Impressive Indian Fare

This is an excerpt from the book I’m writing, which is called “The Entertaining Guy.” The basic premise is about a male that suddenly finds himself alone after a lengthy marriage or other kind of cohabitation, in which his contribution to the preparation of the nightly meals consisted of putting the napkins and silverware on the TV trays, or maybe burning an occasional steak on the barbeque. And that’s all the teaser details you get for now!

This comes from a chapter called “Party of Four,” where our slowly evolving home chef decides to put on something of an exotic meal, much to the delight of his unsuspecting guests.

These two recipes were originally from “The Book of Curries and Indian Foods” by Linda Fraser, but of course as always, I took some liberties with them. Excellent book, small footprint, highly recommended for your cookbook collection (unless of course you don’t like Indian food of any kind, then you’d be wasting your money!). In it, you’ll find a huge array of menus and preparation tips for a wonderful style of food that runs the gamut of simple to very complex, fairly bland to extremely spicy, yet always exotic and a consistent crowd pleaser. You’ll find recipes for all things vegetarian, rice and lentil dishes, fish, chicken, lamb, and yes … even a few beef dishes.

She also goes into the various spice combinations, some of which you’ll need to assemble yourself, and others that can be purchased off the shelf. Unless your spice cabinet looks like mine (and I’m a nutcase and should seek professional help for this illness), shopping for Indian spices can be a challenge. Depending on where you live and what kind of stores you have access to, you’ll likely need to do some searching. I’m writing this in the Silicon Valley (south of San Francisco), and it’s a melting pot for literally every culture imaginable. While you likely won’t find anything more exotic than a basic curry powder at your local Safeway, a visit to any middle eastern grocery will provide you with a much broader selection. And most of the spices are readily available at Cost Plus / World Market. I picked up several of them from our local World Market in Bend, Oregon, which is not a culturally diverse area at all. The dishes below require a few items that likely aren’t in your spice cupboard. If they are, you’re probably already using them and you don’t need me to tell you where to buy them!

Traditional tandoori chicken is cooked in a tandoor, which is an Indian clay oven that’s rarely found in residential homes, unless you’re genuinely serious about your Indian cooking. Tandoori ovens provide very high, dry heat, and they’re commonly fueled by charcoals that line the bottom of the clay vessel. Temeratures on the bottom of the tandoor can reach 900 degrees, meaning that most foods cooked in such an oven develop a very crisp outer layer without sacrificing the moisture on the inside. Great technique, but you’ll likely want to cook yours in the oven or on the barbeque, both of which work great. You can use a whole cut-up chicken or various combinations of chicken pieces, but I’d recommend whole chicken pieces, versus boneless skinless cuts. Part of the attraction is the crispy skin, combined with the rich flavor of the marinade’s spices and other ingredients.

The prep time for the chicken is under 30 minutes, but it needs to be refrigerated between 4 hours and overnight. Cooking time for the chicken is about 45 minutes, the vegetables about 30 minutes in total. Serves four, comfortably.

Tandoori Chicken

Ingredients:

  • Whole cut-up chicken (3-4 pounds)
  • 1/4 cup of fresh or bottled lime juice
  • Salt
  • 1 small yellow onion, peeled, quartered
  • 1 tablespoon of Tandoori Masala (Cumin, coriander and cayenne. Punjab Red Tandoori also works, and is available at Cost Plus / World Market)
  • 1 tablespoon of Garam Masala (Ground cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, ground cloves, cumin and coriander. Also available at Cost Plus / World Market)
  • 1 inch piece of peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 1/4 cups of plain, unflavored yogurt
  • Handful of chopped fresh cilantro and lemon wedges for garnish
Technique:
  • Assuming you’re using a cut up whole chicken, start by laying the pieces out, skin-side up on a non-metal plate or semi-flat large bowl
  • Drizzle the lime juice over the chicken pieces, sprinkle with salt
  • Place the onion, ginger, garam and tandoori masala, and yogurt in a blender or food processor and pulse to a smooth mixture
  • Pour over the chicken, mix well so all the pieces are coated, cover with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours, up to overnight
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  • Shake the excess marinade from the chicken pieces, and place skin side up on a grilling rack on a cookie sheet, lined with aluminum foil
  • Cook at 400 degrees for approximately 45 minutes. Internal temperature should read 165 degrees with an instant-read thermometer
  • Can be served with a rice dish or the vegetable dish below
  • Garnish with cilantro and lemon wedges

Mixed Vegetable Curry

Ingredients:
  • 3 tablespoons of vegetable / canola oil
  • 1 yellow onion, quartered, sliced thin
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of generic chile powder (light or dark)
  • 2 teaspoons of ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric (both available at most grocery stores)
  • 4-5 yellow or Yukon Gold potatoes (don’t peel), cut into 1-2 inch cubes
  • 2-3 carrots, peeled, angle cut into 1″ pieces
  • Half pound of fresh green beans, ends trimmed, cut into thirds
  • 4 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
Technique:
  • Heat the oil over medium high heat, sweat the onions, stirring occasionally, until translucent
  • Add the cumin, chile powder, coriander, and turmeric and stir thoroughly
  • Add the potatoes, beans, and carrots, stir to coat
  • Add the tomatoes and chicken stock, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer
  • Cook approximately 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until all the vegetables are tender
Serve the chicken and vegetables with some warm naan (Indian flatbread, available in the bread section of most markets). Best choice in a wine is a spicy zinfandel or pinot noir. If you happen to be in posession of a Zin Alley zinfandel from Paso Robles, this is the time to open it.

This is the kind of meal that will get you “ooohs and aaahs” from your unsuspecting guests, particularly the ones who didn’t know you could cook anything more complicated than a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. It’s not particularly difficult to prepare, and the spices will add an incredible exotic aroma to your home. Be brave — give it a try!

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3 comments so far

  1. Pink Chair Ponderings on

    I love the premise! Excited to see what else you serve up! LOL! Just caught site of a calorie counter on the right…interesting…don't want one…do enough self-flicted criticism…love ya! Send more please!!! Hungry for your writing…

  2. Tasty Eats At Home on

    I love indian spices – this dish sounds delicious.

  3. www.dhaleb.com on

    I've been entertaining the idea of making Indian food (I've never done it before) but I've always been intimidated. But your tandoori chicken looks tempting enough for me to finally give it a shot!


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