Archive for April, 2012

Butter Chicken (sort of)

For years I’ve scoffed whenever someone described meat with the term “melt-in-your-mouth”. It’s meat, people. It’s tough and resistant and you have to tear it apart with your teeth like a predator. That’s even part of the appeal!

This chicken? It melts in your mouth. Like butter. It just dissolves, like popcorn in a glass of milk.  A yogurt marinade followed by a long, slow simmer apparently causes some sort of chemical witchery (that’s a technical term, folks) to occur. It is completely amazing.

Now, all that said, butter chicken is apparently supposed to have tomatoes in it. Even the few recipes I found without tomatoes had almonds, which I have no objection to but don’t usually keep in the house.  To call this recipe a departure from the norm is therefore perhaps too charitable.

I don’t care. It’s one of the best new things I’ve made in years.

This recipe is adapted from the Bollywood Cookbook, which is generally just a charming read, for recipes and otherwise.

Ingredients (serves ~2)

For the marinade:

1 1/4 cups Greek yogurt

1 T garam masala

1-2 t chile flakes

1-2 t ginger

2 t salt (I used a chipotle-lime salt, because why not?)

1/2 to 1 lb chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces

For cooking:

2 cups chicken broth

garlic, to taste

juice of 1 lime

3 T turmeric

1 T garam masala

2 T butter

4 T cream or yogurt

Directions

Combine the marinade ingredients (except the chicken) in a zip-top bag and knead it  to mix.

Add the chicken to the bag.

Knead again to evenly coat the chicken. Marinate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

When ready to cook, melt 2 T of butter in a skillet over medium heat. Cast-iron is my preference, but not necessary.

Brown the butter. You don’t have to, but it’s oh so good.

Add the chicken, reserving the marinade for later.

Brown the chicken.

Sprinkle the chicken with the turmeric, lime juice, and garam masala.

Add the chicken broth and garlic. Once the mixture comes to a boil, turn the heat down to a bare simmer and let it cook, covered, for 30 minutes.

Add the reserved marinade and stir.

Add the remaining 2 T butter, allow it to melt, and stir again. Cook another 5 minutes before serving.

Serve with naan and saag paneer.

Words do not do this dish justice.

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Saag Paneer

I’m not even going to pretend this is traditional or proper or in any other sense real Indian food. You see, aside from store-bought naan, I had not tried or eaten anything even resembling Indian food before last month.

I’d considered it. Mr. Blackbird loves Indian buffets to an almost frightening extent, and asked me to join him more than a few times. But two things stopped me. First, I had a misconception that all Indian food was so agonizingly spicy that you couldn’t feel your mouth after eating it. I like mild-to-moderate spice, but I have no interest in ever consuming, for instance, the bhut jolokia that we just transplanted to the outdoor pots with the grown-up plants. Second, buffets carry an ever-present risk of accidental tomato consumption, and while I do carry a shot of epinephrine with me whenever eating out, I do not want to have to use it.

What convinced me was, as usual, the greens. Cooked greens feature in at least a dozen of my favorite recipes, and here I was being confronted with one made almost entirely of greens and cheese. Yes, please! This recipe is adapted heavily from Goat, though I didn’t use goat milk for the paneer or in the final sauce. Goat milk is delightful, light, just a touch sour, and doesn’t make me feel sick after drinking a glass. It also costs more than $4 for a quart compared to cow milk at $1.19/gallon. This makes goat milk a sometimes food.

Ingredients (serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side)

 

1 1/2 to 2 cups (1 batch) paneer

1 1/2 to 2 lbs collards, mustard greens, or spinach

4 T butter, divided use

1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth

1/4 cup milk, cream, or yogurt

2 t garam masala (I used store bought and I can only identify some of the components [cinnamon, cumin, anise]. It’s delicious, though; I’ve been adding it to my matzoh brei all week)

1 t red pepper flakes, or cayenne or paprika if you prefer

1-2 cloves garlic

salt, to taste

Directions

Melt 2 T of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. I prefer cast iron. If you are not lazy, skim the solids off to clarify the butter. Milk solids are tasty, and I am lazy, so they stayed. Browned butter is best, but not required.

Cut the central ribs out of the greens (unless you’re using spinach) and tear them into palm-sized pieces before adding to the skillet.

Toss the greens until they are thoroughly wilted and release much of their liquid. This is very brief (<5 minutes) for spinach, 10-12 minutes for collards. Tongs are useful for flipping the greens without making a huge mess.

Add the broth and cook until the liquid reduced by about 1/2, or 5 more minutes.

Put the greens and the remaining liquid into the bowl of a food processor and pat the skillet dry.

Pulse the greens to your desired consistency. I did not want a puree, due to my distrust of liquid foods, so I left off after a few brief pulses.

Leave the greens aside for a moment while you heat the remaining 2 T of butter. Cut the paneer into cubes and add it to the skillet to fry.

