Monday, December 15, 2008

Tastes Like Takeout...Only Better

I don't know about you, but in these last couple of weeks before Christmas, the last thing I want to do is spend hours preparing time-consuming dinners for my family. Don't get me wrong, I love to cook (obviously) is my therapy and creative outlet. But I am so tired from shopping, Christmas functions, decorating and baking that I am tempted to put a Closed for the Season sign across my kitchen door. Fantasies aside, I am always looking through my cookbooks for something delicious, easy and light to make for dinner during these busy and stressful days, because after all, even eating out gets old after awhile.

I have a tendency to read cookbooks like novels, relishing each food description and mentally cataloging which recipes I'd like to try and which I'd rather not. But the problem with that is that because I read so many cookbooks, I rarely remember which cookbook the recipe I wanted to make is in. My family frequently finds me perched on the edge of the couch, muttering under my breath as I page through the piles of cookbooks around me. Sometimes I get lucky and find what I am looking for, other times, I fly by the seat of my pants and recreate from memory the recipe I wanted to try (with mixed results). But that is how we humans learn, from trial and error. That is particularly true in the kitchen, where missteps can either be delicious or disastrous!

One of my favorite foods to eat is Indian food. Though it can be quite rich, I tend to favor the simple dishes like daal (lentils), vegetable dishes (like Gobi Aloo-cauliflower and potatoes), and Tandoori chicken. I make the chicken quite often in the summer on the grill, but have never tried it in my oven (it is not officially Tandoori chicken because I do not have a Tandoor oven...but it is the best I can do at home). The recipe is one that I have gleaned from many sources...mostly because I could never find which cookbook the actual recipe was in. Luckily for me, it is a relatively easy dish to prepare, and was one of my fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants successes!

Tandoori-ish Chicken and Yogurt Sauce

1 C plain low or non-fat yogurt (I like Greek style)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 t freshly grated ginger
1 1/2 t ground turmeric, divided
1/2 t ground cumin
1/2 t ground coriander
1/4 t cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Combine 1 teaspoon of the turmeric, then all the cumin, coriander, cayenne and salt and pepper in a small bowl. Sprinkle both sides of chicken breasts with spice mixture, pressing in gently. Place on a plate, cover with plastic and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes. In a large bowl mix yogurt, garlic, remaining turmeric and ginger.

Set oven to broil and move rack so that it is about 6 inches from the heating element. Dip chicken breasts in yogurt mixture and set on a wire rack over a foil-lined baking sheet or broiler pan. Discard the extra yogurt mixture. Broil chicken about 10-18 minutes, watching carefully to make sure it doesn't burn (it will char slightly in places). Chicken should have an internal temp. of 160 degrees when finished. If you wish to grill it, simply place it on a well oiled, medium-hot grill and cook for about 5-9 minutes a side, or until cooked through. I often also use bone-in breasts, which can take about 30-40 minutes total to grill over medium heat (watch for flare ups!).

Yogurt Sauce: combine 1/2 C plain yogurt, one small cucumber (peeled, seeded and grated), 1/2 t salt, 1/2 t cumin, and a handful of chopped cilantro. Taste for seasoning and serve.

Serve with basmati rice and yogurt sauce.

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