Chicken Tikka Masala
Applying for jobs is pretty sucky. The economy seems to be improving and I’ve gotten a fair amount of phone interviews and interviews, but no offers (someone recommended I shower and change out of sweats before in-person interviews, which I rarely do… that can’t be it, can it?). While I understand the market is competitive, I came across a great job opportunity that I was perfectly qualified for. My interview went well, I thought I did an awesome job on a practice exercise they sent me to complete… but no, they went with someone else. Don’t get me wrong, I’m rejected all the time, but for some reason this particular “no” made me feel especially substandard.
While I wanted to drown my sorrows in booze and bad reality television, I decided the healthier alternative was to have a cupcake and cook something. I am, after all, a responsible adult and can’t drink all the time (brunch is my exception… or days ending in “y”).
Indian food is something I’ve always enjoyed, but rarely eat. Also, I’ve never cooked anything remotely Indian (unless you consider heating up pre-made naan to be cooking). Typically my Indian restaurant experiences have involved Chicken Tikka Masala, so I figured if I made that I’d at least know if it was dismal or delicious as I had something to compare it to.
While job rejection made me feel a touch depressed, cooking this easy and delicious recipe made me feel like a winner.
Chicken Tikka Masala
Adapted from Aarti Sequeira
- 1 cup plain yogurt, whisked until smooth
- 1 tablespoon grated or finely minced fresh ginger
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts (or combination of both)
- Drizzle of olive oil
- 3 tablespoons butter plus 1 tablespoon
- 6 cloves garlic
- 2-inch piece of ginger, grated or finely minced
- 2 Serrano peppers, minced (I kept the seeds in, but remove some or all of them if you want something more mild)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 ½ teaspoons garam masala
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 8 Roma tomatoes, diced
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 to 2 cups water
- Oil, for sautéing
- 1 tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves (optional and I didn’t use it because I don’t think it actually exists, see below)
- ½ cup heavy cream
- Minced fresh cilantro, for garnish (I didn’t pick up any at the store so I just used sliced scallions)
- Basmati rice and naan
1. 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.
2. When you’re ready to make the sauce, place a large skillet (I used a French oven, which worked perfectly) over medium heat and add the olive oil and 3 tablespoons of butter. When the butter has melted, add the ginger, garlic, and Serrano peppers. Sautee until lightly browned around the edges.
3. Add the tomato paste and cook until the paste has darkened in color (it should resemble the color of a brick), about 3 minutes.
3. Add the garam masala and paprika. I shifted the other ingredients to the side to ensure the garam masala and paprika toasted a bit, which I think really brought out their flavor.
4. Add the tomatoes, salt, and 1 to 1½ cups of water. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and cook until thickened, about 20 minutes (I started with 1 cup of water and at about 15 minutes realized the barely ripe tomatoes I used hardly let out any juice so added ½ cup more of water).
5. Meanwhile, heat up a skillet and drizzle in some olive oil. Once the skillet is very hot, shake off some of the marinade from the chicken and sear in batches (you don’t want to put too much chicken in at once, because you want a really good crust and it might steam if there’s too much in). My chicken developed a really good crust (that was slightly blackened) after about 2 minutes. While these are small pieces of chicken, it won’t be fully cooked, but will finish cooking later on when you put it in the sauce.
6. Once the chicken is seared, you’ll want to blend your sauce. I used a blender, but you can use a food processor or immersion blender…. or any other device you may have. Return sauce to the pan, and bring back to a boil, then back to a simmer. At this point you can add your fenugreek if you’re using it or can actually find it.
In the ingredients list I mentioned I don’t think fenugreek leaves actually exists. A little over a year ago I tried making Gormeh Sabzi, which is a Persian stew (found the recipe at http://mealsbymisty.wordpress.com). Fenugreek leaves were one of the ingredients and I couldn’t find them at the first store I went to, or the second store I went to, or the three stores I called. I could find fenugreek seeds in abundance, but no leaves. After consulting teh interwebz and texting Misty a few thousand times, I found out the lack of fenugreek wouldn’t ruin the dish, so I decided to just make it without. The dish was unlike anything I’ve ever had and I recommend everyone check out that dish (and all of Misty’s blog). To this day I always keep an eye out for fenugreek leaves and have yet to see them anywhere. I think the world is playing a joke on me and they’re made up.
7. Anywho, back to the Masala… at this point you’ll add in your chicken pieces and simmer for about 15 minutes.
8. Right before serving mix in your cream and the reserved tablespoon of butter. While I found the dish a touch too spicy before this addition, the cream really mellows it out.
9. Serve on a bed of basmati rice with a piece or two (or three or four) of naan. Garnish with chopped cilantro (or in my case, scallion).