Clarifying the butter this time would have been wise; this is insanely tasty but looks kind of gross.

Mix the garam masala, chili flakes, minced garlic, and milk. Add the greens back into the skillet, toss briefly, and pour the milk-and-spice mixture over them.

Salt and stir briefly before serving with naan.

Considering all the cheese and milk in there, this is surprisingly light. The spices are mild–too mild for Mr. B, who added a hefty dose of hot sauce to his plate–but incredibly flavorful. Now that our cilantro is finally thriving, I plan to add a few leaves at the end next time we make this.  On its own, it’s delicious. As a side for butter chicken, it’s a meal Mr. B asks me to make about every three days. So, though it’s likely nothing like actual Indian food, it’s still a winner around here!

 

 

 

 

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Passover Peanut Butter Cookies

I’ve made these cookies before. So even though I made an unprecedented change this year (less brown sugar) I wasn’t planning on posting them again. Then I got home from work today and found out just how much my husband loved them. Just how willing he was to try to find a way around the rule I made after he ate five whole cookies last night. Two cookies a day, I told him. A day starts at midnight, I added, in case he was prepared to eat infinite cookies in the night. (He was.)

If you have no interest in table top roleplaying,  or just can’t read his handwriting, that is a character sheet. Listing his cookie-eating abilities and their effects. There is a power which permits a great cookie devouring at the last instant of 11:59 PM.

He’s being rather ominous about what happens when he levels up. Which, given his level as written, is always and to infinity.

I ran out of brown sugar, which turned out to be a blessing. Replacing some of it with granulated sugar gave the cookies a little more cohesion. They spread less, and taste more like regular cookies, and less like molasses crossed with peanut butter fudge (also delicious. Just sayin’.).

Ingredients 

2 C peanut butter (I used Jif creamy, as usual. If you’re eschewing corn syrup for Passover or just generally, use a peanut butter without corn syrup.)

1 C packed dark brown sugar

1 C granulated sugar

1 1/2 t salt

2 eggs

1 T vanilla

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Mix well. Bake at 350°F for 10-12 minutes, until the edges just begin to brown. Do not overbake.

As they contain no animal products of any kind, these cookies are kosher with any meal. Or if, you’re my peanut-butter obsessed husband, for breakfast. They are chewy. They are rich. They taste like regular, made-with-leaven, floury, delightful cookies only with more peanut flavor than you can get in a cookie diluted with flour. Which, five days into Passover, is really all we want. Well, that, and for people at work to stop eating whole pizzas in front of us.

Happy Passover!

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Homemade Paneer

I promise, I’m not crazy. As much as I enjoy cooking, as much time as I spend in the kitchen, There are still things I buy pre-made every time, because I do not have the time to make my own tortillas or ice cream or cheese.

But this time, I made cheese. Not because I’m some kind of food nut who has to have everything made from scratch, and I can’t stand fussy, finicky recipes unless the payoff is huge.

I’d been wanting to make saag paneer for a while, but I couldn’t find paneer anywhere. Turns out making paneer at home is easier than finding it in a store. After trying six different grocery stores, I finally looked up how to make it. With just two ingredients, and a recipe that took less than 15 minutes of actual in-kitchen time, it was hard to resist. Plus, it made some awesome cheese.

I adapted this recipe from the delightful Goat cookbook. I have since made a half batch with goat milk as the cookbook recommends, and while the difference was more subtle than I’d expected, but on balance I think I prefer the slight tang of the goat milk version.

 Ingredients (makes about 2 cups)

 

1/2 gallon milk (or goat milk, or a mix)

1/4 cup lemon or lime juice

cheese cloth

Directions

Pour the milk into a large pot and heat over medium heat.

When the milk rises in the pan and begins to simmer, Turn off the heat and stir to ensure that the entire volume is evenly heated.

Pour in the lemon juice and stir to combine.

Walk away for 20-25 minutes. Really. During one batch I was impatient and kept checking in and stirring every couple of minutes. The curds that formed were broken up so that many of them passed right through the cheesecloth and were lost forever. It was tragic. After 20 minutes undisturbed, the curds should have separated nicely.

Line a colander with cheesecloth and pour the curds and liquid (whey) through. Walk away for another hour or so, to let the majority of the whey drain.

Once the cheese had drained, gather the cheesecloth and tie it off.

Set the bundle in the refrigerator on a plate or in a bowl with a weight on top of it (I used a 10-lb medicine ball atop a second plate) overnight. This will press out the remaining liquid and firm up the cheese. Pour off the liquid and wrap the cheese in parchment paper and plastic wrap until ready to serve or cook with it.

This went to a lovely batch of saag paneer two days later. This was worth the hassle, enough so that I’ve now made three batches. A combination of mild cheese and rich greens made for a perfect dish.

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