Sunday, March 1, 2009

Garam Masala Explored.

For this past San Valentin menu, I stumbled upon a recipe for fried rice with duck confit that involved garam masala. The last time the spice had intrigued me was circa 1997: Michael Lomonaco's recipe for fancy oatmeal that combined old-fashion rolled oats with mango yogurt guessed it, a "pinch" of garam masala. I was fairly impressed with a desperately underrated spice. But, after moving to Northern California I rarely encountered it.

(Though one other memory stands out circa 1998 at "Big Sherms" chef pad in Lower Haight, SF where spices lined the windowsill in neat rows of baby food jars. We took one down and opened it. "Garam masala," C-double said. Yet, with one single breath, I already knew.)

Fast-forward to 2009...
In the never-ending pursuit of transforming boneless, skinless chicken breast into a dish that will truly blow your mind, an old high school chum offered this marinade:

"try marinating chicken (or ur fav meat) in garam masala, juices of limes and lemon, melted butter, and salt. marinate overnight and grill."
It tastes as good as it sounds—salty, sweet, savoury, buttery and tart hugging the senses! I marinated two chicken breast halves and one boneless skinless thigh (for more levels of fat flavor) for about 4 hours before grilling. Pragya said she's also employed oranges for the marinade, but this time I only used Meyer lemon and lime. I was concerned about the butter as I'm so used to marinating with olive or sesame oil, but it worked out well and brought a distinct richness to the final dish. I served the chicken with a side of micro-greens tossed with cucumber-ranch dressing and got a little naughty with indulgent slices of Acme's Rustic Italian loaf toasted with Straus Creamery salted butter and laced with olio tartufo bianco (extra virgin olive oil infused with white truffle).

Food glee at its finest. Truly.

Buon Gusto, Pragya!


Anonymous said...

The Garam Masala marinade sounds great. Why do you add butter to the marinade? I would think that it would just turn solid in the fridge and have very little chance to permeate the chicken. Could one add the melted butter just prior to grilling?

Acme Bakery is one of my favorites outside of Poilâne in Paris and London. Did you know that Acme uses regular old Fleischmann’s yeast and the flour... well, I won't spoil the surprise. I'll let you find out for yourself... fellow foodie.

SpicyBrowngirl said...

Hi, Anonymous!

I was following Pragya's recipe which she generously offered when I began exploring garam masala. I saw the butter solidify in the marinade, so I realized that she probably meant to cook in melted butter or add it just before cooking.

Acme (the one started in Berkeley) uses organic flour... a mixture hand-picked annually from West Coast distributors. I didn't know about the yeast, but I've heard they use a few legendary starters which gives their breads unique flavor.