Chicken Tikka Masala: Complicated, but Tasty

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For a few years now I have been hearing about chicken tikka masala, and I've wondered what it was.  It sounded Indian, and I've had precious little experience with Indian food and seasonings.  But recently I saw an episode of America's Test Kitchen featuring the dish, and saw an episode of In Search Of Perfection on the same dish.  I had some ginger, fresh tomatoes from the garden, and a large onion hanging around that needed some work, so I thought I would try it and see how it would turn out.  It was a very complicated recipe, and I'm not sure I would make it again very soon, in spite of it's magnificent flavor. 

Now, both recipes were similar in ingredients, but the processes were very different.  The Test kitchen used the yogurt marinade as a dip and then baked the chicken, while Heston Blumenthal instead marinated the chicken for a very long time, and then baked the chicken in a make-shift tandori oven.  I didn't have the makings for the tandori oven, so I kind of meshed the two recipes together. 

First, I started the day before and created a salt rub with cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper, and salt.  I rubbed this onto my chicken (thighs because of the high fat content and they are cheap), and then let them rest in the fridge for an hour.  I then mixed some minced garlic, ginger, oil, and yogurt together to make the marinade, took the rubbed chicken and let it marinade for 18 hours. 

The next day, I started with the sauce.  I heated some oil and threw in the raw garlic and onion to brown.  Once lightly toasted (not carmelized, not quite), I threw in some ginger, tomato paste, garam masala spice mix, and a couple fresh Santa Fe chilies from the garden.  I let this cook for a couple of minutes, and then added one Green German tomato, one Yellow Brandywine tomato, a couple of Black Plums, and three Sophie's Choice tomatoes, all chopped and I removed as much of the skin as I could.  This was the substitute for the canned crushed tomatoes for which the recipe called.  I then added some salt and sugar, and let it simmer for a while as I pulled out the chicken.

Now, for the chicken, I started with trying to broil them for 9 minutes on each side, but it didn't cook them through nearly enough, so I ended up broiling them for 18 minutes on both side, and popping them into the microwave for a couple of minutes to be sure the internal temperature was high enough.  Next time, I think I would grill them on the barbeque, if I haven't built my tandori oven by then.  ^_^

While the chicken was cooking, I added some heavy cream to the sauce to make it creamy, and then set it aside, covered, so it would stay warm.  I was supposed to add fresh cilantro leaves to the sauce, but decided against it at the last minute.  At this time I also started cooking the rice, which was some left over Calarose rice I had around for a while.  It cooked up beautifully, and was ready by the time the dinner was done.

Once the chicken was finished, I chopped it up and stirred it into the sauce.  By now all the flavors had mixed well, and I ended up with a sweet-flavored sauce that had quite the kick to it after a couple of minutes.  It was delicious, and all that tried it liked it. 

There are a lot of recipes for chicken tikka masala out there, but I found the America's Test Kitchen recipe to be very tasty without being very oily.  You can get it here.  You do need to register for the site, but it's free and you get occasional emails with recipes and book offers.  The only change I would recommend is the marinade time.  It's a long time, but it's worth it!  The flavors have plenty of time to work through the chicken if marinated for a while.