Today’s epic (and possibly somewhat manic) cooking journey was the result of being done with midterms and hoping to cook a nice big batch of something delicious for the week. I first decided on Indian spiced butternut squash in the slow cooker, then some lentils, and then…. To find out what I wound up with and why this story is titled as such, follow me down the rabbit hole of my version of Indian cooking.
I had this butternut squash sitting around from my CSA that I really felt like cooking for some reason. I went through a list of ideas on my head and then finally decided I wanted something spicy/salty/sweet– something Indian. After a quick Googling, I came across this recipe over at The Perfect Pantry that looked simple and delicious enough.
I had all the ingredients but fenugreek, so I whipped it up sans that and plus half a habanero from my garden. I set that going before I left for the gym with my friend, and when we came back the house had started to smell delicious.
…but what was I going to eat it with?! I didn’t have any basmati rice. I needed some protein if I was going vegetarian this week, and something savory would balance out the squash well. Well, I thought to myself, lentils are simple enough. So I pulled together a batch of my favorite yellow lentil recipe, one I made up myself.
My favorite lentils aren’t entirely Indian. First I put oil or ghee in a pot and heat it up, then I add black mustard seeds and cover the pot quickly, swishing it around and letting the mustard seeds pop. Then I add in the lentils and stir them, then add at least double the amount in water of the lentils I’m cooking, a few star anise flowers, salt, and maybe some dried chili peppers. I let that simmer, stirring constantly and adding water as necessary until it becomes a delicious yellow mush.
But there wasn’t anything green! Or tangy/salty! I’m such a color fiend when it comes to food. I’d want the whole rainbow on my plate if I could naturally get it. And I did have that okra sitting in the fridge…time for some bhindi masala!
…and this is where it all took a turn for the “way more than was necessary” side.
…I wanted naan. I’d never cooked naan at home before, other than premade stuff. I wanted warm, fluffy, slightly garlicky naan. How hard could it be?
Once again, I dug around the internet. It seemed to be a little more labor-intensive than I thought, because it’s actually a yeasted bread…but I wanted it, dammit. I found a recipe on Allrecipes (one of my go-to recipe sites) that seems to be delicious and reasonably simple, albeit time consuming. I knew that with yeast, you had to proof it first (which that recipe didn’t do), so I had to add a little sugar to the yeast/water mixture, but soon enough I was off!
Mix, let proof. Add flour, egg, milk (lactose free worked fine), salt, (I also added a little baking soda), and mix. Knead into a smooth ball. Let rise in a oiled bowl, covered with a damp towel. Punch down, add minced garlic. Form into littler balls. Let rest to rise again on a baking sheet covered with a towel. Stretch it out…and?
Well, that’s where I got stuck for a bit. Naan is a grilled bread. My oven is pretty dicey (it melts my refrigerator because of poor forethought by the designer of this place, among other things), so broiling it wouldn’t work. I could pan fry it, but it wouldn’t taste the same and I wasn’t sure it’d get the right color going on. I really wanted to grill it, but I didn’t have any charcoal for my Weber grill.
And this is where things turned for the highly inadvisable. I don’t really recommend trying this, though I seem luckily to be alive and have not set anything on fire.
I took my wok ring, inverted it, and set it on top of my gas stove (on top of the existing gas burner square cover things) to get things away from the direct heat. Then I put the grill part of the weber on top of that… and turned it on at a very, very low heat. Nothing caught on fire, there was no excessive smoke, so I figured I’d give it a shot.
I turned up the heat a little, let the grill get warm, then stretched out one of the balls of naan. I gently brushed just a little ghee on one side (barely any because a drip of hot ghee onto the flame would’ve been bad news), and placed that side down on the grill. I hovered over it with my tongs and spatula, ready to pull it off at any second if things went south.
…but they didn’t. It seemed to firm up enough to turn it, so I did, making sure that the different corners got some heat. When it seemed firm enough, I brushed the other uncooked side with a little ghee and flipped it. It had perfect golden grill marks on it. I hovered over it and watched the other side, curious if the whole thing would firm up enough. Sure enough, it did.
So I pulled that one off and ate it. Hot damn, it was delicious!!
Then I proceeded to cook the rest of my dough balls, to great success. None of the dough stuck to the grill in my experiment (probably because I made sure to put ghee on it and carefully lay it down on the grill, making sure none got stuck between the grill bars), and there was only a negligible amount of smoke– less than when I cook meat in a pan.
I would NOT NOT NOT NOT DEFINITELY NOT use this method for anything greasy or drippy or juicy. NO meat. NO veggies. NO grilled cheese or quesadillas. That’s just asking for a really, really sad disaster. The bread seemed to work out okay because I elevated it enough, the bread had enough structural integrity (my dough wasn’t too thin or gooey), and I made sure to very, very carefully lightly oil the bread with ghee (which has a high smoke point). Also, the heat could be turned off immediately at any point in time.
So in short, I think I got lucky. I wouldn’t advise this. There are so many factors that could lead to big problems. You’d have better luck if you used a grill outside and had a fire extinguisher nearby. A George Foreman might be great, and a toaster oven might work okay if you’re really careful. (Unfortunately, because my place is so freaking tiny, I have no room for any of these gadgets!)
…but at least I got my naan fix, have a fantastic spread for lunches next week, and have an interesting story to tell for it! I do recommend giving the butternut squash recipe a shot, that was pretty tasty and dealt well with being ignored while it was in the slow cooker. And the naan recipe is pretty solid if you want to try cooking it in a more safe manner.
P.S. I’m not sure when my next post will be because I have to find my camera battery charger. I’m not willing to subject you all to posts without pictures!