Chicken Tikka Masala


I consider this recipe one of my little victories because Nick actually likes it. I always figured he’d like Indian food (one of my absolute favorite cuisines) because he loves bold, highly spiced and seasoned foods. But the firs time I took him to an Indian restaurant, he didn’t enjoy it at all, really. Then again, my saag wasn’t very good there either, so I hoped it was because it just wasn’t a very good restaurant. I made this one night, and now Nick actually requests it. Success!!

This isn’t exactly very authentic, but since when is a dish often called “butter chicken” considered authentic anyway? I used a Cooks Illustrated recipe as a starting point, but then I mostly wing the spices from there. I don’t use any pre-blended spices (garam masala or the like), even though that might be a bit easier if I found a blend I enjoyed. I find it’s just as easy to pour the ground spices in a bowl first, keeping the genera ratios of spices the same for each batch. Sometimes I might add more cinnamon if I feel like it, sometimes more cumin, etc. I’d say that I easily doubled the amount of spices called for in the original CI recipe, though.

Also not traditional, I add a bunch of frozen peas right at the end of cooking. I usually don’t make a side dish with this (besides some naan from Trader Joe’s), so I’d feel guilty if I didn’t some kind of veggie in there somewhere. Feel free to add some potatoes to this dish to stretch the chicken and make it a little more economical as well. I’ll do my best on the spice quantities, but since I don’t measure them, they’re just guestimations. Go by your taste and add more as you go along.

Chicken Tikka Masala

2 lbs chicken breasts of combo breasts and thighs
1 c plain yogurt
2 T fresh grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t cumin
1 t coriander
1/2 t cayenne

2 28-oz cans crushed tomatoes (I love Dei Fratelli)
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic
2 t fresh grated ginger
3-5 serrano chiles, chopped
~2 T coriander
~1 T cumin
~2 t cardamom
~1 t cinnamon or one cinnamon stick
~1/2 t black pepper
~1 t cayenne
~ 1/2 t tumeric
1 c heavy cream
12 oz frozen peas
cilantro, chopped, to taste

1. Cube chicken into large chunks and combine with other ingredients in a plastic bag. Marinate 1-2 hours.

2. Heat butter or olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions, chiles, garlic and ginger and saute until soft. Add dry spices and toast until fragrant, about 1 minute.

3. Add chicken to pan directly from marinade, letting excess drip off. Cook 7-9 minutes over medium, until browned in some spots, but without letting the spices burn. The yogurt will sort of caramelize and give a nice fond with the spices. The chicken will not be fully cooked.

4. Add tomatoes, stir well and simmer for 20 minutes over medium-low. Taste, season with salt and adjust other seasonings as you like.

5. Stir in cream, peas and cilantro. Bring back up to heat before serving over basmati rice and naan.

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Parmesan Pilaf


This is a recipe that was printed on the back of an Uncle’s Ben’s bag years ago. We used to eat it at my mom’s a lot, as it’s easy, fast, relatively inexpensive and good for you (perfect for weeknights!). They don’t make the Uncle Ben’s pilaf mix we used to use, but I just subbed regular white rice with some orzo pasta and it works well. I top mine with a ton of fresh lemon (or lime, if lemons are too expensive) because I’m a lemon freak and anything with broccoli gets doused in lemon.

I didn’t make this for NickĀ  because I figured he wouldn’t like it too much — too much broccoli and flavors that are too subtle. But surprisingly, he requests it now. The recipe as it is makes plenty of leftovers, which we love. You can easily halve the recipe if you want.

Parmesan Pilaf

1.5 lb chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
2 1/2 c long grain white rice
1/2 c orzo
6 c chicken broth
4 T (half stick) butter
6 garlic cloves, chopped
4 stalks fresh broccoli
2 handfuls grated parmesan

1. Brown the chicken in a Dutch oven or other pot with a tight fitting lid. Remove from pan.

2. Add butter and garlic over medium heat, saute for a minute until fragrant and butter is foamy. Add rice and toast in the pan for 4-5 minutes, until the grain obsorb the butter and turn nutty smelling.

3. Add the chicken broth and the reserved cooked chicken. Scrap the bottom of the pan to release the brown stuff (fond). Cover and cook for 12 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, chop your broccoli. I like somewhat large florets. I also peel the broccoli stems with a paring knife: slip the knife under the fibrous part of the peel, then hold it against the kinfe with your thumb and pull. It will peel off down the stem. The heart of the stems will be tender and lovely once cooked.

5. After 12 minutes of cooking, add the orzo to the pot and stir. Top with the broccoli, cover, and cook another 8-10 minutes. The broccoli will steam on top of the rice.

6. When rice and broccoli are tender, turn heat off and stir in parmesan. Season with S+P.

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