(Photo credit (c) 2017 by Tristan Sullivan)
Saag paneer has always been one of my favorite Indian dishes – whenever I went to an Indian restaurant or saw this prepackaged at the supermarket, I was always tempted to get it because of its unique flavor – that fresh and creamy texture marinated in exotic spices and that spongy Indian paneer cheese.
Recently, I was approached with an idea by my trainer who suggested making a 40/30/30 version of saag paneer with a slight twist – removing the paneer cheese and replacing it with chicken. As I was doing my research, I discovered that there were two types – one that was tomato-based (that is usually used with the traditional chicken saag), and another that is yogurt-based (the version used in saag paneer). Both versions have different flavor foundations, but this version is closer to the saag paneer – the spinach sauce is creamier, has an earthy flavor, and uses subtle and mild spices – the flavor of the curry doesn’t hit you right away, but it sits in the back of your mouth like a distant memory. I’ll be posting the bold, spicy and robust tomato-based chicken saag version soon!
This recipe is one of the few that I’ve created where I didn’t use a lot of swaps, since the dish is very healthy for the most part. However, I did swap out the full-fat dairy in this dish for low or nonfat versions and adjusted the rice and chicken amounts in order to hit the macros.
Wow, writing this has really made me hungry…and now I’m craving for another plate…:-)
(makes 10 servings)
2 1/4 cups uncooked brown rice
40 oz. boneless skinless chicken thighs
20 oz. frozen chopped spinach, drained
4 1/2 tbsp. olive or canola oil
2 tsp. crushed garlic
1 medium white or yellow onion, diced
2 jalapeno peppers, diced
3 tbsp. ginger, minced
1/2 cup nonfat milk
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. garam masala
2 tsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. turmeric
1 cup plain lowfat yogurt
2 tbsp. Smart Balance Light butter spread
1. Cook brown rice as directed on package and set aside.
2. Trim excess fat from chicken thighs and cut into 1-inch pieces.
3. In a large bowl, add chicken, 1 tsp. salt, cayenne pepper, and turmeric and mix until the spices have evenly covered the meat.
4. Dice garlic, ginger, onion and peppers and set aside.
5. In a microwave-safe bowl, add chopped spinach and thaw in the microwave for 5 minutes. Puree spinach in a food processor or blender until smooth. Set aside.
4. In a dutch oven or medium-sized pot under medium-high heat, add 3 tbsp. oil and saute chicken for 5-10 minutes or until thoroughly cooked. Set aside in a separate bowl.
5. Add remaining oil in the pot and saute garlic, ginger, onion and peppers for 15 minutes until the mixture has caramelized into a brown color.
6. Add cumin, garam masala, and coriander and saute for 1-2 minutes, adding 2 tbsp. water in the pot to keep the spices from burning.
7. Add spinach and milk into the pot, and let the mixture summer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
8. Add the yogurt to the spinach mixture by tempering the yogurt with a bit of the spinach mixture in order to prevent the yogurt from curdling when added into the pot.
9. Add the chicken in the spinach mixture and let simmer for another 10-15 minutes.
10. Add butter spread into the pot and mix until butter has melted.
11. Serve with brown rice.