Tuesday, July 21, 2009

RedEye Virtual Kitchen Stadium FINALS: Mint!

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So this is it... the final cookoff in RedEye's Virtual Kitchen Stadium. I've had an amazing opportunity to share my culinary side in the following 2 challenges:

Cherries in a Savory Dish
Savory Triple Cherries Jubilee
Cherry, Cheddar & Rosemary Scones
Cherry & Orange Champagne Vinaigrette
over a bed of mixed greens
Cherry Balsamic Braised Stuffed Chicken
served over caramelized turnip puree


Alcohol in a Vegetarian Dish
Artichoke, Mushroom & Leek Mille Feuille
served with a Thyme Beurre Blanc sauce & sauteed garlic spinach

Now it's time for the final challenge which requires me to use fresh MINT to pay homage to Chicago's Devon Avenue and the Indian & Pakistani cultures represented in that ethnic neighborhood. I'm glad to have been given Devon Avenue to use as my culinary inspiration, as it's a neighborhood that I hold close to my heart. We used to live off of Devon Avenue a few months ago and I hosted several culinary neighborhood tours of the various shops and restaurants there.

In creating my final challenge dish, I wanted to highlight the various ways in which mint is used by Indian and Pakistani cuisine through a full, complete and balanced meal. It would be easy to just make an Indian/Pakistani inspired dish and just throw mint in it to satisfy the challenge... but would it do the cultures and cuisines any justice?

Furthermore, these cuisines may seem intimidating to some folks because of the many spices used. Even more intimidating is perhaps trying to cook these cuisines at home, when staple spices used in a traditional Indian/Pakistani kitchen may not be so common or accessible. In coming up with a dish, I also wanted to represent the Indian and Pakistani culture and cuisine yet have it approachable to those who may not be familiar with the authentic ingredients used. And although Indian/Pakistani cuisine can pack some heat, I've opted to keep my inspired dishes pretty mild and more on the sweet side. You're welcome to add some heat by including some green chiles in the recipes if you'd like.

Mint is also known as Pudina in Indian cuisine. You can often see mint used to flavor condiments such as yogurt based dips, sauces and chutneys. Pudina Raita is a yogurt based condiment with fresh mint used in Indian and Pakistani cuisine. I find that yogurt is a great way to tenderize chicken so I've marinated chicken tenders in a pudina raita to not only tenderize but to also impart flavor.

To add additional flavor, I also prepared a mango, mint & cilantro chutney. This chutney is a nice sweet condiment that has a balanced flavor of fresh mango and refreshing herbs of mint and cilantro. Served on the side to compliment my pudina raita chicken, you'll have a refreshing Indian meal perfect for the summer.

To finish the meal, why not wash it down with a lassi? Instead of the common mango lassi seen on Indian menus, I've given lassi a minty spin by pairing it with coconut milk and lime. So with my brainstorming put to the test, here is my final RedEye Virtual Kitchen Stadium meal, highlighting mint in Indian/Pakistani cuisine...

Mint in an Indian/Pakistani Inspired Dish
Pudina Raita Chicken
served with garlic naan, Mango, Mint & Cilantro Chutney
Mint, Coconut & Lime Lassi

Pudina Raita Chicken
original Joelen recipe

Marinade:
1 cup low fat plain yogurt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup mint leaves
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 cup leaf parsley
3-5 cloves garlic
1/2 small onion, roughly chopped
1 "thumb" fresh ginger, about 1/2 tablespoon
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoon garam masala
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
* Add 1-2 green chiles, if you'd like it spicier with some heat

1-2 lbs chicken tenders
garlic naan
2 tablespoons yogurt + 1/2 tablespoon water to thin down

Combine all the marinade ingredients in a blender and process to create a smooth marinade.


Pour the marinade into a shallow dish and add the chicken. Toss the chicken to coat, cover and chill for at least 30 minutes.


Grill the chicken tenders on medium high heat until cooked through. Remove from grill and allow to rest for 3-5 minutes before cutting into slices.


Top the garlic naan with the Pudina Raita Chicken. Garnish with the Mango, Mint & Cilantro Chutney (recipe follows); serve extra on the side and drizzle the chicken with the thinned down yogurt before serving.




Mango, Mint & Cilantro Chutney
original Joelen recipe

1 cup fresh mango, diced
1 cup fresh mint
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 small red onion
1 small "thumb" of ginger root, about1/2 tablespoon
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
2 tablespoons lime juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
* Add 1 green chile, if you'd like it spicier with some heat


Combine the above ingredients in a blender and process until you have a slightly thick sauce. Serve with pudina raita chicken as a condiment on the side.



Mint, Coconut & Lime Lassi
original Joelen recipe

1 bunch fresh mint leaves
1 15oz can coconut milk
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon grated lime zest
3 tablespoons honey
1-2 cups ice

Combine all the above ingredients in a blender and process until smooth and frothy. Serve in a tall glass with a straw.

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