Fresh Herbs

A fresh and fun recipe catalog by a girl who likes to play in the kitchen the "from scratch" way.

|CROCKPOT CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA| 05/19/2013

Filed under: CILANTRO,CORIANDER,Crockpot,CUMIN,GARLIC,Savory — |FreshHerbs| @ 10:56 pm

Well…that was surprising! Authentic Indian cuisine in a crockpot? Seriously? Pinterest has promised many things, but seriously? Skeptical- definitely. Hopeful- beyond belief.

Major credit to the author of this wonderful recipe who CLEARLY did her homework. I always read the comments in a blogged recipe and every single one raved about this dish. Comments are also a good place to capture any updates or ideas for tweaks, and this post didn’t disappoint. So armed with rays of hope that I wouldn’t be wasting expensive ingredients on a lark, and some tweaks in mind, I put this recipe to the test.

Now, I will say that this recipe is NOT a throw everything in the pot and go to work for 8 hours to come home to delicious Indian food. There is some active cooking time, but like anything that’s good it is worth the effort. It was a great Sunday meal. And the more I make this the less time the steps in advance will take. It was also a reminder that a crockpot is a kitchen tool that can be used for more than no-brainer recipes.

Crockpot Chicken Tikka Masala
Adapted from http://www.mealplanning101.com

Chicken Tikka— the marinade
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp cumin
1/4-1 tsp cayenne (depending on how spicy you like it)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
3-4 boneless chicken breasts

Stir all ingredients except chicken into the bottom of a gallon plastic bag. Add the chicken and coat the chicken completely with the marinade, cover and place in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight.

Masala
1 can 28 oz. diced tomatoes (I puréed because I didn’t want chunks)
1 can 6oz tomato paste
1 tbsp oil (I used coconut)
2 inches fresh ginger, grated
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, diced
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp tikka paste (International aisle in grocery store. Brand I found was Patak’s).
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp hot paprika
1 tsp dried coriander

To Serve:
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp hot paprika
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp salt
1 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

Take the chicken out of the marinade (discard the marinade) and place under your broiler about 6-10 inches from the heating element and broil on each side about 10 minutes. You don’t have to worry about cooking the meat all the way through.

While the chicken is broiling, in a pan over medium high heat, add oil. Add the onion and saute for a few minutes to soften. Add the garlic and ginger and saute for a few more minutes until the mixture is nice and fragrant. Place the mixture into your crockpot. To that, add the tomato puree, tomato paste, garam masala, tikka paste, cumin, paprika and coriander.* Stir together. When the chicken is done broiling, dice into 1″ cubes, add them straight to the crockpot and stir into the masala mixture. The original recipe swears that it by far tastes the best when the chicken is first broiled and then slow cooks in the masala sauce. It gives the sauce a real richness of flavor…so don’t skip this step! Slow cook on high for 4-6 hours or on low 6-8 hours. (I did high for 4hrs.)

Before serving stir in 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp garam masala and 1tsp salt. Then stir in the cream and fresh cilantro. Serve over Basmati rice (I make mine in the rice cooker with a bay leaf and 2 cardamom pods) with naan on the side!

*One of the comments on the original recipe suggested opening up the spices by heating them gently before you add them to the masala. I added them to the onions and oil without having my ginger and garlic ready to go. Spices will burn so next time I’ll do the same (instead of adding to the tomato) but I’ll just be sure all of my ingredients are ready so I can tend to the heat.

So it’s not Little India, but it was 10x better than the jarred simmer sauces. I happened to have all of the spices on hand because I do a lot of cooking, but the ingredients are easily accessible and the techniques to pull this together are basic. It makes a lot of sauce and while the original recipe says it feeds 4 you can easily get 6 large portions. Great leftovers for lunch!

Next time I may experiment with my tomato base and try tomato sauce or a smoother purée. The masala was a bit chunkier than I’m used to, but I puréed a can of whole tomatoes, so that may make a difference.

Cook often and eat well!

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|THE SAAGA CONTINUES: PANEER PART DEUX| 02/15/2012

Filed under: cheese,CILANTRO,CORIANDER,GARLIC,Savory — |FreshHerbs| @ 7:45 pm

So I cubed up my paneer and fried it (2 min per side, just two sides) in a combo of sesame oil and canola oil. Why sesame? Because I had it (and it was suffering from a severe case of pantry fatigue)…I also like the way it smells, it’s great for frying, it’s a traditional oil used in South Indian cookery (I’ve always wanted to use the word ‘cookery’), and it’s actually brimming with anti-oxidants and good fats.

Paneer can be frozen after it's been fried.

This amount of paneer will fry up in two batches in a large frying pan. I drained it on a paper towel and let it cool completely. Then, having none of the ingredients for Saag Paneer on hand, I added my fried cheese {swoon} to a freezer zip lock bag, as per instructions from my friend Shubh, and froze it. Apparently, freezing fresh paneer is a bad idea, but freezing fried paneer is ok. I would suspect that, as with any frozen cheese, the consistency changes slightly after freezing so that frying would be difficult. Hence, fry then freeze.

