Easy chicken, full of fla­vor

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FOOD - By Melissa D’ara­bian Food Network star Melissa d’Ara­bian is an ex­pert on healthy eat­ing on a bud­get. She is the au­thor of the cook­book “Su­per­mar­ket Healthy.” On­line: http://www.melis­sadara­bian.net

I’m a big fan of sav­ing take­out and de­liv­ery food for true crav­ings, not con­ve­nience. Even the health­i­est of eaters has a few culi­nary vices — for us, it’s In­dian and Thai food and pizza de­liv­ery.

Some­times, we just want our fa­vorite pizza de­liv­ered (“door­bell pizza” my girls called it when they were younger), and no home­made ver­sion will scratch the itch. Fine. But call­ing in an or­der of pad thai and dumplings just be­cause we can’t be both­ered to spend a few min­utes to make our own food is a trou­bling slip­pery slope. De­liv­ery isn’t the devil; but save it for crav­ings.

The key to fend­ing off the temp­ta­tion to or­der in take­out as a con­ve­nience on a busy week­night is to have a few easy recipes in your tool­kit that you can whip out at a mo­ment’s no­tice. And, it has to be easy enough to ex­e­cute, even if I don’t think of it un­til 5 p.m.

For me, bonus points if it’s eth­nic food. Since we don’t have an In­dian res­tau­rant within a 20-minute ra­dius of my house, I’ve been recre­at­ing the fla­vors at home.

To­day’s recipe, Week­night Chicken Masala, is a bit of a recipe hack; not fully au­then­tic, I’ll ad­mit. But the spices are easy to keep on hand (and truth: if you are miss­ing one of them, make the recipe any­way and the world will con­tinue to spin), the recipe is fast to pre­pare since it uses bone­less, skin­less chicken breast, and it can be made to­tally non-spicy or loaded up with what­ever spice I have on hand, from sriracha to fresh ser­ra­nos, or even just cayenne pep­per.

Frozen chicken breasts won’t slow you down ei­ther: mi­crowave for a minute or two un­til the meat is thawed enough to cut into cubes small enough to thaw quickly. I in­dulge in a small amount of cream added at the end, which brings a lush­ness that is worth the few ex­tra grams of fat, but feel free to sub plain Greek yo­gurt if you wish.

This dish hits all the marks — full of fla­vor, easy, in­ex­pen­sive, healthy and quick. Serve it over brown rice, zuc­chini noo­dles, cauliflower rice or just plain raw baby spinach leaves for ex­tra nutri­tion.

Week­night chicken tikka masala

Start to fin­ish: 1 hour Serv­ings: 4 Mari­nade: 1⁄4 cup plain yo­gurt (Greek or reg­u­lar) 1 ta­ble­spoon lime juice 1 tea­spoon lime zest 2 cloves gar­lic, minced 1⁄4 tea­spoon salt 2 tea­spoons fresh ginger 3 chicken breasts, cut into 1 1⁄2 inch cubes 3⁄4 cup chopped onion 1 ta­ble­spoon veg­etable or olive oil, di­vided 1 ta­ble­spoon fresh grated ginger 3 cloves gar­lic, minced 2 tea­spoons pa­prika 1 1⁄2 tea­spoons co­rian­der 1 1⁄2 tea­spoons cumin

1⁄21⁄4(or 3⁄4 cin­na­mon)tea­spoon tea­spoon tea­spoon ground ground smoked nut­meg­car­damom­pa­prika 1 tea­spoon(or dash sriracha cayenne) (op­tional) 1⁄4 cup tomato paste 1 14-ounce can crushed toma­toes 3 ta­ble­spoons heavy cream (or 1⁄4 cup plain Greek yo­gurt)

Chopped cilantro, for gar­nish Lime wedges, for gar­nish

In a medium bowl, whisk to­gether all the mari­nade in­gre­di­ents, and stir in the chicken cubes to coat. Let sit for at least 10 min­utes or re­frig­er­ate up to a few hours.

In a large heavy sauce pan, cook the onion in half the oil over medium high heat un­til onion be­gins to soften, about 5 min­utes. Add the ginger and gar­lic and stir. Add in the dry spices and stir with a wooden spoon un­til very fra­grant, about 1 minute. Add the sriracha and tomato paste and cook un­til tomato paste has deep color and aroma, stir­ring, about 2 min­utes. Add the crushed toma­toes and bring to a sim­mer.

Mean­while, in a large non­stick saute pan, heat the re­main­ing oil over medium high heat and brown the chicken (re­move any ex­cess mari­nade). Cook the chicken on all sides un­til golden — it will not be fully cooked in cen­ter.

Pour the chicken cubes into the bub­bling sauce, add be­tween 1/3-¾ cup wa­ter and let it all cook to­gether for 10 min­utes, or up to 30 min­utes. Re­move the pot from the heat, stir in the heavy cream or Greek yo­gurt and serve with chopped cilantro and lime for gar­nish.

Nutri­tion in­for­ma­tion per serv­ing: 261 calo­ries; 98 calo­ries from fat; 11 g fat (4 g sat­u­rated; 0 g trans fats); 81 mg choles­terol; 436 mg sodium; 18 g car­bo­hy­drate; 5 g fiber; 9 g su­gar; 24 g pro­tein.

MELISSA D’ARA­BIAN — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

This Septem­ber 2016 photo shows chicken tikka masala in New York. This dish is from a recipe by Melissa d’Ara­bian.

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