Chicken Tikka Masala

IMG_0556aIf you’re like me, you usually have no idea what to order when you go out to Indian restaurants. Curry, chili, and naan are what I know and what I stick to most times. But then, what’s life if you never try anything new? So welcome back for “Cooking Indian” – the second part in a series focusing on expanding our ethnic culinary repertoire, focusing on classics and evolving to more inspired dishes with Indian flavor profiles. Part 1 involved a non-traditional green lentil dal, and if you were inspired by that, this recipe for chicken tikka masala should be just up your alley. A creamy tomato-based sauce with (count them) 9 different spices, this dish is, for lack of a better word, heavenly.

One of the reasons I’ve been interested in trying Indian food recently is because of the possibility to prepare in bulk and package (in mason jars, obviously) single serving lunches and dinners, ready anytime in the fridge or freezer. The fact that these dishes are mainly sauce-based and that their spice blends only improve with time makes them ideal for this make-ahead style of cooking. If you’re enjoying a lazy Sunday, why not try yourself… because this dish is at least 5 times cheaper to make in bulk than to order single servings from a restaurant. Now that’s graduate school math I can abide!

Chicken Tikka Masala (makes 8-10 servings, adapted from Food & Wine)
6 oz plain greek yogurt
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch piece fresh ginger, finely grated
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground turmeric

2 1/2 lbs skinless, boneless chicken thighs, fat trimmed
Splash of vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 inch piece fresh ginger, finely grated
1 1/2 tbsp garam masala
1 1/2 tsp pure chile powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 lbs canned crushed tomatoes
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, cardamom, cayenne and turmeric. Season with a pinch of salt. Using a sharp knife, trim excess fat from the chicken thighs and make a few shallow slashes in each piece of chicken. Dip the chicken to the marinade, turn to coat and place in a shallow pan. Cover the pan with saran wrap and refrigerate 3-4 hours. (I doubt longer is necessary.)

Preheat the broiler. Remove the chicken from the marinade and place on a broiling pan. Broil, turning once or twice, until just cooked through and browned in spots, about 12-15 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and cut it into 2-inch pieces. (Don’t be a hero! If you find the chicken isn’t done yet, put it back under the heat for a few minutes.)

In a medium sized stock pot add a splash of vegetable oil to coat the bottom and heat over medium-low heat. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and golden, about 8 minutes. Add the garam masala, chile powder and cayenne, stir and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and sugar and season with salt and black pepper. Cover partially and bring to a low simmer, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Stir in the cream and cook on low until further thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir in the chicken; simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Serve paired with basmati rice and naan.

Leftovers can be stored (in mason jars) in a refrigerator for 3-4 days or a freezer for up to a month.

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