and ginger and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender and golden, about 8 minutes.
  • Add the garam masala and cayenne, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
  • Add the tomatoes, their juices, sugar, salt, and pepper.
  • Cover partially and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sauce is slightly thickened, about 20 minutes.
  • Add the cream and ground almonds and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 10 minutes longer.
  • Stir in the meat and cauliflower; simmer gently for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, and serve.
  • Grating Ginger: I am never ever chopping ginger again. Between the frustrating fibers and the chewy bits that inevitably get into the food, it is too much of a hassle. What is not a hassle, though, is grating ginger. After a quick peel, just run it up and down a fine grater. What you will get is the smoothest ginger puree you will ever see.
  • Grinding almonds: The thought of hauling my entire food processor onto the counter just to grind up some almonds made me want to change recipes, but I realized that I could just as easily pulse the almonds in an electric coffee grinder. I did the same with my whole cardamom seeds. It's far quieter, easier to move around, and small enough to clean up quickly. Just be sure that you do give it a good cleaning before and after use so you don't have coffee-flavored Indian food or Indian food-flavored coffee (although that might become the next food trend!)

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