Chicken Tikka Masala
CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA SERVES 6
Widely served in Indian restaurants across the United Kingdom and North America, this fragrant tomato and cream–based curry dish is so popular that British foreign secretary Robin Cook declared it to be a British national dish—not just because of its popularity, but because “it is a perfect illustration of the way Britain absorbs and adapts external influences.” While the exact origins of chicken tikka masala are unclear, it is commonly acknowledged that the dish resulted from adapting a traditional South Asian tandoori dish (chicken tikka) by adding a tomato and cream sauce to cater to the British love for gravy and spiced meat.
FOR THE CHICKEN:
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, chopped into 2-inch pieces
1 cup full-fat plain yogurt
⅓ cup fresh lemon juice
1 1-inch knob fresh ginger, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 teaspoons garam masala
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt
FOR THE SAUCE:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 2-inch knob fresh ginger, minced
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, with juices ¼ cup heavy cream or full-fat Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon garam masala
PREPARE THE CHICKEN: Place the chicken in a large self-seal plastic bag. In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, lemon juice, ginger, garlic, garam masala, cumin, paprika, and kosher salt, then add it to the plastic bag. Seal the bag well and turn it to combine the ingredients, massaging the marinade into the chicken. Marinate for at least 1 hour at room temperature, or refrigerate and marinate for up to 24 hours.
MAKE THE SAUCE: Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, ginger, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 6 to 8 minutes, until the onions have softened and begun to turn lightly golden. In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon, turmeric, cayenne, cardamom, and cloves and mix together. Add the mixed spices to the skillet, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes, until the spices are fragrant.
Pour the tomatoes, with their juices, and 1 cup of water into the skillet. Stir to combine, and bring the mixture to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium and simmer gently until the sauce has thickened, 30 minutes.
While the sauce simmers, heat the broiler on the highest setting for 10 minutes, and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Lift the chicken pieces out of the bag, reserving the marinade, and thread them onto metal skewers, being sure not to crowd the pieces too closely. Place the skewers on the lined baking sheet. (You can skip the skewers if you prefer, but the chicken will be more tender and cook more evenly with the hot skewer carrying heat through the center of each piece.) Stir the reserved marinade into the simmering sauce.
Broil the chicken for 8 minutes. Then turn the skewers over and broil for another 6 to 8 minutes, until the meat is well browned, even a little dark around the edges. Remove the chicken from the skewers.
Using a stick blender, puree the sauce with the heavy cream until smooth (or puree the sauce and cream together, in batches, in a standing blender, and then return the pureed sauce to the skillet). Stir in the garam masala, and add the chicken. Cook, stirring, for 3 to 4 minutes to combine the flavors; then taste and adjust the seasonings. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve with basmati rice alongside.
Note: Instead of—or in addition to—rice, serve this Anglo-Indian dish with paratha or naan bread, both of which you can buy at specialty or gourmet markets.