July 20, 2010

Daring Cooks Challenge - Chicken with Curried Tomato Almond Sauce

I love almond butter.  There's no denying that almond butter on a slice of crispy toast is a tad dry (try slicking some real butter underneath for just the right amount of creaminess), but you also can't deny the healthy goodness of almond butter.  It never really occurred to me to make my own until I saw this month's Daring Cooks' Challenge.

The July 2010 Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They challenged Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. I opted for the almond butter - natch - and made the delicious Indian-scented chicken dish that was adapted from The Food Network's Butter Chicken recipe.

I made further adaptations to the challenge recipe, using almond milk instead of regular, and cutting down on the (real) butter.  I also used chicken thighs, as I prefer the tasty meatiness of dark chicken meat, and found it a great foil to the rich sauce. 

 Chicken with Curried Tomato Almond Sauce
4 servings

2 c raw whole almonds*
1 tbsp olive oil
6 skinless boneless chicken thighs
Salt to taste
½ tbsp garam masala seasoning
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp black pepper
1 tbsp butter
1 large onion, cut in half lengthwise
1 large garlic cloves, minced
15 oz good quality tomato sauce
⅓ c almond butter
⅓ cup almond milk
½ cup chicken broth or water; more as needed
1 c frozen peas (optional)
Hot basmati rice for serving
Slivered almonds and parsley (optional)

*You will have plenty of almond butter left over.  Use it as a healthy alternative to peanut butter, or in protein shakes.

1.  Turn on food processor, and slowly add almonds in a steady stream. Grind the nuts in the processor until they form a paste or butter. This will take about 15 to 20 minutes for whole almonds; the skin of whole almonds will leave dark flecks in the butter.  

2.  Pat chicken thighs dry and sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Heat olive oil a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken; sautĂ© about 5 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Cool slightly, slice chicken thighs; set aside on clean plate and keep warm.

3.  Stir garam masala, ginger, cinnamon, and pepper together in a small bowl to make spice blend. Set aside.

4.  In the same skillet, melt the butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook gently for several minutes to infuse the butter and oil with onion flavor. Add the spice blend and garlic and cook for 1 minute or till fragrant, stirring constantly. Add the tomato sauce, stir well, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Remove onions and discard. 

5.  Whisk in almond butter and milk until thoroughly combined with tomato sauce. The almond butter is thick so it takes a while to make a smooth sauce. Return to simmer. Add broth (or water) to sauce to reach desired consistency; return to simmer. Add more broth (or water) as needed to thin sauce as desired.

5.  Stir frozen peas (if using) into sauce. Transfer sliced chicken to sauce. Simmer gently for a few minutes until peas and chicken are heated through.

6.  Serve chicken and sauce over rice. Garnish with chopped parsley and/or sliced almonds if desired.

We neither used the rice nor the garnish, but just had the chicken straight up, with a lovely green salad on the side. Thanks, daring Cooks, for a delicious dinner treat!