Tikka Masala is my Jam

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve food-blogged and I feel like with the colder weather (seriously, yipe) everyone needs a fridge that is full of my very best dish.

I make some good food, y’all.  Truly.  But Chicken Tikka Masala is proof I love you and want you to be happy.  I’ll order it every time I go out, and always think, “this is good… but I like mine better?”  What I’m saying is, I have not met a chicken tikka masala I like more than my own, and I HAVE TRIED, you guys.

It’s payday this week, so I’m probably going to make sure I have room in the budget (February suuuuuuuuuucks money-wise, people) to put a big batch together next week.  Here’s what you need, to do the same:

  • garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated peeled ginger, or just buy the stuff that comes pre-pureed in the jar if you like (and I do)
  • 4 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 2-3 teaspoons garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 cups whole-milk yogurt (not Greek)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, halved lengthwise
  • 3 tablespoons ghee 
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 6 cardamom pods, crushed
  • 1+ teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes (we’re a spicy household, just be sure to balance the heat with the flavor)
  • 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro plus sprigs for garnish, more, if you love cilantro the way I do.
  • A lot of cauliflower.  For us?  3 or 4 heads.
  • A few tablespoons more ghee, salt and pepper to taste

If you like not being broke, I recommend buying spices in bulk from your purveyor of choice.  I use what’s in this recipe for a wide variety of dishes, and I’m always glad that we’re not out of cardamom.  Whole fat yogurt is, oddly, hard to find sometimes.  I get mine from our local co-op.  I make my own ghee, but you’re welcome to purchase it instead.  I find that small jars go too quickly in our house, and large ones are just prohibitively expensive, though I should honestly check our local Indo-Pak grocer because I’m still not great at being patient enough to wait for all of the milk solids in butter to separate.

  • Combine garlic, ginger, turmeric, garam masala, coriander, and cumin in a small bowl. Whisk them together with a fork, and place them in a small skillet to toast them.  After a few seconds to half a minute, they’ll become very fragrant.  Take them off the heat, and put them in a  bowl.  Combine yogurt, salt, and half of  that glorious smelling mess of spices; add chicken and turn to coat. Cover and chill 4-6 hours, or overnight if you prefer. Cover and chill remaining spice mixture.
  • While that’s getting gorgeous, make your cauliflower rice.  If you’re clever, you have a food processor.  Rough chop the cauliflower in batches, and hit it with the food processor in appropriately sized batches until it is the size and consistency of grains of rice, and put it all in a big bowl.  If you’re me, you don’t have a food processor, so you use the best knife in the house, practice your knife skills, listen to jazz and make a giant mess for  a while.  I like to do this with wine, because I care less about getting cauliflower on the floor, which will happen, just accept it.
  • When all the cauliflower is rice-like, mix in your ghee, salt and pepper.  Place about a head’s worth in a skillet that has a lid, and cook it, covered, on medium for 5-10 minutes.  Do this in batches, until you’ve made the whole lot, or just make what you plan to eat that day, and seal the rest up in the freezer or fridge for another day.  We go through some cauliflower rice, so it’s always nice to have a lot on hand already prepared or ready to cook.
  • When your chicken is done (4, 6, or 12 hours later), move on to the  rest of the steps.
  • Heat ghee in a large heavy pot over medium heat. I use my Lodge ceramic coated cast iron because it is the shiznit.  Add onion, tomato paste, cardamom, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring often, until tomato paste has darkened and onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add remaining half of spices from Step One, and cook, stirring often, until bottom of pot begins to brown, about 4 minutes.
  • Add tomatoes with juices, crushing them with your hands as you add them.  Wear a damn apron, and shield your squeeze hand with your open palm, or you will get tomato in your eye/on the wall/on your cats.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring often and scraping up browned bits from bottom of pot, until sauce thickens, 8-10 minutes.
  • Add cream and chopped cilantro. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens, 30-40 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, preheat broiler. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and set a wire rack inside sheet. Arrange chicken on rack in a single layer. Broil until chicken starts to blacken in spots (it will not be cooked through), about 10 minutes.  If you’ve left the yogurt and spice mixture on rather thickly (I tend to, because SO DELICIOUS SMELLING) it may not blacken, but I find that 10 minutes is more than enough in our gas oven to get the chicken primed to go in the pot.
  • Cut chicken into bite-size pieces (CAREFUL IT IS HOT), add to sauce, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through, 8-10 minutes.

    Serve with masala chai (which is its own post, frankly) and/or a nice glass of Pinot Evil.   Marvel at your masterpiece.

Tikka Masala is my Jam

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