Naan

Tired of “just chicken” for dinner, Mark and I decided to mix things up a bit this week by pulling out an old tandoori chicken recipe that we hadn’t tried in a couple years.  While planning the rest of the menu, we agreed that basmati rice felt like a natural side dish for our Indian-inspired chicken – as did naan.  The only problem was we didn’t have much confidence in store-bought naan.  When Mark joked that I should try making it, I took him up on the offer.

A quick online search (not surprisingly) provided a wealth of options.  Some were more labor intensive than others.  For example, some used yeast, while others did not.  I was willing to experiment, but I didn’t want to spend my entire day on it.  I chose the recipe that had the least number of steps, but that still seemed legitimate (based on user reviews that is).

The recipe called for just four ingredients:  flour, yogurt, baking powder and salt.  All four were added to a large bowl and stirred until combined.  Then I dumped the dough on my floured kitchen table (which doubles as my work surface) for kneading.

I’ve only used recipes that require kneading once or twice before, so I was genuinely eager to practice this skill:

After kneading for five minutes, the dough was placed back in a large bowl, covered with a towel and left to rise.  I only peeked once to take this photo:

After an hour, I cut the dough into ten rounds (we were planning on a few nights of leftover Indian).  Each round was flattened with a rolling pin and even more flour on the kitchen table:

With the rolling, the recipe became a little more complicated.  After each piece was rolled, it needed to be immediately placed in a frying pan and cooked for 4-5 minutes.  Once it began to brown and/or puff up, it needed to be moved to the oven, set at 500 degrees.  Being a little impatient for dinner at this point, I decided to double up on the frying pans.  So, at any given moment, I was rolling, frying and baking naans in sets of two.  I’d like to say I kept my cool and became a naan pro, but I was a little more frantic than this calm “action shot” would suggest:

After the first two or three rounds, I got into a rhythm and all ten naan were rolled, fried and baked pretty quickly.  The first few batches were either too soft or too crispy, but the second half of the batch were “just right.”  I found that frying the naan on just one side was not enough.  It really needed to be flipped and cooked for a few minutes on each side – not a major change, but still an extra step in an already busy process!

Much to my surprise, we had almost perfectly timed the chicken, naan and rice to be finished together.  Not bad!

The chicken and rice turned out well.  While trying all of these new recipes, a pleasant side effect is that I’ve become more comfortable with “the basics,” such as baking chicken and boiling rice – both of those activities used to result in dried chicken and even drier rice!

As for the naan, it tasted pretty close to what you’d expect in a restaurant (although I’ll still take the real deal over mine any day).  As I said, the first few pieces were a little undercooked.  The pieces with black spots were much better.  It looked and felt dry to the touch, but it didn’t taste dry at all – I guess the yogurt did its job.  That being said, I would have liked to dunk the bread into something.  This recipe won “repertoire” status quickly.  But next time I want to try my hand at a curry or something with a heavy sauce so that the homemade naan can really be put to work. 

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