Saturday, January 15, 2011

chicken tikka masala

I was flipping through a cookbook this afternoon, trying to plan a list for our grocery run, when I came across a recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala that looked fairly un-daunting and sounded really yummy. I decided that since I had plenty of chicken in the fridge, I'd give it a try.

The first challenge I ran into was finding the pre-made garam masala spice mix that the recipe called for. I had no luck at three different groceries stores, even though I SWEAR I've seen it at one of them several times. I decided that all was not lost, as I knew I had the majority of the spices that usually go into garam masala in my kitchen, anyway. I figured I'd just come home, look up a recipe for garam masala, and be on my merry way.

Well.

If you're at all familiar with Indian cooking, you realize the problem with finding a recipe for something like garam masala. There are...a LOT of them. And they're all different. I eventually settled on the one that I had the most components for. The only thing I was missing was cardamom. I happily put on my boots and went back out into the night on a quest to find cardamom.

You probably know by now that I live in Vermont...RURAL Vermont, no less (there isn't really much un-rural Vermont, to be fair). Now, given that I was unable to find garam masala at any of the three grocery stores within a 20 minute drive of my house, I don't know WHAT made me think I'd be able to find cardamom. Undaunted, I traipsed through a snow storm to all three stores and found...no cardamom. I was starting to think my chicken tikka masala might not happen tonight after all.

I got back home from my fruitless cardamom quest and stood there in front of my spice rack, thinking. There's a million bajillion different versions of garam masala out there, so really, one without cardamom would just be like...a custom blend all my own, right? Right? SURE, why not! So, off I went on my Indian cooking adventure.

The recipe called for boneless, skinless chicken breast to be rubbed with a spice-and-salt mixture and then allowed to sit for 30-60 minutes to marinate. This gives the meat time to absorb the flavors, but it also gives the salt time to tenderize the meat a bit.

Once the meat had marinated, it was coated in a mixture of yogurt with some oil, grated ginger, and minced garlic mixed into it, then put into a 500-degree oven. The recipe called for cooking the chicken on a wire rack set into a pan but I don't have a wire rack, so instead what I did was take some tin foil and twist it into three long, thin-ish "sticks". I coated them with a quick blast of cooking spray and then laid them out lengthwise in the pan so that the chicken had something to separate it from the surface of the pan a little.

While the chicken cooked, I made the sauce. I started with a minced yellow onion, and sauteed it in some canola oil until it was golden brown. I added a tablespoon of tomato paste, two minced cloves of garlic, about two teaspoons of grated ginger, and a tablespoon of my newly-made garam masala mixture, which ended up looking like this:

1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

The onion-tomato-spice mixture cooked for 3-4 minutes, then I added a 28oz can of crushed tomatoes, some sugar and some salt. This simmered for about 15 minutes while the chicken finished cooking. After 15 minutes, I shut the heat off under the sauce and let it cool a little, then added half a cup of heavy cream and mixed it in.

When the chicken was done, I pulled it out of the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes, then cut it up into bite-sized pieces and added it to the sauce. I spooned it over some nice fluffy jasmine rice. It was YUMMY, and aside from the quest for spices I probably didn't even really need, quite easy. I'll definitely make this again.