Friday, May 13, 2011

A Mother's Day Meal: Butter Chicken & Saag Paneer

    Well, so much for my plans of special magnificence! I intended this Mother's Day meal to be a whole lot more spectacular than it actually turned out to be... I got a little less than 3 hours of sleep and felt completely terrible in my gut region. But hey, it's an important day. My mom has toughed out a lot worse for me, so it was worth it!

    In the end the results were not very pretty (nor the pictures; I was too tired to do the thing right) but the food was actually really good. Considering this was my first time making Indian food, I'm rather pleased with the outcome. Also considering I made up the recipes to begin with... and then further altered them to the point that I can't really tell you what happened in the kitchen that day... I'm amazed the finished product came out edible.

    My mom loves it when other people cook for her and she loves Indian food, so I thought this would be the perfect way to show some appreciation. All for you momma :)

    Well, first, I'll tell you what I had all planned out. It would be another pseudo 3-course meal, opening on salad with Indian-spiced dressing (I titled it "Indian-Inspired Salad" which greatly amuses me for some reason). The main course would be Saag Paneer and Butter Chicken, with homemade gluten free naan and basmati rice. And then for dessert we would have lovely yogurt parfaits (my mom avoids sugar).

    The first thing I noticed when I began cooking was that the container of yogurt that had been full Saturday evening miraculously had less than a cup left Sunday afternoon. The parfaits of my dreams went sailing gloomily out the kitchen window. I cut up the fruit a little dejectedly and made some whipped cream, but we were all too full to eat any by the end anyway (I had some later with a piece of naan and it was actually quite delicious).

    The salad ended up being a bit of a humdrum little bitty, but tasted good enough. It had everyday salad fixings in there with garbanzo beans and a dressing of oil and lemon juice with some cayenne, cinnamon (this made it in my opinion), coriander powder I think?, a little turmeric, some salt, etc. I didn't take pictures of it since it did look somewhat lackluster.

    The main course really saved the day fortunately. Unfortunately, though, I'm really not sure what I did in there. I wish I could give you recipes because they're definitely worth making but... Oh well! With both the Saag and the Butter Chicken I realized too late that there just wasn't enough for 4 people. I kind of had to basically make them twice. Oops. That was when things started getting a teensy bit discombobulated, as might be expected. I went throwing things into the pot at random and figured we had plenty of canned soup if things went awry. More experienced cooks would of course never have had this problem. And they also wouldn't scape out the seeds of a spicy pepper with just-cut-very-short fingernails. But uh... You live and learn! Hopefully! (My poor fingers are mending up nicely now, though.)
    Oh, and I also had some "fun" with food coloring! Butter Chicken in restaurants uses additional coloring apparently, since the natural result is a pale orange. While mine was simmering away and the kitchen had calmed down some (what do they say about idle minds?), I did begin to notice that it had a sliiightly unsavory tinge about it. We had some cheap food coloring in the cupboard so I said to myself, WHY NOT, MAN? in my typical too-rash fashion. I added a few drops of red. It, um... If you think pale grey-orange is unsavory looking, you should try pale grey-orangey-pink. I hastily dropped in some yellow and was monetarily horrified at how unyellow it looked. Happily, things did even out and it produced the color that you see, which is remarkably similar to the original. From this I will take one simple lesson to the grave: Don't fiddle with foods that look perfectly fine naturally. Or just get better food coloring. Either one.

    Maybe it was all a little too adventurous on 3 hours of sleep, but at least it was informative. I really wish I would have taken a picture of the kitchen afterwards. It was like a tornado had gone through and ravaged the place!

    Mom, I hope you enjoyed it! 

    PS - Here's a link (and video) to one of the many recipes I used for inspiration. I followed his method fairly closely.

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