Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
It took a couple of days to actually produce the first recipes from my new gospel that is the Cooks Illustrated Cookbook, but it was well worth the effort. I get so much pleasure from just reading it...especially the cooking tips. One of my favorites so far is about cooking with vodka. Does high end over low make a difference? They compared Grey Goose to the cheapest vodka they found. If you buy cheap vodka and filter it through your Brita 4 times it makes no difference in a cooked dish. Love it!
Chicken Tikka Masala with Basmati Rice Pilaf? so good it was dinner last night and breakfast this morning. Hell! what's not to love about spicy tomato sauce, heavy cream and big chunks of charred yogurt crusted chicken breast? Besides I just love saying "Chicken Tikka Masala!"
I could eat this 'til I'm sick and no doubt will. Another tip, (I did not come across it until after the chicken was done...sigh) is: cream based tomato sauces don't freeze well. I should try it anyway.
I begin in my comfort zone: Basmati Rice Pilaf which I did the other morning before work. I love having flavorful rices and farro around and I make large batches of  pilaf that last for a few days. I've been testing out my new Penzeys curry spices on brown basmati rice, by simply stirring the spice into onions and garlic sauteeing in hot oil, then stirring in the rice and toasting that up a bit, then pouring in hot water with vegetarian chicken seasoning then letting it all cook out. Pilafs finishing in the slow cooker are a fantastic thing to come home to in the evening. I'm ALWAYS surprised when I do this. I walk in my front door and I'm like "what the hell? Honey?" then I realize that I am my own honey.
I had an old bag of Basmati Rice Medley from Trader Joes. It's purdy. Whole spices are tossed around in a pan of hot oil ( a cinnamon stick, green cardamom pods and whole cloves) then, the rice is tossed in, stirred around a bit, covered with water (I really want to use a chicken seasoning here but refrain myself from these impulses the first time out with a recipe-especially from a source I revere) and cooked on the stovetop. 
Yesterday morning I coated 4 trimmed chicken breasts in a spice rub and left them refrigerated all day. I also made up the sauce just until the point the cream is added and left that in the fridge 'til I got home. When I got home I reheated the sauce, coated the whole chicken breasts in a thick mixture of oil, garlic, ginger and yogurt and popped them in the broiler. CI says this keeps the breasts moist. Into the tomato sauce mixture, I stirred in  the whole 8oz. carton of heavy cream (the recipe called for 2/3 c.-my only deviation from the gospel of CI-oh that, and I forgot to add the cilantro at the end and that really pisses me of since I had it in the fridge and I'm ALWAYS dumping dead cilantro) brought it just to the simmer and took it off the heat. The chicken was cut to 1" cubes then tossed into the sauce. Dish it up and bask in all of its glory.
This is really one of the best dishes I've made in the last year.
Cooks Illustrated Cookbook: 2 for 2!

Mise en Place: Chicken Tikka Masala

A few days ago I stumbled upon a cute blog called The Art of Doing Stuff. The minute I saw her pic depicting her white prep dishes, I dashed off to my local chinese restaurant supply and picked these up for 2 bucks each.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

2000 recipes

A new cookbook, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
I usually don't get all that excited by book signings, even when Anthony Bourdain was in town awhile back and  I LOVE that man.
But when my America's Test Kitchen feed on facebook announced that Chris Kimball would be in town today...I mean, how could I not go. I don't have to buy a book, I told myself. I've resisted the 70% off offers that I get through my ATK newsletters every week. I swore off buying any more cookbooks. I didn't even know there was a new cookbook. Well, it goes without saying, I've got a new cookbook...an 875 page behemouth of a cookbook. A $40, full on retail paid, cookbook. 2000 recipes from the best of Cooks Illustrated Magazine. But it's signed...to me "To Michele, nice to meet you, Chris Kimball" Nuthin' wrong with that.
Questions asked at the book signing:
What is the recipe that has given ATK the most trouble? Fudge! What recipe is the test of a good cook? Apple pie.
 I'm not gonna go all Julie/Julia on this but I best get crackin'.
In continuing with my Indian curry obsession, I'll be making Chicken Tikka Masala tonight (which as it turns out is not an authentic Indian recipe, but originated in a London curry house). I love this book already;-)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

