Last weekend a friend of mine (hi E!) came over for dinner. The plan was to cook some Indian dishes together so she could learn some new things about preparing Indian food. Unfortunately, I think I am about the worst person to learn from in the kitchen. I could never have my own cooking show (as much as I like to pretend that I already do) because I rarely have any idea what I'm doing. Mostly, I just add ingredients and taste along the way. I never make a dish without tasting it about a gazillion times in the process. I never make one of those meals where you have the first bite and say "WOW. I can't believe this is so good." Because before I sit down to eat, I already know how good it is or how much it sucks. Of course, this is definitely not true for baking. But that's another story.
Since I'm pretty sure that E learned nothing from our cooking "class", I am dedicating this post to her -- complete with actual recipes for some of the dishes we made.
The first recipe is for Chicken Makhani - a popular north Indian dish of chicken cooked in a creamy tomato sauce. Traditionally this dish is rather artery-clogging, so I lighten it up a bit by using milk and yogurt to replace most of the cream. I also made a vegetarian version for myself, using chickpeas instead of chicken - chickPEAS, chickEn - they're practically the same thing, no?
*1 Tb butter
*1 Tb olive oil
*2 lbs, boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed (see below for vegetarian version)**
*1 onion, sliced
*4 cloves garlic, chopped
*1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
*1 tablespoon cumin
*1 teaspoon coriander
*2 teaspoons paprika
*1 teaspoon garam masala (how to make your own)
*2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
*2 cups tomato puree
*2 Tablespoons milk
*1/4 cup plain yogurt
*1 tablespoon heavy cream
*1 or 2 dried chili peppers (optional)
*1 tablespoon sugar
*salt, to taste
1. In a large pan, melt the butter and heat the oil. Add onions and cook until slightly softened.
2. Add the chicken and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, paprika, garam masala, and crushed red pepper, and continue cooking chicken until outsides are browned (chicken will finish cooking later in the sauce). Remove just the chicken pieces from pan (LEAVE onions, garlic, and spices).
3. In the same pan, add tomato puree, milk, yogurt, and cream. Cook over low-medium heat for about 5 minutes. Return chicken back to pan along with the dried chilis, sugar, and 1-2 teaspoons of salt. Cook for an additional 8-10 minutes until chicken is completely cooked.
**For vegetarian version, substitute chicken with 2-3 cups (depending on how saucy you like it) cooked chickpeas. Follow step 1 above. Add garlic, ginger, and all spices. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Follow step 3 above adding the chickpeas instead of chicken.