Thursday, April 19, 2012

Chicken Saag

I had already decided to make Indian food for dinner, so the first thing I did was start on my Naan bread, since that takes a while. So. . . I did that and then I still couldn't decide between Chicken Korma (the family fav - it's a creamy curry sauce with chicken, nuts, raisins and peas) or Chicken Saag (pieces of chicken cooked in a pureed spinach sauce).  Rachael Ray made Chicken Saag recently and I thought My hubby would really like that. He loves the Saag Paneer (a pureed spinach dish with chunks of cheese) at our local Indian restaurant, Malhis. I had a large bag of organic baby spinach from Costco that I was going to use to make spinach and artichoke pasta . . . but in the end I decided to sacrifice the pasta dish to try this new meal.
     Everyone really loved it. Angel Girl was excited to eat it. My Princess wanted to know what the "green stuff" was, but once she tasted it she was all in. My adoring husband said it's almost good enough to go into the family cook book (I told you it was really hard to get in there) and my Handsome Man countered his father and said, "No, it's perfect!" I had very few left-overs to put away.  (It would have been no left-overs if I had indulged like I wanted to, but the Fat Club weigh-in is only 2 days away and I don't want to ruin my progress!)

I followed Rachael's recipe for the most part, but changed a couple things (of course).

Here's what I did:
I started by taking a little over 1 Tbsp of coriander seeds and putting them in a dry pan over medium heat. (Whenever possible, it's best to keep whole spices. Then you can toast and grind them as needed. They stay fresher longer this way, and you get a better flavor.)

While those toasted, I got most of the other spices together in a small bowl. I used Cumin, Turmeric, and Cardamom.

When the coriander was toasted, I put them into my spice grinder (This is just a coffee grinder that I have clearly labeled "spices."  I don't drink coffee, but I do have a separate coffee grinder for when I make Postum - a roasted barley drink. It's a good idea to have a separate grinder just for your spices, so that your grinds (coffee, barley what have you) don't taste like the spices you recently ground.)

I ground them into a fine powder - or as fine as I could get them.

Then I dumped the ground coriander in with my other spices.

I then grated 1 inch of ginger into the bowl - yes my ginger is frozen. I froze it when I made my "Thai" Coconut Soup, remember? It's already peeled, and it grates much easier this way.

I diced up one large onion, and put it in a saute pan with about 2 Tbsp of butter. (The size dices don't matter too much, since this is all getting pureed later.)

I added a little salt, and let the onions cook over medium high heat.

I turned my attention back to the spices. I added some granulated garlic - I was out of fresh.

When the onions were soft, and started to caramelize . . .

I added the spices in.

Stirred them around . . .
and then added some red pepper flakes. I only added about 1/4 tsp because I didn't want it to be too spicy for the kids. You can add more, or even add a fresh pepper (Rachael used a red Fresno pepper I think).

I started to add my spinach, and then realized that I should add my chicken broth. - If I would have thought about it earlier, I would have defrosted some Homemade Chicken Stock from the freezer, but I didn't. So, today it's broth out of the can. - I added the whole can.

Then I finished adding my big bag of organic baby spinach (washed of course). It looks like it's too much for the pan, but I just put the lid on and it was wilted down in to time.

It was then that I remembered the tomatoes. (I would have added them before the spinach and chicken broth had I remembered, but it won't hurt to add them now.)
I need two vine-ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped. To seed my tomatoes, I cut them open . . .

Hold one half over the garbage can and squeeze.

Now all the seeds and pulp are gone and I can chop them up. (Again, the size and shape of the tomato pices don't matter too much.)  I repeated this with the other 3 halves.

Then I added the tomatoes in with the spinach - see I told you it wilted down in no time. (I just took the lid off, so there is a lot of steam.)

I used a pair of tongs and tossed everything together.

I cooked it all together for a couple minutes, and then used the tongs to put all the spinach and tomatoes into the food processor (you could use a blender if you had to) - some of the liquid will go in too and that is just fine.

Put the lid on an carefully pureed until smooth.
I added the spinach puree to the rest of the liquid (and some stray onions and tomatoes) in the saute pan.

Now, I diced about 1 pound of chicken. (You could use up to 1.5 pounds.) I'm trying to cook healthy, so I used boneless skinless chicken breast, but any boneless and skinless cut of chicken would work.

I added the chicken to the hot sauce. And simmered for 8-10 minutes, until the chicken was cooked through.

At this point I cut open one piece of chicken to make sure it was not pink in the middle - good to go. And then I checked the sauce for seasoning. It was good, but was missing something. . . .

My favorite spice blend in Indian cooking is Garam Masala. Depending on the brand you get it can have any number of spices in it. This blend has all the spices I already added to the dish, with the addition of cinnamon, cayenne pepper and a couple other Indian spices. I added about 1/2 tsp of this and tasted again. It was better, but not perfect. I still can't place my finger on it. . . . I couldn't figure out what it needed, so I just served it up as is to rave reviews.

I plated it over some cooked Basmati rice and with a piece of my Yogurt Naan. (My kids like to make little "tacos" by putting the rice and chicken dish, no matter what it is, inside the Naan, folding it up and eating it all together.)
 I wish I knew how to make the plum and mint chutneys at Malhis. I asked for the recipes once. The cook came out and - in broken english - told me it was too hard for me to make. I'm still a little bent out of shape about that one. Oh well. The dish is great as is.

I just realized I could have cleaned the plate up a little before I took this shot. Oh well, the family was hungry and they come first. :)

Here's the recipe:

Chicken Saag

1 large onion, diced
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 tsp salt
1 inch ginger, grated fine
1/4 tsp red pepper flake
3 tsp granulated garlic
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp ground corriander
2 tsp tumeric
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp garam masala
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 large (1 pound) bag of organic baby spinach, washed and dried
1 can (or 1 3/4 cups) chicken broth or stock
1 to 1.5 pounds of boneless skinless chicken, cubed

Melt butter in a large skillet and add the onion and salt. Cook until the onions are soft and brown around the edges. Add the ginger and all the spices. Add the tomatoes. Cook until soft and add the chicken broth and the spinach. Cook until the spinach is wilted. Transfer all the spinach and tomatoes to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. (Be Careful!) Pour the pureed spinach mixture back into the large sautee pan with the rest of the liquid. Add the chicken and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, until the chicken is no longer pink in the center. When the chicken is done taste the sauce for seasoning. Serve over rice and with naan bread.

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