Fast forward about a week and I was able to procure the necessary ingredients to make Saag Paneer (or Palak Paneer). Hubs loves chicken saag. Neither of us have had paneer before, so I thought this would be a good introduction for us. The key ingredient here is garam masala, a traditional Indian spice blend. The blend typically includes a variety of spices like pepper, cardamom, coriander, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cumin. I prefer natural and organic spices and I chose a garam masala made by Frontier. Different brands will have a different combination of spices so look around and choose one that has the spices you like. The recipe below makes A LOT OF SAAG. Next time around, I’ll make this in a half batch. I also made the mistake of using the entire batch of paneer- unnecessary. The recipe below reflects this adjustment. It’s also very important to salt the dish. The original recipe I based mine on called for salting after the paneer has been added, but at that point it’s hard to stir without breaking up the paneer, so salt first, then add the paneer.

 

Saag Paneer (Palak Paneer)

It's not from Little India, but it's pretty good for my first attempt at Indian cuisine.

Probably 8 servings; 1/2 recipe for smaller portion

Handy equipment: immersion blender

1 large onion
6 cloves of fresh garlic
1 oz fresh ginger
fresh cilantro, to taste
2 10oz packages of frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 cup plain greek yogurt
4oz buttermilk
pinch red chili powder (adjust for spiciness desired)
1 Tb garam masala
1 C heavy cream
salt to taste
3 oz homemade paneer (defrosted if previously frozen)

Grind the onion, garlic, cilantro, and ginger into a fine paste. I used my immersion blender for this step and it was the perfect tool.

In a medium saucepan, combine the paste, spinach, yogurt, buttermilk, chili powder, and garam masala. Simmer at medium heat for 20 to 30 minutes. Use your immersion blender again to cream the mixture to desired consistency (you could also use a potato masher). Add the cream and simmer until the mixture has a creamy consistency, 10 to 15 minutes. Season with salt to taste. Add the cheese, simmer 5 minutes.

Serve with basmati rice (I flavor mine with a bay leaf, a few cloves, a cinnamon stick and a cardamom pod) and hot naan bread (homemade or store-bought).

The verdict? Well, it’s not Little India saag, but for my first attempt at Indian cuisine I was pretty pleased and I learned some valuable lessons for next time. The flavor seemed pretty authentic and I really liked the consistency of this dish. The yogurt makes it thick, so I may try to omit that next time for a creamier consistency. Like I said above, this made A LOT of food. Way too much for 2 people (we have a limit to the number of times we’ll consume leftovers before our eyes roll into out heads), so I’d certainly suggest halving this recipe and with the ratios above that’s very easy to do.

|Cook often and Eat Well!|

 

|FRENCH ONION FABULOUS| 01/02/2012

Filed under: Crockpot,GARLIC,Savory,Soups,THYME — |FreshHerbs| @ 7:32 pm

I love French Onion Soup. Love it. Of course I love the melted cheesy crouton on top (who doesn’t?)…but I love the savory flavor and sweet, soft onions too. A great cold weather dish…that is even easier in the crock pot. I’ve been wanting to try a crock pot version for a long time and I seized the opportunity today. Carpe diem for the new year!

Most FOS recipes call for beef broth which won’t fly with hubs so I modified the beef broth in the original recipe with chicken broth and worcestershire sauce. Combined with the tang of the balsamic vinegar, I didn’t miss the flavor of the beef broth at all. The finished soup was really rich and caramel colored.

4 thin-sliced onions (your eyes will water!)

Crockpot French Onion Soup
Makes a huge crock, probably 8 servings.

4 medium sweet onions, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 Tb of butter
2 Tb balsamic vinegar
2 Tb brown sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
3 Tb flour
8 oz of beer (I used Stella Artois because that’s what I had)
64 ounces of low-sodium chicken broth (I used Better Than Bouillon and made 8 cups of broth)
1 Tb Worcestershire sauce
1 Tb dried thyme
1/2 tsp black pepper

Garnish: baguette crostini or croutons + grated cheese (parm, cheddar, or swiss)

Set your crock pot on high and add the butter to melt, then add garlic, brown sugar, butter, salt and balsamic and mix until combined. Add onions and stir to coat the onions with the balsamic mixture.  Cover and let cook for 60 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are a bit caramely and brown on the edges.

Balsamic coated onion love.

While the onions are softening, make your broth (if not using cartons) and add the Worchestershire sauce to the broth and set aside until ready to add to your soup. When the onions have softened after an hour add in flour, stir thoroughly, and let sit for 5 minutes. Add in beer, broth mixture, thyme, and pepper, then you have two options:

Option #1: turn heat down to low, cover and cook for 6-8 hours.

Option #2: keep the heat on high, cover and cook for 4 hours.

You can totally drink the rest of that beer!

[I opted for #2 since I wanted to have this for dinner.]

To serve, turn your broiler on low and ladle your soup into oven-safe bowls. Float your crostini or croutons on top of your steaming soup and cover with sliced or grated cheese of your choice. Broil for a few minutes until cheese is brown and bubbly.

And the end result is a really flavorful, delicious FOS that is good enough to make it, well, here. Even hubs cleaned his bowl (and that’s a huge compliment!). This soup will leave you French Onion Fabulous in less than 6 hours (including prep) so it’s a great option for a weekend meal.

[Cook often, and eat well!]