Nan, I Kneed You!

COOKING ADVENTURE #28: Chicken Nan Pockets

Not going to lie; these Cooking Adventures can be a lot of work. And the last few weeks, I’ve been feeling pretty weak. I thought about getting back into a weekly kickboxing schedule to start building back my strength and just to get more exercise. Well, folks, I’ve found a solution… make Nan. I’m not kidding. My arms are sore. I could imagine just hoisting up a hunk of that bread dough from a chain in the ceiling and then just wailing on it. Or just kneeding it for a straight 10 minutes like the directions say you need to do. Holy moley, by the time I was done, I wanted a beer and a nap. Krikey.

So, Nan (pronounced more like ‘fawn’ and less like ‘fan’) is a traditional bread from India, introduced there by the Mongols. There are several different recipes for it, each one incorporating a different mixture of herbs and spices. The recipe I had didn’t call for me to add anything to the bread dough so I didn’t. Kind of wish I had.

The first thing the recipe states to do is to take 2 cups unbleached white bread flour and sift it together with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Obviously, I had no problem with it. In a separate bowl, I combined 4 tbsp. of milk with 1/2 oz. active dry yeast. This is my first experience baking with yeast. I’ve never had occasion to buy the stuff before. I went to the store and bought those little pack of 3 pouches. Each one was 1/4 oz.. Of course, it took me forever to find this on said packet. The moment I tried to “cream the yeast”, it molded into a butterscotch colored blob that didn’t move. I let it sit for about 15 minutes, then added it into the flour, along with 1 tbsp vegetable oil, 2 tbsp plain yogurt and an egg.

I found that as I was mixing them, there was A LOT of extra bread flour that didn’t want to play nice with the rest of the ingredients. It kept flaking up and sticking to the sides of my glass bowl. The directions said I could add warm water to the mixture if the dough was too dry. I think that should have been a requirement… they should have listed exactly how much extra warm water to add because, frankly, I added a lot.

Now… some of you may remember a while ago on another Cooking Adventure, I mentioned that I had issues with flour. The feel of flour on my fingers just gives me jitters, makes me think of nails on a chalkboard. It’s like the reaction that some people get when you mention needles (sorry). So, as I was combining all of these ingredients together with my hands, shivers kept racing up and down my spine whenever I rubbed my fingers together. I kept having to wash my hands, take a mini break and then go back to it. Having such an aversion to flour is kind of debilitating if you are baking ANYTHING.

Eventually, I managed to get the dough into a soft ball. Now comes the fun part… more flour. I took my cutting board that’s approximately the size of Australia and put it down on the counter top. Taking my flour, I sprinkled it across the board lightly. From the mess of my cupboard, I found my rolling pin. I plunked the dough down on the board and proceeded to kneed at it for the next ten minutes. This involved much folding the dough over itself, rolling it out, and yes, even punching it. I got tired very quickly. When I finally got it to the consistency that I wanted, I rolled it out once more for good measure.

This is when the rolling pin broke. Yes. The rolling pin actually broke. How, you ask? One of the little handles on the sides just popped right out. Whoever designed this thing, had the ends held in the middle of the rolling pin with a piece of fabric. This fabric, being quite thin and flimsy, tore. So now, I had to push the rolling pin by the middle, pushing it back and forth with my fingers to try and even out the dough. I then balled up the dough and placed it back in the glass bowl with a cover on top. I left it for an hour in the sun so that it could rest and consequently, double in size.

When the time was up (and after my arms had been given a chance to relax), I preheated the oven to 450 degrees. This is probably the second time I’ve had the temperature up that high. The first would have been when I made the cheesecake all the way back in January, and I had my oven up to 500!  Sounds ludicrous but it was actually quite tasty.

I returned the dough to the floured cutting board and proceeded to kneed it once more for a couple more minutes. When my arms were shaking, I decided to stop and continue on. I divided the dough into 3 equal pieces. The directions say to then roll them out into a teardrop shape and that they should measure out to be 10 inches long, 5 inches wide and 1/4-1/3 inches thick. Wha? Come again? There are specific measurements for these things? It was hard enough just to get them into a teardrop shape! Eventually, I had three pieces of flat dough sitting on a baking sheet. No, I didn’t grab a ruler and measure them after I was done. I decided to try and be creative and sprinkled salt and sesame seeds on the top of each piece, just to add something to them.