pottin' some pies

Pottin' some pies, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
These little dishes of stewiness are on their way to chicken pot pie nirvana.  This one features a tandoori twist, in keeping with my current curry fixation.
I roasted a chicken the other night...for the sole purpose of conjuring up some new leftover ideas. I made an Apple Quinoa Salad with Curry Dressing that turned out pretty great. Problem was I never got a chance to eat it (thanks to some clean freak at work), but those few tastes were nice.
I never got around to making the curry chicken salad I had spent days searching and bookmarking. Suddenly I fixated on the idea of a Tandoori Chicken Pot Pie.
I start by cleaning out the fridge of anything teetering on the edge...leeks, asparagus, fennel, zucchini...then adding potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and garlic cloves (skins on). Chop everything (except garlic) to a large dice and toss it with salt, pepper and olive oil. Spread out on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes toss and bake for 10 minutes more. The crucial thing is to NOT crowd the veg or else it'll all just steam, not brown. I always have a ton of veg to use up so I end up having to roast in batches. Yeah, it takes forever. While the roasting is finishing up, I start the sauteed stuff.
Into the hot dutch oven goes about 2 tablespoons of coconut oil (olive oil is fine too) let it melt and get hot (oil ripples in the pot) then toss in a cup of diced onion...today it was a leftover half of a large red onion and a similarly fated half of a yellow onion...why did I have 2 old onion halves in the fridge door? who knows? Then I stirred in 2 teaspoons of minced ginger, the roasted garlic (skins removed) and a teaspoon each of Penzey's tandoori seasoning and a garam masala mix I got from Haig's Delicacies a while back. Then I toss in the roasted veg and stir that around a bit. I probably could have used 2 teaspoons of each spice mix since there was soooo much veg but in the end the stew tasted really nice.
Next goes the 4 cups of chicken stock I made with my roasted chicken carcass the night I roasted the chicken:-) I'd refrigerated it so it was pretty gelatinous...I nuked it for 2 minutes before tossing it in the pot.
Then the diced and shredded chicken goes in (I'm not a fan of dark meat so when I carve the roasted chicken and remove the breast meat for chicken salad sandwiches and other salads, I shred the remaining meat off the bone and save it for exactly this purpose-it's usually about 2 cups of chicken-my ratio of veg to chicken ends up being about 3 to 1.
I then toss in a cup each of frozen corn and frozen peas...let that heat up a minute or two then add 1/3 cup of dry vermouth. Let that cook out a bit 3-5 minutes. Lower the heat to medium low and while that's cooking, in a small non-stick pot, melt two tablespoons of butter then add two tablespoons of flour...this is called a roux and it's purpose is to thicken the stew. Stir it about for a minute to cook the flour, then scrape it into the stew.
Stir that around a bit and you'll notice that everything starts to thicken. Turn off the heat.
The last step is to add the creaminess. This can be done with a cup of heavy cream or sour cream. I like to use greek yogurt or strain the whey out of non-fat yogurt. This time I added the last bit (about a 1/4 cup) of apricot chutney, a jarred preserve I picked up from Casa de Fruta a while back, to my strained non-fat yogurt  and stirred that around for a bit and then added it to the pot.
Seriously, this was off-the-charts good.
The topping will be herb biscuit crust...or maybe it'll be polenta, that I dollop on top with a small ice cream/portion scoop and bake for 30 minutes until the biscuit topping is golden brown. Let it rest for 10 minutes then serve.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Naan, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
ok...so I made the naan last night. Easy, just like pizza dough in the food processor. I think I rolled them out too thin though, they look like grilled tortillas, but they were pretty good even the next day. I brought them to work and even though fresh hot tortillas were ready and waiting I ate my homemade naan for lunch today with the chana masala and Chevy's mexican rice. It was gooooood!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

