Friday, November 21, 2008

Chicken Tikka Masala

We like to eat Indian food at a local restaurant that serves a lunch buffet daily. The only problem is that the restaurant is way across town, and dinner is quite expensive. So, we both get the occasional unsatisfied craving for Chicken Tikka Masala and naan bread.

I'd tried a couple of different techniques before- one out of a packet, one a regular recipe- and both tasted like crap. I hated throwing that food away- rice, chicken, sauce, etc. It irritates me when a meal does not come out. But, I find I can generally trust America's Test Kitchen's recipe integrity, found their version, and threw caution to the wind.

This came out pretty good, even if a little un-photogenic. We have a canister of Rajah brand garam masala that proved a good balance, not overly cinnamon-y like some we've smelled/tasted.

I was unable to find the called-for serrano chile at my grocery store (they seem to have a problem with the lowly serrano, and never stock it for some reason), so I left it out, again somewhat concerned that it'd be too spicy for the bebeh girl. You never know with Indian food.

It did wind up needing just a skosh more of something spicy, but was generally tasty and consistent with what we've eaten at the buffet.

Let me know if you want the recipe. I'm not gonna type it out until then, because that's how I roll. Don't judge me.

I wished we'd had some naan, but no dice, so I settled for some leftover regular flatbread. I made a batch of hummus to go with, which came out OK but a little too garlicky. Yeah, yeah, I know it's not Indian food, but it's close enough for government work. Again with the judgment! Jesus!

Traditional turkey dinner

My husband and I can't get enough of Thanksgiving food. I'd never actually cooked turkey with bones before, but some nice pieces in the grocery store, plus a recipe from America's Test Kitchen, inspired me to make a mini-Thanksgiving for us at home.

Oh. My. Sweet. Lord. This recipe came out SO GOOD, and made some of the best goddamn turkey gravy I've ever had, no giblets required!

The technique is a simple one- slowly roast turkey legs and thighs on a rack over a mixture of chopped onion, carrot, celery, garlic, thyme, and chicken broth. After about 2 hours at 275º, the turkey meat rests for half an hour while you start the gravy by straining out the vegetables. I skimmed off some liquid fat before making the roux that thickens the gravy. Finally, the meat is returned to the oven at 500º for about ten to twelve minutes, which crisps the skin and makes for an awesome exterior texture.

To round out the meal, I also made mashed potatoes, my stepmother's cornbread and sausage dressing, and orange juice-tinged cranberry sauce. The mashed potatoes were a little loose, unfortunately, and the cranberry sauce needed more sugar, but altogether it was a rousing success.

The turkey recipe called for using an additional piece of meat- a bone-in, skin-on breast. The full recipe serves 10-12 and I was only feeding 3 people, so I stuck to 3 legs and 2 thighs, which provided plenty of leftovers. I think next time, however, I will use a breast only, since my husband definitely prefers white meat over dark and the cooking method here does not make for a dry bird like most people serve.

Chicken Pasta Pomodoro

This meal was an attempt to recreate one of the few frozen entrees that is worth buying- Chicken Pasta Pomodoro by Kashi. My husband often comes home hungry from late night hockey games. I'm not always up to making him a meal at 1 a.m., so we compromised with a few frozen dinners. Having a particularly picky meat-n-taters type of husband, I was surprised when he actually enjoyed this relatively healthy one and asked me to buy him some more. I decided later to try to recreate the dish for the three of us.

Kashi has their own 7-grain penne pasta that I can't buy so I substituted whole wheat, which we've never eaten before. It was actually good, and we eat a lot of traditional pasta. Aside from that, I used the ingredients list as my guide, in addition to the obvious things that it contained, like chicken, zucchini, yellow squash, and red bell pepper. I added bits of sundried tomato and artichoke hearts.

It tasted pretty good, all in all. The only thing it required after serving was a dash or two of hot sauce for zing. I also had to feed it to a two year old, so I had not added any red pepper flakes like I would have if it was just us adults.

The one caveat to this dish: it did NOT taste very good the next day. I don't know if it was the pasta or what, but it was gluey and bland.

I'll probably make some adjustments to the recipe before posting it.

A Thanksgiving staple - Pumpkin Pie

One part of my family celebrated Thanksgiving early this year, because my cousin was preparing to leave for U.S. Air Force basic training. I offered to bring the pie. I love pumpkin pie; it totally defines the season for me, even more so than turkey and dressing. There's not much better than a homemade one, and not much worse than a shitty one from a box with rubbery custard, butterless bone-dry crust, and excessive spices meant to disguise the inevitable freezer burn.

I was especially proud of the way these two came out- not a crack in sight, the custard cooked just right and not overbeaten. The crust was GBD*, a blissful balance of buttery and flaky.

Recipes used are simple- the filling recipe is from the label of Libby's pumpkin puree, and the crust is from Alton Brown.

You can find Alton's pie crust recipe here, but you should know I stray somewhat from his technique. I don't use the food processor; I like the manual labor of a pastry cutter. I also use Crisco shortening instead of lard, and I drizzle in ice water from a glass measuring cup instead of spritzing with a bottle. Finally, Alton calls for blind-baking the crust, which I omitted.

The pies tasted as gorgeous as they looked, especially with a generous slathering of whipped cream.

*GBD = Golden brown and delicious. Totally ripped off from my nerd-crush, Alton Brown. Learn it. Know it. I'll use it often.

Inaugural post

Welcome, intrepid readers. Thanks for visiting my new blog. Here is where I plan to share recipes, pictures of food I've made, inspirations, and other kitchen goodies with you, with the hopes that it'll help all of us cook a little more from scratch and a little less from a box.