One-Pot Wonders: Chicken-Cauliflower-Spinach Masala

26 Oct

I’m home from a week out of town and stocked up on fresh groceries. I usually don’t have enough energy to run errands AND cook dinner in the same day. But if I didn’t get back into the cooking saddle, I knew how easy it would be canter off down the take-out path or the processed food trail.

Chicken-Cauliflower-Spinach Masala on Jasmine rice

What to do when I hadn’t yet had time to plan the week’s menu? What could I cook that would be easy, fast and tasty? Sounds like time for a one-pot meal . . . protein, vegetables and grain all in one bowl.

There was still one of the mammoth boneless, skinless chicken breasts I’d purchased a couple of weeks ago in my freezer. In the cupboard, I knew I had a jar of Indian flavoured cooking sauce in the cupboard (Patak’s Tikka Masala, as it turned out).

As I wandered the vegetable aisles — which is what happens when I don’t have a plan — I tried to recall the most common vegetables used in Indian cooking. Luckily for me the cauliflower looked good and they were small. In other words, a sensible size for the solo kitchen. I also had my choice of spinach — baby, cello or bunched. I went with the cello spinach as the larger, hardier leaves would hold up best to cooking in the sauce.

I know next to nothing about Indian cooking except that the secret seems to be tied to the freshness, quality and combination of the spices. Spice mixtures can be well-guarded family secrets, I’m told! On occasion, I have made a coconut milk-jarred paste curry from scratch but I’m at a loss as to how to make most curry dishes in my own kitchen. Perhaps someone in the Savvy Supper community can suggest some great South Asian cooking resources?

While the processed jar sauce was probably higher in sodium levels than a home-made Masala sauce, the one in my cupboard was relatively low in fat (in contrast with a butter chicken sauce, for example) and med-high on the ‘heat’ scale.

When I returned from the grocery store, I quickly washed and cut the cauliflower into bite-sized florets. I chopped a small cooking onion into small dice. The spinach was washed, trimmed and left to drain in a colander. Basmati rice would have been my first choice for the side dish but I didn’t have enough (made a note on the shopping list) to make 2 portions, so I set up the rice cooker with Jasmine rice.

Soften finely diced onion, saute cubed chicken breast

Cut a large chicken breast (or two small) into 3/4″ dice. Heat  1 tablespoon of olive oil in a very large skillet (one with a lid if you have it) over medium heat. Add the onion and cook it for 2 – 3 minutes or until it starts to soften. Turn the heat up just a bit and add the cubed chicken, sauteing and turning frequently with a wide wooden spoon. Continue cooking until the poultry is no longer pink and the exterior of the meat is sealed, about 5 minutes.

Add Marsala sauce and cauliflower. Stir to combine and simmer.

Add a 400 mL jar of Masala sauce. The label indicates that it would provide sauce for 3 – 4 chicken tikka masala servings, but since I planned to add lots of vegetables I hoped the sauce would be enough to provide 2 Savvy Single Suppers. Add 4 cups of cauliflower florets and thin the sauce a bit with some water to allow for extra liquid needed to cook the florets. Simmer the meat, sauce and cauliflower, uncovered, on medium low heat for about 12 minutes.

Add damp spinach leaves, cover and cook until wilted, about 3 minutes.

Turn the burner up to Medium heat again. Add the package of trimmed, still damp cello spinach leaves to the pan. Stir a few times until the leaves are coated with sauce. Put the lid on your fry pan (or use a large cookie sheet to cover the skillet) and allow the mixture to simmer for 2 – 4 minutes or just until the spinach leaves have wilted. Stir well to distribute the spinach throughout the mixture.

Place cooked Jasmine rice in the bottom of two pasta bowls and top with half of the Chicken-Cauliflower-Spinach Tikka Masala mixture. The sauce was a 2 out of 3 chilies on the heat scale, so I paired my dinner with an icy-cold Keith’s India Pale Ale. As it turned out, the Jasmine rice did a great job absorbing the sauce and helped to cool the spice level down a notch, too.

A one-pot wonder in under 30 minutes.

The supper was ready in half an hour. I had one fry pan to clean plus the liner and lid of the rice cooker. The meal contained a lean protein (2 servings), some dairy (from the Masala sauce), the cancer-fighting vegetable cauliflower and the deep leafy green of the spinach. Each of the two meals contains at least 5 servings of vegetables. This meal would be equally yummy omitting the rice and substituting Naan bread, if gluten is not an issue for your diet.

Allow the second serving to cool in the bowl, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. I typically reheat such a meal covered with a splatter guard in my microwave. I add a tablespoon or two of water which helps revitalize the cooked rice.

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3 Responses to “One-Pot Wonders: Chicken-Cauliflower-Spinach Masala”

  1. Debby Simpson October 27, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

    This looks really good. And thanks for the tip about the cookie sheet lid, simple but I would never have thought of it.

    • Susan at Savvy Single Suppers October 29, 2012 at 12:09 pm #

      A small kitchen and a limited budget become the mothers of invention in a Savvy kitchen!

      • Susan at Savvy Single Suppers October 29, 2012 at 12:37 pm #

        Just a quick note about re-heating this dish: For best results, store the rice and tikka masala separately. Reheat the rice (with a tablespoon or two of water) on your plate or bowl in a microwave, on High. Gently reheat the masala mixture in a small skillet or pot over Medium-Low heat.

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