Chicken Tikka Masala

Last week I had an amusing conversation with a nice Indian man who came over to look at our dishwasher that had, unfortunately, lost the will to go on, may it rest in peace.  He noticed that I had a cookbook out that was for Slow-Cooker Indian recipes and exclaimed that he didn’t know there were such recipes! While we commiserated over the expense of spices and the time involved with preparing Indian food he made me laugh out loud when he quoted his wife saying, “American women must be so happy, after they get home from work they just have to cook a meat on the grill and have a side dish or two, the time they must have!” I’m sure quite a few American women would have something to say about that, but it is true that Indian food can be very time-consuming. We talked about our appreciation for Indian cuisine, that Vindaloo was originally a Portuguese dish adapted in the Goa region of India and he gave me a tip on a good, authentic restaurant we should try. That got us talking about how the same home-cooked Indian dishes (and many other ethnic foods) are made with heavy, rich ingredients when prepared at a restaurant.  His observation was roughly, “at home, the cook cares about the health of the family, at the restaurant, the cook only wants people to keep coming back, they don’t care about healthy”.  He is completely right, unfortunately. However, this dish, even being made with very little heavy ingredients, is fantastically flavorful. To be honest, it feels a little like I’m eating out it’s so tasty!

Messy Ingredients:

Chicken
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
2 tsp salt
4 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenders
1 cup plain yogurt (I used nonfat but the recipe suggests whole milk yogurt)
4-6 garlic cloves, minced
3-4 TBS grated fresh ginger

Sauce

3 TBS vegetable oil                                                                                                                                             2 medium to large onions, diced
4-6 garlic cloves, minced
4-6 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 Serrano chile, minced (ribs and seeds removed)(optional)
2 TBS tomato paste
2 TBS Garam Masala
2 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
2-4 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 can low-fat coconut milk (optional)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

The Chicken:  Add cumin, coriander, cayenne, and salt, yogurt, garlic and ginger together in a small bowl. Mix thoroughly and coat chicken evenly with yogurt mixture. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours to overnight, the longer the better.

The Sauce: Meanwhile, pour the oil into a large pan set over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onion and cook, stirring often, until golden, about 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, serrano chile, tomato paste and garam masala. Cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes, stirring almost constantly. Add in the crushed tomatoes, sugar and salt then bring the sauce to a boil. Reduce the heat so your sauce is simmering and cover the pan. Let simmer for 15 minutes, stirring a few times. Take the pan off of the heat and cover to keep warm. Add the coconut milk, stir to combine and taste for seasoning. Add salt and cayenne to taste.

Position an oven rack about 6 inches from your broiler and preheat the broiler. Set a wire rack or an oven-safe cooling rack inside of a foil-lined baking sheet. Make sure the chicken is well coated (add more plain yogurt if needed) and place the chicken on the wire rack. Broil the chicken until it is cooked through (to an internal temperature of 160 F), about 20- 26 minutes, flipping the chicken over every 6-8 minutes (or when getting too brown). Make sure your thickest pieces of chicken are fully cooked. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes, then cut  into 1-inch pieces.  Place chicken on a bed of rice, riced cauliflower or other grain/non grain of your choice and pour sauce over top. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve.

I prefer to store my chicken separate from the sauce so that the yogurt coating stays more or less intact and doesn’t dissolve into the sauce while sitting in the fridge. Otherwise, this dish reheats well and makes great leftovers. Enjoy!

(recipe adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)

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