Chicken Tikka Masala

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My chicken tikka masala isn’t traditional. You see, growing up with all manner of khoreshs, one of my favorite things to do was to pour the khoresh on top of tahdig, the golden crispy bottom-of-the-pot part of Iranian-style rice.

As an adult, I do the same thing not only with khoresh, but with curries too. So what’s better than tikka masala? Tikka masala on top of tahdig, of course! And with a side of torshi and fresh sabzi, even. Iran and India share so much in common that these dishes pair together perfectly.

Chicken tikka masala

Ingredients:

For the marinade:
1 cup plain yogurt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
Salt and pepper

For the chicken:
2 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, trimmed
Salt and pepper pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup almonds
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons garam masala
1 teaspoon chile powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
One 30-ounce can chopped tomatoes
Pinch of sugar
1 cup heavy cream

1. For the marinade: In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, cardamom, cayenne and turmeric. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Using a knife, make a few shallow slashes in each piece of chicken. Add the chicken to the marinade, turn to coat and refrigerate overnight.

3. Remove the chicken from the marinade; scrape the marinade. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and transfer to a cutting board and cut the chicken into 2-inch pieces.

4. Meanwhile, heat a small skillet over medium-low. Add the almonds and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Transfer the almonds to a plate and let cool. In a food processor, pulse the almonds until finely ground.

5. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until tender and golden, about 8 minutes. Add the garam masala, chile powder and cayenne and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes with their juices and the sugar and season with salt and pepper. Cover partially and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Add the cream and ground almonds and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 8 minutes longer. Stir in the chicken; simmer gently for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Serve with basmati rice, tahdig, torshi, and fresh sabzi khordan.

Roasted Chicken with Date Molasses

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I made this sheet pan-roasted chicken when I was craving something savory and sweet. Influenced by the flavors of Persian Gulf cooking, this dish makes genius use of date molasses, a popular syrup in southern Iran, as well as in other parts of the Middle East and North Africa.

Serve this with basmati rice and pickled vegetables for a vinegary contrast.

Roast chicken with date molasses

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 chicken, cut into pieces
1 cup walnuts
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
4 cloves garlic, peeled, plus 1 clove garlic, grated
3 teaspoons sumac
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1/2 cup pitted dates, halved
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 cup olive or avocado oil
3 tablespoons date molasses

1. Make the dry rub: Place 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, and the turmeric in a small bowl and mix. Rub the chicken pieces with the dry rub and allow to rest in the fridge for at least 3 hours and up to 24 hours.

2. Preheat the oven to 425F degrees.

3. Make the wet rub: In a food processor, combine the walnuts, onion, 4 peeled garlic cloves, remaining teaspoon salt, remaining teaspoon pepper, sumac, thyme, sesame seeds, dates, lime juice, and 1/4 cup oil, and pulse until you have a grainy, chopped mixture. Rub the chicken pieces with the wet rub and push some under the skin. Arrange the chicken pieces on a baking sheet.

4. Cover loosely with foil and bake in the oven for 1 hour.

5. In a small saucepan, mix the ingredients remaining 1 clove grated garlic, the remaining 1/4 cup oil, the date molasses, and 1 tablespoon water. Bring to a simmer over low heat, turn off, and set aside to keep warm.

6. Uncover the foil from the chicken and continue to bake for another 20 minutes.

7. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter, baste the chicken with the date molasses mixture, and serve.

Khoresh-e Gheymeh (Iranian Lamb and Chana Dal Braise)

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Khoresh-e gheymeh, or Iranian channa dal and lamb braise is one of the most popular (and mercifully easiest) khoreshes to make. Khoreshes are Iranian braises that are served with basmati rice, and this one in particular is the perfect example of cross-cultural evolution: high five to the genius who decided that French fries would become a required part of this dish.

Make sure to seek out limoo omani (dried limes) here, as their flavor is essential to the success of khoresh-e gheymeh.

Khoresh-e gheymeh

Ingredients:

For the braise:

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 pound leg of lamb, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 dried limoo omani (Persian limes), pierced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 tomato, peeled and chopped
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoons ground saffron dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water
1/4 cup yellow split peas (chana dal)

For the French fries:

2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into thick matchsticks, and soaked in cold water
1 cup vegetable oil for shallow frying
Salt to taste

1. To make the braise: Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large pot over medium heat. Saute the onions until beginning to brown and then add the lamb, continuing to saute until the onions are golden brown and the juice has been absorbed. Add the dried limes, salt, pepper, and turmeric, and saute for 3 minutes.

