Tuesday, September 20, 2011

From East to West

I know it has been awhile since we posted… a lot is going on, but mostly, we’ve been working!  If you want to see the Urban Chef, he is now almost always at Thistle Hill Tavern, with the head chef opening a new restaurant in Lincoln Center, Indie Food & Wine, Jon has been running Thistle Hill Tavern on his own.  This has left little time for cooking… his diet has consisted mostly of ham and cheese or turkey and cheese sandwiches… (never fear, he is still taking the time to make his own mayo!).  So that leaves the cooking to me!  During the week, I have to admit, I usually just make something simple at home for myself (and he is happier with his sandwich).  But over the weekends, I’ve been trying to make some yummy dinner dishes for the Urban Chef to enjoy.  Also, since it’s starting to get cooler, I have been making dishes that evoke early fall.  Below, see the last two Sunday dinners I have made for the Urban Chef (and sometimes friends!)

The first is chicken tikka masala.  The Urban Chef loves anything spicy that he can put over rice, and I was inspired to use the garam masala spice I had just purchased the other week.  This recipe I adapted to be simple and use ingredients that most will have on-hand. 

WEEKEND #1—Indian Themed

Chicken Tikka Masala
1 hour 45min
Cooking time 30min, 1 hour marinate, 15 min prep.

1 t lemon juice
2 t ground cumin
1 t ground cinnamon
1 T cayenne pepper
1 T turmeric
2 t freshly ground black pepper
1 T cayenne pepper
1 T minced fresh ginger
1t garam masala
1 t paprika
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces

1 T butter
2 cloves of garlic
1 jalapeno pepper (more if you want it spicier)
2 t ground cumin
2 t paprika
2 t turmeric
1 T cayenne pepper
1 8oz can of tomato puree
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup fresh cilantro (for garnish, optional)

In a large bowl, combine marinade ingredients.  Stir in chicken, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat a cast iron skillet on high heat (5 min).  You want it really hot.  Put the chicken into the pan and grill for 5 min on a side (until the chicken is cooked through.  Remove from heat after cooked.

Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Sauté garlic and jalapeno for 1 minute. Season with the cumin, paprika, turmeric, cayenne pepper and salt.  Stir in tomato sauce and cream.  Simmer on low heat until sauce thickens, about 20 minutes, stirring often. Add grilled chicken and simmer for 10 more minutes. Transfer to a serving platter, and garnish with fresh cilantro.

Serve with rice. 

The urban chef ate this up, he actually told me to not eat any of the leftovers because he wanted them!!! He said I could have the eggplant curry (see below), ok honey, thank you!  He also made the chicken tikka masala into a sandwich one night, he thought that was fabulous as well.

Don’t know what to do with all that eggplant… I make spicy eggplant curry!  So savory and creamy, all the while being extremely healthy!  A great work lunch, pop it into the microwave with some rice.  Although your cube mates may not appreciate!

Baingan Bharta (eggplant curry)

1 Eggplant (should be big and fat)
2 medium size tomatoes
1/2 cup green chopped red bell pepper
2 green chilies
1/4 inch piece of ginger
3 T oil
1 t cumin
1 t coriander powder
1/2 t turmeric
1/2 t red chili
1 t garam masala
2 T chopped cilantro to garnish

Cook the whole eggplant (put it on a microwave safe dish) in microwave for 8 to 10 minutes until it is tender. If you are using an oven, preheat the oven at 400 degrees F and bake it for about 45 minutes turning the sides every fifteen minutes. Be sure to first put the eggplant in an oven safe shallow bowl or a cookie sheet.

Let it cool fully and peel off the skin then chop the eggplant in small pieces and keep aside.

Blend the tomatoes, ginger and green chili in a blender.  Chop the green pepper.

Heat the oil in a skillet on medium high and stir fry the bell pepper for about a minute.

Take out the bell pepper from pan and keep aside.

Use the same saucepan with remaining oil heat the oil little more. Test the heat by adding one cumin seed to the oil; if it cracks right away it is ready. Add cumin seed.

After cumin seeds crack (about 1 min), add tomato puree, coriander powder, turmeric, red chili, and salt and let it cook for a few minutes until tomato puree has started leaving the oil.

