Friday, September 4, 2009

Friday Foto: Chicken Tikka Masala

We make no secret of our love of Indian food. Sometimes, it's what we're craving, and nothing else will suffice. We've previously posted a recipe for chicken curry. Today's Friday Foto takes things a step further with a classic dish and one of our all-time favorites: chicken tikka masala.

I always get a little chuckle when thinking about this dish. My family, in part due to their thick Long Island accent, and in part perhaps due to the subliminal influence of our Sicilian heritage, always pronounces this dish "chicken tikka marsala." I always dutifully point out that you can have chicken marsala, and chicken tikka masala, but that as of yet I've never heard of chicken tikka marsala. The accent also results in another Italianization of an Indian ingredient...the basmati rice, which becomes basahmati rice. Don't get me wrong...I'm not picking on my family. It's an endearing slip of the tongue that makes me smile, even as I write these words.

Now as for the recipe... this is one that Kelli and I have been working on. We've gone through several iterations. We're close (very close, I think) to perfecting it, but for now we're calling it a work in progress. But what better time to share it with you and possibly receive some feedback? Admittedly, chicken tikka masala is a dish with a wild degree of variation. According to Wikipedia (not necessarily a rock solid source of info on the topic), a study once found 48 different versions of chicken tikka masala, and the only common denominator was the chicken. For our part, we're very specifically trying to replicate one particular type of chicken tikka masala, and therein lies the challenge. If we were simply to trying to build a recipe from the ground up, we'd call it done. But we're trying to do that AND achieve a very specific flavor profile. And so the iterations continue...

Here's what you need to know to make our version of Chicken Tikka Masala, version 4.0:

3/4 cup plain yogurt
juice from half a lime
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 tsp salt
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed

1. To make a yogurt marinade, combine all ingredients except for the chicken in a medium bowl and whisk to mix well. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for one hour to let the chicken marinate.
2. Preheat a grill to high heat. Meanwhile, thread the chicken onto skewers (for us, 3 chicken breasts fit comfortably on 4 bamboo skewers). Grill, turning halfway through, just until the chicken is done. Discard any remaining yogurt marinade. Remove the chicken from the skewers and set aside.

1 tbsp butter
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp garam masala
1 1/4 cups canned tomatoes (about 3/4 of a 14.5-oz can of diced, no salt added)
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. To make the masala sauce, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the garlic until fragrant. Add all the spices through and including the garam masala and stir.
2. Using a handheld immersion blender, puree the tomato in a separate small bowl. Then add the tomato and cream to the skillet. Stir to mix well, and simmer uncovered for ten minutes. Add the chicken and simmer for an additional ten minutes. Immediately before serving, stir in the fresh chopped cilantro.

The grilled chicken with the yogurt marinade is phenomenal. It's delicious to eat just by itself. And the masala sauce is very flavorful, and comes in around medium heat in terms of spiciness. This can be dialed up or down according to personal preference. In the photos, we've served it over Jasmine rice, because it's what we had in the house. But normally, we'd recommend serving the chicken tikka masala over Basmati rice. Enjoy, and let us know what you think!

- Pete


Stephanie said...

Wow that does look/sound delicious! I'm excited to give it a try.

peterbronski said...

Hi Stephanie... hope you enjoy the dish! And don't be shy about sharing feedback - either positive, or some healthy constructive criticism! =)

Cheers, Pete

gfe--gluten free easily said...

Too funny on the chicken tikka marsala! ;-) I have to admit my exposure to Indian food has been very limited so far. My favorite thus far is the butter chicken. This looks good, but I'm scared of the heat. LOL


peterbronski said...

Hi Shirley... this dish can, but doesn't have to, have a lot of heat. It's all up to you. Also, friends of ours in Vermont recently made the dish substituting tofu for chicken and they said it turned out great that way as well.

Cheers, Pete

Blessy M said...

We're hosting a dinner party for a family of 6 this Friday and I just found out that the husband is allergic to gluten and the children might be as well (not tested yet). So I'm scrambling to find a recipe that will be safe! I'm of Indian heritage so the Tikka Masala is one of our favs, but I wasn't sure if it was gluten-free. Your recipe is very similar to the one I have, so I feel so much better. This site helped save me ... thanks for the info!

BTW, chicken maRsala is a favorite in our house, my kids sometimes get the two words (marsala & masala) mixed up ... the story about ur family made me smile. :-)

peterbronski said...

Hi Blessy... Glad our blog was helpful to you! If you normally have gluten in your kitchen, also be careful to minimize the potential for cross-contamination in your food. e.g. thoroughly washing your cookware before making a GF recipe, etc.

Cheers, Pete