Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Playing it safe isn't always good. This can be said when you are cooking or going out to eat. For example, my mom and I were recently in New York City.

I conducted cooking demos from my cookbook for Women's Health magazine's "Are You Game" event. We asked some of the ladies at the event for suggestions for dinner. One of the ladies shared with us about an Indian restaurant that she loves! I knew what my mom's first reaction would be. Mom- "I don't know about Indian food." I reminded her that she has had Indian cuisine before and liked it.

Have you ever wondered what the contestants ate while filming for "Masterchef"? Well, we ate whatever was available at the hotel. That got old after a while so we decided to order in one night. Faruq suggested we order from his favorite Indian restaurant. I can't think of the name now, but anyway I had never had Indian cuisine at this point. I decided that I wouldn't order anything off the menu but would just try a little of everyone else's food. Faruq ordered plenty of extra food especially naan, Indian bread. I loved everything I tried! I couldn't remember the names of anything except saag paneer (or creamed spinach).  I decided to order Indian food from the same restaurant when my parents and I were in Los Angeles last. They enjoyed it!

Back to NYC! So my mom said let's do it. We should go to Bhatti Indian Grill for dinner. The restaurant is located in the heart of Little India. The ambience is quaint and chic. We ordered
                                                                       Tandoori Chicken
from bottom to top: Saag Paneer (creamed spinach), Gobhi Mussalam (cauliflower in an onion-tomato  sauce) & Tamatarwala Jheengha (shrimp in a tomato gravy)

                                                                  Butter and Garlic Naan

The Tandoori Chicken was so packed with flavor. It has to be the most flavorful chicken I have ever had. Then I dipped into the spinach, cauliflower, and shrimp dishes. I almost don't have words to describe how good all of those dishes tasted. The shrimp had a spice to it that made you want more. The cauliflower had a butter flavor and the spinach was creamy and delish. I used the naan to sop up any sauce left on my plate. Sheetal shared with me that traditionally Indian cusine is eaten with your hands using naan.

I left Bhatti Indian Grill with inspiration to use some of their flavor combinations in my own cooking. So I did just that.
I decided to prepare pork chops for dinner last night but I wanted to pack in a lot of flavor into them. I combined several spices with plain yogurt, lemon juice, crushed garlic and ginger, and salt. I allowed the butterflied pork chops to marinade in the yogurt mixture for about 2 hours. Meanwhile, I prepared my stuffing which was cubed green apple, green tomato, and leek. I sauteed these ingredients in butter over medium heat for about 15 minutes or until the green apples were soft. I then seasoned the vegetables and fruit with salt. I removed the pork chops and wiped off the excess marinade. I stuffed each pork chop with the green apple mixture and secured with toothpicks.
You want to be sure to grease your grill pan and heat it over medium-high heat. Once hot, I placed the pork chops into the grill pan (toothpicks sticking up). After 5 minutes, I removed the toothpicks and carefully flipped the pork chops over. Cook the pork chops for another 5 minutes. I removed the pork chops from the grill pan and placed into a baking dish. Lastly, I brushed the rest of the marinade over the pork chops and baked them in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 15-18 minutes, depending on the thickness of the pork chops.
Voila! Dinner is served!

                     Spice marinated pork chops stuffed with sauteed green apple, green tomato, and leeks
                                                          served with sweet potato cakes


  1. Whitney,thank you for saying all those good things about our food!i hope you can write it down as one your best experiences.

    Whitney may be if you could give me a hint of the things you had from that Indian restaurant Mr.Faruq suggested, i can perhaps guess the name of those dishes you had?That Indian Flat bread you had it's real name is Chappati

    Again you've mentioned that you had Tandoori chicken but looking at the picture you've posted here it seems to me like it's Chicken Tikka...

    And i've no words about how tasty Saag Paneer should've mentioned it like Creamed spinach in Cottage cheese,because Cottage cheese[paneer]that's the core ingredient in that dish .

    then the Tamatarwala Jheenga (delicacy of prawns, simmered in a rich tomato gravy, finished with traditional tempering] which is a the Gobi Musallam,Cauliflower (Gobi) marinated and cooked with a spicy gravy in a typical Mughlai style...which has a royal touch to it...but one i'd like to ask you is that were these dishes too spicy for or your mom?most foreigners used to describe our Cuisine being the spiciest and hottest food!ya i know it's a bit spicy and hot but not really that spicy and hot...ours and Mexican food culture is somewhat similar..

    And in your Spice marinated pork chops....what's the spice factor in it...that makes it spicy?

    Anyway I'm pretty sure that you've fallen in love with Indian Food...and gave you some inspiration!i hope to see some Indian style in your cooking...Thank you....and Jai Ho!!!

  2. Whitney,
    I'm from Brazil, and I have watching Master Chef in my country, and since beginning I have twisting for you. ( I dont know if finished a long time the reality show in USA, but in Brazil I saw the last episode today, and thats why I'm writing today.)
    Congratulation by your talent, and inspirations that you give to me. I'm just one years more young than you, and you have inspired me to go beyond.
    I wanna see you trying doing a brazilian "feijoada" in your blog. It's a popular brazilian food, with beans and pork, that you gonna enjoyed.
    Succes in your life.
    Kisses from Brazil for you.

  3. great to see that you tried all this, and tandoori chicken is one of my favorites. My mom cooks the best butter chicken in the world and its really very easy buy obviously has lot of butter and cream.
    there is a gravy chicken called "safed mirch ka chicken", its basically chicken in a white gravy and we eat it with bread.

    garlic naan is the best thing in the world, me and my mom we love garlic so much that we even use it in the normal chapatis that we make at home.

    as an indian, i would recommend you to please taste the Kebabs- both vegetarian and non vegetarian. Paneer tikka and malai kofta as well.

    and i hope you have tasted dal makhani?

    once again, thanks for sharing

    -sheenam puri

  4. Hello Whitney,
    I am Bhatti Indian Grill's owners wife, and constantly following foodies/chefs on the net for their inspiration and ideas. I am absolutely delighted that you decided to come to Bhatti while in NY, and overjoyed that you loved the food. It is the biggest compliment when a Chef appreciates our food.

    The next time you are in NYC, please do look me up and it would be our pleasure to host you for another great meal at Bhatti. Thanks for coming and look forward to more Indian inspried recipes from you!!