Add eggplant let it cook on medium heat keep stirring the eggplant and mashing the eggplant as it cooks.  You can stick it in a blender first while its cool if you want it really smooth, but I find it smashes fine. 

Cook for about 8 to 10 minutes.

Add bell pepper back, fresh cilantro, salt, and garam masala to the eggplant and mix it gently.  Enjoy!


For a day of football, I made an all-American dinner… Roast chicken with dirty mashed potatoes and sautéed string beans.  I bought a 5 and ½ lb chicken for 4 people and there was none left 30 min later!  We had the Urban Chef’s best friend Larry (our lawyer who helped us get our new place!  If you need a lawyer he is fantastic) and his lovely girlfriend Nana over for an afternoon of football and dinner.

I love roast chicken because it is so simple, yet incredibly satisfying and delicious.  Its one of my favorite go to’s!  So get out the roasting pan ladies and gents… its chicken time!

Simple Roast Chicken
Cooking time (15-20min per lb).  Check the chicken, it should be 165 degrees at the thickest part (thigh) when done.

 I prefer fresh herbs, but you can use dry.
2 T butter, softened.
4 springs rosemary (2 T)
4 springs thyme (2 T)
1T tarragon
1 T oregano
1 whole roaster chicken
1 onion
1 lemon

Preheat oven to 375.  Pull butter out to soften. Clean the chicken, take out the gizzards, and wash the chicken inside and out, pat dry.  Mix spices with butter.  Rub the herb butter all over the chicken and under the skin (be careful not to tear it!). Stuff the chicken with a halved onion, a quartered lemon, and any leftover spices you may have (twigs and all).  Put her in the oven and set a timer.

Meanwhile…make your veggies.  (recipes and timing below)

Pull the chicken out of the oven when the timer goes off.  Check with a thermometer that it is at 165 degrees.  Move to a serving platter and let rest for at least 10-15 min (so it gets nice and juicy!)

Pour off the pan drippings and get ready to make gravy.  Pour the pan dripping into a skilled with 1 cup of chicken stock.  Bring to a simmer.  Add a slurry, (1 part flour to 2 parts stock, so 2 T flour and 4 T stock).  Add slurry to skillet and whisk whisk whisk!  (about 5 min—should thicken up).  I usually enlist someone to whisk so I can finish the veggies!  If your gravy is too thick, add a few T of stock, to thin, add a few T of flour.  Don’t worry too much about it, gravy is always delicious!

Dirty Rosemary Mashed Potatoes
8 medium white potatoes
4 T butter
1 cup milk

Scrub potatoes until they are clean.  Cut in half if they are large (just make sure all the pieces are the same size).  Put in a large pot of salted water.  Turn on the burner to bring water to a boil when the chicken is 45 min away from being done.  Potatoes will take about 40 min to cook through (test).  Then drain off the water. 

Mash potatoes thoroughly.  Do not add any liquid before you mash completely.  Add the butter, milk, salt and pepper.  Stir until creamy, cover.

Sautéed Green Beans
1 lb string beans
3 cloves of Garlic
2 Shallots
2 T olive oil
2 t honey

After you scrub your potatoes—but before you mash, begin to prepare for your sautéed green beans.  After you blanch them, they will be finished in 2 min in a sauté pan and should be completed at the very end… even after the gravy!

Ring a pot of water to a boil.  Add green beans when water is boiling and blanch for 2 min.  You know the green beans are done when they turn bright green.  Pour green beans into a colander and rinse with cold water (you can use an ice bath too).  Make sure green beans are cold so you know that they have stopped cooking.  Set aside.

Chop finely the garlic and shallot.  Set aside.

After the gravy is made, chicken is resting, potatoes are mashed, heat 2 T olive oil in a skillet, on high heat sauté the shallot and garlic, 1 min, add the green beans, coating with the olive oil and shallot and garlic (2 min).  Put into a service bowl and add 2 t of honey, coat well.  Serve immediately.

Voila!  Sunday dinner!  See you all next week… just a bit of a teaser, I’m making lamb tagine... it could be delicious....

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