Chicken Tikka Masala

FullSizeRenderFans of Indian food will love this smokey chicken dish, layered with rich spices in a creamy tomato sauce. My son Justin had been hinting that I try a curry dish sometime, but then he got bold and Facebooked me this recipe for Turkey Tikka Masala from The New York Times. It’s a dish that uses leftover Thanksgiving turkey, so I thought I’d give it a whirl. When I realized I didn’t have enough leftover turkey to do the dish, I opted to use fresh boneless, skinless chicken thighs. I had my husband Rich grill them on his Big Green Egg to get that Tandoor-tender treatment. This dish was utterly amazing, and that’s an understatement.

We’ve often wondered why all these Indian dishes that taste so similar have vastly different names, so I did a little research. Apparently, the names differ depending on the region, so a “rogan josh” can taste the same as a “marsala” as they use the same ingredients. “Tikka” refers to chicken cooked in the Tandoor (a cylindrical clay oven), and “marsala” is a sauce made with tomatoes and onions OR a mixture of spices, depending on your source of information. 

And what exactly is garam masala, other than a spice required in Indian recipes that you don’t have on hand? It’s a mix of peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves, mace, cardamom, bay leaves, and cumin—and is sometimes referred to as a “curry.” An Indian curry stew is usually a blend of coriander, cumin, and turmeric, and sometimes chili peppers. There’s no curry powder actually in curries. Curry is a word invented for the British or by the British to describe the delicious stews they “discovered” during their colonization of India.

But enough with the history lesson! Back to the food! I did a few things differently than the original recipe—like I didn’t puree the sauce, and I used half and half, instead of heavy cream. My other adjustments to process and ingredients are reflected below.

Serves 6

For Meat Marinade

2 teaspoons garam masala
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon smoked Spanish paprika
4 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon sea salt
6 cloves garlic, finely grated
4 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
1 cup plain Greek-style yogurt
1¾ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

For Marsala Sauce

4 tablespoons ghee, divided
1 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon cardamom
1-2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon garam masala
1½ teaspoons sea salt
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, minced or finely grated
1 serrano pepper, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
2 cups half and half
¾ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
Juice of 1 small lemon (optional)

3 cups cooked basmati or jasmine rice

To make the marinade: Combine the garam masala, coriander, cumin, paprika, turmeric, salt, garlic, ginger, and yogurt in a bowl and stir. Add chicken thighs and toss to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

To make the masala: Add 3 tablespoons of the ghee to a Dutch oven set on medium-high heat. Add onion, cardamom, bay leaf (or leaves), paprika, pepper flakes, garam masala and salt. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are golden and tender, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Make space among onions in center of pot, and add the remaining 1 tablespoon ghee. When ghee has melted, add ginger, garlic, and serrano pepper, and sizzle for about 10 seconds. Stir into the onions. Stir in tomato paste, then add tomatoes and juice from the can, crushing tomatoes with your hands as you add them. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, until the liquid is almost gone, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Add cream and chopped cilantro to the pot. Taste and add salt if needed. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens, about 40 minutes. *

While sauce is cooking, grill chicken until done, and no pink remains in center. Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces. Stir into masala sauce, and serve over cooked rice. (If adding lemon juice, stir in just before serving. I forgot the lemon, and did not think it needed it!)

*NOTE: The original recipe called for pureeing the sauce in a blender at this point, before adding the chicken in. I thought that was an unnecessary step, but might try that next time I make this so the sauce is creamier. And there will be a next time for this tasty dish!

Roasted Beets, Shallots, and Feta Winter Salad

FullSizeRenderThere’s something autumnal about this salad with roasted beets, shallots, and leeks that makes it perfect cold weather fare. I made this one up for my friends Marylee and Marcella, to serve the day after Thanksgiving when I did NOT want to do turkey soup or a mashed potatoes and gravy repeat. Tired of multiple treks to the grocery store prior to Thanksgiving, I wanted to work with what was in my frig. Since I had the shallots and leeks on hand, I thought I’d see how they paired with cooked beets. The nuttiness of the shallots and mildness of the leeks worked really well as compliments to the beets, and the crunch of walnuts and tang of feta rounded out the flavors really well. I whisked up a dressing of balsamic vinegar with a touch of Dijon, and we all dubbed this delicious salad a wintertime winner. 

Follow the directions below to roast and peel the beets with minimal mess. I served the salad pictured here as a side to leftover sweet potatoes and turkey. I put the warm, cooked beets right on the salad, drizzled the dressing, and we gobbled it up (Thanksgiving pun intended!). But I had a leftover beet that I refrigerated, and the next day I made this salad for lunch with the cold beet. It was just as good cold as warm, so do whatever is easiest for you!

