Friday, April 1, 2011

It's a Process, Right?

I'm not quite at the point where I do the same thing over and expect different results... quite.

But lately I've been investing a lot of soul in cooking, looking for the taste that I know I'm capable of creating. I just know I am. First, the risotto, I just didn't have the endurance to see the dish through AND eat it. Now, I'm conquered by a butter masala, well... to be honest, a butter masala and chapati.

I love Indian food. I love all kinds of Indian, but my favorite is Indian junk food, like you'd find in a curry shop in the UK. Today, I tried to make a tikka masala - which is the least Indian dish on those menus. But my craving stems from a different kind of kitchen failure. I had the rare chance to take some friends out for Indian food and it was by far the worst curry I've ever had. They were ill, I was embarrassed, and now I'm vowing to make something entry level so I can redeem myself and prove that Indian is yummy and safe to eat.

So I tried...

With no tofu or panir (and obviously no meat) I settled on potatoes for the star of my curry. I simmered my spices and tomatoes with the potatoes and set to work on chapati bread to go along with the gravy I was anticipating. With no yeast, I chose an unleavened bread to try out my skills. I rolled up a plain dough and let it rest while I did something I DO know a little about - rice. Lately I've been testing techniques with my rice cooker and basmati rice and have found the perfect recipe for the rice I have and the cooker we own. First, rinse the rice several times in clean water. Then, turn on the rice cooker and heat a little oil in the cooker pan. Finally, toast the rice for a few minutes to burn off the water from rinsing and make sure that all the grains get a coat of oil for their bath. Then add the water, lid it up, and walk away. The result? Perfectly separated fluffy grains of rice that look more like vermicelli than plain ol' rice...

But I digress, we're talking about failure here, not perfection. So with the rice cooking I set to rolling out the chapatis for the griddle. After making a righteous mess, and sticking dough all over my rolling pin, I finally figured out that like pizza dough - I needed to work the gluten and not protect it like my southern biscuit instincts tell me.

I rolled them up and Bart started grilling.

Just like pancakes, it took until the last couple to get the technique right. They still taste a little doughy and dried out really fast. Next time I'll man up and use some yeast and make naan instead.

All in all, the meal wasn't a total failure, but the masala left me wanting less yogurt and more tomato. I'm sure I was missing the familiar taste of preservatives too. The potatoes cooked perfectly and the sauce consistency was right. The color wasn't too far off, either. But the end result was too tangy or sour and Bart didn't eat much. I'll be back, masala... you can't scare me off that easily. I cook to win.

Now I have to go, Bart wants me to pay attention to him instead of my food for a little while.


  1. Mmmm hungry. On a side note if you break down the most complex problem you are left with simple answers. That most often, are the root cause of the complexity of the original problem. Hence the simplest answer is the most often the right one.

  2. I dread coming home and not having the kind of Indian food that we find here. EVERY SINGLE Indian restaurant is delicious. I haven't had a bad meal. My favorite is our local Indian take-away. *Special* Tikka Masala. The chicken or paneer is prepared the same way as Tikka Masala but has the sauce that you find over butter chicken. I always save a piece of peshwari naan to wipe up every bit of sauce on the plate.
    Your chapatis look great! I am a lover of a good paratha, but not sure I would ever attempt to make it. I think I've mentioned my cooking skills. ;)