Two days ago, I decided it was time to go back to my Indian roots. So, I mixed up a malai marinade (yogurt and spices) in a bowl, added some chicken breast tenderloins, and put the covered bowl away in the fridge for two days.
Yesterday, I thought fondly of the chicken marinating in my fridge and started the next step of preparation: I soaked some rice in water.
Today, I was finally ready to make my meal.
Indian cooking is very simple, though it can require some preparation. Over the years, I’ve watched my mom make quite a few meals like this. Sure, you can marinate chicken right before you cook it and boil rice without the pre-soak. But when you plan ahead you can really elevate the meal.
The Indian tradition of yogurt marinades was referenced recently in Top Chef Masters when the acclaimed chefs were asked to contribute to an Indian Buffet…without the proper ingredients of course. Anyway, the eliminated contestant actually made an “Indian-Spiced Chicken” whose most salient critique was “it wasn’t marinated in yogurt….one of the strengths of Indian cooking is using a yogurt marinade always makes Indian chicken so tender and flavorful…” I felt a sense of pride at that critique; as the most frequently cooked meat in my kitchen, I relish the idea of making chicken soft and tasty.
The perfect accompaniments to this malai chicken is a nice spicy rice pilaf and MTT’s favorite: raita.
Raita is a yogurt side spiced with roasted cumin and other items per personal preference. Today’s went with dill and paprika. I also added tons of grated cucumber like my mom always did when I was little. MTT loves raita. So much so that the man can out away almost an entire container-full. In fact, we discovered his lactose intolerance through his love for raita, because he needs to down a lactaid before he can eat it to his heart’s content.
I served this meal with some lightly sautéed red onions and lemon…a very Indian thing to do indeed.
As we ate dinner, I looked over to MTT and said… “I’m sorry about all the dishes tonight…”. Like a good sport, MTT replied “This food is worth it!”
I asked if he wanted some Rooh Aftza for dessert (more on this later…but suffice it to say it’s a very Indian, summery drink). MTT replied “no, tonight is more of a frappucino kind of night…there are so many dishes, might as well use the blender too!”