2. Add 3 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

3. Add the tomato, sugar, and saffron water. Cover and cook over low heat for 35 minutes.

4. In a saucepan, cook the yellow split peas in 3 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt for 30 minutes. Drain, rinse, and add to the pot with the lamb. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve.

5. To make the French fries: Drain and dry the potatoes. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat, add the potatoes, and shallow fry until golden and cooked through. Use a slotted spoon to remove the potatoes and place on paper towels. Season with salt.

6. To serve, place the braise in a serving bowl and top with the French fries. Serve with basmati rice (and Iranian pickles and a fresh herb platter of sabzi khordan, if desired).

Avocado Salad with Pickled Mustard Seeds

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It’s avocado season and I’m eating them plain, in salads, in sandwiches, and with eggs — basically any way I possibly can. My new favorite way to enjoy avocados is with pickled mustard seeds: an acidic, vinegary foil for creamy avocados. Adapted from a Milk Street recipe, you can make the dressing ahead of time and you can assemble the salad just before serving.

Avocado salad with pickled mustard seeds

Ingredients:

For the pickled mustard seeds:

1/4 cup yellow mustard seeds
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
3 allspice berries
1 bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

For the dressing:

Pickled mustard seeds plus 2 tablespoons reserved brine
1 teaspoon minced shallot
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh marjoram or 1 teaspoon dried
3 tablespoons olive oil

To serve:
3 avocados
5 teaspoons lemon juice

1. To make the pickled mustard seeds: In a small saucepan over high heat, combine the mustard seeds and enough water to cover them by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the seeds are tender, about 8 minutes. Strain the seeds through a mesh strainer ands transfer to a bowl. Wipe out and reserve the pan.

2. To the pan, add the vinegar, sugar, water, peppercorns, coriander, allspice, bay leaf and pepper flakes, then place over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the spices are fragrant and the sugar has dissolved, 3 to 5 minutes. Strain the hot brine over the mustard seeds, discarding the solids, and let the mixture cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

3. To make the dressing: In a small bowl mix together the pickled mustard seeds and 2 tablespoons reserved brine, the shallot, mustard, honey, salt and pepper. Add the marjoram and olive oil and whisk until emulsified.

4. To assemble and sere, slice the avocados in half lengthwise, peel, and remove the pits. Place the avocado halves cut side down. Cut each into 6 lengthwise slices. Arrange the avocado halves on a serving platter or individual plates. Sprinkle lemon juice over the avocado slices. Spoon the dressing over the avocados and serve.

Toasted Caramel Flan

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This is both the most delicious and the ugliest flan I’ve ever made. The texture is unbeatable: think the silkiest flan you’ve ever tasted, and then some. I didn’t do a good job unmolding the flan, hence the awful photo. But the recipe is too good to not share. You probably already have these ingredients at home, so why not make it now? Enjoy.

Toasted caramel flan

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups sugar
5 eggs, at room temperature
3 cups whole milk
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Place a kitchen towel on a work surface and set a 9 1/2-inch deep-dish pie plate on towel to protect from the heat. Place sugar in a medium heavy stainless steel saucepan. Cook over medium until sugar becomes fragrant and begins to melt around edges of pan, about 6 minutes. Gently swirl pan to incorporate melted sugar. Continue swirling pan until all of the sugar is completely melted and has darkened to the color of dark brown sugar, about 10 minutes. Immediately pour melted sugar into prepared pie plate, coating the bottom evenly. Let stand until cool, about 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, fill a large, deep roasting pan with hot water to a depth of about 1 inch (enough so it will not overflow when flan dish is added). Whisk eggs in a large bowl. Add whole milk, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla bean seeds, and whisk until smooth. Add milk mixture to pie plate.

3. Set pie plate in the roasting pan and carefully place in the oven. Bake until edges are set and center retains a slight wiggle, about 50 minutes. Remove pie plate from water bath. Cool completely on towel, about 2 hours. Run a knife around edge of flan to loosen. When pan is rotated, flan should float in caramel. Press plastic wrap directly onto surface; chill at least 3 hours or preferably overnight.

5. Set pie plate in a shallow dish of hot water to soften caramel, about 2 minutes. Invert flan onto a large rimmed platter and serve.