I was craving Indian food (after having eaten some at a great buffet around my work) and I went online to get a recipe for something I knew I liked - Chicken Tikka Masala.
The thing is, I’m one of those people who, when he gets a test that says, “read all the instructions before beginning the test,” and then the last instruction is “don’t do the test,” I fail. I do stuff as I’m reading. So here’s how the night went:
I got my chicken out of the fridge (after having marinated all night long) and started the oven preheating. The instructions say to cook this sauce while you’re baking your chicken, so I started getting out the ingredients for the sauce while the oven was heating up. Ten ounce can of tomato puree - check. Five ounce can of tomato paste - check. Two pounds of chopped tomatoes…
TWO POUNDS OF CHOPPED TOMATOES?! I didn’t have any tomatoes at all, let alone two pounds.
I turned off the oven, cat-proofed the kitchen, and went to Safeway to get my two pounds of tomatoes.
That’s a shitload of tomatoes.
Got home, started it all back up, started chopping/de-seeding the tomatoes. About halfway through that, the oven was ready to go.
Now, you’re only supposed to cook the chicken for like 10 minutes, which means I had supposedly 10 minutes to finish chopping a pound of tomatoes, get all of that in the pot, and have it boiled down to a “thick sauce.” 10 minutes later, the chicken was done and I was still chopping tomatoes. I left the chicken in and set the oven to “warm” so the chicken wouldn’t overcook or dry out, but would stay warm.
I finished chopping, dumped the tomato stuff into the pot along with 4.5 cups of water and started “cooking on a low temperature” according to the instructions. I then mopped the kitchen because two pounds of chopped tomatoes generally yields a lot of water, much of which ended up on the ground in my furious chopping effort. (It was at that exact moment that the Swiffer WetJet decided to run out of WetJet liquid soap, so it’s probably not as clean as it should be.)
After an hour of “low,” I decided that the heat needed to be, as Emeril puts it, “kicked up a notch.” I wish I had time lapse photography of the heat knob. I’m sure it would show me cranking up the heat like nobody’s business. By this time it was, oh, about 8:00p.
In the meantime, I thought I’d make some Indian flatbread (“naan”) to eat with the chicken. I mixed up the dough and stirred the pot of sauce by holding the spoon between my teeth (I had doughy hands). I kneaded the dough for 10 minutes as specified and finished with that at about 8:30p. Next step - let the bread sit for three hours.
THREE HOURS? There goes the flatbread idea.
Two hours later, it was like 10:00p, the sauce was boiling on medium heat and was nowhere near “thick,” and my flatbread still had a minimum of an hour and a half left to sit before I could start cooking it.
I put in a call to Jenn (who was at a meeting at the time) and she brought home Burger King. We’ll be trying to finish up the Indian cooking effort tonight.
I’ve learned a couple of things from this. First, always read all the instructions before you start and be clear on what they mean. Second, sauce doesn’t cook down as quickly as folks might imply, and “low heat” means “all day.”
It sure smells good, though.