Makes 4-6 salads

4-5 beets—cut off stems and tips of root
1 cup walnuts
3-4 shallots, chopped
2 leeks, with slices of white and light green parts only
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 cups spring greens mix
½-1 cup feta cheese *

For Dressing:
¼ cup olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (I used creamy, not coarse ground)
Dash each salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit. Scatter walnuts on baking sheet and pop in oven for 5-10 minutes or until they start to toast. Remove and let cool. Wrap each beat in a square of aluminum foil to cover, and place on a baking sheet. (May also want to cover baking sheet with foil to help with clean up, as beets will leek juice as they cook.) Bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, put on rubber gloves and peel off foil, then rub skins off of each beet with your thumbs, and discard skin. Place peeled beets in a bowl and keep handy for salad.

To make dressing, combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sugar, Dijon, salt and pepper in container with a lid and shake until all ingredients are incorporated. Set aside.

In frying pan set on medium-high heat, add shallots, leeks, and olive oil. Sauté and stir until golden brown. Set aside. Add a handful of mixed greens to individual plates (about 2 cups), and top each mound of greens with the cooked shallot mixture, dividing between salads. Chop each roasted beet into bite-sized cubes, and place 3/4 to 1 whole beet on top of each salad. Add toasted walnuts, and a sprinkle of feta cheese. Drizzle with dressing and serve.

*NOTE: You could also try this with blue cheese, but that might be a little too sharp for this salad. I was going to use the blue, but when I pulled my container from the frig, it was bluer—and fuzzier—than I think it was supposed to be. So we went with the feta instead. I’m pretty sure your cheese shouldn’t be fuzzy…

Smoky Chipotle Corn Chowder

FullSizeRenderSince it’s soup season, you’ll want to tag this smoky potato and corn chowder for a quick, light meal. Aside from the chipotle chili peppers, most of the ingredients may be kitchen staples for you, as they were for me. My friend Terri shared this with me a couple years ago, and I just got around to trying it for the first time. As I’ve gotten a lot of my soup recipes from restaurants (when I wrote for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and was requesting recipes for readers), they tend to yield mammoth portions, and you gotta be committed to eating said soup for an eternity! This one is a smaller scale recipe, perfect for about 6 tasty bowls.

My only recipe suggestion would be to add more cheese, so I upped the amount to ½ cup below. And you would think the peppers in this would give it quite a burn, but even my mild-mannered palette was not offended by the heat. It was barely noticeable, in fact! I am curious to see if the heat cranks up a notch as the soup sits in the frig—sometimes that happens with chili peppers. I’ll be sure to let you know.

Serves 6-8

2 tablespoons butter
1 bunch scallions (green onions), sliced
4 cups chopped red potatoes, with skin on
2 cups chicken broth
4 cups frozen corn (16 ounces) *
2 tablespoons dried cilantro (or use ¼ cup fresh, but then add with milk and cheese towards end of process)
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
½-1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
2 cups milk
½ cup shredded sharp white cheddar (or Monterey Jack cheese)
1/3 cup diced cooked ham **

Garnishes:
Fresh chopped cilantro
Chopped scallions

Melt butter in Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat. Sauté scallions for 1-2 minutes, then add potatoes and cook for additional 5 minutes, or until green onions and potatoes begin to brown. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, then add corn, cilantro, smoked paprika, salt, and chipotle peppers. Stir well, and cook for about 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Add the milk and cheese, and turn off heat. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.

Puree about 2 cups of the soup in a blender, and return to the pot. Heat to medium-low, and stir in ham. Serve with chopped fresh cilantro and green onions as garnishes, if desired.

*NOTE: I used a bag of frozen roasted corn from Trader Joe’s, and I would highly recommend it! I’ve seen the same thing at Cub foods, too, so look for the pre-roasted corn at your grocery store.

** Skip the ham for a vegetarian option. It really didn’t enhance the soup that much, so I don’t think it’s a completely necessary ingredient.

Fork, Knife, Spoon Table!

IMG_1193 IMG_1194OK, since all the election ads made it seem shameless self-promotion is not only allowed but encouraged, here I go.

My dear friend Nette gave me this paper runner on a roll after she spotted it at a little shop. She can’t remember WHAT shop, so sorry I can’t share that info with you, but I loved that she found a “fork, knife, spoon” thing and bought it for me! (My sister Judy also jumped on the band wagon, and sent me some mini utensils dangling from earrings, but those were too small to photograph well, so just use your imagination.) 

No recipe to share, just these pics of my table with my blog-themed runner! I paired it with dark gray bandanas from Walmart for napkins. (When I bought these, they were $1.99 a piece…) The napkin rings are pewter tea pots I got from Good Things in White Bear Lake many moons ago. The plates are rimmed in navy with a cream center. Simple, but clean and classic. Enjoy.