Sunday, October 19, 2008

Cashew chicken

The funniest thing about this is that it was inspired by a recipe from Cooking Light magazine, and that I then systematically removed the "light" part. It was one of the reader-submitted recipes, where you send in a recipe of something you like and then the good people at the magazine make it less unhealthy for you. A noble and just cause, for sure. I thought this recipe sounded pretty good--it sounded pretty much like a famous Indian dish, butter chicken or murgh makhani, made with cashews. They saved on some fat by decreasing the amount of nuts, leaving out the butter, using all white meat, etc. I compared and contrasted with some classic versions of murgh makhani and cobbled together my own version, somewhat unlightened.

I got 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts and 4 boneless thighs. I think this recipe really does need dark meat for best flavor, but you may, of course, do whatever the hell you want. Chopped up the meat into more-or-less bite size chunks, then set aside. I also minced up and set aside 4 cloves of garlic and 2 tablespoons fresh ginger. In a big bowl, I combined 1 cup cashews with 1 cup thick, greek-style yogurt, most of a small, 6-ounce can of tomato paste, 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar (any kind of light vinegar is fine--white wine, whatever), half the minced garlic and 1 tablespoon of the minced fresh ginger, 1 teaspoon each red pepper flakes, salt and garam masala. Then I got my awesome immersion blender, mentally thanked my father, from whom it was a christmas present, and immersion-blended the whole mixture into a chunky paste.If you do not have an immersion blender, I'm sure a regular blender would work, or a food processor. Ask your priest. Then I added all my chicken chunks in......and mixed it all up really well.You can leave this in the nut-yogurt mixture to marinate overnight, or for a few hours. Presumably, the longer it gets the more delicious it will be. I only had an hour or so, but I wished I'd had longer. When you are ready to make dinner, melt about 1/4 cup of butter in a big dutch oven. You can use clarified butter, or ghee, if you have it, and that will be really delicious. In this hot melted butter, sauté 1 minced onion.When the onion is soft and lightly golden, clear a space in the center of the pot and add 1 teaspoon each cumin, cardamom, paprika and cinnamon along with 1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder and a healthy pinch of vindaloo powder or sweet curry powder. Allow these spices to bloom in the center of the pot in the hot butter for 1 minute. Add in your chicken along with all the delicious nut-yogurt mixture and another handful of whole cashew nuts and the rest of the minced ginger and garlic and cook for 7-10 minutes, stirring well. Stir in 1 cup of chicken stock and let cook for 30 minutes or so, then add 1/3 cup cream or half-and-half and let cook for another 10 minutes. If the sauce seems too thick you can add more chicken stock, or if it seems too thin, turn up the heat and reduce the liquid. It shouldn't be too thin though. While it's all cooking, make some basmati rice (I made it using brown basmati rice, which was really good), and when the cashew chicken is all done, serve it over the rice. This is so creamy and delicious--I think you'll be quite pleased. Serve it with naan bread for true happiness.I forgot to mention also, if you feel like it, you can make a quick yogurt sauce to go with the finished cashew chicken--just take a cup and a half of the yogurt you used to marinate the chicken and shred half of a cucumber into it, then chop the rest of the cucumber and put that in too along with a pinch of red pepper flakes and salt and pepper and maybe a little lemon juice. Stir well and set aside until dinner.


Melanie said...

I am terribly sad to have missed this meal. Indian food is possibly my favorite.

Anonymous said...

Delicious - I may have to try this as I try to (in small steps, because of my food adventure-averse husband) expand my cooking horizons.