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Okay, I’ll admit it: I was intimidated by Indian cuisine for a long time. The rich, exotic flavors seemed like something that was probably best left to the professionals at my local Indian restaurant, with their kitchen stocked full of spices I didn’t think I could find, and tools I didn’t think I could afford. (I mean, who really just has a full-sized tandoori oven hanging around their house?)
As it turns out, I didn’t need any special equipment to make some really killer tikka masala in the comfort of my own home kitchen, and only one spice purchase out of the ordinary gave me everything I needed.
Seriously, take a glance down at that ingredient list. It might look a little long, but there is nothing scary on there other than the garam masala. And if I can find garam masala in my local South Carolina grocery stores ( Harris Teeter, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Bi-Lo, Publix — ALL of them have it), then you can find it, too. If you get really desperate you can get it from Amazon. Every thing else is familiar. Garlic, ginger, peppers, tomato paste, paprika — you know these things. You probably already have them in your home!
A quick note about this particular recipe — you can really take this to the next level by going full fat with the yogurt, doubling the olive oil and butter, and using cream in place of the condensed milk, but my husband and I have found that we don’t miss the fat when we make this recipe as written, so unless we are cooking for company, we keep it to the lower fat ingredient list.
CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken ( breasts or thighs ), cut into chunks
- 1 cup nonfat greek yogurt
- 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 6 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
- 2 serrano peppers or 1 large jalapeño ( seeds and ribs removed if you don’t want it spicy )
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons garam masala
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 5 tomatoes, chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup evaporated milk
Whisk together marinade ingredients, and toss in chicken. Coat the chicken thoroughly with the marinade, cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. I’ve left it in the marinade for as long as two days before and it was still delicious.
In your favorite large sauté pan, melt the butter in the olive oil over medium heat. Your kitchen is about to smell ah-mazing.
Add the tomato paste to the browning pepper, garlic, ginger mixture and cook until the mixture changes from the bright red tomato paste color to a darker, richer maroon color.
Add your spices ( garam masala, paprika ) to a corner of the pan that does not contain your yummy tomato paste mixture. Stir them in that corner of the pan for just a minute to let them toast and bring out all the flavors, then stir everything in the pan together into one delicious, spicy paste.
This is the point my husband usually shows up in the kitchen. What are you making — it smells divine.
Maybe he doesn’t say divine. But he’s in the kitchen, hovering. Curious. Interested. This smells like a special meal.
At this point, add the chopped tomatoes, salt, and water. Bring all of that to a boil, then back down to a simmer. Let it simmer 20 minutes.
Now you have some time to kill — let’s start that chicken. First, turn on your broiler to high ( or just “broil”, if you don’t have an option to select the level of broiling ). Put the chicken on a foil-lined pan, or else you will have a Cleaning Nightmare on your hands later.
Broil the chicken 4 min each side. It’s okay if it isn’t cooked through — it will finish cooking in the sauce later.
While your chicken is broiling, puree the sauce in your favorite blender, food processor, or use an immersion blender. Once pureed, return it to the pan to wait for the chicken.
After the chicken has done its time under the broiler, add it to the pureed sauce and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the milk, and serve!