Each piece of food has an image. Some, like cupcakes, are supermodels and celebrities. Everyone wants to take a picture and get an autograph. They always look good no matter when the photograph is taken. Others, like tikka masala have sweet spirits, but no matter how hard you try, every picture turns out looking like a blob of slop on rice. It is hard to make tikka masala look appetizing. Luckily, once you get to know tikka masala, you ignore it's appearance. You close your eyes, take a deep breath and savor each and every bite of deliciousness. Seriously, savor.
This is my husband's birthday dish. He loves it, he always asks for it on his birthday. I recently took this to a recipe party and I didn't come home with any leftovers. If you are an Indian cuisine lover or curry fan...try this. If you're not...try it anyway. This dish may just make you a fan of Indian cuisine.
The chicken is moist and flavorful and the sauce is sweet, spicy, and tangy. The original recipe called for whole-milk yogurt, I rarely have whole-milk yogurt around, so I use any plain yogurt I have in the fridge. Don't use nonfat yogurt because it changes the texture of the chicken.
I use San Marzano tomatoes because they are my favorite. The tomato flavor is prominent in the sauce so make sure to use a canned tomato your family likes. If you want a spicier dish include the ribs and seeds from the chile. Have all your ingredients prepped, because once you start cooking there's not enough time to prep items in between. The sauce can be made up to 4 days ahead and gently reheated before adding chicken.
Chicken Tikka Masala
adapted slightly from Cook's Illustrated
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup plain yogurt (do not use nonfat)
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium onion, diced fine
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 fresh serrano or jalapeno chile, ribs and seeds removed, chile minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
For the Chicken:
Mix spices and salt in a small bowl. Sprinkle both sides of chicken with the spices mixture, pressing gently. Place chicken on a plate and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30-60 minutes. In a large bowl, mix yogurt, oil, garlic and ginger; set aside
Heat oil in a large heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat until hot. Add onion and cook stirring frequently, until light golden 8-10 minutes. Add ginger, garlic, chile, tomato paste and garam masala; cook stirring frequently, about 3 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, sugar and salt; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in cream and return to simmer. Remove pan from heat and cover to keep warm.
While sauce simmers, adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat broiler. Dip chicken into yogurt mixture and arrange on wire rack set in foil-lined baking sheet, or broiler pan. Discard excess yogurt mixture. Broil chicken until lightly charred in spots and juices run clear, about 10-18 minutes, flipping chicken halfway through.
Let chicken rest for 5 minutes, then cut into chunks and stir into warm sauce. Do not simmer chicken in sauce, you don't want it to keep cooking. Stir in cilantro, season with salt if needed and serve over basmati rice.