chana masala~the latest from an ADD-led brain

chana masala, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
The other day I was noodling around the food blogosphere and came upon a recipe for an apple quinoa salad with a curry dressing. It looked inspiring as I had 2 apples left over from my galette and everything but the curry. No worries, I say to myself, this would be pretty awesome with a honey mustard. I didn't make that.
My ADD & OCD kicked in simultaneously and I'm suddenly obsessed with curry, which is just damned freakish because I don't even know if I like curry. I've dined out at my neighborhood India Clay Oven exactly twice in the ten years I've lived all of 10 blocks from the place. In spite of its remarkable under $10 all-you-can-eat buffet lunch, I didn't find the food all that remarkable. It was fine. Given a choice, I tend to go Chinese when I'm looking for a quick inexpensive meal out.
Remembering that I'd be needing to make a trip to Menlo Park for costume related business, visions of Penzey's danced in my head. Curry? you ask? I didn't know there were that many curries outside of India or an Indian market. They've got 9 different curries. I ended up with Sweet Curry Powder and a Tandoori Seasoning. I already had an unopened bag of Garam Masala, purchased earlier this year with no purpose or plan.
I spent the hour train ride home on my netbook searching for curry recipes, none of which I found inspiring. I should have known better and started with Smitten Kitchen. You'll note that I have still not made that Apple Quinoa Salad with the Curry Dressing that set this whole business in motion to begin with. Those apples will no doubt shrivel up and die right in front of me. As soon as I got home I decided to make a simple rice curry to test out the flavor. I sauteed some garlic and onions in olive oil, added a tablespoon of the sweet curry powder and a cup of Trader Joes brown basmati rice, stirred that up in the skillet for a bit and then transferred it to the slow cooker with vegetarian chicken seasoning and water. Then I went out for a margarita and a trip to Fresh & Easy, my new favorite grocery store.
Anyhoo, SK has a handful of Indian recipes and each one inspires. I started with this Chana Masala, knowing that I had a couple of cans of garbanzo beans in the pantry. I picked up some dried chick peas on my way home from the train station anyway and threw them in the slow cooker before I went to bed. They were perfect this morning. I'd roasted three pounds of tomatoes last night, planning to make soup but they got diverted here.
So this was what I whipped up for breakfast. Curried rice with Chana Masala and a poached egg on top! It's been cooking around in my ADD-led brain for days now.
I just had it again for lunch and I bet it'll be tasty in a breakfast tacodilla tomorrow.

Note to self: Naan?

Monday, October 10, 2011

a typical breakfast

Breakfast, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
Never mind the dirty counter top okay?!? here's what's up...for the past few weeks, I've been lamenting the loss of my kitchen mojo. Upon reflection, it's been more like a pause in my kitchen ADD, that constant desire to find the next best recipe. I flip through my cookbooks with less enthusiasm and without my colored post its...soooo unlike me! I spend a little less time perusing my favorite foodie blogs but I also spend less time trashing my kitchen. Correction: the kitchen usually remains trashed from the two or three days of depositing dirty dishes all over the counter top and leaving them alone.  Yeah...I do that. A lot.
This morning started along a similar path. I got out of bed much later than usual, I do that a lot too, seemingly totally un-motivated by coffee, fresh and ready, down the street at my local cafe. I eventually made it down there, but it left me prescious little time to get back home and ready for work. I could have had a nicely loaded bagel with my coffee and contemplated it several times but here's what I did instead, after heading back home:
I heated up the last of a pre-cooked batch of buttery, cheesy polenta (I cook up a big pot that lasts a few days, I then heated up the last bit of charred corn and made my tacodillas (corn, caramelized onions, roasted peppers and whatever cheese I have, usually goat cheese). I had a breakfast that was better than anything I could have had at any restaurant and it didn't require much effort.
There are so many little things I've learned in my year of cooking. I love love love polenta. Comfort food that rivals the best mac 'n cheese. Then there's the beauty of caramelization. Onions that can just be left alone over a low flame for an hour or so. Roasted  peppers... just a few minutes in the broiler result in what has become one of my refrigerator staples. Slow roasted tomatoes. Crazy good. Very little prep time and slow cooking tranforms simple and inexpensive vegetables into bliss.
There's a new supermarket in the neighborhood called Fresh and Easy. I've grown to love it. They have a clearance area where things are at their sell by date. Yesterday I hit the motherlode purchasing several two-packs of a red and yellow pepper for .50 cents (which I immediately roasted), a fennel bulb for .30 cents and 3-pack of heirloom tomatoes for .30 cents.
Shaved Fennel Salad for lunch today;-)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

