Why, oh why, do we not have regular access to that food here! So, when I get a craving, I have am forced to make it myself.
This can create some obstacles. Number one, the bread. Unless it is a very special occasion, I don’t have the patience to make naan. It takes too much time, with the multiple risings, waiting and the individual pan-frying or grilling.
There is pretty good naan for sale, though, at the local markets, so you can cheat the homemade part with that.
Next up is finding the ingredients. Though things have gotten a little better in Jackson, some of the more obscure spices and even ingredients are hard to find. So, when craving Indian food, you often have to simplify the recipes. Don’t worry. With the right spices and the right mix of dishing, they are still plenty of good ones you can try at home.
On one of the first pretty spring nights, I hosted a small dinner party outside on my deck. I was craving Indian food and starting doing inventory in my spice cabinet. My foodie friend and Dishing partner, Cara, makes her way to an eastern-stocked market often enough when she visits San Francisco and has gifted me a small stockpile of items. I had a package of papadums that looked good but involved frying so I had been avoiding them.
Now was the time. Though they made a bit of a mess, they were good and tasted really fresh. She had also brought me a couple of jars of sauces — a mint chutney and a spicy jam so we used those to dip the papadums in. It was almost like being in a restaurant. I did do some cooking, though.
I marinated chicken breast in tandoori spices and grilled them. I was really hoping for that beautiful red color that you get in the restaurants, and the spice box promised it but didn’t deliver.
The last dish, I dare say, was the standout. I pulled a recipe from the Vij’s cookbook (one of my favorite Indian places in the world, located in Vancouver), and Cara and I made our own version of their Brussels sprouts dish.
We chopped the Brussels spouts so that they would kind of fall apart when cooking. We then added tons of spices and threw in coconut milk since we weren’t doing any curry. The end result was impressive. It had tons of flavor, and the dish would win over anybody who thinks they don’t like Brussels sprouts.
Always use basmati rice when making Indian food. It has a yummy and very potent smell and flavor and accompanies the food perfectly. You could easily make this dish as a one-dish meal, served with just rice, but it was nice for the carnivores to enjoy some grilled chicken with it.
You could make most of it ahead of time and keep it warm on very low heat until you are ready to serve it. Don’t add the toasted nuts until you are ready to serve it, though, as they will get soggy. I still ate my leftovers the next day; it won’t spoil the dish, it just gives it more texture if they aren’t soaking in the juice for too long.