Once in a while, my husband and I go on lunch dates. So, we found this new Indian restaurant with a really good lunch buffet special and decided to give it a try. Walking up to the warm chafing dishes in the buffet line was a bit daunting. We didn’t recognize the ingredients and knew even less about what they tasted like. So, like most people, we took a little of everything to see what sticks. His second time around, my husband returned with a big plate of rice and only chicken tikka masala. He obviously made the decision on his favorite dish.
I’ve omitted the tikka from my dish because tikka refers to chicken in the form of chunks or cubes. My chicken masala is made with whole chicken legs. I hope that didn’t break any Indian rule about masala. If so, I plead ignorance! And, I kinda like the way the bone-in chicken adds to the depth of flavor in this dish.
Because of this dish, I’ve introduced the spices turmeric, coriander and garam masala to my spice cupboard. They really jazz up the look of my spice bottle with those punches of color too. The turmeric surprised me the most. I used it for the rice and was shocked to see it had turned my usually boring white rice into neon yellow. The green peas also added great dots of color and texture. I now understand why Indian fabrics and clothing are so vibrant. They need to compete with the food for attention!
adapted from pioneerwoman.com
4 whole Chicken Legs (thigh and drum)
Cumin, To Taste
½ cups Plain Yogurt
6 Tablespoons Butter
1 whole Large Onion
4 cloves Garlic
1 piece (approximately 2 Inches) Chunk Fresh Ginger
3 Tablespoons Garam Masala
1 can (28 Ounce) Diced Tomatoes
1-½ cup Heavy Cream
2 cups Basmati Rice
Start by seasoning the chicken legs with some kosher salt. Next sprinkle them on both sides with some coriander and cumin. Then coat the chicken completely with the plain yogurt. Set the chicken on a metal rack over a foil-lined baking sheet and place it about 10-12 inches below a broiler for 10 minutes per side. Watch carefully so as not to totally char the chicken. It should have slightly blackened edges. Remove from oven.
Next dice one large onion. In a large skillet melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. Toss in the onions and sauté until they are slightly browned. As the onions cook, mince your garlic. Next, cut off the outer skin and mince or grate a 1×2 inch chunk of fresh ginger. Add the garlic and ginger to the onions. Also throw in about 1 tablespoon of salt.
Next you are going to add the garam masala spice. And if you like it hot, this is also when you will add your hot chili peppers (optional). Serranos work well. Now you are going to add the can of diced tomatoes. Continue cooking and stirring, scraping the bottom of the pan. Add about 1 tablespoon sugar. Let this mixture simmer on medium for about 5 minutes.
To a rice cooker add 2 cups basmati rice, 4 tablespoons butter, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon ground turmeric and 4 cups water. Cover, turn on your rice cooker and walk away. If you do not have a rice cooker, cook your rice as usual but make sure that you use basmati rice. You can also throw some frozen peas into the cooked rice, give them a stir, and allow the heat of the rice to cook the peas.
After the masala sauce has had a chance to simmer for a little bit, add in the 1½ cups of heavy cream. Now add the chicken legs into the masala sauce. A handful of chopped fresh cilantro is a nice addition if you like cilantro. Serve the rice with the chicken masala over top.