an apple galette and reclaiming my comfort zone

Apple Galette, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
September was not a productive month in the little kitchen. Other artistic endeavors aside, I've had a hard time getting my kitchen mojo back. Several weeks ago two things occurred somewhat simultaneously that yanked me out of my kitchen and my comfort zone and denying me of my much coveted, sanity restoring, sleep.
When I'm not trashing my kitchen or mixing up margaritas at work, I can be found rummaging through the many vintage, thrift, discount and fabric shops throughout San Francisco and the peninsula, foraging through the costume rental warehouses at A.C.T. or TheatreWorks in a mad dash to acquire all things necessary to costume the occasional stage production.
This past weekend I opened a production of Cabaret, to great reviews. It involved a lot of very long days and very short  (on sleep) nights. The stress of pushing toward a deadline seems to have collided in full-force with off-the-chart hormonal imbalances aka menopause,  that has separated me from my comfort zone.  
I'm attempting to get my toe in the zone here with this Apple Galette. I've been wanting to make a galette for ages. I've always been attracted to the simplicity of this free-form tart. Fortunately I don't have to look too far for inspiration...I got the recipe from Smitten Kitchen (natch!). She calls it a Simple Apple Tart (she builds hers in a tart pan). She also instructs the galette approach which simply requires you to roll the dough out into a 14" round, transfer it onto a piece of parchement on a baking sheet or slide the parchment onto a pizza stone (that's what I did), tile your sliced apples in a circle starting two inches in from the edge and filling in to the center and then folding the dough over the edge and pinching tucks every couple of inches. The recipe didn't call for any cinnamon so I didn't use any. That was tough 'cuz I really really had to resist grabbing that little jar of Extra Fancy Vietnamese Cinnamon I coveted from Penzeys...sigh...so as instructed I sprinked a coarse sugar over the whole thing. She also instructs to save the peel and cores and cook them with water and sugar to make a syrup which gets brushed over the top after the galette is baked. 
This really couldn't have been simpler. I love the apple pie comfort. It makes a great dessert with a little vanilla ice cream. I brought some to work for a breakfasty snack. I used golden delicious apples which were recommended and clearly for a reason. I was expecting some sogginess and there was none.
I'm comfortable with this.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

ready for roasting

Tomatoes ready for roasting, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.

The little kitchen has been sadly neglected these several weeks, but for the sake of art. Even in the midst of the insanity and sleep deprivation that has invaded my life and body lately, I feel like I need my kitchen more than ever.
Smitten Kitchen posted a recipe for Roasted Tomato Soup a little over a week ago and I'd find myself from time to time, thinking about this damn soup.
What's remarkable about this is that the soup is finished under a broiler like a French Onion Soup...in an oven-safe bowl with a toasted chunk of french bread and a topping of shredded cheddar cheese.
I roasted the tomatoes last night with generous slather of Magic Sauce from 101 Cookbooks. Magic Sauce is an herb infused olive oil featuring sweet paprika, hence the orange sheen on the tomatoes.
I made the soup in a mad dash this morning but it got a little burnt under the broiler so I'll try it again tonight.