I love Indian food. When I crave it, I almost always crave Chicken Tikka Masala.
I need to expand my repertoire, but this dish is so good I have a hard time not making it every time I want Indian food.
As for the name, Chicken is obvious, Tikka (according to Wikipedia) means Roasted Chunks, and Masala refers to the spice Garam Masala that gives this dish its rich, fragrant flavor.
The chicken is prepared with a yogurt and spice coating that tenderizes the meat and gives it distinctive charred spots.
Even though you will see quite the array of ingredients (and cute orange cat), this dish is really very straightforward to put together and easy to prepare.
Here’s what you need:
Chicken Breasts, Onion, Garlic, Fresh Ginger, Cilantro, Plain Yogurt, Tomato Puree, Diced Tomatoes, Tomato Paste (optional), Heavy Cream, Olive Oil, Garam Masala, Cayenne Pepper, Smoked Paprika, Ground Coriander, Ground Cumin, Salt & Pepper.
Also, white or brown cooked basmati rice (not pictured).
Remember when we made the Curried Mango Quinoa Salad a week or so, we talked about Garam Masala powder. It is a spice blend made up of a combination of turmeric, cloves, pepper, cinnamon, cumin and other warm flavored spices. You can find garam masala powder at most grocery stores. If you have a Spice & Tea Exchange Store near you (we have them in Florida and they are fabulous…and no, they don’t know me either except at the Winter Park store where I spend all my money), their Garam Masala blend is my favorite.
In a small bowl, combine ½ cup plain yogurt with 1 clove of minced or pressed garlic, ½ teaspoon ground cumin, and ½ teaspoon ground coriander.
Give it a quick stir to combine.
Trim any excess fat or gnarly bits off of 3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves. Season lightly with salt & pepper.
Place the chicken in a shallow dish and spread the yogurt sauce liberally over both sides of the chicken. Use your hands to get a good coating all over the chicken.
If you have time to do this step ahead and let the chicken marinate in the yogurt for an hour (or more) in the fridge, the flavor will be even better.
If you don’t have extra time, just marinate the chicken while you prepare the sauce.
For the sauce, finely chop 1 large onion and 3 cloves of garlic.
Peel a 1 inch piece of fresh ginger and scrape it over the smallest holes of a grater or microplane. This is not only much easier than cutting the ginger with a knife, but it also makes a sort of ginger juice for extra flavor. You’ll want about 1 Tablespoon of ginger when you’re done grating.
Heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the chopped onions and sauté until tender and slightly browned, about 5 minutes.
Add the chopped garlic, grated ginger, 2 Tablespoons of Garam Masala powder, ½ teaspoon smoked paprika, and ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper to the onions and stir quickly to toast the spices.
Only toast the spices for 30-60 seconds so they don’t burn. You can obviously adjust the amount of smoked paprika and cayenne to suit your own taste and level of spiciness. I’ve found that ½ teaspoon is very moderate and not what I could consider “hot” spicy at all.
Add 1 (14.5 oz.) can of diced tomatoes and their juices and ½ cup of water. Scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
Add 1½ cups of tomato puree and stir to combine. Bring the sauce to a simmer, cover, and cook over low heat while you cook the chicken.
The sauce can also be made ahead and held or gently simmered over low heat. The flavor only gets better the longer it cooks.
Preheat the oven broiler to high and place an oven rack in the upper middle of the oven, about 10-12 inches from the heating element.
Cover a sheet pan with foil and top with a baking rack. I’ve used the broiler pan before but find that the baking rack allows more of the yogurt to stay on the chicken and not stuck on the pan.
Broil the chicken 10-12 minutes until golden and slightly charred. Turn the chicken over and cook 10 minutes more on the second side.
Keep an eye on the chicken to be sure it doesn’t get over charred, moving it lower in the oven if necessary.
The chicken should be cooked through when the juices run clear. Let the chicken rest for at least 5 minutes.
To finish the sauce, add ½ cup of heavy cream.
Return the sauce to a gentle simmer but try not to let it boil vigorously once you add the cream.
Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt & pepper. If your sauce is a bit thin, add 1-2 Tablespoons of tomato paste. This usually depends on how juicy my can of diced tomatoes was and how long the sauce cooks down. This time I did not have to add any tomato paste so use your own judgment.
Cut the chicken into large cubes and stir it into the sauce. Let the chicken simmer in the sauce an additional 10 minutes for the flavors to combine.
Garnish with lots of fresh cilantro and serve with white or brown basmati rice.
I added my favorite Green Beans with Caramelized Shallots for a green veg.
You will not believe how tender the bits of chicken are from roasting in the yogurt sauce.
If you only make one Indian dish at home, I think you owe it to yourselves to make Chicken Tikka Masala.
If you’re a pro a Indian cuisine at home, let me know your favorites. Now that I’ve had my Chicken Tikka Masala fix, I can branch out to something new.
Here’s the recipe: