One of my biggest pet-peeves in life is when something is actually more work for me, less work for businesses, and yet is more expensive. This sort of ties in with another pet-peeve of mine: how it seems like clothing items are now made with far less fabric, from tissue-like weaves, and even have giant holes and yet are costing me more of my money than ever. Seriously, I just don’t get the holes.
When I saw the inspiration for this recipe on Pioneer Woman Cooks I became really excited about grinding my own garam masala mix. You can do a Google search and come up with countless variations on the spice blend all whipped up in a simple two-step process: 1. toast your seeds/spices of choice and 2. grind the toasted mix into a fine powder. I haven’t used my little food processor in a while and the whole recipe seemed too easy (and tasty!) to ignore…
…but then, after three grocery store trips and a handful of phone calls, I learned that the only whole seeds available for these spices within reasonable distance were sold in small, palm-sized packets at $5 a pop. I would need at least 3 packets of each spice to grind down the amount I needed and the total cost ended up being ridiculous. So, as much as I want to be able to share with you an authentic, from-scratch recipe (is it just me or have I been using a lot of hyphens in this post?) my first priority is to share with you what I have made and how it turned out.
I ended up spending about $5 per spice still, but got 34 grams of powder each for the cost. At least I will get many more meals out of them in the future, even if those meals aren’t quite as flavorful. On a student budget I can’t afford to be so picky. By all means, if you can find whole seeds for a reasonable price use them! Your taste buds will thank you.
Sweet Garam Masala Chicken (adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks)
Quick note about this recipe: the original post on Ree’s blog calls for marinating nearly twice as much chicken in 4 Cups each of milk and yogurt. A few Indian readers commented and confirmed that the method posted was a bit inauthentic as well as excessive; one said, “I’m Indian, and we don’t use MILK to marinate – just the yoghurt makes the chicken moist and tender… and FOUR cups of MILK + YOGHURT is just excessive. One cup of yoghurt would suffice to marinate a chicken on its own!!” After reading a few more comments from those claiming Indian heritage, I decided to downgrade the recipe to 2 Cups of yogurt only.
1 whole chicken, cut into pieces
(or about 3 lbs. bone-in, skin-on chicken parts if you prefer a certain kind)
2 Cups whole plain yogurt (more fat content = better tenderizer)
1 T coriander
1 T ginger
1 t cumin
1 t black pepper
1 t cloves
1 t cinnamon
½ t cardomom
1 dried bay leaf, crumbled
1 generous pinch of salt
several pinches of dried herbs for garnish, as desired (I used thyme)
1) Mix spices and bay leaf bits together until well blended. In a small bowl, whisk the garam masala mixture into the yogurt until fully incorporated. Pour a small amount into the bottom of a 1 gallon-size freezer bag. Add two pieces of chicken and then pour in a bit more of the yogurt. Alternate chicken pieces and yogurt until all of the yogurt and chicken is in the bag. Carefully squeeze out any excess air and seal the bag. Gently message the chicken a bit to make sure all pieces are well-coated before placing the bag in the refrigerator overnight to marinate.
2) The next day, pour the contents of the bag into a large bowl. Discard the bag. If you’re lucky enough to be in a climate that allows you to grill in winter, go start it up and follow Ree’s directions for grilling here. Otherwise stick around – you’re in good company – and preheat your oven to 375°F.
3) Heat a large cast-iron or heavy-bottomed skillet over Medium-high heat and sear chicken pieces 2 or 3 at a time, depending on the space. You’re looking to brown the outside of the chicken well, but not to cook through – about 3 to 5 minutes per side. I only flipped my pieces once to get a good sear on each side, used tongs to sear the edges, and then placed them in a 9 x 13″ glass baking dish.
4) Bake uncovered for about 45 minutes to an hour or until the skin of the chicken is dark and crisp and the internal temperature registers at a solid 165°F. You may have to remove smaller pieces (wings, drumsticks) earlier as they won’t take as long to cook.
5) Let the chicken rest for a few minutes before serving. Is excellent with mango or strawberry lassis if you have some extra yogurt and frozen fruit and/or sorbet lying around.
It’s really amazing what a bit of plain, humble little yogurt can do to a chicken. The tenderness of the meat plus the full flavors of the garam masala blend really make for a delicious bird. The spices smelled absolutely heavenly throughout the whole process, too, so this is a great dish to cook for company – you can tempt them with the amazing scents coming from your kitchen plus most of the work is done the night before! My only – very minor – complaint is that I’m not sure if the blend I chose really tastes all that “Indian”. Even without a bit of sugar the cinnamon, cardamom, and coriander reminded me of pumpkin pie so it tasted almost sweet to me (I suppose that could also be from the yogurt) – hence the name “Sweet Garam Masala Chicken”. Feel free to play around with the spices though and find your own mix! Add some heat, punch up the pepper, make it more exotic with some anise…the blends are endless.
Overall Enjoyment: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