If you look carefully at the tippy top of the branches, you’ll see all the red-winged blackbirds!
It’s early March, there is mud not snow on the ground and the days are getting longer, so there is still enough light to catch a quick walk after work. The other evening, I had to stop my podcast to see if I was hearing correctly; the cheep of the red-winged blackbirds, a definitive sign of spring! Both blackbirds and robins are back in Vermont and I can’t remember a year they were back so early. I am cautiously optimistic that spring has finally sprung here, but that doesn’t mean I have put away my slow cooker just yet!
The one thing I wanted for myself under the Christmas tree last year was a slow cooker, or what we called a crockpot when I was growing up. While I had a smaller one, all the recipes I found called for the larger pot; I had visions of a winter of already-prepared dinners that I just had to warm and serve with some vegetables. I can definitely confirm its convenience; it is so nice to have a healthy meal I can pull out of the freezer in the morning and just heat after work. There’s nothing like it—aside from going out to eat! The only downfall I’ve found so far is the timing is off on a lot of recipes, so I tend to cut the time and watch it carefully. Maybe because it’s new it is also extra hot, and while I know you’re not supposed to open it to stir, I do to make sure nothing is getting scorched.
The Eater of the House and myself love Indian food, and Chicken Tikka Masala is a favorite, so I selected this recipe to make at home to see how it compared. Braised chicken with warm spices and a hint of coconut served over rice, it was a divine dinner. I was sorry I hadn’t thought ahead to make coconut rice, that would have been a perfect complement to the meal. (Brown rice cooked in a little bit of coconut milk, with shredded unsweetened coconut and minced ginger added.) The color wasn’t the vibrant red that you’d order in a restaurant, I’m honestly not sure what gives it that tinge, but it was still delicious.
Don’t be intimidated by the ingredient list, mostly it’s just measuring and adding. The recipe says it serves four, but I found it would served more even though it was just the two of us. The chicken was so tender it came off the bones, so I just stirred it in the sauce. I also didn’t add the extra Greek yogurt; I didn’t have any in the house and found it delicious just the same. And like my hope, I still have some in the freezer for a night I don’t want to cook!
Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala
This recipe first appeared in the January/February 2016 issue of Cooking Light magazine.
(serving size: 1/2 cup rice, 1 chicken thigh, 1 1/4 cups sauce mixture, and 1 tablespoon yogurt)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 (14.5-ounce) cans unsalted diced tomatoes
1/3 cup water
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
4 (6-ounce) skinless, bone-in chicken thighs
1 cup light coconut milk
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 cups cooked brown basmati rice
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, ginger, and garlic to pan; cook 6 to 7 minutes or until starting to brown, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomato paste and tomatoes; bring to a simmer, and cook 3 minutes. Combine 1/3 cup water and flour in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Add flour mixture, garam masala, paprika, curry powder, salt, and pepper to pan; stir well. Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute.
2. Place chicken thighs in a 6-quart slow cooker coated with cooking spray. Add tomato mixture to slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW 7 hours or until chicken is very tender and sauce has thickened. Turn slow cooker to HIGH; uncover and add coconut milk, stirring with a whisk. Cook, uncovered, 15 minutes. Turn cooker off; stir in cilantro. Let stand 10 minutes. Serve over rice. Top each serving with 1 tablespoon yogurt.
MVK’s *Like* of the Week: High in the Italian Hills…
I consider myself more than lucky that my friend and journalist, Kieran Mulvaney, brought back a can of freshly milled olive oil for me from the hills of Italy a few weeks ago. I use olive oil daily, but have never had oil that was just pressed, so this was all in the name of cooking experimentation! It is peppery, strong, incredibly flavorful, and delicious. It tastes nothing like any olive oil I’ve ever had, even the most expensive kinds. And because it’s so fresh I know I have to eat it fairly quickly, I don’t want to! I want to savor the delicious flavor for months to come.
Kieran wrote about this special farm in Paciano where the olive oil came from in the Washington Post in 2014. You can read his article by clicking here.