Hello again! Joe and I have had rough stomachs for a few days, so we haven't been doing much cooking. But I've been enjoying this experiment so much that I actually got a little twitchy after not cooking for a few days! I'm really finding it relaxing to cook-- I put on my apron and my music and just get into my "zone," you know? And I'm really becoming much more confident in the kitchen. I read a new recipe, in the New York Times or whatever, and I think "that would be easy." I'm more competent every week-- and it's such a gratifying skill to learn!
Anyway. On to dinner. I made this dish-- Butter Chicken, Chicken Makhni, or in Jaffrey's case, Chicken with Tomato Sauce and Butter, it seems to be pretty much the same dish wherever you go. This dish was popularized by a restaurant in Delhi called the Moti Mahal, which seems to be mentioned in just about every article about Indian food as it appears on non-Indian tables. Apparently the Moti Mahal introduced this dish in the eighties, and pretty much immediately went from being a no-name hole in the wall to being a famous, tourist-destination hole in the wall. That's exactly the sort of restaurant I seek out in New York City, so the Moti Mahal is definitely first on my list of things to do when I get to Delhi (whenever that will be). (On that note: if you're in New York, check out Fresh Dumpling in Chinatown, Kabob King in Jackson Heights, Jorge's in Ridgewood and Tacqueria la Fonda in Morningside Heights.)
This dish takes a while, but it's pretty simple. Indian mirepoix (onions, ginger, garlic) goes into the blender, along with lots of whole spices. There are several spices in the mix that are normally cooked whole and taken out-- bay leaves, red peppers, cinnamon sticks-- that are crumbled and put in the blender in this dish. Whole cloves, peppercorns and cardamom pods also go in. Blend all that into a paste.
Brown the chicken in the bottom of the stockpot. (You're supposed to use breasts and legs, but we used tenderloins from Trader Joe's, chopped into cubes.) Take out and set aside. Put the blender paste in and fry for 5 minutes. Add a pound of chopped/crushed tomatoes (we used canned organic tomatoes), half a cup of water and a teaspoon of salt. Boil, cover, simmer for half an hour, stirring periodically. Then add the chicken, simmer and stir periodically for another half an hour.
In the meantime, make your chapatis. I rolled them thinner than before, and they puffed up beautifully when Joe put them over the flame. He brushed them with butter (a bit too much, I think, given the buttery nature of the chicken dish) and kept them in foil.
When the second half hour of simmering is over, take 4 tablespoons of butter, cut into pats, take the pot off the heat and stir in the butter until it's melted. This changes the color of the sauce from red to orange, which is cool. Serve over rice, with chapatis. I had it with a Flying Fish Belgian Dubbel, 'cause that's just how I roll.
This was very tasty and very rich. Jaffrey has you put the spices whole into the blender, but I think next time I'll grind them with the mortar and pestle before I put them in. They didn't really break up in the blender, and we spent a lot of time trying not to bite into whole peppercorns. I probably could have gone heavier on the red chillies, as well. That, and not so much butter on the chapatis. But definitely a success.
Next up: masoor dal with assorted local mushrooms. Yum!