I know what you’re thinking… Tikka what?! Well the best way I can explain this Indian dish is that it’s complicated comfort food: a rich tomato cream sauce flavored by a huge number of spices, with a garam masala blend containing most of them. The first time I was introduced to it was as a kid, tagging along with my brother to this little Indian restaurant located in the Central West End. Indian is Andy’s favorite cuisine and I remember I was so excited that he shared this special dish with me, his annoying little sister. Walking into the restaurant, I smelled such an exotic scent that I had never encountered before, and with my first bite I was hooked by the warm flavors that had been so foreign to my taste buds.

You can order chicken tikka masala at basically any Indian restaurant. In fact, it’s so popular that it’s the national dish of England…odd, right? Well, as I explain my poor-college-student-woes yet another time, you must know that I have foolishly given into the cheaper sauce imitations you can buy in the grocery store. Brand after brand and time after time I was disappointed. They never had the flavors that brought me back to my memory of first sharing it with Andy. I had almost given up. Almost.

You see, since I knew there were about a billion different spices and flavors involved to make ordinary chicken into chicken tikka masala, I had deemed the dish too complicated to replicate. But, the purpose of this blog was to cook, to cook new things that I had never attempted before. And to cook, I did… once I came across a recipe that fit just right.

I hope Andy will be proud that his annoying little sister succeeded in making his favorite dish.

Chicken Tikka Masala

adapted from Saveur, courtesy of the leftoverist. Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon of ground turmeric (Be careful, it stains! Use only glass or steel.)
  • 4 teaspoons of ground garam masala (found in specialty stores)
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 2 1/2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, stemmed and chopped
  • 1 28-oz can of whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 lbs of boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup of plain yogurt
  • kosher salt to taste
  • 6 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon of ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon of paprika
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • cilantro and fresh ginger for garnish
  • cooked basmati rice for serving

Directions:

1. In a blender, purée garlic, ginger, jalapeños, and 1⁄2 cup water. Put paste into a glass bowl and stir in 2 teaspoons of garam masala and the tumeric (so as to not turn every plastic surface yellow). In the same blender, purée tomatoes and strain through a sieve. In a bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of the paste, chicken, yogurt, and salt; marinate for 30 minutes. Place oven rack 4″ from heating element; heat to broil. Transfer chicken to a foil-lined sheet tray; broil until cooked, 5–6 minutes; set aside.

2. Heat butter in 6-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Add coriander and cumin; toast 4–6 minutes. Add paprika and onions; cook until soft, 6–8 minutes. Add remaining paste; brown for 5–6 minutes. Add tomatoes; cook for 2 minutes. Stir in cream and 1 cup water; boil. Reduce heat; simmer until thickened, 6–8 minutes. Stir in remaining garam masala and chicken; season with salt. Serve with garnishes and rice. Enjoy!

what I get for using turmeric for the first time: yellow stained plastic. you've been warned!

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