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Tikka Masagna

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Listening to: Christmas Eve/Sarajevo by Trans-Siberian Orchestra

One quiet fall morning, we were attempting to come up with the perfect comfort food to warm our bellies in the cold months. Lasagna was a recurring theme, but we needed something different. Something so epically insane and absurd that it had to be good. Thus began the several month long pregnancy that finally culminated in the birth of our latest post, Tikka Masagna.

Our meal is inspired by the dish tikka masala, which has quite a complicated history that we truthfully don’t really feel like elaborating on here; but if you’re interested in the story, there is a very thorough article here. One thing that is for sure, though, Tikka Masagna is a Salt and Sage original. And we will fight to the death (rhetorically speaking) with anyone who contests this.

Admittedly, this recipe is grotesquely long. It seems to just keep going and going and going. You might ask, “Why can’t I just use that box of lasagna noodles that’s been sitting in the back of my shelf for upwards of two years?” We thought about that too, and in a side-by-side comparison, the chickpea pasta won out easily. It’s tender and nutty and the perfect complement to the rest of the masagna. Trust us, we wouldn’t put you up to the task if it wasn’t worth it. If you’re feeling daunted, however, we offer two suggestions: Divide the tasks up with a friend/loved one, or make some of the components ahead of time. Finally, a well organized mise en place will make you so much more effective on the front lines. God speed, my friend.

Servings: will comfortably feed 4 voracious individuals or 6 wusses

Equipment That Will Make Your Life A Lot Easier:

  • Cheesecloth
  • Instant-read thermometer
  • Pasta roller
  • Digital scale

Ingredients:

Paneer:

  • 1/2 gallon whole milk, (not UHT pasteurized)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice or vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt

Marinade:

  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup full-fat yogurt
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tbsp garam masala
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp cayenne, depending on your spicy preferences
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground fenugreek
  • 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
  • 5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

Masala Sauce:

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1-2 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 28 oz can of your favorite tomatoes
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 tsp ground fenugreek
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • juice of 1/2 a lime

Coconut-Cilantro Bechamel:

  • 1 12oz can coconut milk (full fat or go home)
  • 3 cloves
  • 3 dashes ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp all purpose flour

Chickpea Pasta:

  • 200 g chickpea flour, plus more as needed (1.5 cups + 2 tbsp)
  • 2 eggs
  • Water as needed

Instructions:

Paneer*:

  • Pour your milk into a saucepan and set over medium heat. Bring to about 200°F, scraping the bottom of the pot every now and then to keep the milk from scalding. The milk will look foamy.
  • Remove the milk from heat and stir in your lemon juice or vinegar. Cover and let stand 10 minutes to give the milk time to separate into curds and whey. If the milk will not separate, it may have been UHT pasteurized, in which case you’ll have some buttermilk in your hands to use for pancakes!
  • Set a strainer lined with cheesecloth over a mixing bowl and gently pour the curds into the strainer, allowing the whey to collect in the bowl.
  • Gather the cheesecloth and gently squeeze the curds to remove excess whey. If the curds are too hot to handle, trying wearing a pair of clean rubber gloves to stave off the excruciating pain.
  • Open the cheesecloth and sprinkle the teaspoon of salt over the curds. Stir gently and taste. Add more salt if needed.
  • Relocate the cheesecloth to a large plate and shape the curds into a squarish shape. Fold the cheesecloth over the curds to hold the shape, and place another plate on top. Weigh down the plate with something like the 28 oz can of tomatoes you will use for your masala sauce. Let sit for at least 15 minutes, up to an hour.
  • Use immediately or refrigerate for up to two days in an airtight container.

Marinade:

  • In a medium-large bowl, gently stir together all ingredients except the chicken. Once mixed well, add chicken thighs and make sure each piece is thoroughly coated. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 8.
  • When it’s time to brown up your little chicklets, remove thighs from marinade and give them a general, half-hearted wipe down.
  • Heat broiler to high. Arrange thighs on a broiler pan; you may need to do this in two batches. Slide pan into broiler and broil for 5 minutes on each side. You want some nice char-kissed bits on the chicken without cooking them through. Add a minute here or there if necessary.
  • Dice into bite sized pieces. Put aside and guard from hungry passers-by as they are still raw.

Masala Sauce:

  • In a good sized sauce pot, heat coconut oil on medium high. Inhale deeply and dream coconut dreams as the lightly sweet and toasty aroma takes you away to a tropical island. Now come back, and add onion, ginger, and garlic. Stir constantly (yes, you are committing the cardinal sin of browning the garlic) for about 10 minutes until the onions start to char on the outside.
  • Lightly crush up tomatoes with your hands and add to pot along with cilantro and water. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Turn down heat to maintain a lightly bubbly simmer and let sit uncovered for 20-25 minutes. Stir occasionally and use wooden spoon to help tomatoes break up.
  • When the sauce has reduced to a hearty consistency, stir in fenugreek, garam masala and lime juice.
  • This sauce can be made a few days in advance to take the pressure off.

Coconut-Cilantro Bechamel:

  • Heat coconut milk in a small sauce pot over medium heat until it comes to almost a boil. Once little bubbles start popping up around the outside of the pot turn off heat and stir in cloves, nutmeg, and cilantro. Cover, and let hang out at room temperature, while you have a glass of wine, for about 30 minutes.
  • Strain coconut milk into a bowl, give the pot you used a quick rinse n’ wipe, and return to the stove. Melt butter over medium heat. You know your stove best; if the butter gets too hot and starts browning you may need to turn down the heat. Once butter has melted add flour. Stir for about 3-5 minutes until flour taste is gone and you have a frothy roux. Gradually add coconut milk to pot. Bring milk to a boil and quickly turn heat down and simmer for 5 minutes. What a bech.

Chickpea Pasta**:

  • Form a mound with the flour and use your fist to make a well in the middle. Crack the eggs into the mound and slowly/gently combine the eggs with the flour until you have a dough.
  • If the dough is too dry, wet your hands and incorporate the moisture into the dough. If it is too wet, roll it in a small smattering of chickpea flour.
  • Knead the dough until it is smooth.
  • When getting ready to assemble the masagna, roll the dough out lengthwise with a rolling pin until it is about 1/4-inch thick. Use a knife or pizza cutter to make strips about 3 inches wide. No need to be too specific, they just need to fit within the pasta roller.
  • Roll the strips through the pasta roller once at the widest point (1 on a Kitchen Aid) and again at the second-widest point. At this point, we were happy with the thickness of the pasta, so we cut it to fit the baking dish and moved on with our lives. Feel free to experiment with different pasta thicknesses to fit your liking.

*Recipe adapted from TheKitchn.com

**Recipe from Foodie Fiasco

 To Assemble:

Congratulations! You are almost the proud parent of a freshly baked masagna! Like any masagna (or JCrew outfit) the fun is in the layering. Blast some tunes and grab your favorite large cooking spoon. It’s about to get saucy.

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Spread a thin layer of masala sauce on the bottom of a large casserole/lasagna/ baking dish. Place one layer of chickpea pasta. Next, spoon over 1/4 of masala sauce, 1/3 diced chicken, a 1/4 bechamel, and a light sprinkling of paneer. Repeat layer two more times.
  • Top last layer with chickpea pasta, remaining masala sauce, bechamel, and crumbled paneer.
  • Place baking dish in oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until bubbling and chicken is cooked through. Let rest for 10 minutes. Garnish with fresh cilantro.
  • You are a culinary beast. You’re welcome.

Wait! The beer!

Listen now, do not skip the beer. You’ve come this far, had minimal breakdowns, and are in need of a celebratory refreshment. Make it count by bringing in the hops!

An American IPA would be a solid place to turn. Spice and hops are good friends so you’re going to want something that matches the intensity of the spices in this dish. If you’re sick of IPAs after seeing shelf after shelf at the liquor store stocked from top to bottom with them, check out a classic instead.

The right pilsner is a wonderful accompaniment to this dish. By pilsner, we don’t mean the watered down, generic American style. We are talking a super crisp, sparkling, tall glass of wonderful with a nice hop backbone. A truly great pilsner offers a slight malty sweetness, some bready-ness and a cut-through-the-spice bitterness. They are by no means boring or devoid of flavor. In fact, forget we mentioned IPAs. PILS. NOW.

Whey to go!

O&J

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