Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Chicken Creamy Tikka Masala

We love Indian food! Chicken Tikka Masala is a classic Indian dish that consists of chicken in a creamy tomato based curry. "Tikka" means "small bites" and "masala" means "spice blend".  I typically order this when we go for Indian so I naturally will endeavor to try and recreate our favorite Indian restaurant dish at home. This comes pretty close to your favorite Indian take-out.  I say "pretty close" because the chicken should actually be cooked in a Tandoor clay oven for that authentic flavor. Grilling your chicken would be the next best thing otherwise you could sauté the chicken as you will see in the steps below.  In fact, this recipe tastes better than some I've had in Indian restaurants!

Cut your chicken breast pieces in about thirds or fourths, depending on how large your chicken is. I was making this for a crowd so I used 6 LARGE boneless skinless breasts and the weight after I cut them (and trimmed the fat) is a little under 5lbs.

To the chicken, add the yogurt, grated ginger, minced garlic, salt, pepper, cinnamon, cumin and lemon. Actually the smarter way is to mix all of spices, garlic and ginger into the yogurt in a bowl and add it to the chicken so that it's one even mixture but it was late and my brain went "off duty".

Mix to coat all the chicken well and and let marinate overnight if possible or for at least 1 hour in the fridge.

Saute in olive oil until browned on both sides.  Your chicken will NO WHERE be near to being cooked but that's okay because the chicken will finish cooking in the sauce later.

Once browned on both sides (the middle will be not be cooked yet) set aside in a bowl. Due to the amount of chicken I have, a mere plate wouldn't be enough to contain all the yummy juices that will emit.

Dice your red onion and jalapeno. It will be pureed in the end so even knife cuts don't matter.

Reduce heat to medium-low. 
Add the garlic ginger paste (or garlic and ginger equivalent -see below), onions and jalapeno to the same pot that you sauteed the chicken.  You will notice a lot of dark residue. Don't worry...that's flavor! Sprinkle 1/4 tsp or so of salt onto these veggies and cover the pot. After 10 minutes you will slowly notice the pan beginning to deglaze (ie, the "burnt" crud will melt off)...

See?? I told you! 
Now add the tomato paste and cook for about 2-3 minutes until the tomato paste darkens in color.  This cooks out some of the acidity. 

Now add your spices.  
If you tilt your head to the right, don't you see the happy face of spices?

Cook the spices into the mixture for about 1 minute to draw out the flavors of the spices.  You will probably have people dropping by asking to make reservations thinking you're an Indian restaurant...

Add the diced tomatoes

Add 1 Cup water and salt and bring to simmer. Cover the pot and turn the heat down and simmer for about 10-20 minutes.  

The liquid will thicken and the tomatoes will be very soft. You may need to add more water if it is really thick. I ended up adding another 1/2 C water.

Ok...see how much I have here in the blender? DON'T PUT THAT MUCH.  This was about 2 1/2 cups of liquid and it spewed ALL over my kitchen. Not fun! Put in about 1 cup of liquid at a time in the blender (unless your blender can take more without spewing it all over the place).  A food processor works well too.

After all is pureed, this is how it should look.

Add the fenugreek. Optional but it really adds the authentic Indian flavor. Put it in the palm of your hand and take your other palm and with much force and friction, rub your palms together so that you get a powder. 

I used red potatoes (washed and unpeeled). Cut in about 8 pieces. 10 pieces if you have a big potato.

Add the potato and the chicken (and its juices from the bowl) to the pot and let simmer until the potatoes are cooked.  The chicken will cook before the potatoes do.  
Once cooked, add the cream and let sit for about 5-10 minutes before serving.
This makes a FULL 8 Quart pot!

Garnish with cilantro leaves and serve with Basmati Rice or Naan bread

Chicken Creamy Tikka Masala

Makes a FULL 8 Qt pot!

1 cup plain yogurt
3 tbsp grated fresh ginger
9 cloves garlic put through a garlic press or finely minced
2 tsp salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tsp cinnamon
3 tsp cumin
6 tbsp fresh lemon juice
6 chicken breasts cut in thirds or equiv of your fav chicken pieces (a little under 5lbs)

olive oil for saute
1 1/2 tbsp minced garlic + 1 1/2 tbsp minced ginger (or 3 tbsp garlic-ginger paste see recipe below)
3 red onions, chopped
3 jalapeno or serrano peppers, minced (seeds removed if you don't want it spicy)
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp garam masala
3 tsp paprika
15 Vine tomatoes or Roma tomatoes, diced
2 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 1/2 C or 2 C water
1 cup heavy cream (you could add more to suite your taste)
6-8 potatoes diced (or whatever your pot will fit!)
1 1/2 tbsp fenugreek leaves (optional but VERY good -gives it the authentic flavor)

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.

Heat up your 8 qt pot with olive oil and saute your chicken until nicely browned on both sides.  Remove and set aside on a bowl.  It will not be cooked all the way through but it's okay because it will finish cooking in the sauce later.  You will notice a lot of crusty residue from what you've sauteed. Don't worry, that's flavor!  Add the onions, Ginger-Garlic Paste (or garlic and ginger equiv) and jalapeno (or serrano peppers work also). Sprinkle with about 1/4 tsp or salt or so so that the onions release their moisture.  You will notice the bottom of the pot beginning to deglaze from the moisture of the onions. Add the tomato paste and cook until it has darkened in color, about 3 minutes. Add the turmeric, garam masala and the paprika and saute for about 1 minute to draw out their flavors. You may need to add a little olive oil.

Add the tomatoes, salt, and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and cook until thickened and until the tomatoes are mushy and falling apart, about 20 minutes. You may need more water depending on how much liquid the tomatoes give off.  I ended up using 1 1/2 C of water.

Pour the sauce into a blender or food processor, or use an immersion blender, and process until smooth.

WARNING: if using a blender, do not put more than 1.5 cups or else it may splatter.  Every blender is different but please be careful or else you'll have HOT liquid spewing all over the place.

After blended, pour back into the pot and bring back up to a boil. Add the chicken, potatoes and fenugreek leaves, if using. Take the heat down to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are cooked through. The potatoes will take longer to cook than the chicken so rest assured that when the potatoes are done, so will the chicken also.  Add the cream and stir through. Garnish with minced fresh cilantro, and serve over rice and with naan bread to complete the Indian themed meal.

Note: For a dairy-free version, you could add coconut milk instead of cream.  It sounds tasty and I can imagine it would change the flavor just a bit but I've never tried it.  If any of you try it that way, let us know what it tastes like!

Ginger-Garlic Paste:
1/2 cup cloves garlic, whole
1/2 cup fresh ginger, peeled, cut into a size that is similar to the garlic cloves
1/4 cup canola oil

Cut the ginger in pieces  that are similar in size to the garlic cloves.  Measure 1/2 Cup each of the garlic and the ginger. 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.

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