Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Feeding the masses

Apologies for my long hiatus from the blog world. It's been a crazy few months here, as early spring probably is for most people. Birthdays, visitors from abroad, feeding an a**load of mouths (more on that later), exploring new avenues, etc, etc. I've also been feeling a massive computer burn-out. Having sat in front of a computer for 8 hours straight at the office, it's hard to turn one on again when I get home.

Well, I got an email from Carmen today asking, "Are you still at RestoX?" Yes, I'm still there, and it's been better than ever. I've been taking notes in "analog mode," as G. calls it, on my nifty little Moleskine reporter notebook, and I'm planning some future posts.

In the meantime, I wanted to share a few recipes with you. We feed about 70 church members every few months, with various groups taking turns each week. Our group was up a few weeks ago, and I was the organizer this time. It felt a bit like a Top Chef challenge, with a budget of $200, using only organic ingredients, and catering to older Korean palates. Ugh. Not fun. Older Koreans tend not to be very adventurous, and if you serve anything besides a garlic and hot pepper-laden dish, they'll complain. We also have to provide big vats of kimchi on the side, even if it's with spaghetti.

I decided on a risky chicken tikka masala - risky because a lot of people have told me Koreans don't like Indian spices. I personally love Indian food because I partly grew up on it at M's house. So strangely enough, it's my comfort food. Chicken tikka isn't real Indian but rather Anglo-Indian, created in England, and I've yet to meet anyone who doesn't like it. I did some poking around on the web for a good recipe, and came upon one from Cook's Illustrated. It's so simple, filling, delicious and cheap to make. Best of all for us, zero complaints.

Some notes and tweaks to the recipe: The chicken marinated this way makes it flavorful and tender. If you want it extra-tender, you can give it a long, sensual massage like one of our cooks did. It was a big gross to watch, but the chicken was damn good. I also decided to half the amount of chicken called for here because Koreans are more interested in the sauce than the meat, and I found it to be more than enough chicken. To add some bulk, I roasted some cauliflower with garlic and tossed that in along with some frozen peas for color.

We also served a salad with a nice three-citrus vinaigrette that was so good that several people asked for the recipe. A chef friend gave it to me, and I adjusted the ingredients a bit to fit the Indian theme better. For example, the original recipe calls for some garlic and soy sauce. I omitted these and added in some chopped cilantro and honey since Koreans tend to like anything sweet. I'm telling you - it's SO good.

Oh, and if any of you need these recipes calculated for 100 people, just let me know. ;-)

Chicken Tikka Masala
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated
This dish is best when prepared with whole-milk yogurt, but low-fat yogurt can be substituted. For a spicier dish, do not remove the ribs and seeds from the chile. If you prefer, substitute 2 teaspoons ground coriander, 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper for the garam masala. The sauce can be made ahead, refrigerated for up to 4 days in an airtight container, and gently reheated before adding the hot chicken.
Serves 6 to 8

Chicken Marinade
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon table salt
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts , trimmed of fat and cut into 3/4" cubes
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (see note above)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

Masala Sauce
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion , diced fine (about 1 1/4 cups)
2 medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 fresh serrano chile , ribs and seeds removed, flesh minced (see note above)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon garam masala (see note above)
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1. FOR THE CHICKEN: Combine cumin, coriander, cayenne, and salt in small bowl. Sprinkle both sides of chicken with spice mixture, pressing gently so mixture adheres. Place chicken on plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes. In large bowl, whisk together yogurt, oil, garlic, and ginger; set aside.

2. FOR THE SAUCE: Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until light golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, chile, tomato paste, and garam masala; cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, sugar, and salt; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in cream and return to simmer. Remove pan from heat and cover to keep warm.

3. While sauce simmers, adjust oven rack to upper-middle position (about 6 inches from heating element) and heat broiler. Cover chicken well with yogurt mixture and arrange on wire rack set in foil-lined rimmed baking sheet or broiler pan. Broil chicken until tender and exterior is lightly charred in spots, 10 to 18 minutes.

4. Let chicken rest 5 minutes, then stir into warm sauce (do not cook chicken in sauce). Adjust seasoning with salt, add in cilantro if desired, and serve with basmati rice.

Three-citrus vinaigrette
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Zest and juice of 1 orange
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon of fresh ginger, rough-cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
1 cup grapeseed oil (or other neutral-flavored oil)
1/4 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
Fresh-ground pepper
Chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Emulsify all ingredients in a blender and season with more salt and pepper as needed. Makes about 2 cups.


Erin said...

I made this for dinner tonight, and it was really tasty! I added snap peas, since we had them in the freezer, and we used pita bread to get all the sauce. Thanks for the recipe! You have a great blog!

Undercover Cook said...

Hey Erin, you're very welcome. So glad to hear you enjoyed it. Just curious - the serrano peppers: seeds or no seeds? Also, how did you come upon my blog? Thanks for stopping by.

Erin said...

I did the pepper w/o seeds, and I actually didn't use the whole pepper. I"m kind of a spice wimp, but next time I will do the full pepper.

I found your blog through the Perfect Pantry blog, when she showed off your pantry this weekend. Good publicity, huh?

I'm about to post about this dish on my blog, so check it out if you get a chance!