Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala is a relatively simple dish to make at home, and it is well worth the effort.  In case you haven't ever tried it, it's a dish that comes from the U.K., based on Indian flavors, and is very popular there.  Like pizza is here.  It has a homey feel to it ---a creamy tomato sauce with lovely spices and big chunks of moist chicken throughout.

Everything in this dish is fairly common, but you will need to look for garam masala in the spice aisle.  Fresh ginger and whole yogurt are key, don't substitute.   However, basil could be substituted for the cilantro.

Chicken Tikka Masala
from Cook's Illustrated Sept./Oct. 2007, pg. 15
Serves 4 to 6

For the Chicken Tikka:
1/2 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. ground coriander
1/4 t. cayenne
1 t. table salt
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of fat
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
2 medium cloves of garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 t.)
1 T. fresh ginger, grated

For the Masala Sauce:
3 T. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced fine ( about 1 1/4 cups)
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 t.)
2 t. fresh ginger, grated
1 serrano chile, ribs and seeds removed, flesh minced
1 T. tomato paste
1 T. garam masala
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 t. sugar
1/2 t. table salt
2/3 cup heavy cream  ( I used light)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves  (or basil, if you dislike cilantro)

Combine cumin, coriander, cayenne and salt in a small bowl. Sprinkle both sides of chicken with spice mixture, pressing gently so mixture adheres.  Place chicken on plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes. 

In a large bowl (big enough to dip the chicken breasts), whisk together yogurt, oil, garlic and ginger; set aside.

Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering.  Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until light golden, 8 to 10 minutes.  Add garlic, ginger, chile, tomato paste, and garam masala;

 cook, stirring frequently until fragrant, about 3 minutes.  To me, this is the most important step.  Cook your base until it dark brown and clings to the bottom of the pan.  The aroma wafting up to your nose will be amazing!

Quickly --- Add crushed tomatoes, sugar, and salt;  ----scrape all of the brown bits on the bottom of the pan  into the tomato liquid --- and bring to boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionallly. 

Stir in cream and return to simmer.  Remove pan from heat and cover to keep warm.

While sauce simmers, adjusts oven rack to upper-middle position (about 6 inches from heating element) and heat broiler. 

Using tongs, dip chicken into yogurt mixture (chicken should be coated with thick layer of yogurt) and arrange on wire rack set in foil-lined rimmed baking sheet or broiler pan.  Discard excess yogurt mixture. 

Broil chicken until thickest parts register 160 degrees on instant-read thermometer and exterior is lightly charred in spots, 10 to 18 minutes, flipping chicken halfway through cooking.

Let chicken rest for 5 minutes, then cut into 1-chunks and stir into warm sauce (do not simmer chicken in sauce).  Stir in cilantro, adjust seasoning with salt, and serve.

Tonight,  we served it over rice (basmati or kasmati) and creamed spinach (frozen) which Tom made to go along with it.   fyi -- it keeps well in the fridge, just gently reheat it.  And it can be frozen too.

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