These went into the oven for about 4-5 minutes. It didn’t take very long for the bread to puff up and brown on the top. The directions had wanted me to further broil the bread to brown the top but… seemed kind of redundant. Of course, the salt and the sesame seeds didn’t actually bake into the bread at all. I lifted a piece and it all came sliding off. But man oh man, was the nan delicious. This was the first time I’d ever made any fresh baked bread and I almost couldn’t get enough of it. But… I wasn’t anywhere near done with the recipe. So I set the nan aside and moved to the more difficult part of the recipe: the chicken.

I’d already cooked a bunch of pieces of skinless boneless chicken thighs the previous night. I probably should have waited because I forgot that there was marinading involved in this recipe. In a glass bowl, I heaped 3 tbsp. plain yogurt. Next it wanted me to add 1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala. Now, I’ve described garam masala before as being a combination of ridiculously hot spices, several of them customary in most Indian dishes. And a little goes a long way. I added 1 teaspoon to the yogurt and called it good. Next, chili powder. Ha. Ha. Ha. Whoops. I don’t have any. I added ground cayenne pepper instead. 1 tsp. salt was dashed in. I sliced a lemon in half and squeezed the dickens out of one part… then cussed as I dug the seeds out of the spice mixture. It also asks for cilantro. Once again, I’ve discovered the grocery store has decided to stop carrying it. Not sure why…?

And lastly, the green chile. While at my grocery store (which doesn’t seem to carry any of the ingredients I need), I came across a wonderful and varied display of chiles. I knew that the recipe called for green chiles. I swear, for the life of me, I couldn’t remember what shade of green they were supposed to be. There were a few long light green ones, and then some smaller dark green ones. Instinct was telling me to go with the lighter green. And of course, the labels didn’t help at all. “Assorted chiles – $2.99”. Thanks, guys!! So I bought the light green one, cut it open and tried a piece. It didn’t have any heat to it at all. Damn it. I should have bought the dark green one. I added it to the marinade anyway.

After stirring everything together into an eye-misting concoction, I took some of the cooked chicken out of the fridge, cut it up, and added it to the marinade. It says that this is supposed to marinade for an hour. Well, I had plans. I was out of the house until late that night. And then, I had to go to work the next morning… so I didn’t get back to this marinade until 8 the next night. I pulled the glass bowl out of the fridge and pulled off the lid. It was like being kicked in the face by a spicy, Indian mule or something. I turned away and sought out some water. I knew I’d already ruined the recipe and even considered tossing it. But, the show must go on, right?

I lined a baking pan with tin foil, dropped the chicken, marinade, and chile in to it and put it in the oven to bake at… Oh, what temperature? I don’t know because THE BOOK DOESN’T TELL ME! That’s right. It’s not in the directions anywhere. I automatically resorted to 350 and put it in for about 15 minutes. That seemed to do the trick and when I pulled it out, the marinade was bubbling and sizzling. Now the tricky part.

I took one of my nan loaves, and cut it in half. Then, I struggled to cut it open so that there would be a pocket in it for me to stuff my chicken and peppers. In the recipe, they tell you that you can put cabbage and tomato in there too. But how in the heck did they get it all to fit? There was barely enough room for even a little of my chicken to go in. I made a salad to go on the side and sat down to eat.

Honestly, it was good but it wasn’t amazing. Perhaps if I’d had the correct ingredients, it would have been better. The bread was kind of bland without any spices in it and without any tomato in it or hot green chiles to spice it up, it wasn’t much more than a chicken sandwich with some garam masala. I’d thought that alone would have killed my stomach but it turns out it was quite mild tasting. Hmm…

Next week on Cooking Adventures, I’ll be tackling Pecan Pie… oh dear.

~KSilva

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