Monday, September 6, 2010

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala is the most definitive Indian dish you can think of, and in my opinion one of the best.  It is the UK's national dish, and you can find it in any food town.  Of course I lack a traditional tandoor, and perhaps the "authentic" flavor one grows up with in an Indian household, but having an Indian girlfriend does help.

Indian food is known for its abundance of spices, and it is this complexity of flavor that people love, but detest learning about.  Tumeric, garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, sweet, savory, sour, spicy....the adjectives are never ending....this is what deters many from cooking Indian food at home.  After many months of studying what ingredients go into this dish, watching Indian moms on youtube with their litanies of ingredients and overly zealous self adulations, and a plethora of food shows that show travels to India with a skewed perspective on life, I am still learning what it takes to make this dish right.

Establishing base flavors is essential in Indian cooking, often starting with browned off onions and ginger and garlic paste.  Creating or using your own masala (mixture of spices) is something everybody customizes to their tastes.  Tikka Masala is often defined by its tomato base, and orange cream like consistency.  An actual recipe for this if often hard, since a lot of techniques are simplified visually, since recipes usually do not capture the nuances of the cooking.

After all said and done, Tikka Masala is accompanied with basmati rice, tomatoes on the side, a topping of fresh cilantro, and of course ghee (clarified butter).  One bowl later, and few hundred exclamations of satisfaction, you will have experienced the savory, spicy, tomato creamy goodness of Chicken Tikka Masala.

No need to renew your passport, be adventurous, and try it out at home....and if you fail, just go to your local Indian restaurant and enjoy!


Croissant Bread Pudding

If you're looking for something sweet, this has to hit the spot.  If you love croissants, and you love a rich custard, then it's safe to say, you're going to love croissant bread pudding!

Low and slow is a great way to create this scrumptious dish, since you want the custard to cook evenly and slowly without drying out, and have the croissants crisp up to unleash their buttery goodness, without burning the tops.

Start with making the custard, which includes whole eggs, egg yolks, sugar, and some vanilla extract.  Rip up with your hands the croissants, and place them in the ramekin (they can be a few days old, since this will help the custard absorb the custard better).  Fill ramekins about 3/4 of the way up, and allow croissant to absorb the custard for at least 10 minutes.  Top off the ramekins again with the extra filling, and cover with aluminum foil.  Place ramekins into a pan and use the water bath method, pouring boiling water half way up the level of the ramekins.  Bake in preheated 350F oven covered for 25-30 minutes, then uncover and bake for another 30 minutes till custard has set and tops are crunchy.

In the end you will be left with a buttery and crunchy croissant topping, with a rich, but not overly sweet custard, that will give you not only a satisfying dessert, but an experience that will change your perception of bread pudding!  Make a few extra for yourself, because you can, and you will be thanking me later!