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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Chicken Tikka Masala, Britain's National Dish... WHAT?

OK, something looks wrong with the title.  Chicken tikka masala, that dish that you order half the time at Indian restaurants (the othe half being chicken tandoori), is something that's... British?  Blasphemy!

The scary thing is that it's not all that strange.  Think of the hard tacos that you order at Mexican restaurants, or the orange chicken from Panda Express.  All American.  Of course it has certain roots from their "native" countries, but they were all invented in the great US of A.

But of course you're not here for a history lesson.  You're here for the food, the good stuff!  Well, this was my first time cooking anything Indian, and I must say, pretty damn good results!

It was kind of complicated figuring out how I was going to get this to work.  I knew that tikka masala had bite sized pieces of chicken.  Should I have set up kabobs over the grill?  Do I oven bake the chicken?  Or just have it cooked and simmer it in the sauce?

I decided to do a mix of techniques.  How I figured I'd get the smokiness of the tandoori oven was simply using a grill.  To keep the chicken moist, I wanted to just cook it enough so the chicken is barely cooked.  Even a bit undercooked is OK at this point.  The reason is, I'll finish it by bringing part of my sauce to a boil, and then simmering it for a bit before finishing up my sauce.  Not only would it stay moist, but it gets a mini-braising too... which of course leads to get getting even more tender!

The rice, I must admit, was a totally wild guess.  I wasn't even sure how it was supposed to taste.  Every Indian restaurant serves it slightly different.  Spice A would be heavier than Spice B at one restaurant, and totally different elsewhere.  Some serve plain basmati rice.  I simply threw some common Indian spices together with the rice into my elephant rice cooker.

Enough talking, here's your shopping list:

For the marinade (prepared aahead to let marinade):
1 whole chicken, dejointed
1 cup whole yogurt
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced (or grated)
1 tsp curry powder
1 tbsp paprika
1/2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp garam masala
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper

Here's how to prepare the marinade:

1) Dejoint chicken into 2 thighs, 2 legs, 2 breasts and 2 wings (optional).  Remove carcass and save for another day.  Debone the chicken as well.  This is so that it grills faster.  When I made this I made deep slashes into the meat.  I should have just deboned the pieces though.

2) Mix together the dry spices and rub all over chicken pieces thoroughly.  Place in mixing bowl and set aside for half an hour.

3) While chicken is absorbing the rub, get the other ingredients ready.  Mix the rest of the ingredients together really well.

4) After chicken resting the chicken for at least half an hour, pour over the marinade and mix well.  Leave to marinade at least 8 hours, preferably overnight.  The yogurt does an amazing job tenderizing the meat as well as giving it a tangy flavor.

The rest of the ingredients you'll need are:
1 onion sliced into 3/4 inches
1 tbsp butter
1 can (35 oz) stewed tomatoes (chop this up yourself)
1 cup heavy cream
2 cloves garlic, minced
Remember, chili and spice is always to taste... this is how I made it
2 serrano chilies (thai chili also work or bell peppers are a great alternative) sliced
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp red chili flakes
1 tbsp cayenne peppers
2 tsp black pepper


1) Take chicken out of the fridge.  You want to leave it out for half an hour to bring up to room temperature.  Preheat your grill to medium high direct heat.

2) After grill has been preheated, grill chicken pieces, turning occasionally to prevent burning.  This should only take about 8-10 minutes total.  Time really depends on the size of the chicken, (and if you didn't debone) the slashes you make and the temperature  of the grill.  Make sure to cover grill when you're not flipping to ensure the insides cook.

3) After meat has been grilled, set aside in a bowl.  Prepare your mise en place.  In a enameled dutch oven or a heavy pot, heat up a little bit of oil and the butter on medium heat.

4) After butter has melted, throw in the onions.  Slightly brown the onions and throw in the onions.  Salt this generously to assist with browning as well as for flavor.

5) While onions are browning, cut your chicken into bite sized pieces.

6) After garlic releases its flavor, throw in all the spices.  Stir up the spices so it also begins to release all its wonderful flavors.  This is essential to get the most out of your spices.  This should only take about a minute.

7) After this, your pot should be very fragrant already.  But you're going to add in even more flavor.  Put in your chopped tomato.  Make sure you pour in all the juices as well.  Also add in the chopped chili at this point.  Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer.  Simmer for about 10 minutes to let the flavors gel together.

8) The kitchen should smell amazing at this point.  If it doesn't, you have a horrible sense of smell.  Or maybe you put too much chili and now you've screwed yourself.  If you notice, in the picture I used fresh tomatoes.  It's all I had.  I thought I had the canned stuff, but I didn't.  In this case, I think canned works better.  So use it.  If you don't have it, it's OK.  Cooking is all about substituting anyway.  Take a taste to see if it tastes OK.  This is when you want to season it a bit more.  Throw in whatever spices you want to.  We are going to add another cup of liquid, but I like to do a good tasting now.

9) If everything is to your liking, add in the chicken and the heavy cream.  I didn't have any use for two wings so I used it in this recipe.  It's going to be whole.  You can't cut up chicken wings into bite sized pieces.

10) Bring it to a boil once again and lower to a gentle simmer.  Leave it for about 10 minutes.  If you had any meat you felt wasn't fully cooked, simmer it longer.

11) Serve over basmati rice... directions ahead.

The rice is probably the easiest part of the recipe.  You'll be adjusting this a lot to your tastes.

Here's what I did used for the rice:

(Serves 4)
4 rice cups (about 3 regular cups) basmati rice
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp tumeric powder
1 tsp garam masala
3 whole cloves
1 quick grind of nutmeg, a little goes a long way here


1) Rinse rice.  Pour water up to level as indicated by your rice cooker.  If you don't have a rice cooker, it's hard to explain, but the water should be just about to where your first knuckle is, this of course depending on the diameter of your pot.

2) Add all ingredients in.  Cook the rice in your rice cooker.  (Or bring water to a boil and let simmer on very low heat until rice has absorbed all liquids).

3) When indicated by rice cooker, take out cloves and fluff up rice.

4) Enjoy!

So this recipe took a lot longer to write up than I expected.  It's almost 6 am at this point and sleep's looking good.  But a few things I wanted to say or reiterate.  This was my first time making this recipe.  I will fix it up a bit and either edit the body of the post or just comment and add an update to the bottom of the post.  If you have your own recipe for this, definitely share it with me!  Just link it up at the comments section, email me as you've been doing, or let me somehow know!