Just down the street from my office is a great little Indian restaurant that serves a nice, affordable buffet lunch. While some days I probably drink enough water with my meal to fill up Lake Michigan because their dishes are usually hotter than a dessert at high noon, I can’t deny my tongue’s dubious longing for their food. One of their best dishes is the very well known Chicken Tikka Masla. When I decided to make it at home I’d just had it that past week at the restaurant and couldn’t wait, finally, to try my hand at it. Luckily, sis blogging partner also loves Indian food, so it was on!
That goopy, weird looking mess on the very left is the chicken, which I marinated the night before in a mixture of yogurt, some homemade ginger/garlic paste and salt and pepper. This is the second Indian meal we’ve made that calls for a yogurt marinade and it consistently makes for really tender meat once cooked.
That right there, folks, is the ginger/garlic paste, which is simply ginger, garlic cloves and canola oil that’s been pulsed in a mini food prep machine till smooth as possible. While the recipe does call for fresh ginger and a darn lot of it – I always buy the ginger that comes in a tube from my grocery store produce section. It’s already minced and ready to cook with. It works wonderful and has tons of ginger zing.
Word ‘o Warning: don’t dip a fingertip in to taste this stuff. It will light your mouth on fire. Raw ginger and garlic both have a very hot flavor in raw format. Amazingly enough, once you add a third cup of the mixture to the sauce, it melds with everything perfectly. Garlic and ginger, team players!
The sauce owes a lot to these two ingredients – 8 roma tomatoes diced up and two serrano peppers, seeds removed. If you want yours on the spicier side, leave some of the seeds in or add another pepper to make three total. The sauce was getting to be a medium spiciness while cooking down (we did remove the seeds) but you’ll add some cream later that takes the heat way down. So add more spice to this if you like things on the scorching side.
This is the longest part of the cooking process, breaking the tomatoes and peppers down slowly, but not too long. It’s really a very easy dish to cook once all your prep work is done. Right about now your house is starting to smell really good, too.
This dish produces a smooth sauce, so after the tomatoes are done, you’ve got a few options. You can puree your sauce in a blender, food processor or with an immersion blender. My choice in the case of pulsing a hot sauce will probably always be the immersion blender. It’s really easy for a hot liquid to splash out of a blender or food processor. If you’re using one of those, you might want to let the sauce cool a little before processing. Every time I’ve pureed a hot liquid on those it was a splashing, crap-I-burned-my-FACE disaster. The immersion blender, so long as you keep it submerged in the liquid as it blends, will do the job much neater with no splashing. Put the sauce in a bowl that will allow for a deeper immersion than your shallow skillet the sauce originally was in.
Once your sauce is nice and smooth, add it back to the skillet and add in those delicious chunks of marinated, grilled chicken. And on that chicken – you don’t have to cook it on a grill. A quick turn on a stove top grill pan or other skillet will do, too.
I convinced hubby to grill ours for us, not a hard thing to steer him into by any means. Man+grill+meat = no brainer. (Also known as My Kind of Math.)
I’ve made myself incredibly hungry writing up this post. I saved it all the day we cooked it (sis blogging partner being very understanding since she didn’t get to take any home!) and hubby and I ate it for dinner. I can still remember the divine flavors. My tongue kind of hates me right now that there was none let to have for lunch today! Serve this up with naan (We buy it all the time in the grocery deli section – but soon we shall make it homemade, too, preciousss!) or your favorite hearty bread and a simple veggie and rice. To. Die. For! As sis and I like to say – oh yeah, I’d make that again.
Chickan Tikka Masala
from Aarti Sequeira via Food Network
Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 30 minutes Level: Easy Serves: 4
For the marinade:
- 1 cup plain yogurt, whisked until smooth
- 3 tablespoons Ginger-Garlic Paste, recipe follows (or 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger and 3 cloves garlic put through a garlic press or finely minced)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, poked with a fork, and cut into large bite-sized chunks
For the sauce:
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup Ginger-Garlic Paste, recipe follows (or 6 cloves garlic and 2-inch thumb ginger minced)
- 2 serrano peppers, minced (seeds removed if you don’t want it spicy)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 8 Roma tomatoes, diced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 to 2 cups water
- Oil, for grilling
- 1 tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves (optional)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Minced fresh cilantro, for garnish
- Cooked rice, naan, or crusty piece of bread, for serving
For the Ginger-Garlic Paste:
- 1/2 cup cloves garlic, whole
- 1/2 cup fresh ginger, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch slices
- 1/4 cup canola oil
To make the garlic-ginger paste:
Throw the garlic, ginger, and canola oil in a mini-food processor and let it go until it forms a semi-smooth paste. There will still be tiny little pieces in there, but overall, it should resemble a paste.
Save what you don’t use in a small glass jar. It should last in the fridge for 2 to 3 weeks. It’s a delicious addition to marinades, pasta sauces, stir fry sauces, slow-cooker recipes, gravy etc. We always had a jar of this stuff in our fridge growing up.
For the marinade:
In a large bowl, mix together the marinade ingredients. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Marinate at least 30 minutes, or in the refrigerator up to overnight.
For the sauce:
When you’re ready to make the curry, place a large skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil and butter. When the butter has melted, add the Ginger-Garlic Paste and serrano peppers. Saute until lightly browned around the edges. Add the tomato paste and cook until the tomato has darkened in color, about 3 minutes. Add the garam masala and the paprika and saute for about 1 minute to draw out their flavors.
Add the tomatoes, salt, and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and cook until thickened, about 20 minutes. You may need more water depending on how much liquid the tomatoes give off.
Meanwhile, fire up your grill. When it is nice and hot, lightly brush it with oil. Place the chicken on the grill, shaking off some of the excess marinade. Cook until it’s charred, about 2 minutes on each side. (Don’t worry that the chicken will still be a little uncooked, it finishes cooking in the sauce).
Pour the sauce into a blender or food processor, or use an immersion blender, and process until smooth. Pour back into the skillet and bring back up to a boil. Add the chicken and fenugreek leaves, if using. Take the heat down to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes. Add the cream and stir through. Garnish with minced fresh cilantro, and serve over rice, with naan, or a crusty piece of bread!
I would definitely recommend marinating the chicken overnight or at least eight hours to get the maximum benefit from the marinade. We used Chobani 0%. It’s just like sour cream but without the guilt. You know, that guilt that comes after saying mmmmm as you taste thick, delicious sour cream.
If you plan to grill the chicken, just leave the thigh pieces whole as opposed to cutting them into chunks. They’ll be much easier to grill and char a little if they’re whole.
You can use a different cut of chicken if you prefer. We do love thighs, so were all for those.
Could not get the fenugreek leaves, so left them out.