The other day, I was sitting at Satan’s Palace, (aka Starbucks; I needed free wifi) trying to fill out a credit app with my new Food Purveyor representative. While killing time—lots of time—waiting for an automated, newly updated, user-friendly, instantaneous, time-saving credit application to be sent/loaded/processed, we got to talking food. Who would’ve guessed, right? A food salesman/chef and a chef/teacher/restaurant owner talking food!
What began with a conversation about the products and price points available from his company eventually turned to toward food allergies and favorite restaurants and finally to cuisines. My rep is a former professional chef and, like me, he’s interested in ethnic cuisines and disheartened by a lack of Indian restaurants on Amelia Island. Now’s the chance for all you ’Villians to go Jalen Ramsey on me and boast about Baymeadows Road and the plethora of Indian eating spots. Go ahead, get it out of your system! We on the Island will just have to make our own.
Curry powder is the first thing that pops into most folks’ heads when Indian food is mentioned. That’s cool, because at the base of all Indian fare is a complex mixture of exotic spices. The term ‘curry powder’ is generic for many different spice blends used throughout the sub-continent. A typical blend usually includes cumin, coriander, turmeric, mustard, cinnamon, cardamom and chili peppers. Another well-known Indian spice blend is garam masala, which usually contains nutmeg, cloves, cumin, coriander and cinnamon.
The funny thing about these common Indian spice blends is that you may not find them in India. Weird, right? Why? Because when preparing many Indian dishes, part of the cooking technique is to dry-toast whole spices first, then grind them in a mortar and pestle or with a spice grinder. This makes an immense difference in the brightness of flavor. Even if you choose to take a short cut and use pre-ground spices, you should always toast them in the pan for a minute or two. Never, never just stir them in like a mindless shoemaker, unless your goal is to have your meal taste like listless dishwater.
The recipe I have for you today is for Naan, an incredibly delicious yeast-risen flatbread which uses yogurt as an enriching agent. The best way to cook these tasty wonders is on a cast iron griddle.
Chef Bill’s Naan
• 6 oz. whole milk
• 1-1/4 oz. active dry yeast, plus 1 pinch extra
• 1-1/2 tsp. sugar
• 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra if needed
• 2 tsp. kosher salt
• 1 cup Greek yogurt
• 1 tsp. preserved lemon, minced
• 1 Tbsp. olive oil
1. Heat the milk until it reaches 110°F, no more! Transfer to a small bowl, whisk in the yeast and sugar. Let stand until it becomes foamy, about 10 minutes.
2. Mix flour with salt and preserved lemon in large bowl.
3. Add yeast mixture, yogurt and olive oil to the flour. Mix until a loose dough forms.
4. Transfer to floured surface, knead until smooth dough forms; add flour as needed.
5. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and let rise for 1 to 2 hours.
6. Punch down, divide into two-ounce pieces.
7. Roll into circles, sprinkle with course salt, cook on medium-high griddle, moistened with olive oil. Cook until bubbles begin to appear, then flip (should be browned like a crêpe). Continue to cook until browned on bottom side.
Email Chef Bill Thompson, owner of Fernandina’s Amelia Island Culinary Academy, at email@example.com, for inspiration and to get Cheffed-Up!