Put down the phone and make takeout favorites 'in'

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In a large metropolitan area, it's easy to satisfy any craving by picking up the phone and calling for takeout. But instead of ordering out, think about staying in.

Whatever your takeout food of choice is — Thai, Greek, Indian or Chinese, to name a few — all are achievable in the comfort of pajamas in your own home. With a little help from local exotic cuisine geniuses, and a trip to the Asian market for specialty ingredients, inexpensive dishes, such as fried rice, Thai green chicken curry, dumplings and rolls are possible to craft in your own kitchen.

At Spice Root, in Williamstown, Mass., tikka masala — a creamy dish made with garam masala, an aromatic blend of spices often found in Indian cooking — is one of the most popular items on the menu, according to Stephen Lawrence, co-owner of the restaurant that serves modern Indian cuisine.

"Tikka means chunks of chicken in a tomato cream sauce," he said. "It's not too spicy, but just right for the palate. It's good with bread or on ciabatta. People are more health conscious these days, so you can use brown rice or white rice."

To make your own tikka masala, first chop up chicken (or other poultry), onions and tomatoes. Then, heat a pan with oil and add ginger, garlic paste, turmeric, chili powder and green masala — made with a mild masala paste that is tangy with fresh mint and coriander leaves. Mix all of these ingredients over medium heat until the "spices smell nice," according to Lawrence. Then, add the chicken with a little water, the onions and tomatoes and mix everything together. When it's done, serve with preferred rice — Lawrence suggested basmati — and garnish with cilantro.

For comfort food from another part of the globe, take a spoonful of inspiration out of Crazy Russian Girls bakery's cookbook and try a hearty soup.

The Bennington, Vt., bakery specializes in creating international soups and sandwiches. Nicole Garder, owner of Crazy Russian Girls in Bennington, Vt., suggests starting with the traditional Russian meatball and mushroom dish, kotleti (pronounced kat-lye-tee), which can be made into a hearty soup and eaten with potatoes, Russian black rye bread, or sourdough bread.

"The kotleti is a version of the American hamburger," she said. "But the bun got lost somewhere along the way. It's rolled in bread crumbs and fried and eaten with mushrooms."

To make your own version of a kotleti soup, form fresh meatballs, or use frozen meatballs, and brown them in the oven or frying pan. The bakery uses a mixture of ground beef, ground pork, diced onion and parsley. Then, sauté salt and pepper, chopped up onion, garlic, fresh dill and parsley in butter or oil in a stock pot. Add sliced mushrooms until soft. Next, add milk or cream and browned meatballs to the stock pot. The amount of dairy will vary on how much soup base you want to produce. For creamy soup, flour or tapioca starch (gluten-free) can be used to thicken.

"It's inexpensive and tasty," Garder said. "The international part of the dish makes it not boring."

— Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.

Butter chicken (Chicken Makhani)

Make this popular Indian dish — which is similar to tikka masala, but made with butter — with the help of your trusty slow cooker. The long, slow cook time helps the subtle flavours deepen into a restaurant-style dish. It will also make your house smell delicious.

Ingredients:

Marinade:

1/3 cup nonfat greek yogurt

1/4 cup silvered, or blanch and peel whole almonds

1 cup canned tomatoes or 2 fully ripe red roma tomatoes

1 1/2 tbsp tomato paste

1 1/2 tsp Garam Masala

1 tsp chili powder, or hot paprika

1 tsp dry roasted cumin seeds, ground

1 tsp Cumin powder

2 inches fresh ginger root

3 cloves of garlic, peeled

1/2 tsp salt (more to taste)

Butter chicken:

1 1/2 lbs of boneless chicken thigh, cut into 2-inch chunks

2-3 tbsp chopped cilantro for garnish

1 tbsp honey

1/4 cup heavy cream

3 tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 cup red onion, sliced in thin half-moon slices

Directions:

For the marinade: Add all chicken marinade ingredients, leaving 1/2 tsp of garam masala and all of yogurt, into a food processor to make a fine puree. (If mixture is hard to blend, add 1 tbsp water.) Transfer marinade to a wide bowl, and mix in yogurt. Then add cubed chicken meat and coat with the marinade. Set aside for 15 to 20 minutes.

While chicken is marinating, heat 2 tbsp butter in a wide pan. Slice red onion into half moons and saute onion in butter on medium heat until soft and fragrant. Next, add remaining 1/2 tsp garam masala and continue saute for 1 more minute.

Transfer the marinated chicken with all marinade and remaining 1 tbsp butter and honey into the saute pan. Cook chicken in pan for 3-4 minutes on medium-high heat. This awaked the butter and spice flavor.

Dump everything into a slow cooker with 1/4 cup of water. Cook on high for one and a half hours or on low for three to four hours.

Before serving, add heavy cream and mix well. Taste and adjust salt. Serve over rice and garnish with cilantro.


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