Tuesday, September 21, 2010

We Had an Aarti Party!

I've watched every season of The Next Food Network Star, and usually find myself disappointed by the final selection. To date, Guy Fieri is essentially the only true "Star", on caliber with other celebrity TV chefs, that has resulted from the process.

Each season the field of contestants seems overwhelmingly slanted toward American and French cooking, which is already very well represented on the network - leading (IMHO) to the failures of any of these shows to stand out, or any of the winners becoming household names. From what I can tell, Melissa D'Arabian's show is essentially the same as Sandra Lee's (making family meals on a budget). Aaron McCargo Jr couldn't mumble and cook at the same time, yet still won - bringing nothing new to the network (which they seemed to realize, as they gave the charismatic runner up, Adam Gerlter, two shows so far). Amy Finlay was slated to essentially be another Ina Garten, but then backed out. What the network needs is more variety, notably more shows that focus on non-Western cuisine.

This season, the 'Selection Committee' finally seems to have gotten it. The winner this round was Aarti Sequeira - an Indian born, Dubai raised, US educated blogger who was already doing her own online cooking show before competing to be the Next Food Network Star. She truly brings something new to the network - delicious, accessible Indian fusion cuisine, delivered in a fun and comfortable format. Dan & I are Tivoing it and watching it together, and every week we're inspired. This week, we finally made one of her recipes and were very pleased with the result.

Baked Samosas with Mint Chutney

1 large russet potato
Pinch of Salt
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
3 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 mango, peeled, pitted and finely diced
Juice of 1/2 lime
5 tablespoons chipotle sauce
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
Big handful cilantro leaves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 packages puff pastry, thawed
1 egg
1 teaspoon water

Mint Chutney:
1 cup mint leaves
1/2 cup cilantro leaves and soft stems
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, chopped
1/2 lime, juiced, plus more to taste
About 1/4 cup water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil or olive oil
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Filling: In a small saucepan, add the potato and enough cold water to cover. Add a generous pinch of salt and bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat and simmer until tender, 12 to 15 minutes.

In a second small saucepan, bring 4 cups water to a simmer and add a generous pinch of salt, bay leaves, 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, peppercorns, chili flakes, and chicken breast. Simmer until cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes.

Mash the potato and finely shred the chicken and put into a large bowl. Combine with mango, lime juice, chipotle sauce, remaining coriander seeds, cumin, cilantro, and salt and pepper, to taste. Mixing with a spoon or your hands, until well incorporated. Taste for seasoning and adjust, if necessary. Set aside.

Samosas: Roll the puff pastry out slightly, to flatten the seams. Using a paring knife to trace a 7-inch ring mold or bowl, cut the dough into 8 (7-inch wide) rounds. Cut each into 2 semicircles.

Put a tablespoon or so of the filling in the center of a semicircle. Have a small bowl of water handy. Dip your finger in the water and run it along the edges of the semicircle. Arrange the samosas so the flat side is facing away from you. Grab the left corner and fold it over the dough in a triangular motion, so that this corner lands on the bottom right side of the filling. Do the same with the other corner.

Squeeze bottom shut, and fold over, sealing with water. If you like, seal using a fork. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Arrange the 8 samosas on a lightly greased baking sheet.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg and 1 teaspoon water with a fork until thoroughly combined. Brush the tops of the samosas with the egg wash.

Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees F, then turn heat down to 375 degrees F and bake for 10 more minutes.

Chutney: In a food processor, whiz together the mint, cilantro, ginger, lime juice and water until it all comes together as a sauce. Pour the chutney into a heat-proof bowl.

In a small pan, over medium heat, warm the oil until it shimmers. Add mustard seeds; they should sizzle. Immediately cover with a lid until they stop spluttering. Immediately add the seeds and oil to the chutney. It will sizzle so stand back.

Let the samosas cool for a minute or two, then serve with the chutney.

Recipe from Food Network's Aarti Party

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