Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Chicken Tikka Masala

While Indian food may not be the most beautiful food in the world, it's way up there on the delicious scale. If my digestive system would allow it, I would eat Indian food every day. Maybe it's just in my blood (I'm a quarter Indian despite my incredibly pale complexion), but I'm guessing it's just that good and has nothing to do with genetics.

I never dreamed of trying Indian food in my own kitchen until I found a recipe in Cooks Illustrated for this delicious Chicken Tikka Masala. It looked relatively simple, had no bazaar ingredients and used boneless skinless chicken breasts, which I constantly have on hand.

I have since made this dish many times, and I swear it gets better every time. I don't know whether it's me becoming a better cook, or if it's my love for Indian food growing exponentially. I assume it's the latter.

It may dirty a few dishes, but it is so worth it.

I couldn't stop this dish from creeping back onto my menu each month if I tried.

Chicken Tikka Masala
adapted from Cooks Illustrated Best-Ever Recipes

For the Chicken Tikka:

1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp.ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp. coarse salt
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup whole-milk yogurt
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbs. fresh grated ginger

For the Masala Sauce:

3 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 onion, minced (about 1 cup)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 serrano chile, ribs and seeds removed, minced*
1 Tbs. tomato paste
1 Tbs. garam masala
1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup fresh cilantro

For the chicken, combine the cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper and salt in a small bowl. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with the mixture, pressing gently so it adheres. Place chicken on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30-60 minutes. In a large bowl, whisk together yogurt, garlic and ginger; set aside.

For the sauce, heat oil in a large saucepan or dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until light golden, about 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic, chile, tomato paste and garam masala, and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, sugar and salt; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in heavy cream and return to a simmer. Remove pan from heat and cover to keep warm.

While the sauce simmers, adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the broiler. Dip chicken in the yogurt mixture until thickly coated. Place on a broiler pan or a wire rack over a foil-lined baking sheet. Discard remaining yogurt mixture. Broil chicken until the thickest part registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer and the exterior is slightly charred in spots, 10-18 minutes, flipping the chicken halfway through cooking.

Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes, then cut into 1 inch chunks and stir into sauce along with the cilantro. Season with salt to taste and serve over basmati rice.

*You can also use a small jalapeno pepper in place of the serrano chile. If you like a spicier dish, add some of the seeds to kick up the heat.

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