Saturday, January 3, 2009

I'm pi$$ poor. Let's crock pot

It has been a really long time since I've updated this blog. As my repertoire of graduate jobs has started to dwindle and I enter the cold and money-poor month of January, I have been forced to squish my New York City life into a shrinking budget.

Luckily for me, Christmas brought the gift of slow cooker. NYC kitchens are tiny. As a result, I'm a bit of a fascist when it comes to determining what appliances will and will not be in my kitchen. For years I lived with a kitchen-aid mixer and an electric nettle. I lived that way very happily. Since moving in with my bf, my kitchen has been hammered with appliance gifts. Everything from food processors to toasters. Someone has even given me a knife sharpener...presumably for my one and only knife.

This Christmas my grandmother gave me a crock pot. At first, I was horrified - where-the-hell-am-I-going-to -put-this horrified. I quickly warmed up to the gift as it would give me two greater presents a) cheap tasty food and b) boyfriend cooking time.

Despite having owned an antique Westinghouse meter tall slow cooker for years, I've never actually cooked anything in a slow cooker. I used the Westinghouse machine for storage until I had to store it in my grandmother's garage pre-NYC move. Turns out, it's like an idiot's kitchen. I can throw anything in there and it, more or less, comes out ok.

Tonight I decided to work the crock pot to save cash on something on which I typically spend lots of cash - eating in Indian restuarants. NYC has a slew of great Indian restaurants. It is really easy to blow my weekly budget on one night of chicken makhani and a couple of Taj I busted out the crock pot and it was cheap and amazing. Here is how I did it.

Most of these ingredients I had at home already - starting from scratch would be a bit of an investment.

Chicken Makhani a la Crock Pot

1/4 Ghee or oil (I'm really lazy about this. I usually throw in 2 Tbs of butter and 3 Tbs of olive oil)
2 lbs of chicken thighs, bones in, skin on (skin and rinse the thighs before cooking)
1/2 cup of onion minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp of ground cayenne
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 inch of fresh ginger, minced
2 tsp of curry powder (You can also buy this - old stuff will taste bad. I make my own by roasting until fragrant but not burnt 1/4 cup of coriander seeds, 2 Tbs of cumin seeds, 1 Tbs of black peppercorns, 2 tsp fenugreek, 2 cinnamon sticks, 1 Tbs of ground tumeric, 2 tsp of ground green cardamon or crushed pods, 1 tsp of whole cloves, 1 tsp ground ginger, 1 dried red chili pepper with stem or a 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper. Fenugreek is really important to this recipe as it gives most Indian food found in U.S. Indian restuarants its characteristic flavour. Check your health food store or an indian food store for it. It is pretty cheap. Grind witha mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder).
2 Tbs Greek yogurt
1 cup of canned tomatos (diced. I used cherry tomatoes, but plum or beef are fine)
2 Tbs of butter (I almost always use salted, but you can sub unsalted)
1/4 cup of water
1 tsp garam masala (you can buy this but I have the stuff to make my own - toast until fragrant 3 Tbs of cumin seeds, 1 Tbs coriander seeds, 1 stick of cinnamon, 1 tsp of green cardamon powder - or 5 crushed cardamon pods, 5 cloves, 1 tsp of ground nutmeg, 1/4 tsp of allspice, 1 tsp of black peppercorns, half a star anise, 2 bay leaves. Grind with a mortar and pestle or with a coffee grinder.)
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp hot paprika
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Heat oil in a large frying pan. Skin and rinse chicken thighs before placing in pan. Fry the chicken on both sides until cooked and light brown on outside (about 15 minutes). Remove the thighs and place them in the bottom of the crock pot, leaving the oil in the frying pan. Add minced onions, salt and cayenne pepper to the pan and saute until onions brown slightly. Add garlic and ginger and saute until fragant, or about 2 minutes. Add curry powder and saute for 30 seconds. Add greek yogurt and saute until it is well asborbed into mixture (there should not be excess liquid). Add tomatoes and butter and saute until bubbling. Remove from heat. Add garam masala, paprika, and bay leave. Pour onto chicken in crock pot. Pour water into the frying pan to rinse the remaining mixture off of the pan and then pour into crock pot. Add 1 cup of heavy cream to crock pot and mix gently. Cook at high heat (setting 2) for 4 hours.
Serves 6 people.

I served this on whole grain basmati rice and it was soooooo good. We have tonnes for lunch tomorrow.

I had the spices before I made the dish so the total cost was a little lower than it might be for someone else.

2 lbs of chicken thighs - $5.50
1 cup of heavy cream - $1.50
2 Tbs of yogurt - $0.50 (2 cup tub of greek yogurt was $2.49)
ginger - $0.50
1/2 cup of onion - $0.40 (whole onion $0.80)
Butter - $1.00 -(two sticks $3.00)
Diced tomatoes - $1.00 (2 cup can ~$3.00)
2 cup of dry Basmati rice - $2.00 (2 lb bag $5.00)

Total cost - $12.40 for 6 people...not bad. Salt, bay leaves and premixed spices would cost another $10 in total. The amount used in this recipe is about $1's worth.

Most importantly, a Taj Mahal will run about $4. A double Taj Mahal beer will cost about $7 in a grocery store.

1 comment:

HammClov said...

My one and only knife. tee hee.