Did you know that dairy—not acid, not oil—is the best marinade there is for tenderizing meat? I’m sure there’s a super-interesting enzyme-related reason for this, but I’m not going to bore people to death by regurgitating research in a recipe headnote. Just take my word for it—next time you’re grilling or broiling chicken, try sprinkling it with salt and pepper and dipping it in yogurt or buttermilk instead of soaking it in a bag of salad dressing or oil and vinegar. The results will probably shock you. In fact, if you like Indian food, you could test the theory out right now with this recipe, adapted from The Pioneer Woman. It makes plenty of leftovers, and the heat and spices are easily adjustable to your own taste.
We got 6 pretty average-sized servings out of this—in other words, my lunches for the week. Hungrier people might get fewer, polite people might get more.
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts (I used about 4 small thighs): $1.76
1/2 cup plain whole-fat yogurt: 38 cents
Few pinches of ground cumin: 3 cents
Few pinches of ground coriander: 3 cents
Kosher salt: 1 cent
28-ounce can petite diced tomatoes: $1.28
1 onion, chopped: 25 cents
2 T butter: 12 cents
1 1/2 cups cream: $1
4 cloves garlic, chopped: 12 cents
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced: 11 cents
garam masala (48 cents/T): $1.44
1 T sugar: 6 cents
Chopped serrano chiles, to taste (optional)
For rice, in picture above:
2 cups dry basmati rice: 75 cents
1 T ground turmeric: 14 cents
pinch salt: 1 cent
4 T butter: 24 cents
Cilantro (1/4 bunch), leaves chopped: 10 cents
TOTAL: $7.83/6 = $1.31/serving
Sprinkle both sides of the chicken thighs with salt, coriander and cumin, dip in the yogurt. Set the chicken on a cooling rack over a cookie sheet and broil on each side, about 5-6 minutes. (Or, if you’re a liiiiitle bit busy, as I was the night I made this, just use a broiler pan. But it won’t turn out as well as it could.) The chicken doesn’t need to be cooked all the way through, but it should have some char on the outside.
Heat 2 T butter in a large sauté pan or skillet over medium-high heat and cook the onion until translucent. Add garlic and ginger and about 1 T of kosher salt. Add garam masala and chiles if using, cook until the mixture is starting to stick to the bottom of the pan.
Add diced tomatoes and 1 T sugar, deglaze the pan, simmer for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, put 2 cups basmati rice, 4 cups of water, 4 T butter, and the turmeric in a rice cooker. Stir a few times once it’s heated up, then leave it to cook.
Serve the masala over the cooked turmeric rice, with chopped cilantro as garnish.