Chicken Tikka Masala

Monday, August 24, 2015

Did you know that Chicken Tikka Masala is hardly even authentic Indian food?  As it turns out, this national dish of London was created by a chef who was preparing a meal for a British military guy who instructed that there was to be 'none of that spicy stuff'.  Here, here!  I am an avid avoider of spice and it is only recently that I have trained my delicate palate to handle something mildly spicy. 

Chicken Tikka Masala is actually spicy in the perfect harmony of the word.  Not spicy with heat per se, but spicy with a hundred flavor notes that tantalize your taste buds.  Add to it, the richness of the heavy cream. It is akin to taking your mouth to Disneyland.

This dish is a teensy bit involved, but a good meal is at the end of that tunnel, so you ought to try at least once.

You will need:
(for the chicken)
1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into 1 1/2 in chunks
1 cup plain yogurt
1 TBSP grated and peeled fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 TSP kosher salt
1/2 TSP pepper

(for the curry)
2 TSP olive oil
3 TBSP unsalted butter
6 cloves garlic
1 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 serrano chiles, seeded and minced (one if you prefer less heat)
2 TBSP tomato paste
1 TSP garam masala
2 TSP paprika
8 ripe roma tomatoes
2 cups water
1 1/2 TSP kosher salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
chopped cilantro

To prepare the chicken you will first trim the fat and stab all over with a fork.  This was a lot easier to do prior to the cutting into chucks, for your information.  In a bowl, combine the yogurt, ginger, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Once this yogurt marinade is combined, add the chunks of chicken.  This chicken should marinate for a minimum of 30 minutes, but up to overnight covered in the fridge.  When I have made this dish, I will do the chicken prep the night before and I end up with the most tender chicken ever.  I have no anecdote for the 30 minute version, my apologies.

On to the curry portion.  Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Once the butter has melted, add your garlic, ginger and serrano.  Sauté for 1-2 minutes, enough for the components to soften.  A note on the serrano:  I made this dish a few times with different amounts of serrano.  1 with no seeds had a mere hint of heat.  1 with the seeds was perfect for my tastes.  2 with no seeds had my brow sweating a bit, but wasn't unreasonable - probably the hottest I would go without a glass of milk handy. #wimp

After your garlic, ginger and preferred amount of serrano have cooked for a minute or two, add the tomato paste.  You want the paste to darken a bit over the heat and turn a rich maroon color, around 3 minutes.  Next add the garam masala and paprika, and sauté for one more minute.

Are you ready for all those tomatoes? That was way too much chopping for me, I just quartered the tomatoes and into the food processor they went.  Add the chopped tomatoes and water to the skillet.

Cover and bring your skillet contents to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer.  Let this mixture simmer for 20 minutes.  While you are waiting, lets cook the chicken!

This chicken is going to go into the broiler.  You want your pan to be first wrapped in foil, then spread  your chicken chunks around evenly.  Be sure to shake off the excess yogurt mixture because the heat is going to melt that stuff right off.  Your oven rack should ideally be around 4-5 inches from the heat.  Broil the chicken for 7 minutes, then with tongs or a spatula, flip the pieces to heat the opposite side for another 7 minutes.  You want to get those nice little crispy edges as seen below.

Don't worry about cooking the chicken all the way through at this point.  It is going to simmer in the sauce here in a minute and will cook all the way through at that stage.

*Broil tip - when I made this each time, no matter the effort into shaking off as much yogurt marinade as possible, there would be liquid pooled on my baking sheet when I went to turn my chicken pieces during the second half of the broiling time.  My solution was to very carefully tip the pan so the liquid would gather in the corner of my baking sheet and sopped it up with a few wadded paper towels.  I don't know that the liquid would hurt anything if you left it, but I wanted the chicken to stay dry so it would brown nicely instead of a steam effect.

The next step is a bit tricky - we are back to dealing with the curry now.  You are going to transfer this sauce to the blender or food processor to make smooth.  BE CAREFUL.  The sauce is hot, and you don't want to overfill your blender.  When you put hot steamy liquids combined with a spinning blade, the pressure builds up and it will either pop the lid off or send the hot liquid bursting through the lid and on to your hands.  If you have an immersion blender, use that and enjoy the fact that your life is a little easier than the rest of us.  (I might be bitter that I lost the motor half to the one I own)

Once your sauce is all blended put it back in the skillet add the salt and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Add in your chunks of chicken and cover.  Simmer all together for 10 minutes.  Take off the heat, add in you heavy cream and stir to combine.  You should have a beautiful orange sauce that looks like an India sunset.  Garnish with cilantro and serve over some perfect basmati rice.

This is one of Aaron's all time favorites, so I am hoping to learn this recipe so well that I wont need to refer to the cookbook every time I make it and just know it by memory.  We may be a ways off from that even though I have made this three times in two weeks.  It is seriously that good.  If you have never tried Indian food, or think it isn't your thing - try it.  I think this will be the dish to convert you.

1 comment:

  1. This is probably my favorite, favorite, favorite Indian dish. I'd love to make this.