Sunday, October 30, 2011

Chicken Tikka Masala

I discovered this dish quite by accident. I was at an Indian restaurant in New Hampshire last summer, and I ordered one of my favorite dishes, Chicken Tikka. They made a slight mistake in writing down the order, and brought me instead Chicken Tikka Masala, which is Chicken Tikka covered in a Masala sauce. I’d never tried this sauce before, so instead of sending it back, I told them to leave it and I’d give it a try. Well, I fell in love with this dish! The Masala sauce was tangy, creamy and rich, and I couldn’t get enough of it. After I’d finished the chicken, I made sure to finish off the sauce by swabbing it up with an order of Naan bread.

I went back to this restaurant several more times, and each time I had to order the Chicken Tikka Masala, or else one of their lamb dishes covered in the Masala sauce. I’ve since tried this at my favorite Indian restaurant here in Texas, the Tandoor, and found I love their version as well.

I knew I had to figure out how to make this sauce at home, so I began researching recipes and tried various versions until I got what came closest to the dish that I had in New Hampshire. As I did so, I noticed that there were a great variety of Masala recipes out there. The signature spice that was present in all of them was Garam Masala, a spice blend that you can pick up at any Indian Grocery store. Some of the recipes had tomatoes in them, but a lot of them didn’t. But, the version I’d had that I fell in love with definitely had tomatoes, so I made sure to include a puree of them as the base of the sauce. A lot of the recipes also had a wild array of spices in it, and the first few versions I made were quite garish and over-spiced. When I simplified and streamlined the recipe down a bit, I finally had a sauce that matched the one I had fallen in love with. I hope you’ll like it too.

Chicken Tikka Masala

2 Chicken breasts, cut into chunks
6 oz Plain Yogurt
1 tblsp Chili Powder
1 tblsp Granulated Garlic
1 tsp Ground Cumin
½ tsp Ground Ginger

Masala Sauce

2 14 oz cans tomato puree
2 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup heavy cream

First, make the Chicken Tikka. Cut two chicken breasts into bite sized chunks.

Set aside.

In a bowl mix the yogurt, chili powder, garlic, cumin and ginger together thoroughly. Place the chicken breast chunks into a large freeze bag, then spoon the marinade over them, tossing and kneading the bag to mix. Let this marinate for up to eight hours.

When you’re ready to cook the chicken, place it evenly spaced on skewers...

...and grill over a hot charcoal fire, turning so that it browns evenly. You could also do the chicken under your broiler in your oven, but I think the charcoal grill will give you the best results.

Masala Sauce

This can be made ahead of time as well, but it is best served hot.

Pour the two cans of tomato puree into a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil, garam masala, paprika, and salt and let simmer for 15-20 minutes. Just before serving, stir in the cream and let simmer for a few minutes to heat through.

Once the cream is in, the sauce takes on a lovely orange color. 

Here we’ve served the Chicken Tikka Masala with some simple jasmine rice. The sauce also goes quite well with lamb dishes.

Until next time,

Stay Spicy!