Saturday, October 24, 2009

Chicken Tikka Masala

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I found this recipe a year ago on My Kitchen Cafe, and as usual the picture along with the the ingredients list did me in. Now I know that chicken tikka masala is not truly an Indian dish, it's more a British take on Indian. I imagine this dish is just like curry made with a curry powder - tasty but don't go telling anyone you're making Indian food unless you're tackling some naan to go along with this. Origins aside, you'll be glad you made this. The cumin, cinnamon and bit of cayenne blend well together and are not overpowering.

I was a bit gunshy on the cinnamon ,only because I'd tried a moussaka recipe before that had obvious and seemingly out of place cinnamon notes in the filling. Not so with this recipe. I loved it from the first time and it's one of the few dishes that I pretty much guard the leftovers selfishly until it's all gone. I imagine the chicken alone with the yogurt marinade would make a pretty amazing dinner but the sauce is so darn tasty I can't imagine not making it.

Chicken Tikka Masala
adapted from My Kitchen Cafe

Marinade
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
4 teaspoons lemon juice
4 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 teaspoons paprika
3 teaspoons black pepper
5 teaspoons ginger root - grated
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
5 skinless boneless chicken breast, approx. 2.5lbs

Sauce
2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic - minced
4 teaspoons ground cumin
4 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 can tomato sauce (15 oz)
2 cups cream
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

To the yogurt, add the lemon juice, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, paprika, black pepper, ginger and salt.

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A word about ginger. I like to buy large hunks of the stuff and peel it (a spoon is the best tool) then wrap and freeze the whole chunks. When I'm ready to use it in a recipe or someone is sick and I'm adding it to tea for immune boosting, I just grate it straight from frozen with the microplane. No more freaking out because I forgot to get ginger at the grocery store and no peeling ginger in the middle of dinner prep.

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Back to the marinade. Mix it all up.

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I usually trim my chicken breasts then slice them horizontally in half so they're nice and thin. I find they cook a bit faster and are less dry that way.

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Pour the yogurt marinade over the chicken breasts and stir it all up.

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This marinade smells amazing. For some reason the cinnamon warms up and ties together all the other spices in the marinade. I seriously find it hard not to keep sniffing at the bowl while I'm making this dish.

Let the chicken breasts marinade for at least an hour or overnight. I prefer overnight. Aside from the more infused taste, I find I lack the planning ability to start dinner early enough for an hour's worth of marinating time. Yet chucking this together the previous day while cooking dinner is not a big deal. Yes I realize I'm weird.

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The following day remove the chicken from the marinade and place it on a rack over a sheet pan. I long ago gave up on the rinky dink broiling tray that came with the oven. I find it too small and too much of a pain in the butt to clean. I use an oven safe stainless rack that fits my half sheet pans from the restaurant supply store.

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Put the chicken into your oven on the highest rack setting with the broiler on. Cook them about 6-7 minutes per side, flipping over of course. There, that was the most difficult part of this recipe.

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While the chicken is cooking, we'll make the sauce. Over medium heat melt the butter and add the garlic.

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Then toss in the paprika, cumin and salt. Give it a good stir.

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Add the tomato sauce . . .

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. . . then the cream. Mmmmm, cream.

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Stir and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 15 minutes or until thickened.

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How do you know it's thick enough? Stick the spoon in your sauce, then wipe off a line and if the line remains, it's thick enough.

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The chicken is done. See the nice crust of yogurt and spices. Those spices will flavor the sauce even more.

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Roughly chop your chicken into bite sized chunks.

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Then toss the whole shebang into the sauce.

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So you know, I'm not the type to toss in random veggies into a dish just to add nutritional value (although that's an admirable aspiration). I'm the reformed picky eater remember? I guess I'm scarred by too many 90s wanna-be tex-mex recipes that recommended adding a can of corn to everything. No, if I'm going to add a vegetable to a dish it must bring something to the party, texture, flavor, etc. This sauce is extremely flavorful and since it has to simmer another 15 minutes to meld with the chicken I toss in about 2 cups of chopped, frozen green beans.

The green beans will cook in the sauce, absorbing all the spices and becoming burst in your mouth tender. Continue simmering for another 15 minutes or until the green beans are just tender.

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Right about now you would sprinkle on the cilantro if you had remembered to buy some at the grocery store.

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Then serve over - you guessed it - dominican white rice. Before you groan at me pushing the rice again, in my defense this time it's authentic to the cuisine despite the chicken tikka not being authentic.

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It will take all the self control you can muster not to lick all the sauce off the plate.

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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Delicious. This is the 3rd recipe I've tried from your site and so far they've all been home-runs! Plus Dominican rice is now my new favorite way to prepare rice. Thanks so much for sharing.

Marielle said...

Your welcome and thanks for the great feedback!

JD said...

I cannot wait to try this, it looks amazing. Thanks for the great tip about the ginger, I never thought about freezing it!