It has been a less than stellar week, and yet I have tried to make some REAL food a couple of nights in an attempt to counter act some of the funk that has settled its fat ass over me. Though, I did have help through items I already had on hand in the fridge.
Monday I took advantage of some extremely pork-y stock that I had canned what seems like many moons ago after braising some pork feet and hocks (I tend to hoard bones in the freezer). I made a pho that ended up being extremely satisfying as only that deep, spicy, bright and wonderful broth can be. I had leftover roast chicken to re-purpose, and I used zucchini to make the noodles - so feeling virtuous and healthy were a natural side effect. And I must say, expending absolutely no energy on a Monday night meal didn’t suck either.
Tuesday I felt a little more interested in MAKING something. Tuesdays of course call for tacos. I had some leftover chicken tikka masala that I had made the week before. If I made some naan, we could have some veggies and chicken nestled into the soft warm bread in taco-like fashion.
The tikka masala had been a simple matter of sautéing a few things, adding spices, chicken, coconut milk, and tomatoes in a dutch oven and then shoving the whole thing into a low oven to stew until the chicken was falling apart. I guess I should call it tikka masala-esque, because I kind of just used what I had on hand.
Chicken ’Tikka Masala’
• 1 Tablespoon of coconut oil
• 2 Onions sliced
• 6 Garlic cloves chopped
• 3 Inch piece of ginger peeled and sliced
Add all to a large dutch oven that has a lid and sauté over medium high until onions start to soften.
I was feeling lazy, so my spices went into the pot whole (well, sort of pounded a little in the mortar). If you do this, just remember that you will have to make sure and not eat whole piece of cardamom pods. The rest is going to break down a good bit with the length of time the braising takes. My measurements also are a little less than precise as I pour spices into my hand until it looks like what I want to add. SORRY! I do believe that it’s a matter of personal taste though.
• 1 Tablespoon(ish) of coriander seeds
• 1 Tablespoon of cumin seeds
• 3-4 Green cardamom pods
• 4-6 Dried Thai chilies (I do wish I had added more)
• 1 Teaspoon of paprika
• 1 Tablespoon of hot Indian curry powder (don’t ask, I just had some and felt like dumping it in there)
Add all spices to the onion mixture and continue to cook until very fragrant.
Add one can of coconut milk and one 16 ounce can of whole tomatoes that you have squished.
Add 8 chicken thighs. In this case I had some boneless skinless ones, though usually I like to use ones with bones (more flavor) - but I wouldn’t have to been pulling the bones out later, so I guess it was a bonus of sorts.
Cover with the lid and pop it into the oven at about 250º to hang out for several hours. Towards the end I take the lid off so that the sauce can reduce a bit. When you pull it out of the oven, you can shred the chicken a little bit.
It makes a lot, so that is why I had leftovers for tacos.
When I came home from work on Tuesday, my focus was on making the dough for the naan. Bread isn’t overly complicated or difficult, you just have to have some patience (and any stress, frustration, or angst can be semi-vanquished during the kneading of dough.
I am not a baker. I am pretty horrible about wanting to follow exact recipes most of the time, and in actuality - when working with flour - measurements become a little more… well, let’s just say it depends on the humidity (or how the planets are aligned).
The New York Times has a recipe that I actually really like, even though I don’t follow it exactly. It is forgiving and makes a tender springy dough that is a joy to work with. See Steven Raichlen’s recipe for Naan (Indian Flatbread), or use my less precise method:
• 1 Envelope of dry yeast
• 2 Tablespoons (sort of) of honey
• 1/4 Cup of warm water
Add all to a small bowl, stir, and let them hang out until frothy.
In a large bowl add:
• 4 1/2 Cups (sort of) of all purpose flower
• 1 Teaspoon of baking powder
• 2 Teaspoons of salt
Whisk with a fork.
Add the wet ingredients:
• Yeast mixture
• 2 Tablespoons of Greek yogurt
• 3 Tablespoons of liquid (Steven uses milk - I didn’t have milk, so I used some of the whey from the yogurt and made up the difference with water)
• 1 Beaten egg
• 2 Tablespoons of oil (I used olive oil because I usually don’t have plain vegetable oil)
• About 3/4 cup of water. You might need more or less (remember, ambient humidity?). Use a little less and as you work the dough, you will see if you need a little more liquid or not.
Mix well with a fork (I was just using hand power instead of a mixer and dough hook). When a ball starts to form I switched over to my hand, when it had come together nicely I dumped it out and kneaded the dough for about 10 minutes. Put the dough back into an oiled bowl making sure that the dough is nicely coated. Cover and put into a warm place (oven with a pilot light is perfect). Let it rise for about an hour and a half.
See? You have to be patient.
Punch down the dough (satisfying, but in a soft way) and divide it into portions. 8 balls for larger pieces of naan. 16 for more individual size breads. Roll the balls and put them onto a lightly floured sheet pan and cover with a slightly damp kitchen towel. Back into it’s warm resting place for another hour.
After the dough has been in the oven for about half an hour, build a fire in your grill and light it. I don’t have a tandoor oven, so the grill is the closest thing that I can do for that kind of heat.
After it’s hour nap, bring out the bread dough and using your hands and finger tips on a lightly floured surface, flatten each piece of dough out. It should be unevenly shaped. Just press the dough out starting from the middle until the thickness is pretty much a quarter of an inch thick. Put each piece of flattened dough on a floured sheet pan, stacking others on top with a dusting of flour between each. ONLY do this if you are going to be cooking RIGHT AWAY! if you let them hang out too long they will stick together.
Melt a generous amount of unsalted butter and get a brush handy.
When your coals are spread out evenly, and the grate is oiled, use the brush and speed some melted butter over the top of the first piece of dough. Pick it up and quickly lay the buttered side down on the grill. Brush butter over the top. You can put a few of them on the grill depending on the size of your grate. You don’t want to crowd them. I could do 2 of the large naans at a time.
When the top starts to show bubbles (and more importantly, you can use tongs to release the dough from the grate) check to see how brown the bread has gotten. You should get a good golden color with a bit of char. Flip, and check after a couple of minutes. When it comes off, brush with a little more melted butter and continue with the rest of the bread. This is a quick process! (And having some room on the grill, a few tomatoes went on as well to have as a smokey side.)
After that, taco assembly is easy.
A little bit of Sharwoods Spicy Mango and Ginger Chutney, some Greek yogurt, fresh spinach, cilantro, some sliced Persian cucumbers, and warmed chicken tikka masala. What could possibly be bad about that? Leftovers, but BETTER. Serve with icy cold beer and let your Tuesdays be ruled by tacos, no matter country of origin.
SIDE NOTE: I do have to say, even though the bread is incredibly tasty, it HAS kind of been awful to have the leftovers in the house all week. Eating bread every day has made me feel about as svelte as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
ANOTHER SIDE NOTE: This naan recipe can be used for pizza on the grill too. When you flip it the first time, add some mozzarella, a healthy drizzle of fresh tomato sauce and a few torn basil leaves. Now THAT REALLY doesn’t suck. Enjoy!