Friday, March 19, 2010

Chicken Tikka Masala

(Sorry the pic isn't better, it was taken on my cellphone in a hurry!)

"In the 1970s a plateful of overcooked chicken tikka - boneless, skinless chunks, skewered and cooked in a tandoor oven - was sent back to the kitchen of a London curry house by a disappointed patron. The Bangladeshi chef in charge acted quickly, heating canned tomato soup with cream, sprinkling in Indian spices, and pouring it over the chicken before sending it back out to the dining room. His inventive creation of chicken tikka masala satisfied the demanding customer, and as the recipe was perfected, diners worldwide (including those in India) fell in love with the tender, moist pieces of chicken napped with a lightly spiced tomato cream sauce. In fact chicken tikka masala is so adored that it went on to overtake the likes of Yorkshire pudding and fish and chips as the "true national dish" of Great Britain, according to former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook."

~ Behind the Scenes with America's Test Kitchen (2008 Companion cookbook)

Steve and I visited The Red Lion a few weekends ago and we both lovingly consumed their Chicken Tikka Masala that was advertised on the Food Network Show 'Drivers, Diners and Dives'. After having reacquainted my taste buds with the gloriousness that is C.T.M. I decided to try out the recipe that I have from America's Test Kitchen.

Here it is in all its deliciousness!

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka
  • I teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of fat
  • 1 cup plain whole milk yogurt (low fat will also work)
  • 1 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced.
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
Combine the salt, cumin, coriander and cayenne in a small bowl. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with the spice mixture, pressing gently so the mixture adheres. Place the chicken on a place, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, oil, garlic, and ginger: set aside.

Masala Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced finely (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon Garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1 serrano chile, ribs and seeds removed, flesh minced
  • 1 (28oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Heat the oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and light golden, 8 - 10 minutes. Add the garam masala, tomato paste, garlic, ginger, and chile; 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 the cream and return to a simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and keep warm.

While the sauce simmers, adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position (about 6 inches from the heating element) and heat the broiler. Line a rimmed baking sheet or broiler pan with foil and set a wire rack on it. Using tongs, dip the chicken into the yogurt mixture (the chicken should be coated with a thick layer of yogurt) and arrange on the wire rack. Discard the excess yogurt mixture. Broil the chicken until the thickest parts register 160 degrees on an instant read thermometer and the exterior is lightly charred in spots, 10 to 18 minutes, flipping the chicken halfway through the cooking.

Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes, then cut into 1 inch chunks and stir into the warm sauce (do not simmer the chicken in the sauce as it will toughen). Stir in the cilantro, season with salt to taste, and serve.

A couple of thoughts from making it yesterday.

1) It was flavorful but not spicy enough for me, I would suggest increasing the cayenne pepper on the chicken to 1/2 teaspoon rather than a quarter, and also adding the ribs and seeds from the serrano chile.

2) Make sure you preheat the broiler well for this dish, my chicken took longer than expected because of it.

3) Get an instant read thermometer. Because of the way the coating on the chicken lightly chars, it is very easy to assume it is cooked through. Yesterday I thought it was cooked at least twice, but when I checked it with my thermometer I knew to place it back under the broiler. Don't serve undercooked chicken!!!

4) Many broilers give off heat unevenly, rotate the pan with the chicken a couple of times while cooking to get every piece to cook evenly.

5) Garam Masala can be tough to track down. McCormick Spices and Seasonings make a wonderful one, but my local Kroger didn't sell it. I ended up having to make a specialized trip to Penzeys Spice Company for mine. If you still can't find it, there are many recipes online to make up a mix from scratch. I can't promise their effectiveness though. You can find one here.

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